Struggling with Fertility, a Couple Aborts Healthy Twin Boys Because They Want a Girl

Maybe you’ve already read this disturbing article on about a presumably infertile Australian couple that announced this week that they have aborted healthy twin boys because they want to have a girl?

The unnamed couple already has three healthy boys.

They’ve been doing IVF treatments.

They had a baby daughter who died soon after birth.

Though we don’t know much about them, we know part of their story because they’re bringing their case to an Australian court. Sex selection is illegal in Australia but the couple is petitioning to try again.

If the Australians say no, they plan to come to America where, apparently, it’s okay to abort healthy fetuses in search of designer children.

According to Bonnie Rochman, who wrote the article:

“Since 2008, Victoria’s Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act has prohibited sex selection except in cases where it would allow parents to avoid transmitting a genetic disease. It’s legal — though still controversial in many circles — in the U.S., where pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PIGD) is used to separate XX from XY chromosomes for reasons of ‘family balancing.’”

If my mother-in-law had been pro-choice my husband would have been an abortion. She got pregnant when she was just 17 and had James when she was 18. We refused genetic testing with every pregnancy because I knew I couldn’t abort a fetus that my husband and I conceived in love. I’m not explaining this well. I’m pro-choice. I believe a woman has the right to choose whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy. I believe it’s better to abort than to bring an unwanted child into the world who won’t be well taken care of.

When I was in my early twenties in a long distance unhappy relationship I found out I was pregnant. I agonized over what to do. I was so ashamed. Suddenly there were babies everywhere and happy moms pushing strollers. I locked myself in my room for two days and couldn’t stop crying for weeks. Ultimately I chose to have an abortion. I’m not proud that I did that. If you write me hateful angry comments at the end of this post, I will not delete them. Instead, I’ll agree with everything awful you think about me for having made that mistake. Every year for years afterwards on a Friday in October I would get profoundly depressed. I still think about the life that could have been but wasn’t, and I still wonder, all these years later, if I made a mistake.

When my friend’s daughter got pregnant by mistake, the family came together to help her. Her daughter’s twenty-two and has a two-year-old. I’m not trying to romanticize their situation: it isn’t easy. But that little girl adds so much joy and light to the world. My friend gets to enjoy a grandchild while she’s still young and energetic. And the whole family has come together because of the birth of that baby.

When another friend told me in a cavalier voice that she got pregnant by mistake and didn’t want another child (she and her husband, who are quite well off, already had four) so she had an abortion, I felt my face go numb.

Then there’s the friend who gave a child up for adoption when she was 18. Later she aborted an unwanted pregnancy (due to a birth control failure). Today she feels worse about the abortion than she does about the adoption.

I’ve come to hope that abortion will only be used in the most extreme circumstances.

Whatever the reason for having one, I don’t think abortion is ever a good choice.

“This is so unhealthy and so very sad,” Tertia Albertyn who blogs at So Close and who underwent nine rounds of IVF before giving birth to healthy twins, wrote to me when I asked her what she thought of this situation. “Sad for those parents who are obviously not handling their grief very well at all. Sad for the sons who might feel they are not enough. Sad for the daughter who died. Sad for the future daughter who carries enormous weight of expectation. And sad for us IVF’ers who get associated with stuff like this.”

After her own struggle with fertility, Albertyn went on to start an egg donor and surrogacy program in South Africa. She, too, has suffered and grieved the loss of a child, as she details in her book about her journey to fertility.

“I dont think aborting a fetus is ever a ‘good’ idea,” Albertyn wrote. “Perhaps, under some circumstances it is necessary. However, I do believe there are bad reasons for aborting a fetus and the baby being the ‘wrong’ gender is a very, very bad idea. If what it is euphemistically called ‘family balancing’ is required (where you have three girls and you desperately want a son), there are ways to ensure that only the required sex embryos are transferred to the womb. This is known as PGD. You do this prior to implantation, not after.”

But Patricia Mendell, Co-Chair of the Board of The American Fertility Association and a licensed therapist specializing in infertility in New York City, says if you are pro-choice it’s unfair to judge a couple that decides to abort for any reason. “I deal with pregnancy loss all the time and it is devastating,” Mendell told me during a phone interview. “If you’re pro-choice, the question becomes what makes one decision okay but another not okay?”

Mendell believes couples undergoing fertility treatments should get a lot of counseling and talk through all of the possible outcomes before they begin. “The problem a lot of times, besides the financial cost of all of this, is there are a lot of different and difficult choices,” Mendell said. “There’s no one right choice. That’s what’s really really hard for people.”

Readers, what do you think? Was this couple justified in aborting healthy twin boys in their quest for a girl? Should they continue doing fertility treatments instead of adopting a daughter? If you are pro-choice, do you believe abortion is always justified? Can you be pro-choice and anti-abortion at the same time?

