Octuplets Are No Gift from God (And Neither Are Septuplets) February 21, 2009

Octuplets Are No Gift from God (And Neither Are Septuplets)

Hi, Ron Gold checking in.

The debate surrounding fertility drugs was rekindled when Nadya Suleman, better known as the crazy octuplet lady, gave birth to her litter in late January.  We now know that she is single, unemployed, already has six children, and is rumored to have unhealthy psychological urges to have many children.  The thought of her having one more baby is frightening, let alone eight. 
To top it off, her father made this remark in an interview with Oprah: “I say to everybody now, people, we do need help. Do not punish my daughter for what she had done and do not punish the babies, because they were given by God.”
Really, they were given by God?  Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say they were given by unethical doctors pushing fertility drugs and science run amok?
This whole situation is reminiscent of the McCaughey septuplets, who were born in 1997.  This was a huge story at the time and put the fertility drug debate on the map.  The McCaugheys were deeply religious, and when they found out that they were expecting seven babies, they said they would put the pregnancy “in God’s hands,” since they did not want to play God. 
I found this statement very strange.  Mrs. McCaughey, like Mrs. Suleman, was infertile.  Pretending for the moment that there is a God, wouldn’t this be the ultimate signal that He doesn’t want you to reproduce?  It’s not that I’m opposed to fertility drugs, but I see a contradiction in this case.  The McCaugheys didn’t want to play God, yet they still underwent a new, high-tech scientific procedure that was akin to “playing God.”
Furthermore, our species have not evolved in such a way where we can safely give birth to several babies at a time.  Most of the McCaughey septuplets weighed less than three pounds at birth, and two of them have cerebral palsy.  The smallest of Suleman’s babies weighted 1 lb. 8 0z at birth.  She’s extremely lucky they all survived.
The science has changed since 1997, and Suleman’s doctors were almost surely more irresponsible that the doctors of the septuplets. But whatever one’s motivation — whether it’s due to having a probable mental condition (Suleman) or only being a religious fanatic (The McCaugheys) — no one should be giving birth by the litter.  Science tells us that it’s unnatural and dangerous, and it’s an affront to a hypothetical God.

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  • Wes

    It’s such warped thinking. Oh no, we can’t destroy an embryo. It’s a gift from God. Rather, we should bring children into the world who are born prematurely, have a high risk of birth defects, will be psychologically traumatized by being 1 of 14 kids, and will probably live their lives in poverty with few opportunities. That’s what God wants. He wants people to be unnecessarily miserable.

    ‘Cause it’s not about real, flesh-and-blood living people and what’s best for them. Nope. It’s all about the imaginary, invisible soul residing somewhere in a blastocyst. That’s what’s really important. If something might alleviate suffering but threatens imaginary entities such as souls or God, well then, people are just gonna have to suffer.

  • Hal in Howell MI

    The doctor(s) who did this should be disbarred, or whatever happens to doctors, and the mother should be under professional care. It boggles the mind.

    All I can think of is that Internet poster with a photo of the Duggan clan and the caption: “Vagina…It’s not a clown car.”

    Another poster has a photo of Suleman with the caption: “Litter Size…There’s a reason humans are one fo the few mammals that don’t have at least eight nipples.”

  • Hal in Howell MI

    One more thought, maybe the doctor(s) involved should be required to pay child support.

  • Since a gay couple can’t naturally get pregnant, would you use the same argument that science is telling us it isn’t natural so we shouldn’t do it? (Clearly, our species hasn’t evolved to the point where gay partners can naturally impregnate each other, and isn’t likely to anytime soon.) Or is it the “dangerous” part that causes the problem? And if that’s the case, then what do you say if all of the 8 end up healthy?

    I totally agree with your main point, that this was irresponsible and about the hypocrisy of the whole thing.

    But I’m also a firm believer that logical arguments must carry over to all situations evenly. And just because we end up in a right spot doesn’t mean we took the correct path to get there.

  • Esme

    Women do not have litters, women have children. Dehumanizing women for their reproductive choices is a pretty awful idea.

  • Vincent

    I never used welfare!

    Except food stamps, those don’t count.
    And neither does State Disability payments, not at all.


