Frances Kelly
From Octomom to MomMinusOne, is sex in America too 'consumerish'?
By Frances Kelly
August 12, 2011

We buy pornography, we buy sex, we choose sperm donors, eggs, fertilized embryos, pregnancy tests, and genetic tests. Then we pay for tubal ligations, selective reductions, and sex-selected abortions. We change our minds and our genders. Has sex in America become too "consumerish"?

A New York Times article called "The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy" raises many ethical questions about abortion. Mothers undergoing selective reduction of twins wonder: "Did we choose the right one?"

Playing God

And that wasn't a radical rightwing fundamentalist talking. That was a woman living with her female partner for over 15 years, both of whom underwent IVF and conceived twins. The mother questioned the morality of choice. "That idea, that one's gone and one's here, it's almost like playing God. I mean, who are we to choose?"

Her conflicting emotions and ethical misgivings ring clearly: "Even as it was happening, I wondered what the future would have been if the doctor had put the needle into the other one."

Buyer's remorse

What if they made the wrong choice? As if babies came with a 15-year warranty like a washing machine. Do we have a right to guarantees and returns? How do we deal with buyer's remorse when it's a child we're paying for? Remember Octomom? Nadya Suleman gave birth to eight babies through IVF and now regrets it. "I absolutely wish I had not had them."


A different mother of twins says her decision to abort one of them was a natural extension of the artificial manufacturing of babies. "But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control."

Half an abortion

The NYT writer, Ruth Padawer, describes twin reduction as "almost as if having half an abortion." As if the baby isn't a whole person in her own right, merely half of a twin set. Like buying a two-piece bathing suit and returning the bottoms because they didn't fit right.

Padawer is mystified. "What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? Perhaps it's because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another when either one is equally wanted."

Ya think?

Or perhaps because the blindfold is removed and the mother is well aware that it is a baby she is terminating, not a blob of tissue.

Sophie's Choice

Or perhaps it's because calling abortion "just another choice" is horrific when mothers are faced with Sophie's Choice: which child do you keep?

But this is the wrong question. Rather than obsessing over which child to terminate, or why it's controversial, the more important question is: Is abortion itself the correct choice?

Natural order

MomMinusOne blames IVF. "If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn't have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there's a natural order, then you don't want to disturb it."

There is a natural order. And it doesn't involve sperm donors or ovulation injections or test tubes. It's called sex. And the great thing is, it doesn't have to be "consumerish," it can be relationship-oriented. To learn more about fertility, check out natural family planning.

As government takes over healthcare, controversial procedures such as selective reduction will need to be resolved not just by individual families, but also by the public at large who will be footing the bill.

Padawer asserts that, "the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction."


  • Do you agree that convicted criminals have the right to buy a new gender at taxpayer expense?

  • The Pill increases the risk of HIV infection; do you agree that taxpayers should fund it in mandated Obamacare insurance?

  • Should taxes pay for sex-selected abortions?

  • Should Obamacare cover sterilization?


Get ready for more meddling. Obamacare is on the way, it is pro-choice, and these medical services will be charged to the nation's credit card.

Can we afford to be consumerish with sex?

© Frances Kelly


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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