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27 thoughts on “Struggling with Fertility, a Couple Aborts Healthy Twin Boys Because They Want a Girl”

  1. fascinating. i’m always surprised at how complicated the issue of abortion is. i, too, am pro-choice but cannot imagine aborting a fetus. in the case of the australian couple, it sounds to me that they need grief counseling more than anything else.

  2. Wow. This is a fascinating article, Jennifer. And it is a great question: Can you be pro-choice and anti-abortion? I just don’t know.

    Tertia Albertyn makes a great point about this situation being so sad and so unhealthy. But we are not these people and we do not know what they are going through (walk a mile in my shoes, kind of thing), although it all seems very wrong. Adoption would seem to make sense. Can they just do what they want?

    I think there is no perfect answer.

    Thank you too for sharing your story. I know there are loads of women out there who will appreciate your words.
    .-= Adrienne Martin´s last blog ..An A-Z Guide to Sweeteners =-.

  3. Of course you can be pro-choice and anti-abortion. There are no rules here. Life is very messy, so many gray areas. And we must go with our heart and the wisdom of our head. That may mean that your heart wants to speak out against abortion for “family balancing.” Or your heart cries when you do choose to abort a child that wisdom decided was for “the best.” It is all messy and complicated and it brings me back to the huge picture of the power and rights of the individual. In our society, culture, we value the rights of the individual and being independent. We have traded in the power of the group or tribe, for the individual. As I reflect on this, my heart asks, where is the cultural wisdom in a society that puts the individual first?

    thanks for sharing Jennifer. always thought provoking!

  4. Thanks for the nice write up, though I feel under no circumstances should such an abortion have been done, but yes, each one to their own.

  5. This issue has my head spinning. I’m pro-choice, too, but I know if I ever had to abort a fetus, I’d be so conflicted. This circumstance really has me feeling sympathy and anger all at once. I feel for this couple, but cannot help but feel angry over what they did. There’s simply no easy answer, I’m afraid.
    .-= Sheryl´s last blog ..What John Boehner

  6. To each her own. Her body-her choice. That is how I feel about the topic. Some women have conflicted feelings after their abortions, many before and still go through it. I for one have zero conflicted feelings about my past terminations but have many reservations and regrets related to an adoption.

  7. As for pro-choice/antiabortion. I see prochoice as being someone who is for the legal and safe availability of abortion to women. You do not have to feel it is morally right or have zero conflicted feelings about it. You are entitled to feel that way. I also don’t believe that just because a woman is prochoice it means she is okay with abortion for herself or even okay with abortion at all.

    I thik problems present themselves when people who call themselves prochoice begin to limit when the MEDICAL procedure should and should not take place. Everyone has a different moral center. Keeping it legal and fully assessable to all women eliminates individuals morals getting in the way of what a woman feels is best for her.

  8. If it’s ok to abort a child before it’s born because you wanted a different sex, is it ok to let it die just after it’s born because the ultrasound tech made a mistake? If not, why not? What is the difference, beyond the baby’s location? Or size? Is “wantedness” a requirement for the privilege of being allowed to live? Why do we call the baby a fetus? I’ve never heard a mother happy to be pregnant call her child a fetus. Only one who isn’t happy. “Fetus” sounds so much less…human. I used to be pretty militantly pro-choice. I had a “Keep Abortion Safe & Legal” button on my purse, and rather enjoyed that it ticked off a lot of people. Then I lived out my own philosophy and discovered a whole different reality of grief, pain and loss. Since I was never able to conceive again, I am so thankful that I was given a second chance through adoption. Two birth mothers who had more wisdom and love in their 14 and 22 year old pinkies than I had in my whole entire being at the same ages, who laid down their own desires for the sake of their children, and then, incomprehensibly, trusted them to one so untrustworthy as I, and that, a near stranger. How do you explain such faith and love? Let me just ask, whose world view do you prefer? The one that embraces life even when it brings pain, or one that is willing to choose the death of one’s progeny for the sake of personal autonomy? I’d rather live in their world than the one I constructed. Because of forgiveness, because of love, because of second chances, and yes, because of God, I do live in their world. It’s a world of great joy and thankfulness. I’ll never go back. I have come to the conviction that child is a gift of indescribable value,a spiritual being, not a commodity to be accepted or rejected based on one’s one life circumstances. I think the reason people feel conflicted is in their hearts they know what this couple did is horribly wrong; but they also treasure their personal freedom and wish not to be judged for their own choices, so they don’t want to judge others. It just seems that the kind of world where everybody claims the right to decide for themselves what is right and wrong ends up being unliveable, or a place we wouldn’t want to live. Perhaps there is a moral code that is written on all of our hearts, and protecting innocent human life, wherever it is found, in or out of the womb, young or old or disabled, is one of those things we could agree on if we really thought carefully about it.

