A new phrase has entered our Orwellian vocabulary: foetal reduction. What this means is that a mother who, following artificial reproduction, discovers that, rather than having the three babies who are growing in her womb, she would like to cull one or more of them. If the word cull carries the overtones of culling young seals, abhorrent indeed to many animal lovers, I can’t help that. Foetuses are clearly inferior to seals. However, while Jewish skin was on occasion converted into lampshades, I have yet to see, say, a foetusskin handbag.
At one level this is perfectly reasonable. The mother never wanted three babies; they were implanted as backup. Not only are triplets a handful, but there are outcomes in terms of increased risks. As one, oh so sensible, woman said “I just want the best possible outcome for my pregnancy and my children, and that might not be keeping all three.” (Telegraph 28 Dec 2011)
I am not a mother but I find it depressing to think about what stages of human decline such a mother must have sunk through to think that with sincerity. I can understand, though I do not agree, why a mother might feel an embryo of 10 days to be of less account. But in this case it was at 12 weeks. Has she ever seen a scan of a 12 week foetus?
Figures published this year showed that, in 2010, 482 babies with Down syndrome were aborted. Ten of these were over 24 weeks old. Another 181 were aborted due to a family history in inherited disorders. In total, there were 2,290 abortions in 2010 for reasons of some handicap or genetic problem. Of these 147 were performed after 24 weeks of gestation. Getting these figures was, I am told, like drawing teeth. The Department of Health knew well the extent of the fuss made by late abortion of babies, some of whose disabilities were trivial.
You can read a much fuller description of the abortion of the disabled in Zenit – a fine Catholic news site. At http://www.zenit.org/article-33037?l=english