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Selective reduction (or fetal reduction) is a form of abortion, specifically, the practice of reducing the number of fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy (those involving more than one fetus). With selective reduction, one or more fetuses are "selected" for termination. This procedure is often performed after a congenital defect has been identified. Prenatal diagnostic testing may be used to determine which of the fetuses has a greater chance of chromosomal defect or genetic disease. The fetus(es) with the highest likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities are then targeted in selective reduction.

The term "selective reduction" is also used in the case of multifetal reduction, which is a procedure to reduce a higher-order multiple pregnancy (one with three or more fetuses) to a twin or singleton pregnancy, without targeting a specific fetus for reduction. It can also be used to reduce a twin pregnancy to a singleton one, but this is less common as the risks in twin pregnancies, while existent, are much lower than in higher-order multiple ones. The aim of multifetal reduction is to avoid the medical issues generally related to multiple births (including premature births, low birth weights and associated medical problems).[1]. A first person account of a woman's decision to selectively abort two of her three babies appeared in the New York Times. She discussed her desire to continue to live in the city and her unwillingness to modify her lifestyle. [2] Proponents obliquely cite the health consequences of multiple births and the benefits that accrue to one fetus from the killing of other fetuses. Critics charge that reduction is a form of eugenics.


The reduction procedure is generally carried out during the first trimester.[3] The most common method is to inject a chemical solution or feticide into the fetus or fetuses selected for either genetic reasons or for ease of accessibility. Generally, the fetal material is reabsorbed into the woman's body. While the procedure generally reduces the over-all risk level for the remaining fetus or fetuses, reduction does have its own risks, including the possibility that one or more of the remaining fetuses will also die.

Selective or multifetal reduction can be a very difficult decision for those who choose to make it; in many cases it is a decision faced by couples who used fertility treatments that resulted in a multifetal pregnancy.

Dr. Mark Evans, a New York City-based obstetrician-geneticist, and a group of doctors, developed the procedure for selective reduction in the 1980s. Evans is one of the few doctors in the U.S. who not only performs the procedure but also is "willing to discuss all qualms, ethics, issues [and] outcomes". However, Evans does not accept insurance for payment - he is a "cash-only" doctor. [4]

See also


  1. ^ "Too Much to Carry?" by Liza Mundy, from the May 20, 2007 issue of the The Washington Post
  2. ^ "[1]"When One Is Enough, New York Times
  3. ^ Komaroff, Anthony. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, page 913 (Simon and Schuster 1999): “Selective reduction is usually performed during the first trimester....”
  4. ^ "Washington Post Magazine Examines Selective-Reduction Procedure For Pregnancies With Multiple Fetuses".  

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