No moral questions involved? The National Post bungles report on 'selective reduction'

I’ve done a fair amount of work on abortion and pregnancy issues, including "fetal reduction" and the enormous number of moral issues raised by that procedure.

Such “reductions” were first suggested for pregnancies of four, five or more but now people are even aborting part of a set of twins. That’s right. And who’s going to explain to the survivor that they were once part of a pair and that they were the lucky one to not get the needle in the heart?

Because there’s been some debate over aborting one of a set of twins, I was interested in this National Post story out of Toronto over a Jewish hospital staff’s refusal to take part in this procedure. Let's see how the Post handles this matter:

TORONTO -- A Toronto hospital’s refusal to reduce a woman’s twin pregnancy to one fetus -- at least partly because of a doctor’s moral objections -- has triggered a human-rights fight over the little-known but contentious procedure.
The Ottawa-area patient had been warned that carrying twins at her age could increase the risk of losing the whole pregnancy, and was referred to Mount Sinai Hospital for a “selective reduction.” That means terminating at least one among multiple fetuses, akin to a partial abortion.
But the institution declined to provide the service, saying its practice was to only reduce triplets or more, unless one of the twins has some kind of anomaly.

And of course the hospital team suggested that the woman simply go south for this particular abortion procedure.

A terse email said the procedure was available in the United States, without specifying where exactly. Mount Sinai later said the “conscience of the clinicians” at the hospital would not let them eliminate one of two healthy twins.
“I was shocked, I was honestly disgusted and I felt judged,” the woman, identified in the case only as C.V., recalled in an interview. “It was very much a judgmental and ill-thought and essentially disrespectful reaction. … I was literally in disbelief.”

The article goes on to say the hospital indicated it would rather abort both children instead of just one and that Mt. Sinai would not comment further on the matter.

Well, that’s interesting. Does anyone have any questions at this point?

So, what is the ethical difference between aborting twins and aborting one of two twins? Since Mt. Sinai has Jewish roots and there are no shortage of Canadian Jewish ethicists, why wasn’t one interviewed for this piece?

Yes, the reporter found two bio-ethicists to side with the mother. So why didn't the Post team search for at least one expert with an opposing point of view?

Or maybe the folks who wrote this article about the situation could have been quoted. 

Of course the 45-year-old woman who had the pregnancy had plenty of indignant quotes in the story, which is to be expected. Meanwhile, the hospital's point of view -- this is the new normal -- was reduced to press releases and a policy statement saying there’s no medical proof that “reducing” one twin will benefit the survivor.

The National Post has covered this topic before, so it’s not like they don’t have a well of possible sources. Instead, the newspaper alludes to the “risks of carrying twins,” referring to a 12-year-old U.S. study. And sure, there are risks, but with the number of twin births (at least in the United States) at an all-time high, it’s become almost commonplace. It is certainly not a death sentence, at least for the mom. As for one of the hapless twins, well, that’s what the Post is writing about.

The word “conscience” is mentioned once in this piece as being a reason that clinicians refused to do this abortion. So was an unknown doctor having “moral objections” to aborting a twin? Obviously there was a huge interior debate going on at this hospital over this woman’s request along with certain individuals who refused to do the procedure, but no one was brought in -- via interviews -- to show that there might be ethical and religious problems with these abortions.

However, the New York Times, writing about the same topic back in 2011, found a medical practice that had been doing "reductions" on twins until the entire medical staff revolted, saying there is no medical justification for such a thing. They haven't done any since. 

Lastly, it took me all of a few seconds to find this blog of comments by surrogate moms whose clients have ordered them to “reduce” one or more of the babies in their wombs. It’s not fun reading but it gives you a picture of what these women go through. Had the reporter wanted to work harder on this story, there are so many avenues he could have used. It's called journalism.

Sadly, he chose none of them.

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