Two-Minus-One Pregnancy

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ruth Padawer, a writer and professor who covers health and gender issues, discusses her recent article for the New York Times Magazine about the ethical decision of reducing twins to a single fetus. She explores the question of why the choice is such an uneasy one to make, even for pro-choice women.


Ruth Padawer

Comments [35]


Are there any statistics for women who carry twins to term and give one up for adoption?

Aug. 18 2011 01:47 PM
rose-ellen from jackson hts.

The reason this is problamatic for pro-choice people is because it highlights or puts in relief the reality that abortion is the killing of a human life. For anti-legalized abortion people like myself, this is just more of the same-the taking of human life. It is a true evil that unfortunaley is the norm today. If abortion is not the taking of a human life then it should not bother you when this "reduction" takes place. Then again it shouldn't bother you whatever reason people choose to have an abortion. In eastern europe ,abortion was used as a birth control method. If in the early stages medical abortion is safer then birth control pills-why not use a D and C or abortafacient pill as a method of birth control ?That pro choice people love to state that abortions are not done for frivolous reasons -just exposes ,like this "reduction problem", that in reallity abortion is the killing of human life. The pro choice people are pro killing of innocent human life and that is a morally bankrup position.Hence they skirt the issue and bring up how difficult a decision it is etc. This twin issue should shake the pro-choice people up and bring them to the knowledge that abortion is the killing of innocent human life and as such is ethically unjustifiable

Aug. 18 2011 01:33 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


I don't know what you're talking about, and neither do you! If my wife or girlfriend or lover decides to have an abortion, do I have any say? No.

If my wife falls out of love with me, and decides to divorce me, and take my kid, do I have any say? No.

Sure if I'm rich I can hire an expensive lawyer and MAYBE I might have a slim chance of getting custody, but in reality, if you are man, you are going to lose. Period.

P.S, I have experience in both of the above, so I speak out of decades of personal experience, unfortunately. If you are man you cannot win today, unless you are a very rich one. And even then it is dicey. The cards (and the children) are completely in the Matriarchy's hands.

It is better to be a Jew in Germany in 1934, then to be a straight man in America today.

Aug. 18 2011 01:29 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

jgarbuz, here's a novel suggestion: if you yourself believe men can be maternal, but that both society and women at are fault for both monopolizing control (over you) and having expectations that you be a stoic warrior who suppresses his anger and emotions - why don't you, personally, CHOOSE to live a different life?

This is what CHOICE in our society is about - and what men like you fail to grasp. No one forces anyone in this country to live their lives a certain way, and no one should. We have realistic and ethical rules to live by, but everything else is up to personal interpretation and choice.

If you desire to be maternal and not be a stoic warrior type, stop being a coward, and worrying about what society thinks and do it. If you want to pepper the world with babies to make up for all the ones "feminists" aren't having, why don't you put your hard earned dollars toward hiring surrogate mothers and inseminate your sperm into them? (how you will pay for those babies afterwards is of course a question). If you tend to travel in circles in which the women are manipulative, start asking yourself why you continue to attract those kind of women, or choose a certain type of friend.

To judge all women by your seemingly limited exposure, and all men by your similarly limited exposure, is not going to win you any converts.

There are plenty of families that operate in a healthy, democratic way -some in which the men are the stay-at-home parent - some in which both parents work and use daycare or leave their kids with a grandparent, some in which there's a nanny, some in which there's a single parent who's living off of welfare, some in which there's two gay parents - our society is a diverse place where both men and women can CHOOSE how they want to live their lives.

The blame game is tired and never going to advance any agenda.

Aug. 18 2011 01:03 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


Men are capable of being MORE "maternal" than women, but are not allowed to be, by women who naturally want to monopolize control over the children for power purposes, and by society at large that demands that men be stoic warrior types who have to keep their pain and anguish repressed or else face ridicule or other accusations!

