(And if you don't know what STFU means, I'm not going to be the one to tell you.)
I've given a lot of thought to my reaction to the mother of the Octuplets (plus the 6 kids she has at home), Nadia Suleman.
I get really cranky when anyone tries to compel a woman to do anything with her uterus, whether it's additive (as in the case of compelling a woman to complete a pregnancy that is unwanted, or is not likely to result in a live mother and a live baby) or subtractive (as in the case of China and their one-child policy). I don't think that, as Dr. Phil suggested a few minutes ago on his show, there should be legal limits on how many embryos a fertility doctor is allowed to implant. The Law can't know all the subtleties in every situation, and the medical community has standards and practices that address these issues, which are a lot easier to change than The Law. This system works. Decisions about fertility treatments should, like ALL decisions about medical care, be made in private, between a woman and her doctor.
When we start legislating what women can and can't do with their uteri, we get on that slippery slope that makes me very, very uncomfortable. Plus, the idea that women aren't smart enough or responsible enough to manage their own health (with the help of the doctors of their choice), that we need laws to think for us because we aren't able to think for ourselves or make our own decisions, offends the hell out of me.
The first test tube baby was born in 1978. In the 31 intervening years, only a few dozen cases of high-order multiple births have occurred (note that many of the examples on that site predate reproductive assistance). Clearly it is rare that the industry hasn't policed itself, with regard to high order multiples.
So, in short, no. I don't think that laws need to be changed in order to prevent this happening again.
A lot of people have called Ms. Suleman's decision making skills into question, including Dr. Phil who asserted (without ever having met her, I might add) that she had a "real problem" making decisions, and that she couldn't possibly understand what she has done.
I don't think that's necessarily true. I think that the fact that these are the longest-surviving octuplets in US history says a lot about the prenatal and medical care that Ms. Suleman must have obtained for herself and her children during pregnancy. So, she's capable of caring for herself and her children at that level, at least.
I think it's entirely possible, even likely, that Ms. Suleman is a deeply religious person who would have believed that "selective reduction" meant murdering her children. I have to admit that if I were to get pregnant with high order multiples, I would have a very, very difficult time doing selective reduction, myself. It would feel like Sophie's choice to me, and how could I choose which of my children gets to live and which dies? I think (although who really knows until she's in that situation!) I would probably imperil myself (a pregnancy like that is completed at great risk to the mother) to give my children a shot at life, and I would try to find a way to raise them - knowing that it would be extraordinarily hard, but also knowing that my own struggle was less important than my child's life, or my children's lives.
And I'm pro-choice. So I can see how the decision to selectively reduce would be even more devastating for someone who is pro-life (I don't know Ms. Suleman's stance on that particular issue, but I'm assuming that she's pro-life, given what I know about her religion and her family).
I understand the outrage of the taxpayers in California who don't want their tax dollars to go to support a "litter" of children that a single, unemployed mother couldn't possibly afford. But I think that Ms. Suleman is simply a scapegoat - everyone feels frustrated when they perceive that their tax dollars are being spent wastefully, but since we can't really vent our collective spleens at Congress (after all, look at CSPAN's ratings, that makes for boring television) we instead are parading this poor woman and her family in front of the media circus and venting our frustration at the wasted dollars in her direction. I read today that if they took the dollars in the bailout that they're currently kicking around Washington and paid it in $1 bills, laid end to end those bills would reach 87% of the average distance from the Earth to the Sun, or 7 light-minutes long. The distance that light travels over a period of 7 minutes, in other words. That's freakin' FAR people. That's a LONG string of dollar bills, so let's have a little perspective. Even if Ms. Suleman diapers all 14 of her children with hundred dollar bills and feeds them caviar and Crystal champagne at every meal, she's going to have a hard time spending the tiniest fraction of that amount of money. If you're pissed about wasted tax dollars, aim that east toward D.C., not west toward a single mom in California.
