“Selective Reduction” Abortions Highlight ART Problems

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders   |   Aug 24, 2011   |   6:36PM   |   Washington, DC

In the New York Times Magazine feature “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy,”[i] “Jenny” acknowledges the ‘consumerism’ of the IVF process stating,

“If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.”

Invitro FertilizationThere could be no clearer evidence than this – a statement from an IVF mother, admitting that the method of creation caused her to view “it” from an anti-life perspective – of how  ART effectively reduces a human being, possessing intrinsic dignity, to a mere product in the eyes of those involved.

Further evidence of the destructive nature of ART, as currently practiced, can be found in a study published last fall by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) highlighting the exceedingly high death rate of human embryos created through IVF.   The study took place at the Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland, where researchers gathered data on 14,324 IVF cycles between 2004 and 2008. They found that of the 110,939 eggs that were initially fertilized, only 44,282 embryos developed into “viable embryos.”  Additionally, a generous estimation by ASRM found that 8,366 births likely resulted from those fertilizations. That is, only 7.5 percent of the embryos that were initially created were ultimately born-alive.[ii] This highlights the great loss of human life resulting from ordinary assisted reproductive processes and technologies.

The 50 states have very few laws that regulate IVF or limit the number of human embryos that can be transferred during any given reproductive cycle nor do they limit the number to embryos that can be created.

Consequently, fertility practitioners introduce high numbers of embryos into the woman’s genital tract in order to insure a greater likelihood of implantation. Very often, this results in the implantation of several embryos into the woman’s uterus. The greater number of babies in the womb raises the risk of greater complications for the mother and the babies. The unfortunate reality is that doctors will then try to “fix” this problem through “selective reduction.” This is the practice where a doctor will abort one baby (or more) to ensure a greater chance of survival for others. Typically this practice has applied in cases of great multiples, reducing a pregnancy down to two or three babies. Tragically, today we see an increase in the reductions even of twins, as was the case in the New York Times Magazine story.

Regulation of IVF would counteract recklessness on the part of fertility clinics and practitioners, and it would save lives. For example, the number of embryos that can be created from IVF is limited by law in many countries including, Germany, Italy and Australia. Additionally, the number of embryos that can be transferred to a woman’s genital tract during each reproductive cycle is restricted by law in Great Britain, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Australia, and Italy.[iii] This means that women in these countries who use IVF are much less likely to find themselves in high-risk pregnancies with high-order multiples, unlike women in the US.  Furthermore, in those countries, large numbers of human embryos are not being created and destroyed in the IVF process.

To protect women, to stave off the huge death rates of embryos, and to combat the irresponsibility of the ART industry, Americans United for Life has developed the Assisted Reproductive Technology Disclosure and Risk Reduction Act. One aim of this model law is to limit the number of embryos that are transferred into a woman’s reproductive track during any given reproductive cycle. (The model law also restricts the number of embryos that can be created in the first place.)  This will eliminate the occasions for which selective reductions are alleged to be necessary, though it cannot eliminate the anti-life consumerist mentality that so often accompanies this artificial method of creation.

i Ruth Padawer, The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy, The New York Times Magazine (August 10, 2011), https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/magazine/the-two-minus-one-pregnancy.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1.

ii Thaddeus M. Baklinski, New Study Confirms Overwhelming Death Rate of IVF Human Embryos, LifeSiteNews.com (October 26, 2010), https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/oct/10102604.html.

iii Kirsten Riggan, G12 Country Regulations of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (October 1, 2010), https://www.cbhd.org/content/g12-country-regulations-assisted-reproductive-technologies.