I totally deny and reject the charge that women are innately more "motherly" than men, and I roundly condemn a judicial system that gives men custody in only 15% of contested divorce cases, and women 85%!

Women are just better power-players than most men. They can use any tactic, where as men are restricted and expected to "suck it up" as they lose their children to other men who women cleverly keep in the background, to replace them when the coast is clear.

Aug. 18 2011 12:23 PM
Lazarus Long from Putnam, NY

This is a fascinating discussion, as much for the 800 pound gorilla topic everybody is tiptoeing around, as the specific ethical conundrums of the overt debate.

The issue of fetal reduction is essentially an 'individual choice' question at its core but the 'reasons for choice' are what are making people uncomfortable, nevertheless judging another person's 'reason' for making a choice is ALWAYS a complicated judgement. I believe the old adage is "walking in another person's shoes".

Based on the differences of personal priories and values there will inevitably be differences of opinions as to the validity of such judgements but the 'right' to make the choice is the core debate.

As uncomfortable as it makes many people, the consequences of a 'right' are that some will make this choice for what others might consider invalid reasons, but it does not preclude the right.

However, this is not the underlying reason that I suspect most people are uncomfortable with this choice, though it leads us back toward that "great ape" waiting for us. In a word that 800 pound simian subject is the concept of EUGENICS, which is the ultimate consequence of the merger of technology and choice exemplified by this issue.

The history of eugenics is both sordid and distorted. It is one that both predates the issue of fascism and ironically is the unwanted twin of the entire question of pregnancy choice and family planning. Just read the biography of Margaret Sanger if you don't believe me.

Whether you consider the issue of eugenics a taboo topic or just perverse, it is also an issue being forced back into the mainstream of discussion by the 'law of unintended consequence' as the result technological options combined with legal rights and personal values.

Aug. 18 2011 12:23 PM
The Truth from Becky

WoW JBuzz, you sound absolutely colonial (out of touch)...matriarchy, patriarchy? Let's talk about the economy and what's going on in 2011. How many kids do you have by the by?

Aug. 18 2011 12:21 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Inquisigal,

I don't believe men were more absent. Women have kept children away from their fathers in the old power struggle, where children have been the pawns. THey wanted to dominate the brains of their kids, and use them against dad when possible. But at one time, woman had a role, and men had a role. Those days are gone. Men were the breadwinners, who had to go out and get the meat, and women were the guardians of the home, there in order have and raise the children who were the family's future. But the patriarchal family is gone in the West, like monarchy is mostly gone in the West. It was supposed to be replaced by familial Democracy, but in fact has been replaced by Matriarchy, which is ten times more evil than Patriarchy ever was.

Aug. 18 2011 12:17 PM
The Truth from Becky

JBUZZ - change those "we"s in your comment s to "I"s - the bad news is all men are not as maternal as you are trying give them credit for here! Truth know that is the truth!

Aug. 18 2011 12:13 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Becky

I wish had one! If we men had them, we wouldn't need you, just as you no longer need us. You can get your sperm from a bank; we can't get a uterus. Women have a very unfair advantage over us, and we men love our children every bit as much as women do. Maybe even more so. But we can't have our own by ourselves, so we are the dependent party.

Aug. 18 2011 12:10 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

jgabuz from queens: "Feminism killed off the family and fathers some time ago. Today, dogs and cats have replaced children. Children today only exist to help mommy, only useful to feminist moms as servants to help them out. Otherwise, out the door!"

I've got to ask: how old are you? Seems to me that you're selectively ignoring the fact that up until the mid-1970's or so, men and fathers were far more absent than they are now. Child-rearing was historically left to the stay-at-home mother, and most of us were lucky if we got some face time with our fathers on the weekends - let alone nurturing. Men today are far, far more involved with and desirous of parenting than in previous generations.

Kids as servants today? I've got to wonder what kind of world you're living in. Again, historically - kids were put to work and given chores that far, far exceed anything that any child is expected to do today.

