© 2008  Karen Selick

An edited version of this article first appeared in the January 25, 2008 issue of the National Post.
 If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


Transoption--the Abortion Solution

There’s an obvious solution to a large portion of the abortion problem, and I can’t understand why another twenty years have gone by since the Supreme Court of Canada’s Morgentaler decision without people catching on to it.

There are women who find themselves pregnant when they don’t want to be.  There are other women who are trying desperately to get pregnant but can’t.  What we need to do is match the two groups up and transplant the unwanted fetuses of the former into the wombs of the latter in a form of pre-birth adoption. That way, pregnant women can cease to be pregnant without killing fetuses, and would-be mothers can adopt infants without having to comb the world for them.

How realistic is this, medically?  Well, we’ve been doing something similar with cows since 1971.

Farmers sometimes have a few cows with more desirable characteristics than the rest of the herd. It makes sense to produce as many calves as possible from the best available genetic stock.  But there’s a limit to how many calves those top-notch cows can carry to term themselves.  So the farmer arranges the fertilization of their eggs, then transplants the embryos to less valuable cows, who carry the adopted calves to term and give birth to them.

The cow embryos are transferred at a very early stage—sooner than many unwanted human pregnancies would even have made themselves apparent to the unsuspecting mother.  However, the idea is sound. What we should be doing is perfecting the methodology and technology that would allow fetus transfers to be performed as soon as the pregnant woman realizes her condition and decides she doesn’t want the child herself.

If this sounds like science fiction, that’s not surprising. Victor Koman wrote a novel based on this idea, way back in 1988—the same year as the Morgentaler decision.  Called Solomon’s Knife, it won the Prometheus award for libertarian science fiction in 1990.  It’s an excellent book (I’ve read it several times) with a good plot, an interesting exposition of the moral issues, and a satisfying ending.

Koman calls the procedure “transoption”—a concatenation of transplant and adoption, with the concept of option built in as a bonus.  If the necessary medical techniques could be perfected, it would indeed be a welcome option for many women. Nor would this be the first time that science fiction inventions came to life. Cell phones, waterbeds, and waldoes were all hypothesized by science fiction writers many years before  we actually built them.

Accurate numbers are difficult to find, but the number of abortions in Canada is probably somewhere around 100,000 per year.  The number of would-be parents on adoption waiting lists is even more elusive, but is probably lower.  Would there be enough individuals willing to transopt if the procedure became available? 

My guess is yes.  Adoption organizations generally predict a wait of 6 to 12 years for a child in Canada, enough to discourage many people.  So waiting lists probably don’t accurately reflect the numbers who would be delighted to have a child but have simply given up.  

Consider, too, that the children currently available for adoption in Canada are disproportionately burdened with problems of one kind or another.  Many suffer from physical problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome.  Many are toddlers, or even older children, not infants, who have been seized from abusive homes by Children’s Aid Societies and made wards of the state by the courts.  Would-be parents may be unwilling to take on the extra challenges that such children pose, but would happily take on the care of an uninjured, pre-born baby without undesirable psychological baggage.

Even if there were insufficient adoptive homes, transoption would still be worthwhile to save as many fetuses as possible.

The more difficult problem, I fear, would be persuading the warring pro-life and pro-choice factions to drop their entrenched hatreds of each other and work together to bring about this happy ending for thousands of unwanted fetuses. As Koman points out, the abortion debate has not just two sides, but four:

·        Pro-lifers who merely wish to save babies

·        Pro-lifers (often motivated by religious ideology) who also wish to control women and their wombs

·        Pro-choicers who merely wish to free women from unwanted pregnancies

·        Pro-choicers who also wish to control—read “destroy”—the products of unwanted pregnancies. 

Transoption offers the extraordinary, hitherto undreamt of possibility for groups one and three to unite and accomplish both of their goals simultaneously.  Sign me up.  But as in Solomon's Knife, we’ll have to be on our guard against the efforts of groups two and four to derail our project.


- END -


..... ..... 

       January 30, 2008