Some may believe that selecting an unborn child for slaughter is barbaric enough, but some bioethicists believe it can be morally justified via a coin toss.
In a recent report for the University of Oxford’s Practical Ethics site, bioethicists Elizabeth Crisp and Roger Crisp argue that “fetal reduction” abortions are morally equivalent to standard “singleton abortions.”
Fetal reduction abortions, also known as selective reduction, are procedures where one or more unborn babies are aborted in a pregnancy with twins or more multiples. In this kind of abortion, the mother can select which child is to be killed, or the doctor can randomly abort one or choose which unborn baby is in the best position to be killed. In some situations, an unborn child that may not be as healthy as the other(s) is the one selected for abortion.
The writers acknowledge that mothers may find a dilemma in having to choose between two children to abort, equating the decision to “lifeboat ethics” or “playing God.” However, the authors insist the quandary is not as immoral as many would make it.
“In our view, the mother has no reason to be especially distressed, since, other things being equal, fetal reduction is ethically equivalent to a standard singleton abortion. To the extent that fetal reduction involves playing God, so does a singleton abortion. It is true that fetal reduction may involve a choice about which fetus is to survive, but singleton abortion involves a choice about whether or not a fetus is to survive, and these choices seem to be on a moral par.”
The article goes on to mention that the feelings of remorse and grief felt by the mother and the surviving twin are not “morally relevant,” but there is a drastic impact on those who live with the decision of abortion. A 2014 study found that women who had abortions were 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide than women who had given birth.
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Roger Crisp is a Findlay visiting professor at the Department of Philosophy at Boston University, as well as a Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in philosophy at St. Anne’s College. He also is chairman of the Management Committee at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, where some of his colleagues have proposed radical “ethical” thoughts and opinions regarding abortion.
This is not the first time bioethicists have placed the supposed moral high ground above human life. In 2014, a bioethicist wrote organ donation should be mandatory—thus making it a forced decision than a willing donation. In 2016, doctors at a Jewish hospital were criticized for not performing a selective reduction abortion, because it contradicted the consciences of the clinicians.
Regardless of where bioethicists may stand on the issue of fetal reduction, one thing is for sure: Human lives are at stake. These unborn children are not “clumps of cells” to be disposed of because they are inconvenient or ill. Rather, they are humans with an inalienable right to life—and there should not be any moral debate about that.