Charlie Quimby at Across the Great Divide has been doing yeoman’s work covering the ongoing tragedy of sextuplets born last week in Minnesota. It’s a difficult and heart-wrenching story that, for me, pushes my ability to be pro-choice to its limits.
To recap for those of you not following the story, Brianna Morrison gave birth last week to six children, four boys and two girls. Brianna was 22 weeks into her pregnancy, not quite to the third trimester.
Brianna and her husband, Ryan, had been using fertility drugs in order to conceive. A conservative Christian couple, they rejected selective reduction as a possibility once they found out Brianna was carrying six embryos.
Six children were born last week; three have died thus far, and the prognosis for the remaining three is not good. Even if they survive, they are likely to face severe hurdles in life. Cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities are strong possibilities.
There are, of course, many questions that should be answered, including whether the fertility clinic treating the Morrisons behaved recklessly by using an aggressive treatment, knowing that the Morrisons were implacably opposed to abortion under any circumstances.
But the issue I want to touch on is how this affects choice issues.
Most of those reading this, I suspect, believe the Morrisons should have undergone selective reduction — aborting some fetuses to give the others a better chance to reach full-term, or close to it. Indeed, I think most of you have my gut-level response that these parents were irresponsibly gambling with the health and lives of their children by not making that choice. That they should have made that choice.
That they should have been made to make that choice.
And therein lies the problem, because if one believes in choice, one has to believe in it across the board, even in cases when the choice seems so clearly wrong.
It is easy to stand back and hurl criticisms at the Morrisons. And it is certainly all right to say that they made the wrong choice, especially in retrospect. We’re all allowed our own moral views.
But it was their — and more specifically, her — choice to make. And while we may feel that we know better than the Morrisons what decision they should have made, it’s a short hop from forcing them to undergo selective reduction to forcing others to carry their pregnancies to term, regardless of their wishes.