Al Mohler has some penetrating and thought-provoking articles on some current topics in abortion – selective abortion of extra fetuses created by modern fertility practices, and the selective abortion of unwanted fetuses, based on their sex, or atypical condition (Down’s syndrome). The description of the procedure itself is horrifying to imagine.
But what is interesting about his analysis is the awakening of the consciences on the left side of these issues, and some calls for moral guidelines or limits to our use of abortion for birth control or selective killing of fetuses that don’t fit our fancy. I’ve summarized his points, with excerpts.
1. Prenatal testing and pro-choicers – how much choice do you want to give?
Kirsten Moore, president of the pro-choice Reproductive Health Technologies Project, said that when members of her staff recently discussed whether to recommend that any prenatal tests be banned, they found it impossible to draw a line — even at sex selection, which almost all found morally repugnant. "We all had our own zones of discomfort but still couldn’t quite bring ourselves to say, ‘Here’s the line, firm and clear’ because that is the core of the pro-choice philosophy."
That same point is made by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL
Pro-Choice America. She provided the paper with a statement that
included these lines:
"This issue underscores the importance of families making
personal, private decisions without political interference . . . The
decision should be with women, their families, and their doctors."
2. Shouldn’t we have some moral standards for the use of abortion? Some pro-choicers say YES, major pro-choice groups say NO.
As Amy Harmon reports, there are a good many people who consider
themselves pro-choice who cannot go along with this logic. Ann
Althouse, a law professor who considers herself a supporter of abortion
rights, asked the key question: "Shouldn’t they have moral standards
about what reasons are acceptable for an abortion?"
The answer coming from groups like NARAL is a simple "no." And they apparently mean it.
3. How about aborting babies for cosmetic features, like ‘eye squint’, or hair color? No problem.
Tom Strode of Baptist Press reports that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in Britain has allowed human embryos to be tested for eye squint. As Strode explains, "The news marked an ominous milestone -– supposedly the first embryo screening for a cosmetic flaw."
The director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Centre, which gained the license from the HFEA, told BBC News it was more than a cosmetic condition.
[…] Grudzinskas is not opposed to using PGD for cosmetic reasons, however.
[…] The clinic director said he would be willing to try for permission to test for any genetic factor that would produce severe distress in a family.
When asked about hair color, Grudzinskas said, "If there is a cosmetic aspect to an individual case I would assess it on its merits. [Hair color] can be a cause of bullying which can lead to suicide. With the agreement of the HFEA, I would [screen for it if the parents thought they might want to abort for this reason].
1. Selective reduction is not reported on by either the government OR the abortion industry
Selective reduction is one of the most unpleasant facts of fertility medicine, which has helped hundreds of thousands of couples have children but has also produced a sharp rise in high-risk multiple pregnancies. There is no way to know how many pregnancies achieved by fertility treatment start out as triplets or quadruplets and are quietly reduced to something more manageable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes an annual report on fertility clinic outcomes, does not include selective-reduction figures because of the reluctance to report them.
The industry doesn’t publish them, either. "This is a very sensitive topic," says David Grainger, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, the membership group for IVF clinics. It’s sensitive, personally, for patients, but also politically, for doctors.
2. Guiding principles or sliding principles?
As Mundy reports, Dr. Evans has attempted to define his own set of
"guiding principles" in terms of the ethics of his practice. At first,
he refused to take the gender of the babies into consideration. Now, he
does so — allowing couples to choose to carry one boy fetus and one
girl fetus, while killing the others. He also refused at first to
"reduce" pregnancies from twins to single babies, because he admits
that there is no danger to fetal health posed by a twin. He changed
his policy on that too. When some couples want just a single child, he
will now "reduce" to one.
Clearly, Dr. Evans’ "guiding principles" are really "sliding principles."
3. The awful reality of selective reduction
So far, there was nothing anomalous about any of the fetuses.
Dr. Greenbaum turned the screen toward the patient. "That’s the little
heartbeat," she said, pointing to the area where a tiny organ was
clearly pulsing. "And there are the little hands. There’s the head. The
"Oh, my God, I can really see it!" the patient cried. "Oh, my God! I can see the fingers!"
"Okay!" she said, abruptly, gesturing for the screen to be
turned away. She began sobbing. There were no tissues in the room, so
her husband gave her a paper towel, which she crumpled to her face. The
patient spent the rest of the procedure with her hospital gown over her
face, so she would not see any more of what was happening.
She can hide her face under a hospital gown, but she knows exactly
what is happening. One of her babies is to be killed with an injection
4. The emotional toll of selective abortion – just as bad as abortion without remaining lives?
The appearance of these articles, published in major American
newspapers in a span of mere days, tells us something important. So
does the fact that each of these articles reflects a sense of moral
disquiet. Mundy reports that many women develop intense moral disquiet
and persistent depression after undergoing the procedure. A source
cited by Mundy explained that "psychoanalytic interviews with women who
underwent [selective reduction] describe severe bereavement reactions
including ambivalence, guilt, and a sense of narcissistic injury, all
of which increased the complexity of their attachment to the remaining
5. The revenge of conscience – we may lie to ourselves, but deep down, we know
Professor J. Budziszewski of the University of Texas describes this pattern as "the revenge of conscience."
God has made us so that conscience emerges even when we attempt to shut
it out and hide from it. As Budziszewski explains, "We do not lack
moral knowledge; we hold it down." It does not stay down.
We can hide behind euphemisms like "selective reductions," but the
woman on the table knows what is happening. She can hide her face under
a gown but she cannot hide from her conscience.
6. Extreme pro-choicers need to come back to some balance and admit that we are doing something wrong.
Even the most enthusiastic advocate of "a woman’s right to choose" must
have to take a deep breath when reading these articles. Conscience
will have its revenge.