  9. I’m absolutely pro choice. But with that, I fervently hope that people make the right choice, for the right reason. A well-situated family aborting fetuses just because they were the “wrong” sex doesn’t seem like a good reason to me. It seems selfish and bratty and spoiled – very childish. I understand the desire for a daughter, but NOT at the expense of the boys.

    I knew a woman years ago who had two boys and desperately wanted a girl. She went for PIGD to get her girl, and even then ended up with a boy. This matter? It’s one for Mother Nature to deal with, IMHO.
    .-= Kris Bordessa´s last blog ..Kahumoku Ohana Hawaiian Music and Lifestyle Workshop =-.

  10. Using a case of gender selection for an argument against abortion really stinks. While it may be a hugely emotional issue for you, don’t put it on everyone else. You may feel badly, but don’t project your own guilt onto other women. I am really, really bummed to read this on Mothering, a magazine I associate with being pro-women.

  11. I guess I would classify myself as both pro-choice and anti-abortion. I think if there are severe genetic issues, or if a rape was involved, or there is a health risk to the mother, then it is understandable, but for someone to use it as birth control, or because its not the sex you wanted…. I do not agree with that. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I admit, I was a bit upset because I thought for sure he was a girl. Within a few days, I was thrilled, ad I wouldn’t trade him in for the world! Since then, I have had 2 healthy girls as well. The thought of termination was NEVER on my mind at all because a part of me was a bit disappointed that he was not a girl. There are so many couple in this world that are not able to conceive for one reason or another, and for someone to choose to terminate due to the “wrong” gender is sad. What is this world coming to?

  12. I consider myself pro-life. Although I do think the morning after pill should remain legal. I don’t consider it abortive because the egg doesn’t implant. Breastfeeding does the same thing at times. I don’t judge pro choice people though. A lot of people have different ideas of when “life” actually begins. For me it’s with a heartbeat. I wonder how much more responsible some people would be if abortion wasn’t a birth control choice. I have lots of friends that have had abortions, I don’t judge them, they are good people, who have gone on to be good moms to other babies. Eventhough I am pregnant with my 6th I have had issues with fertility… Read my blog to learn more. I also have four boys and one girl right now. We’ve chosen not to find out the sex until delivery day. Part of me wants another girl of course, but I could never discard the life I have growing inside me. I cried for those precious baby boys when I read this.

    .-= Eve´s last blog ..Natural Childbirth – Part 1 =-.

  13. As long as we have the right to make the abortion decision, there will always be people choosing to have an abortion for the “wrong” reasons. While we may fervently disagree with the “why” behind the choice, I’d much rather live in a world where the choice is not taken away from me entirely.
    .-= Casey@Good. Food. Stories.´s last blog ..Movie Review- Today

  14. This has always been a difficult topic for me because — as I began identifying more and more as a feminist — I still couldn’t help feeling… well… anti-abortion. Because… yes. I felt people turned to quickly to it for reasons that did not seem to warrant such an act, rather than exploring other options, such as adoption.

    What this couple did strikes me as very selfish, though I can’t presume to know everything about the decision they made.
    .-= Steph Auteri´s last blog ..Baby Bytes- Are My Sexy Days Over =-.

  15. The idea of doing fertility treatments and then aborting makes me shake my head. Really, so many people struggle for any baby AT ALL, and these people had two and then decided they wanted better? I’m finding it very hard to quell my judgment in this case.
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Oysters Rockefeller Recipe =-.

  16. There ought to be more societal encouragement and praise, or incentives, even, for people to give up children they’d rather not have for adoption. If this woman considered how charitable it would be to have these two babies and let someone else have the chance to be a mom, wouldn’t she feel better the rest of her life? Now she may live a life of constant denial of dark feelings, or will be traumatized by her decision later in ways she never expected. I know pregnancy is a time commitment, and it’s unlikely someone who can terminate lives in a flash would want to ‘waste’ 9 months of time. But what if there were some sort of incentive (even money or public praise/media acknowledgement) beyond the personal satisfaction of being a giving/caring person? I’m talking about caring for others in the world, not just yourself. Money would not do it for me, personally, but something like acknowledgement or validity from others would feel worthwhile.

    I am very concerned about what’s to come, ethically, with the current and future technology. More poor (almost said WRONG) choices could be made more casually, just because we have the technology now. Along with that will be rationalizations and herd mentality that’s devoid of any sense of morality. Remember when people rationalized that formula made in modern times must be better (and more convenient) than breastfeeding?

