Friday, March 6, 2009

More on octomom

by Elizabeth Winkler

Back to Nadya Suleman again. I know we’ve just about blogged this woman to the grave, but when you consider that, I can’t help but think it’s because she presents such an intriguing and explicit instance of the intersection between the personal and the political. In her case, feminism’s frequent demand to “keep government off my body” (or out of the bedroom, or whatever) becomes questionable. At a certain point, do we need to have the government regulating our bodies?

Because, let’s be honest: in society, politics is on everyone’s bodies in one form or another. It is quite an inescapable reality, and so the demand for the government to “back off” becomes somewhat silly and naïve. After all, in insisting that birth control and abortion be made personal choices (ie: in which the government can’t interfere), we have actually employed the channels of government and politics that many women simultaneously yelp against. In those cases, government has been “put on” our bodies in order to protect personal choice, and without that governmental interference, the right to contraception and abortion might not exist.

If Nadya Suleman had wanted to adopt those 8 children, her request would have without a doubt been denied on every level. It’s a difficult enough process for a financially and emotionally stable couple, let alone a bankrupt, unemployed woman with 6 children already (and a history of mental instability to boot). Those children will grow up neglected (with a 14-1 ratio, this isn’t even up for debate), will likely suffer all sorts of physical and mental deficiencies as they develop, and will drain the resources of the public because of Suleman’s hugely irresponsible and selfish decision. (Irresponsible because having 14 children when you have no job and no finances cannot be anything but; selfish because in her desperate desire for 14 children, Suleman failed to consider the consequences for those children’s lives as well as for those who would be forced to help fund her irresponsibility.)

As such, this situation begs the question whether the government should get itself “on” women’s bodies and fast. Of course, it’s on them already, but should the government regulate decisions like Suleman’s? If she wouldn’t have been allowed to adopt 8 children, should she have been implanted with 8 embryos? In debating this, a distinction must be made between natural conception, which the government cannot practically regulate, and fertility treatment. For the safety and health of the woman, the children, and the pockets of taxpayers, should there be a limit to the number of embryos a woman using IVF carries?

2 Comments:

At March 6, 2009 at 3:26 PM , Blogger TommyD said...

Elizabeth, you write that "those children will grow up neglected (with a 14-1 ratio, this isn’t even up for debate), will likely suffer all sorts of physical and mental deficiencies as they develop, and will drain the resources of the public because of Suleman’s hugely irresponsible and selfish decision." You've stumbled upon one of the key paradoxes of the right to have offspring.

When my parents adopted my sister from Ethiopia, we had to jump through all sorts of hoops: we were visited by social workers, bureaucrats asked me if my parents had ever abused me, and my mom, dad and I (as an adult sibling) had to be fingerprinted by both state and Federal authorities, to be run against a database of known sex offenders. I remember thinking, "All this hassle to adopt a kid, while I (18, jobless, and completely unqualified to be a father) could just go out and accidentally knock some girl up, and the government couldn't do anything about it."

There are lots of unfit and abusive people out there, and in an ideal world, these people should not be allowed to have children. (I really don't know much about Suleman, other than that she has 14 kids.) The trouble with this ideal goal is that some (subjective, biased) person or group of people would have to choose who is and who isn't a fit a parent. Let's say they forbid "abusive" people from becoming parents. Fine, but who gets to define "abusive." Is spanking a child abusive? Yelling at him?

What about more subjective matters? Should atheists be forbidden from having offspring? (A majority of Americans believes that atheists cannot be moral people.) For years, the government sterilized unfit people, based on race, ethnicity, mental disability--even the shape of people's heads. I think the E-word is alarmist, and agree that there a plenty of people who should not be reproducing. But as a matter of policy, letting a third party decide who gets to have kids leads to nasty results.

 
At March 6, 2009 at 4:03 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Your point is well, taken - this can lead to nasty, convoluted problems. But I'm not talking about you knocking-up any random girl; I'm talking about the invitro-fertilization process, for which women have to go through multiple levels of approval and administration anyway. It seems that it could be easy enough for a legal "cap" to be put on how many embryos it is permissible to create in a lab.

 

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