    One prob I have with your post though is that you say it rekindled debate over fertility drugs. Where? I see no reference anywhere to fertility drugs (which were the cause of the septuplets you mentioned).* No, Miss Suleiman (the less than magnificent) used IVF. Totally different. Not even sure if she was in fact infertile, or just no man would sleep with that crazy nut.
    The ethical problem is the clinic violated standards of practice by implanting so many embryos, nothing about drugs.

    * hehehe. When I said “septuplets” spellcheck tried to change it to “sextuplets”. Even my spellchecker couldn’t believe there were so many.

  • joanna

    This situation has been troubling me since I first heard about it on Good Morning America the day the babies were born.

    The mother chose to go to a fertility doctor. “God” did not choose to provide 8 little embryos out of the air. A person needs to take responsibility for his/her choices and not outsource it to a deity figure. The term “gifts from God” cannot possibly be taken seriously.

    If her medical insurance covers this sort of thing, I’d be shocked and appalled. And what sort of doctor doesn’t see the “big picture” when they interview candidates for fertility treatments. Other folks have to ration their health care dollars for only urgent care and preventative measures and we have people like this woman abusing the system. Growing their own day care centers in their wombs without the means to pay for them. What was she thinking? I can only assume the mental illness angle of the story that I’ve heard mentioned: Conception as Compensation.

    I love kids, don’t get me wrong. I have 2 wonderful children and I enjoy motherhood–probably the most rewarding thing I’ll ever do in my life. But 6+8+1=15. That is practically 4 households in one place…the emotional stress alone sounds like it would be unbearable.

    How will any single person in that family ever get his/her needs met? It sounds like a complete media circus with religious overtones thrown in for even MORE reality show entertainment value.
    The mother already had 6 children to feed, bathe, clothe, educate, house…PROVIDE for….when she visited the above specialist. Several of the 6 children have medical health issues.

    Now she goes to the fertility specialist and wants MORE children and her wish is granted? How this whole situation could be seen as a “gift from God” or a sign of good fortune is completely beyond my comprehension.

  • You know, the ironic thing is that “God” chose to give 8 more kids to a woman who can barely support the ones she had. But this is what you get when you trust superstitious people to act ethically and responsibly. Some kill their kids because Satan told them to do it through the Matrix, some fly planes into buildings. Destructive actions for religion.

    I hope Child Welfare comes and rescues these kids from this loony tune. But it somehow makes sense in one aspect. When little girls grow up (trans or not), they have dreams of becoming fairy tale women. Some want to be Cinderella. I wanted to be Snow White. She wants to be Old Mother Hubbard who lived in a shoe.

  • cathy

    Esme, you took the words out of my mouth.

  • GullWatcher

    Women do not have litters, women have children.

    From the Random House Dictionary – litter: a number of young brought forth by a multiparous animal at one birth. So yes, Nadya had a litter.

    Dehumanizing women for their reproductive choices is a pretty awful idea.

    Having children in wholesale lots is pretty dehumanizing to all concerned. Unfortunately, that was her decision to do so.

    Attributing it to God is just one more way to abdicate her responsibility.

  • The OctoMom is not only a drain of resources on herself, but she is also a drain to those around her. How very selfish of her to not only want more kids, but also not considering those around her that are going to have the extra burden of helping her. No one single person can take care of 14 kids.

  • christi

    Christopher said:

    Since a gay couple can’t naturally get pregnant, would you use the same argument that science is telling us it isn’t natural so we shouldn’t do it?

    Were you referring to this line?

    Pretending for the moment that there is a God, wouldn’t this be the ultimate signal that He doesn’t want you to reproduce?

    I think Ron was saying that if we assume there is a god, it would be “playing god” to impregnate an otherwise infertile woman just as much as it would be “playing god” to terminate part of a multiple pregnancy. You can’t pick and choose when it is ok and when it is not ok to “play god”. A better argument (from those religious nuts) would have been, “It is ok for humans to create life, but not to destroy it”. But they cannot use that argument because it would open the door to allow gay couples to be parents, and their fundamental argument against homosexuality is the inability for gay couples to procreate.

