Amy Richards has been condemned a lot this week for this NYT article, mostly (but not exclusively) on the right half of the blogoverse.
Richards – who many Alas readers are familiar with as the co-author of Manifesta - was pregnant with triplets, and chose to abort two of the eight-week-old embryos so that she could give birth to only one child. From the article (which is not written by her, but “as told to Amy Barrett”):
The specialist called me back at 10 p.m. I had just finished watching a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall. As everybody burst into applause, I watched my cellphone vibrating, grabbed it and ran into the lobby. He told me that he does a detailed sonogram before doing a selective reduction to see if one fetus appears to be struggling. The procedure involves a shot of potassium chloride to the heart of the fetus. There are a lot more complications when a woman carries multiples. And so, from the doctor’s perspective, it’s a matter of trying to save the woman this trauma.
Many folks – even pro-choice folks – have been very disturbed by this article. I don’t see what the problem is.
Not being of an original frame of mind today, I’m just going to quote some of the better comments I’ve seen. From Majikthise:
However, for those who argue that one needs some “better” reason to have an abortion, let’s look a the facts of Richards’ case. As a single mother, Richards felt that she could provide a good home for one kid but not for triplets. If you think it frivolous to balk at the costs of two extra babies, imagine the difficulty of securing childcare for three infants, or the expense of keeping them fed, clothed and diapered. Three college savings plans… So, Richards bravely chose to bear exactly the number of babies she wanted. If those aren’t good reasons, I don’t know what are.
Besides, Richards and her partner plan to have more children when they are ready. When spacing births by selective abortion means a better life for the mother and her entire family, we should celebrate the practice.
She goes on to make good comments about the medical issues – having triplets really isn’t as safe as having just one baby, for either the mother or the infant. Read the whole thing.
In the comments at Unfogged, FL wrote:
Having the selective reduction doesn’t seem crazy to me– is it crazy to have an abortion for similar reasons after condom failure? This is one of the classic test cases, and most “pro-choice” people think that abortion is permissible in such a circumstance. Are the odds of triplets that much greater than condom failure? I’m not seeing the case for hell yet…
If you want to go bankrupt, try having a premature baby. Try having three. This isn’t a matter of just having to absorb the costs of an ordinary-sized family all at once, we’re talking about a vast increase in expense.
Mortality rates skyrocket with multiples. For single births in the US, death rates at birth are 2.7 per 1,000. For twins, 37; for triplets, 52; for more, 231.
Pre-term multiples tend to be low birth-weight. This is strongly correlated with the incidence of disabilities like mental retardation and cerebral palsy. The mothers also face greater risks of complications like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. These problems can be minimized by more intensive care during the pregnancy, which the article mentioned.
Seriously, we human beings are MUCH better off having our kids one at a time. We just aren’t very good at handling more.
This was followed up by a comment by Cardinal Fang, who wrote:
That’s more than “a little inconvenience.” Each baby has a five percent chance of dying, and even if a baby survives it’s likely to have lifelong problems.
Abortion is a means of controlling the number and frequency of bearing children. Richards’ reasons for wanting to control her reproduction were stated a bit flippantly by the writer, but they are not, as so many have argued, trivial. Wanting to have a career is not a trivial concern. The difference between raising a first baby and raising newborn triplets is not trivial. The health concerns that come with bearing triplets are not trivial.
That so many people – even some pro-choice people – were prepared to make a snap judgment that these are trivial or unimportant concerns convinces me, more than ever, that it would be a disaster to place the abortion decision in anyone’s hands but the mother’s.
* * *
In addition to the posts I linked to above, here are some other posts discussing Amy Richards’ abortion:
- Trish Wilson has a good, not-easy-to-quote-a-small-bit-of post on the matter.
- Professor Bainbridge gets the prize for most over-the-top pro-life comment: “It is hard to see how any one with normal human values could find common ground with the author of this essay, whose morality differs but little from Hitler’s executioners or the Rwandan genocidal killers.”
- The pro-choice UNF at Unfogged - whose readers had many super-intelligent comments, some of which I quoted above – is barely any better than Bainbridge. “… when you have the motives expressed in this article, you ought to be sent to jail. Because you’re certainly going to be sent to hell.” Yes, this woman wanted to have a career and control her own childrearing – how evil of her!
- Hugo Schwyzer is also pro-life, but he at least let a little humanity sneak into his judgment of Amy Richards, which makes him better than Bainbridge.
- Mousewords has a harsh – but I think often on target – critique of Hugo Schwyzer’s post.
- I disagree with just about everything on Sed Contra, but this post nonetheless struck me as the most thoughtful and interesting pro-life post I’ve read on the Amy Richards matter (although it’s also over-the-top in its comparisons to slavery, but if you read pro-life sites you get used to that sort of thing). Unlike the author, David Morrison, I have no problem understanding why the value hospitals give fetuses should depend on if the mother wants to go through with the pregnancy or not. Restaurants often cook food with great care for their customers, but throw out apparently identical food that is unwanted; I wonder if this practice also strikes David as contradictory?
- Feministing’s Hannah is more disturbed than I am, but comes (I think) to the right conclusion.
- Over at A Small Victory, I’m having a debate with a pro-lifer in the comments of this post. (If you go over there, please be ultra-polite.) I thought that this post, also on A Small Victory, was much more thoughtful and interesting.