I also understand the frustration of the infertile community, a community whose Venn diagram crosses the Mommyblogger community with regularity. Infertile couples, particularly infertile women, face a lot of criticism from people who don't understand their choices already ("Why not just adopt?" being a frequent refrain), and women having octuplets and whining on TV about how they always wanted a brother or a sister, well, that's not going to help the public understand the infertile point of view, is it?
You know who I feel sorry for? Ms. Suleman's parents. Their only daughter is making choices that are going to affect their lives in a huge way. They have no hope of retiring, not with 14 grandchildren to help care for. And they won't be able to live with themselves if they turn their backs on their daughter and their grandkids, so they're stuck. And Ms. Suleman is saying that her decision to pursue extreme parenthood was their fault - if they'd just given her the sibling she always wanted, she would've been whole and not needed to have all these babies. That's got to sting.
I get really squirmy, though, when people say things like, "A single woman has no right to have that many kids!" or "If she's receiving government assistance (which apparently, she gets for 3 of her kids who have disabilities - it's not like it's food stamps, it's more like Social Security... but still, assistance), she shouldn't be allowed to have kids!" because I don't hold with the idea of any person or group of people saying, "You can have kids, but you can't." That's called eugenics, and Hitler was a big fan.
Let's say that women on public assistance can't have kids. Then what? Do we force women who are on welfare to have an abortion if they accidentally get pregnant? Or what if we make it illegal for single women to seek reproductive assistance to have one child? Two? After 3 kids? Four? Five? Where's the line? Who decides? Should women have to pass some kind of sanity test before they become parents? Who gets to decide what's on the test? I can say with certainty, having done it twice now, that no sane person would sit down and logically decide to have kids - they don't sleep, they cost a fortune, they strain your marriage (if you're in one), they strain your other relationships, they smell bad, they excrete a variety of foul and colorful substances... But the decision to have kids is rarely a logical one. You can't reason with the heart, or the instincts.
If this woman had a husband, one with sufficient earning potential, then she and her 14 kids would be applauded. She'd be trotted out by the pro-life people as a shining example of the kind of courage and selflessness that all mothers should have when faced with an unexpected pregnancy - and who would ever expect EIGHT babies? It doesn't get more unexpected than that, whether it's planned or not. She'd have a TV show like the Duggars.
Instead, she's getting beaten up on every channel. And I, frankly, feel sorry for her. She had been implanted with 6 embryos before, and those procedures had resulted in single pregnancies. She hit the pregnancy jackpot, this time, and I really do believe that it was unintentional (after watching part of her NBC interview). If I were better at math, I'd figure out the odds against six embryos implanting and two of them splitting into twins, but I'm a writer, not a mather, so I'll leave that to someone with a bigger calculator.
Do I think that she knew what she was signing on for when she declined selective reduction? No, probably not. But when I was pregnant with Mary Grace, I didn't know what I'd signed on for, either. I don't think that means, necessarily, that she has poor judgment or that she has "problems with decision making" as Dr. Phil asserted. Do I think that her life is going to be easy? Heck, no. Even if she gets money from every media outlet and every company wanting the advertising mojo in the world, she's still those kids' only parent, and she's going to have to give and give and give of herself for the rest of her life in a way that, frankly, I can't imagine. There will never be a minute's peace in her house until all of her kids are grown and gone, and even then, she'll probably end up raising at least one grandchild of her own (statistically, anyway). Am I going to give her any money? Nope. She's set up a website for donations, but I'm not interested, frankly. There are other causes that I care about more, and if I had money to give right now, I'd give to them.
But do I think that she deserves to be beaten up in the media? No (although she's probably bringing it upon herself, to a certain extent, agreeing to all these interviews and hiring publicists and stuff). Do I think that the laws need to change? No. Do I think the doctor needs to lose his license? Probably not, if the medical board in California reviews the records and he didn't violate any of their rules, then I see no reason why he should be punished.
I just hope that she can do what she hopes to do. I hope she can keep all of those kids fed and cared for. I hope she gets a lot of help and support from her family and her church, because she's sure going to need it. And I hope they keep an eye on her, because seriously - 14 small kids? That's a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.
But I don't begrudge her her choices, because I wouldn't want her to begrudge me mine.