    Creating a baby is a biological act, but being a parent is a much more complicated process requiring much more dedication (and work). Natural ability to procreate has nothing to do with ability to parent.

  • Jen

    I agree that with Esme: while the dictionary may use the word so that it may be applied to humans, we need to look at how it is actually used, and consider what things we are saying about a person- a woman, who, regardless of her actions, is not a dog.

    I find myself disturbed by a lot of the commentary about this woman. I don’t know why we have such contempt for her, and yet- can anyone name her doctor? Is his picture in the tabloids? I also see a lot of ink about her financial situation, and yet, do we really want to live in a country where the government is going to decide how many kids we have? Cause ya’ll are free to move to China if you want, but I am of the radical opinion that women should get to be in control of their own reproduction. As to the tax payer money, I am certain more of your money goes to pay for, say, the war in Iraq, governmental pork, and tax-breaks for Wal-mart than will line the pockets of Nadya.

    I think this story has really shed some light on what our society thinks is acceptable when it comes to mothers. Don’t be poor, don’t be in school, don’t you dare be brown, don’t have ‘too many’ or too few, don’t work outside the home because you sure had better be independently wealthy if you want to have kids, and you sure as hell better be married like God tells you to be. Christ, I wonder how women can ever figure out when to reproduce when there are so many damn rules.

  • SmilingAtheist

    I have to say I haven’t heard much on this for some time to start with, being in Australia we’ve sort of stopped paying attention due to our bushfires here. We did have the whole news coverage about the ‘miracle’ however.

    So here’s my two cents for what it’s worth.

    By evolutionary means, women are not setup to have typically more than one baby at a time. She could have twins possibly, triplets’ maybe, but not 8 children at one. That is equivalent to a ‘litter’ whether you like the term or not.

    The doctor(s) should lose their ability to practice as far as I’m concerned and I hope they do. What has happened here was not right on any level.

    As for the financial burden aspect, well let’s be realistic. I grew up in a single parent family so I’m speaking from experience. Having three children is hard enough; I couldn’t fathom what 14 would be like. How is she supposed to support 14 children when she probably didn’t have the ability to support 6? Let’s be realistic with comments about finances. Most people lose site of reality. You may not need to have a lot of money to have kids, you don’t need to have both parents either but there must be some sort of limit here. Being a single parent on support from the government should not entitle you to have fertility treatment that is tax funded under any circumstances, especially when you have 6 kids already! Enough said.

    As for her lack of fertility, she had 6 kids already. What was her issue? Did she use fertility treatment before? Also, mental issue or not, this is a selfish act.

    With the fertility treatment, the reason why so many embryos are implanted is the hope that one or two healthy ones may take. All the embryos that they put in there are not meant to stay. That’s the problem of letting religious nut jobs do this sort of thing is they’re basically acting like breeding animals. It has to stop.

    Like the article pointed out and I totally agree with, if your god isn’t letting you have kids, maybe it’s a sign that you’re not meant to. Why don’t you listen?

  • Andy

    Nobody is “meant” to do anything, whether deigned so by science or religion. All we have is pragmatism and responsibility. We don’t apply reproductive restrictions on members of our society and the doctors were assuming that the mother was capable of making a decision. We don’t want this to become commonplace, so we have two choices: use social pressure (as we’re doing) or use legal pressure (see: China).

    Realistically, though, there are plenty of reasons for people not to have octuplets, and that’ll be deterrent enough to prevent this from becoming an epidemic.

    Also, I cringed at the use of the word, “litter”. Makes me think that we’re considering the kids to be animals now, which I’m not comfortable with. Yes, yes, yes, the dictionary definition is fine. But I still think most people think of dogs or cats when they see it, and I think that that’s what the author was trying to evoke.

  • Amanda

    “Like the article pointed out and I totally agree with, if your god isn’t letting you have kids, maybe it’s a sign that you’re not meant to. Why don’t you listen?”

    So am I to assume that someone diagnosed with cancer is a sign that he should not live? So he should “listen” and not use “drugs” to correct the situation–ie: be like everyone else.

    Your arguement isn’t logical. Science has provided a chance for infertile women to have children like everyone else.

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