In West Africa’s pre-colonial period, the Igbo people believed twins were a bad omen. Single births were considered “human,” but multiple births belonged to the realm of animals. When a mother delivered two healthy babies instead of one, the parents would leave one newborn to die in the ojoo ofia (“bad bush”) outside the town, or simply suffocate one.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian Europeans so lamented these barbaric twin killings that it became one of the great mission causes of the time. Every Christian denomination sent missionaries there until the late 1930s, including the famous Mary Slessor of Calabar. Eventually, the twin killings stopped.
But the practice is back — in America.
Ruth Padawer in the New York Times chronicles the surge of twin killings (or “reductions,” to use the clinical language of the abortion industry). Modern fertility treatments have created so many multi-infant pregnancies that the demand for abortions in high-risk situations has skyrocketed. As a result, women — who appear desperate to have children but to have those children completely on their own terms — are increasingly killing one baby in utero even if they are only carrying twins. Far from being deemed necessary for the health of the mother, these “twin reductions” are being performed for pure personal convenience.
All but one of the couples interviewed for the article asked for anonymity, for fear that their friends (and the surviving twin) would judge their decision. In fact, doctors frequently encourage the mothers not to tell others what they’ve done. Even to abortion providers, there’s something about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems barbaric.
Some doctors have decided to discontinue the service, but others continue to quietly “reduce” twins in the privacy of their air-conditioned offices, serving coffee in the waiting room. Dr. Mark Evans, one of the first doctors to perform the procedure, used to believe “twin reduction” crossed “the line between doing a procedure for a medical indication versus one for a social indication.” Years later, however, he reversed his opinion and now advocates that everyone carrying twins should at least be given the option to “reduce” the pregnancy. “Ethics,” he said, “evolve with technology.”
And so America has “evolved” all the way back to the moral condition of the Igbo people during the late 19th century. We can only wait and see which country will send missionaries to America to save us from ourselves.
— Nancy French is the co-author of Bristol Palin’s Not Afraid of Life and Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War.