Sibling Abortion and Cognitive Dissonance

By We Need a Law

The rate of pregnancy with multiples– twins, triplets, or more – has increased in Canada over the past two decades. Generally, this shift is attributed to women becoming mothers when they are older, with an increased use of fertility treatments that boost the odds of pregnancy with multiples. In 2021 there were just shy of 11,000 live multiple births in Canada.

The key word there, however, is births. Researcher Patricia Maloney recently highlighted those who didn’t make it that far due to the sinister reality of sibling abortions.

In Ontario, there is a specific medical code for what is referred to as “fetal reduction.” That euphemism describes the practice of choosing to end the life of one child while leaving their sibling(s) in the womb to continue developing. 

There were 401 sibling abortions in Toronto alone from 2019-2021. It’s hard to fathom talking about your children and choosing to kill one and spare the other. The situation probably happens with a lot of medical jargon and euphemisms, but it’s still difficult to think through how a parent justifies that decision.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Need for Policies that Address it

The reality of sibling abortion showcases the cognitive dissonance our society wrestles with when it comes to abortion. As Jonathon Van Maren explains, “what we instinctively and intellectually know about the pre-born child in the womb does not line up with what we culturally believe about abortion. Thus, someone can happily rejoice with a friend who had just discovered she is pregnant and congratulate her on her baby and drive another pregnant friend to the abortion clinic.” Or, someone can eagerly anticipate the birth of their child while choosing to end the life of that child’s sibling.

This cultural acceptance of two fundamentally competing ideas is a barrier for the pro-life movement. We have to reconnect the dots, insisting that our culture remember what they know about the humanity of pre-born children. This is why we support policies that overtly draw attention to the humanity of pre-born children and the destructive nature of abortion. Whether it’s defending pre-born girls from being targeted because they are girls or drawing connection between pre-born victims of crime and the victims of abortion, we need to tackle the cognitive dissonance head on by revealing what people already know about the victims of abortion.

There are many other good policies out there that are indirectly related to abortion, including providing financial support to families or improvements to our adoption system. But if we want to actually counter abortion, we need policies that tackle head on the cognitive dissonance that allows a parent to choose death for one child and life for the other child. If we want to see our culture wake up to the reality of what abortion is, we need to continually remind them what it is.

Van Maren summarizes this motivation: “Only a recognition of what abortion really is will heal our culture, because only with recognition, only with truth, can there be repentance. Without repentance there can be no healing. Pro-life activists know the truth. Millions don’t. It is up to our movement to confront them with the evidence that will destroy the deadly cognitive dissonance that is resulting in so much death.”