    I also wonder if pretty soon we’ll see fewer companies with names like Dutch Brothers, because if a family wants a son and daughter, these families won’t have two sisters or two brothers anymore. Really, it could happen.

  17. I am prochoice but very anti abortion. I think what that couple did was horrible. Why didn’t they just come to the US in the first place and use gender things here? I hope no doctor here even will take them on in light of what they have done.

  18. I’m really not sure I entirely understand what you’re saying, but I believe that you’re suggesting that you can’t be “pro-life” and also “pro-women”? I would respectfully disagree. At the risk of being labelled any number of undesirable things, I have always felt like the highest, most important job I do is that of mothering my children: the one job I can do that no man has ever done. Let me make it clear that that’s not because I’m incapable of competing in the workplace: I have chosen motherhood as my vocation because it is a noble and worthy pursuit. It is my contribution to a better and happier world. I am *for* women having the children they conceive, and I am *for* women doing the job only women can do: mothering.

    Essentially, your suggestion that abortion is synonomous with suffrage, feminism, and whatever things you deem as “pro-woman” is at best degrading and offensive. The magazine titled “Mothering” ought to support those who choose to be mothers, and I think that they strive to do so.

  19. The decision to abort is a personal one, of course, and it’s never easy. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for this couple to make this decision. I would imagine that they wrestled with it–at least I hope they did. That said, I think it should be illegal to abort just because the sex of the baby isn’t what you desire. There has to be line. Otherwise people eventually WILL start designing their babies and then Brave New World is upon us.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Live Regret Free- Day 7 =-.

  20. Of course it’s fair to limit when something is right. We do it all the time. Our country allows the death penalty (whether we agree with that or not), but we don’t torture people to death. We place moral limits, societally and legally, on things all around us. It’s okay legally to argue with, belittle, and verbally abuse your spouse, but you can be arrested for hitting and injuring them. It’s okay to own a gun and shoot targets or animals, but not people (unless it’s self defense–even more nuances to the question of when something is okay). I’m not sure I’m explaining this well, but I’m just trying to say that we do make moral decisions all the time that effectively limit ‘freedom’. Abortion really isn’t any different. There are times it’s understandable and times it’s not okay, because it IS affecting another human life. We all just choose to define that line quite differently sometimes.

  21. Sad as it is to see someone have an abortion for what clearly seems to me to be a “wrong” reason, I am much more saddened by all the people I see having children for the wrong reasons. I’m not anti-abortion at all. It’s a complex issue, but dealing with unwanted pregnancies has always been a part of women’s experience. A full third of women will have had an abortion by the end of their reproductive years — I’m so grateful to women like Jennifer who break the silence and share their stories.

  22. <>

    I agree with this. I am absolutely prochoice when the issue is about bodily autonomy. You do not desire a pregnancy, and are pregnant by accident or rape, then abortion seems to me an incontestible right. The right is to ‘control one’s body’ and abortion is an means to that end.

    But does any man or woman have an incontestible right to determine the gender of another human being? Do they have an incontestible right to end the life of another, that they were instrumental in creating, for the sake of gender?

    Furthermore, the woman desires a pregnancy, so this is not about the right to control *her* own body.

    There is no moral equivalency whatsoever in this situation to that of a woman choosing a termination because she does not desire a pregnancy.

    Are there right and wrong reasons to abort, absolutely.

  23. Also, restricting when abortion can take place does not mean making abortion illegal. In France for eg. it is illegal to have an abortion after the first trimester. Why cant it be made illegal to have an abortion for the sake of gender selection?

  24. What a thought-provoking post. Although I’m pro-choice, I don’t know if I could have gone through an abortion myself. The reasons would have had to be very compelling. In this instance, it seems that the parents are searching for a perfect life. I’m not sure that abortion is appropriate n this case. Thanks for sharing your story, Jennifer.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Ragged Point Inn- Rooms With a View on the Big Sur Coast =-.

  25. After my own struggle with infertility and many rounds of IVF treatment,I conceived a son, now 2. Thereafter we decided that we wanted a girl and as sex selection is not only available and legal in South Africa but also accessible, we went ahead. Our daughter via IVF PGD sex selection is now 10 months old. We did however “sacrifice” 2 male embryos in the process. On the first round of IVF we had 2 viable embryos which we elected to freeze. We tried again and had one viable embryos, a female, who we transferred and I carried her to term. I guess the question is “Are my choices any different to the couple who elected to abort their fetuses?” I have made many fertility and related contacts as Co-Founder of Gift ov life egg donation agency and at this stage I am trying to donate our embryos to international stem cell research. My friends and family have varying views..from “how wonderful to contribute to stem cell research in such a meaningful way” to “that’s murder.”

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