Thursday, February 12, 2009

the octuplets mom and bleeding the beast*

By now, I'm sure all of you have heard about Nadya Suleman, the single mom in California who gave birth to octoplets via fertility treatments despite not having a job, already having 6 kids, and living with her parents who had filed for bankruptcy due to the cost of caring for Suleman's previous 6 children. As a pro-choicer, I have had a hard time figuring out just how I feel about this issue because, at present, I am still feeling a whole lot of emotions, some of them conflicting.

Essentially, because I believe in a woman's right to choose whatever she wants to do with her own body, I should probably not be angry, sad, strangely sympathetic, dismayed, or concerned about Suleman's life choices. After all, she was free to make that choice and I need to respect that.

However, something doesn't feel right here.

The more I see and read about this story, the more perturbed and concerned I become.

There's the whole conflict between Suleman and her mother that is playing itself out in the media.

There's the previous 6 children, 3 of whom are special needs children, including one child who is autistic.

There's the reaping of disability payments for being injured on the job and using those payments for IVF and (apparently) cosmetic procedures rather than using the payments to help her parents pay the bills.

There's Suleman telling anyone who will listen that her family life sucked when she was younger and that's why she had the babies yet her mom is supporting her and the kids and her dad had to go back to Iraq to support all of them.

There's the mom who admits that clearly her daughter has a problem, but apparently it took 14 children to ask for an intervention.

There's the delusion that Suleman will be able to afford all of her kids once she gets her degree in counseling (as a manager of several counselors, I can tell you that they don't make enough to care for 2 kids, let alone 14).

There's Suleman telling Ann Curry that she has no income besides disability payments for her special needs kids and that she had previously used student loans to care for her family.

There's someone putting up a fancy website for Suleman and her family (although only the octuplets are featured; there is no mention of the previous 6 children), requesting donations.

But what upsets me the most is that this woman clearly has no means of supporting her 14 children, especially when she had no means to support the previous 6 (besides student loans and entitlements). Why should the children suffer for her shortsightedness? Meanwhile, every day, people are getting laid off from work, some of whom were at their jobs for many, many years and, all of a sudden, they are out of work. The state of California is in a budget crisis and the taxpayers will probably foot most of the Suleman's bills (whether it be Medical or food stamps or welfare). And all of this because a woman, who had been an only child, wanted to have a large family?

She put her life at risk because of this pregnancy but she had to do it. Nevermind that she already had 6 kids and their lives would be forever changed if something horrible happened to Suleman. She put her kids at risk by going through with the pregnancy and not selectively reducing the number of babies. By not reducing, she increased the chances that her children will have some developmental issues or special needs. Nevermind that she already has 3 kids with special needs. Nevermind the cost of caring for special needs children.

I feel sorry for her but I feel even worse for the children. To her, they are simply a means to an end. What is that end? I'm not sure. Feeling loved by a large family no matter the cost? Living off the kindness of strangers or the taxpayers of California? Becoming Angelina Jolie (the resemblance is uncanny post-cosmetic procedures)? Becoming famous? Who knows?

*"Bleeding the beast": a FLDS concept of inventing ways to access state and federal dollars


Bilbo said...

You *really* don't want to get me started on this. There are so many people who are so badly at fault here, from the moronic doctor who actually performed the IVF procedure to the parents who let the lady get away with her outrageous lifestyle to the state agencies that should have been taking a closer look at the case. Ms Suleman is a sick woman, many people let her get away with actions that have endangered the lives of her children and will cost the taxpayers of California untold millions of dollars for years to come. I have no sympathy for this stupid woman at all...only for the children who are suffering because of her actions.

Generation Next said...

I'm conflicted about this too. While we have to be careful not to make sweeping statements that the public gets to decide who and when and women have children and how many or at all, this was obviously ill advised decision all around.

But I tend to think rather radically and think that all people should have to have counseling or something before having kids period. I don't know what the solution is without getting on the slippery slope of government intrusion. Right wingers always like to say that big govt isn't the answer, but then, they are the ones calling for the state/govt to intervene here. The "They shouldn't have let her" argument is a little patronizing and hypocritical coming from them.

King of New York Hacks said...

It takes a village as they say , in this case it takes a country.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I know exactly how you feel -- I oppose the radical right-wing idea, for instance, that people on welfare should be put on some sort of forced birth control so that they can't get more money from the dole. I oppose it because, well, it just seems wrong to tell someone that they can't have children.

On the other hand, this woman clearly has psychological problems.

I don't know that there is any big wide sweeping answer that can prevent this from happening -- I'm loathe to tell an IVF doctor what he or she can or can't do in regards to fertilizing someone, because I really don't think it's in the government's job description to get involved in such a personal decision -- and I feel that way regardless of whether it's a woman wanting to have twenty kids, or to choose an abortion.

At some point, you have to stop writing new laws and regulations. You have to trust people to make the best decisions. And if they don't, you cross your fingers and hope there's a safety net.

So I'm going to cross my fingers, and hope there's a safety net for this woman's parents and children.