As for dogs and cats replacing kids: so what? Some people just recognize that they aren't suited to being a parent of a child, or that they don't have the time or resources to devote to rearing kids. This is a far more mature and responsible way of life than pumping out babies simply because you can.

Aug. 18 2011 12:08 PM
Howard from Bronx

Has anyone thought about the survivor guilt of the remaining fetus? What a terrible burden. I cannot imagine what that would do to someone. Clearly, the doctors have not thought about the consequences of their actions.

I am not a pro-lifer, but this seems beyond the pale.

Aug. 18 2011 12:03 PM
Howard from Bronx

Has anyone thought about the survivor guilt of the remaining fetus? What a terrible burden. I cannot imagine what that would do to someone. Clearly, the doctors have not thought about the consequences of their actions.

I am not a pro-lifer, but this seems beyond the pale.

Aug. 18 2011 12:01 PM
Tara from NYC

I am pro-choice, but also the mother of twins. I had such a strong emotional response to the topic that I had to turn off this segment. I can understand reduction decisions when the number presents a threat to the woman's health, but to terminate one of two. I don't know...

Aug. 18 2011 12:00 PM

We can explain everything. Justifying takes some intellectual rigor. When life becomes a choice, it is easy for it it to become a commodity. We choose boys to live, we choose healthy children, we choose but one fetus. Are we surprised that women have become commodities? Is "freedom of choice" license for anything, as long as we can explain in terms of our comfort? Living with integrity is not easy. Time to reflect.

Aug. 18 2011 11:59 AM
maude from Park Slope

what's up with so many men writing in with their pro-life opinions vs. the pro-choice women?
You guys are NOT carrying the children, giving birth to the children, nor are you generally taking care of them or the most part. Perhaps you should think about the reality for the actual people involved, rather your abstract ideas.

Aug. 18 2011 11:53 AM
The Truth from Becky

JGarbuz - when you get a uterus, you can choose also.

Aug. 18 2011 11:53 AM
The Truth from Becky

MICHAELB - FYI don't speak for all pro-choicers...I remain pro choice, there has always been a moral component and I still believer it is a woman's right to choose. The argument whether or night pro choicer and pro lifers can have civil dialogue is solely dependent on the participants in the conversation, don't confuse the issues please.

Aug. 18 2011 11:51 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

All this complexity was introduced by the Law giving women the total right to decide who lives and who dies! This monopolization by women over the future of our species only because they happen to be the gender lucky enough, or unlucky enough to have the womb is gradually destroying the future of the West.

Women should obviously have a major VOICE but not TOTAL CHOICE! Rowe vs. Wade must go! The Law must reappraise the damage it has done.

Aug. 18 2011 11:46 AM
mo from new haven

the author and the topic is totally avoiding an important issue and placing the burden of this decision on the woman. Reproductive endocrinologists should not be transferring more than one to two embryos ever. That is a restriction placed on REs in many countries. Women would not have to make this decision if REs were regulated and were honest about the problems for both the mother and babies for twins and multiples. This is a problem because REs are concerned about their statistics and need to increase them so patients will choose the place that has the greatest number of births and the greatest proportion of pregnancies achieved. They've turned it into a consumer driven industry, rather than health care, which is what it is (albeit a very complicated kind of care).

Aug. 18 2011 11:45 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

The difficulties pro-choice folks are having just goes to show that abortion was always a difficult moral dilemma -- a notion many in the pro-choice camp have dismissed out of hand for years.

Hence, THEIR share of the difficulty of the two sides to have a civil conversation with the pro-life camp.

Aug. 18 2011 11:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

annnd I am pro-choice, but I feel so very conflicted about this choice.

Aug. 18 2011 11:41 AM
Ken from Soho

Do you tell the remaining twin that you killed the other twin? How would that go over?

Aug. 18 2011 11:41 AM
The Truth from Becky

OMGoodness this world is coming to a screeching end! I am saddened by this conversation, I don't understand the logic.

