Josiah, Noah, Isaiah, Jonah, Jeremiah, McCai, Maliah, and Nariah Suleman
are the Octuplets born to Southern California mom, Nadya Suleman earlier this month. With the birth of her babies, Nadya Suleman, who used to be married but is now divorced, is the proud mother of 14 kids. Everybody and their mother is mad as hell about this, and they are not going to take it anymore, particularly if it means that their tax dollars are going to go to the feeding of these out-of-wedlock- assisted-reproduction tots whose mother is on Welfare, lives in a small apartment with her parents, and receives disability benefits from the State of California for two of her other children, also born out of wedlock.
I have said, and I will say again that I am scared for Nadya and the children. And with each passing day, I get more concerned. I mean, have you ever wondered exactly how Nadya Suleman will take her octuplets for a stroll in the Los Angeles suburbs where she lives? I mean, logistically? Have you wondered how many strollers will she need and how do they all get circumnavigated? I know I have. I have also wondered how she will pay for pampers and formula, especially since, according to the reports I am getting, major suppliers like Huggies and Similac and others like them have been shying away and have not sent any free goodies to Ms. Suleman to assist with the children, they way they have done in similar situations.
The fall out for the Octuplet mom is mindboggling, really, and it made me wonder about the whole notion of choice and whether the right to choose extended to a person in Ms. Suleman’s position who is unmarried, poor, ethnic, and already has a large family receiving public assistance. Should the laws be such that a person in her position has the right to continue to procreate how ever much she wants? At what point should the law step in, if at all, to put a stop to her baby-making?
I had a big argument about this with someone who happens to be an anti-abortion activist. She absolutely hates the Octuplet mom and thinks what Nadya did was “selfish” and “sick.” She is vociferous in her objections to anybody sending money to “that woman” or for her tax dollars going to “support that walking baby-making factory.”
This person could not see the irony of her words. She explained it this way: “I am against abortion because of my religious beliefs but I am not going to support this kind of ignorance and women thinking they can breed without regard to how they are going to provide for their kids. This woman is sick and the government needs to put those kids up for adoption!”
She was vehement and enraged and I asked her if she thought that race and class might be factoring into her opinion. “Race and class have nothing to do with this,” she said. “I am anti-abortion but I am no racist. This is strictly about this woman’s stupidity. I don’t support what she did. And I’m not saying she should have had an abortion. I wouldn’t tell anybody to have an abortion. But I am totally against this and I don’t think any body should help her. She needs to learn a lesson. This is not about Black or White. This is about stupidity that can not be allowed to happen again.”
“But doesn’t a woman have a choice to have as many or as few kids as she wants?” I asked.
“No,” said this person. “A woman really doesn’t. That is why there is birth control. There are two choices. You breed, or you use birth control.”
“But you are anti-abortion, how can you say this?” I implored. “If a woman like Nadya Suleman becomes pregnant and she can’t have an abortion according to your beliefs, what choices are left to her?”
“Well,” said this person, “Nadya did not ‘become pregnant.’ She was inseminated. Big difference.”
“So, your objection is to the insemination?” I asked.
“Yes. That and the fact that she can’t afford the kids she already had and she went and inseminated and got more. This is not a pro life issue. This is something else. I don’t know what you would call it, but I am pro life and I am against what that woman did.”
“If she were married would you still feel the same way?”
“Look if she were married both she and her husband would be crazy and I would feel the same way. They don’t have any business getting inseminated with 8 kids when they already had 6. I wouldn’t help them either. I would feel the same way. This is not about pro life. They can’t afford these kids.”
“But the kids are already here. What do you propose that we do as a society?”
“Let her fend for them. She created this mess let her clean it up.”
“You’re telling me you could look at these children’s faces and just say the heck with you let your mother fend for you? Just because you are angry at the mother for doing something stupid?”
“Absolutely,” she said. And with that she turned away and that was the end of the discussion.
The way I feel about it is that having children, and the choice to procreate is a part of the “penumbra of rights” that is allotted to all Americans in the Bill of Rights. It is part of the right to privacy in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The fact that Nadya Suleman was a single mother does not change the fact that she had a choice to procreate and to have as many children as she chose. At least, not in theory.
While I did not agree with what Nadya did, nor would I have done it myself, I still believe that fundamentally, if she wanted another child, even if by artificial means, it was her choice to get another one. I am also starting to believe that race, class, marital status, ethnicity, and socio-economic status are factoring into this primal antagonism towards Ms. Suleman. I am willing to entertain the idea that these elements are factoring into the public discourse and have exacerbated the negative public sentiment about this matter. I don’t think the reaction would have exactly the same if Nadya was “lighter” “richer” and of the upper classes. I also don’t think it would be as intense if she were married.
I have written quite a few posts on this subject and will probably write a few more. I still believe that what Nadya did was reckless. However, my position on this is shifting somewhat. There is no question that there will be a huge social cost to Nadya’s choice. And so, maybe in the end, it wasn’t totally just her choice to procreate or not to procreate but the welfare of the children, and the rights of society to not be bound to provide for the children she chooses to have even though she doesn’t have the means to provide for them.
But her situation has shed the light on many issues: assisted reproduction; women’s rights; the role of family; race; class; gender discrimination; socioeconomic status; and the social costs of parenting, child-rearing, motherhood, divorce, and even abortion. I, for one, want to sit back and observe this situation some more. I think there will be many lessons for all of us before this story goes away.
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