I’m not sure if the United States thinks it’s China or wants to be China, but you really don’t have the right to legislate how many children people have. Nor should you be calling in the morality police. The recent media-orgy over Nadya Suleman who recently gave birth to octuplets, bringing her total child count to 14, is starting to taste like the Terri Schiavo case. It’s causing the bile to rise up in the back of my throat.
I want to be clear about this: I do not support having children ad nauseum. The world is overpopulated. If people stopped narcissistically giving birth to new babies and instead adopted the millions of children around the world who need safe, loving homes, then I believe that would be a giant step towards making the world a better place in many ways.
However, the U.S. government, political pundits and talk show hosts, the media, and the general public do not get to say that Suleman shouldn’t be allowed to take her eight babies home! The government does get to become involved if Suleman proves to be an unfit parent. If it is shown that she isn’t properly feeding, sheltering, clothing, and educating her kids, then social services can get involved. Until then, everyone should shut the hell up and stop speculating about her fitness, or whether she should have had children at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if every prospective parent had to pass a Parental Fitness Review Board? But unfortunately that’s not how it works. Every day people have children who probably shouldn’t, but I don’t see such scrupulous attention paid to them.
I keep reading and hearing all sorts of annoying chatter and infuriating speculation. People are saying she had octuplets on purpose so she could “cash in” on them. The absurdity of that argument is…absurd. You can’t predetermine how many children you will have in a given pregnancy. With in vitro fertilization, multiple zygotes are always implanted in the uterus to increase the chances of one of them becoming viable. Multiple fetuses are often a result; that’s the risk. You could choose to selectively abort unwanted fetuses, but I suspect that a lot of the moral majority folks who are pummelling Suleman now won’t be advocating that any time soon.
Another annoying comment is that it takes “millions” of dollars to raise 14 children. Millions? Really? Dolly Parton grew up one of twelve children raised in a one-room shack in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. They had very little money, very little food, clothes made of rags (that famous “Coat of Many Colors”), and slept many to a bed. She had a home-made doll made out of a corn husk. She turned out just fine, as did all her brothers and sisters. I guarantee you that Dolly Parton’s dad did not earn millions.
Maybe it is irresponsible for people to have children if they don’t have the means to support them (or if the planet doesn’t have the means to support them). But what is considered “supporting”? Many parents are financially secure, but pawn their kids off on childcare workers while they work all the time. Having children without the means to love them and spend time with them is just as morally dubious as having kids without the means to support them financially. I think I would prefer a home with lots of love and few expensive toys than a home with all the latest consumer crap a kid could want, but very little love and attention.
I’m not even sure what the argument is, anyway. It seems to be an argument against her having had the babies, in which case you can’t go back in time, so you must be arguing for laws dictating how many children people should be allowed to have. Or you’re arguing against her keeping her children, which again I point out is absurd until Child Protective Services gets involved, performs an assessment, deems Suleman an unfit parent, and takes the children away.
People are also talking about how some of Suleman’s kids are special needs. Well…and? I do seem to recall a certain media tizzy over a one-time Republican vice-presidential candidate. The “moral” question was whether she should be running at all, given that she had so many children and a grandchild on the way, and one of her kids was special needs. At the time that argument was roundly rebutted and revealed to be disdainful because it was sexist and because no one was showing evidence that said candidate was an unfit parent.
No, more than this is about the welfare of the children, I really think this is about welfare. The American public seems so outraged because Suleman will have to subsist on social assistance and Americans “don’t want to have to pay for it!” Well suck it up. I don’t have the stats on how many people in America subsist on social assistance, but I’m sure that number is easily attainable (and growing!). You do not have the right to say that your single-parent neighbour with four kids deserves it, but Suleman doesn’t. Or that the unemployed person with a trailer full of kids deserves it, but Suleman doesn’t. Or that if a one-time Republican vice-presidential candidate lost her job and became a social pariah (please!!), that she would deserve it but Suleman doesn’t.
So if you are going to pre-emptively speak ill about Nadya Suleman’s fitness as a parent, then at least don’t be a hypocrite—speak out against every low-income single- or two-parent family in the United States with one, three, five, seven, or ten children who collects social assistance.
I am not defending, rationalizing, or justifying this woman’s behaviour; I don’t know her. (But I do know that debating whether or not she’s had her lips done is preposterous.) It is hard to imagine how Suleman is going to make it work and successfully raise all of her children, and I do not feel it was responsible. But they’re her children now. She’s got ’em. And so far they are cared for. They seem loved. And they were definitely wanted, which is more than can be said for millions of children the world over. So until she fails and her children are considered endangered—which cannot be determined by the public watching an interview of her on TV, rather by the authorities in charge of such matters—stop speculating. And maybe, just maybe, you could even try to help her out.
People do not have the right to interfere and make public judgments on the number of children a person can have or how they can have them. For right now, unless or until things change via the proper legal channels, these children have a mom. If you’re so concerned, then go adopt one of the kids currently suffering abuse after abuse rotting in the foster system.