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Hastings Scholars Quoted on Challenging Bioethical Issues in New York Times Sunday Magazine

Hastings Center research scholars Josephine Johnston and Erik Parens were quoted in two articles examining challenging reproductive ethical issues appearing in recent issues of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Johnston’s quote appeared in an August 10, 2011 article about selective reduction of twin to singleton pregnancies; Parens’ quote was in a July 29, 2011 article on a father’s quest to cure Down syndrome.

In “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy,” author Ruth Padawer writes, “[W]hat began as an intervention for extreme medical circumstances has quietly become an option for women carrying twins. With that, pregnancy reduction shifted from a medical decision to an ethical dilemma.” Johnston expands on this in her quote, saying, “[T]he dark lining of that otherwise very silver cloud [of women’s ability to control their fertility] is that you make the choice of when to get pregnant, and so you feel really responsible for its consequences, like do you have enough money to do it well, and are you going to be able to provide your child with everything you think you ought to provide? In an environment where you can have so many choices, you own the outcome in a way that you wouldn’t have, had the choices not existed. If reduction didn’t exist, women wouldn’t worry that by not reducing, they’re at fault for making life more difficult for their existing kids. In an odd way, having more choices actually places a much greater burden on women, because we become the creators of our circumstance, whereas, before, we were the recipients of them. I’m not saying we should have less choices; I’m saying choices are not always as liberating and empowering as we hope they will be.”

 “A Father’s Search for a Drug for Down Syndrome” tells the story of the “abrupt turn” in the life of physician and neuroscientist Alberto Costa, when his daughter was born with Down syndrome, which led him to “devote his life” to the study of the disease. In the article, author Dan Hurley notes recent reports of new studies of noninvasive blood tests that would enable pregnant women to check for Down syndrome in their fetuses, writing that “[f]ew of the articles, however, took note of the profound unease many medical ethicists, including some who are ardently pro-choice, feel about the tests and how they might lead to a dramatic reduction in the Down syndrome population.” Erik Parens was quoted as saying, “Even people who are traditionally against abortion are sometimes willing to condone it when the abortion is of a fetus with a disabling trait. But it’s important to recognize that there is a huge range of genetic disorders. In their own way, a lot of kids with Down syndrome flourish, and so do their families.”