Aug. 18 2011 11:40 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

While this procedure makes people uncomfortable, so does abortion - in fact, it is abortion. If abortion is legal in this country - which it should continue to be - then this procedure should be, too.

Every family or individual who elects to have a fetus aborted comes to that decision after a lot of consideration. To judge anyone who has taken the time to really consider how an unwanted or special needs child will effect their lives - especially if they cannot afford to care for the child - should honestly mind their own business. We all live with our own decisions, and we only know our own circumstances intimately.

People always have a snappy answer for "women" who don't want an extra child - yet it is so much more complex with that. What about the men married to these women? They are part of these decisions, too.

We all need to open our minds to the fact that life is complicated, and we all operate in grey areas.

Aug. 18 2011 11:40 AM
John A.

Giving the choice of personhood to the mother (thumbs up: legally protected, including from manslaughter / thumbs down: open to legal destruction) is definitely a large load to offer a woman, often very young and not philosophically prepared for it. The old way of denying that choice, though not accepted today, did at least unload the mind from > life or death < decisionmaking.

Aug. 18 2011 11:37 AM
Maude from Park SLope

what about triplets or above? Is that just obvious that it's "ok" for the woman to abort? Personally feel it is ALWAYS the woman's choice. It must be absolutely horrible for a woman using fertility treatments to have to abort a child. why make it more difficult for her.

Aug. 18 2011 11:35 AM
Liz from Manhattan

I recall reviewing a study done a few years back in, I believe, Sweden that documented that a woman's chance of a singleton live birth is NOT signficantly different if you transfer 2 embryos in one cycle versus transferring 1 embryo over 2 consecutive cycles. In America, we tend to transfer multiple embryos without question, whereas if you only want one baby, you'd have just a good a chance transferring one quality embryo at a time.

I think the European clinics are ahead of American clinics in this way of thinking.

Aug. 18 2011 11:35 AM

Every day, and every one, makes these kinds of decisions though a combination of explicit action and blissful inaction. Choose not to donate to Save The Children? Ten infants will die of dehydration. Make sex education optional in schools? One hundred young women will bear premature children with learning and health difficulties for the rest of their life. It's easy to point to abortions as an explicit, bright line. Billions more lives are affected by the political process and benign neglect, masquerading as the high moral road.

Aug. 18 2011 11:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

With the vast array of birth control options, there is no reason for abortion! Society does have a right to deny women the "right to choose." This is a horrible miscarriage of justice, to give women the sole right to decide everything!

If she is sexually active, she should have the right to "decide" to use birth control, and also demand that her lovers use condoms as well.

Rowe vs Wade should be overturned in the light of all the birth control methods available, and the right to commit infanticide by women who feel like it should be revoked. We have seen the results, and it is failure!

Aug. 18 2011 11:33 AM

Abortion is conceivable only as compromise to avert some great impending harm. It becomes less defensible as the reasons for it become more a matter of preference. Killing a fetus because you want one child, but don't feel like having two, is simply wrong.

Aug. 18 2011 11:28 AM
Juliana from brooklyn, ny

As a twin and a pro-choice supporter this issue leaves me incredibly conflicted. Of course it should always be mother's decision to terminate one of her fetuses, but I'm so happy that my mother never had the option. In fact, she never even knew until my brother and I were born that she was having twins. I can't imagine what my life would be like with my twin. It's such a large part of my identity and such an incredibly important relationship in my life.

Aug. 18 2011 11:25 AM
John A.

OK Ed, you're elected. Get into the stirrups.

Aug. 18 2011 11:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Get with the program, Ed. Feminism killed off the family and fathers some time ago. Today, dogs and cats have replaced children. Children today only exist to help mommy, only useful to feminist moms as servants to help them out. Otherwise, out the door!

Aug. 18 2011 11:04 AM
Ed from Larchmont

At this point we need as many young people as possible. Plus why would one want to end the life of one's child?

Aug. 18 2011 08:19 AM

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