“Selective Reductions” on the Rise in Great Britain

By Dave Andrusko

Sometimes no matter how determined you are to write about a subject, it just keeps getting put off, unfortunately. The latest example is information  about the increase in the number of “selective reductions” that came out of Great Britain’s Department of Health at the end of the year, thanks to the Freedom of Information laws.

“Experts say that the increase in so-called ‘selective reductions has largely been caused by a rise in multiple pregnancies following IVF treatment,” according to the Daily Telegraph’s Claire Newell. “The disclosure is likely to provoke renewed debate over the practice in which IVF clinics implant several embryos in order to improve a couple’s chances of having a baby.”

In 2010 101 babies were aborted by a woman carrying more babies than she wanted. Specifically, according to the Daily Telegraph, 85 women aborted at least one baby while giving birth to another baby (or babies). In 2006, 59 women “selectively aborted” at least one baby.

What comes out of the reporting is something we see increasingly in the United States: twins ‘reduced’ to ‘singletons.’  (See “The Story that Just Won’t Go Away.”)

Fifty one women did so (up from 30 women  in 2006), as compared to 20 women who aborted one of her triplets and nine women who aborted two of the triplets they were carrying. In addition, three mothers aborted two of the four babies and  two mothers aborted two of the five babies they were carrying.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority provided separate figures for 2009 that showed that almost a third of selective abortions involved pregnancies that were a result of fertility treatment.

Great Britain has abortion up until birth based on “medical grounds.” While stories in both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail emphasized the increased risk to mother and child[ren] from multiple pregnancies, Newell noted that “The rise of selective reductions will also lead to discussion over the ethics of aborting a potentially healthy foetus while one or more siblings survive.” Referring to chat room discussions, she added, “Some mothers-to-be have said that they were considering the procedure because they could not cope with more than one baby at a time.”

Much of the controversy over ‘selective reductions” focuses on aborting one of two babies, since the increased risk from carrying twins over one baby is minimal to virtually non-existent.

Dr Peter Saunders, the chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship and a former surgeon, told the Daily Telegraph, “If prospective parents are not willing to have twins then they should not be implanting more than one embryo at a time. Parental preference should never take precedence over the right to life of the unborn child.”

For more about “selective reduction” in the United States, see  “The Story that Just Won’t Go Away.”