Thursday, April 29, 2004

Fetal Reduction 

I read a book on the history of warfare quite some time ago. The book discussed how it used to be considered bad form to aim at any one particular person when you were shooting at the enemy, that it should, rather, be left to chance, to God, who is shot and not shot. Of course, until around the time of the American Civil War, it didn’t make much difference if you aimed or not because little accuracy existed without rifling.

I bring this up because of the cancellation of Dr. Nancy Snyderman as the commencement speak at the St. Francis Catholic University. Bishop D’Arcy apparently found out that Dr. Snyderman is a proponent of “fetal reduction," which is the abortion of some babies when too many result from in-vitro fertilization. I have a friend who went the in-vitro route to have a baby. The woman is given a drug so that she drops multiple eggs instead of just one. Those eggs are removed from her body, anywhere from 7 to 10 eggs in all, I think, and fertilized with her husband's sperm and then put back into her uterus. Sometimes, some fertilized eggs are frozen for future tries. The chances of even one of the eggs "catching" is very small. Sometimes, however, many babies at once can be the result.

For some reason, this makes me think of the old time warfare, a volley of shots into the uterus and let God pick who lives or dies. Well, Dr. Snyderman says that "common sense must prevail," and some fetuses in these cases must be "reduced." Here is a quote from the linked article:

The McCaugheys would not allow a "reduction" and insisted on carrying all seven of the babies to birth, trusting God to take care of them, and praying that all seven would be born healthy and safe. "We're just kind of waiting to see what happens and just trust that God's given us these babies," said Mr. McCaughey. "It's all in his hands."

That was just too much for Nancy Snyderman, medical correspondent for ABC television's Good Morning America. Appearing on the Oct. 30 program, Dr. Snyderman vented her outrage at the McCaugheys' decision. "At one point common sense must intervene over technology," she asserted. Acknowledging that the possibilities of survival in these cases are greater than ever, Dr. Snyderman argued that "it's really high time that we look at survivability with quality of life." The answer, she insisted, is really quite clear: "Now, I know it's an unsavory thought for a lot of people, but selective abortion, where you literally think about not which fetuses to get rid of but how many to get rid of, is something that we really need to talk about openly in situations like this."

Good Morning America host Charles Gibson seemed shocked by Dr. Snyderman's candid proposal and reminded her of the McCaugheys' decision to "leave this in the hands of God." Dr. Snyderman's quick response was even more shocking: "But it's already out of the hands of God, Charlie," she argued. "This is modern technology created by man, pushing the envelope. So I think it's foolhardy to suddenly throw, 'Well, it's God's will.' That to me is a funny mix of medicine and religion and ethics and technology all in one."

In my friend's case, she was lucky enough that just one baby resulted and she has a wonderful son she would never have had otherwise (she believes). I can see why the Catholic Catechism is against in-vitro fertilization although I would never want my friend to not have her son. Dr. Snyderman, and probably most doctors, believe that after an old fashioned volley of shots are fired and seven are left standing, we should take out our modern rifles and execute five or six of the seven. Now, I agree that having seven babies at once isn't a good idea, but isn't the Catholic teaching of "Let's not even go there" better than Snyderman's "It never was in God's hands, anyway."

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