Sheila Tone has an interesting post on Econoholic about Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as the Mother O’Eight:

Come on sisters, where are all your usual snide remarks about “clown car vaginas?”

The difference is that Nadya Suleman is a single mother on public assistance. So we’re not allowed to be mean to her. If she were a married fundie like the Duggar mom (deft switcheroo, Richaro) she’d be fair game.

Why the hostility? Perhaps it’s because the married, employed Tones are in the process of carefully planning our second, and last, child. We have a 30-month-old. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I want to be a mother, if and why I’d want a second child. And, oh yes, I spend a lot of time working. And a lot of time soul-searching. What’s my purpose in life? Am I a worthy human being? Having a kid turned up those voices, and added “Am I a worthy parent?” to the chorus.

I had to work hard to find which portion to blockquote. Read it all. I chose that portion because it gets to the nub of one of the things that interests me most about this discussion, which is to say the difference in reaction to different situations. Some liberals are saying that if Suleman were a Christian couple like the Duggars, they’d be applauded as the Duggars are. That this is really a classist issue and, owing to Nadya’s last name, possibly a racist one.

But Sheila points out that there are a number of differences between the Duggars and Ms Suleman. Which is one of the things that bothers me about the sort of “If circumstances were different, you’d be saying something different” gotcha attitude that infects blogs from to time. Yes, when circumstances are different, people render judgment. That Suleman will not be remotely able to care for her children, as the Duggars do, makes it something of a different situation. That Suleman used technology and had them all at once – which increases risks to their health and makes caring for them more difficult – matters. There are plenty of reasons to approve of the Duggars and disapprove of Suleman. There are fewer reasons to do the inverse. Those reasons usually come down to “But they’re icky Christians!” and that the Duggars will inflict bad ideas into their kids (this is, of course, in marked contrast to the wonderful ideas that Suleman will pass on… if she has time to).

Truthfully, though, I don’t approve of either the Duggars or Suleman. I don’t know what the “right” maximum number of kids to have is, but it’s clearly fewer than fourteen. An acquaintance of mine, the second of seven, said that once you reach five or so you start running into a situation where the older siblings raise the younger siblings. So on one hand, that seems a good a place as any. It could be said that helping to raise a sibling could be a learning experience for the older siblings, but from my mother’s stories on raising her sisters they can often lose more than they gain from the proposition.

Clancy and I have talked a bit about the Suleman situation. She takes something of a harder line. I feel sorry for Suleman, though I should note that I feel sorry for her at a comfortable distance wherein I am not affected by her actions and compassion is extremely easy. Clancy, like Sheila, has to deal with the consequences of irresponsible behavior every day at work. And as a woman, Clancy (like Sheila) has had a lifetime of experience trying to do the responsible thing in terms of procreation and is less inclined to have much sympathy for someone so clearly reckless. Objectively, it’s hard to disagree with her.

I am a little softer on irresponsible reproduction than are Sheila and my wife. I do see a sort of right-of-reproduction (God willing) in at least a limited fashion. The first child because of the right to reproduce and the second because children need siblings. Had Suleman had the octuplets because she desperately wanted a child, couldn’t afford multiple attempts and so stocked up on her single attempt, and had a moral reason not to abort… I might be willing to chalk it up as an epic lapse in judgment rather than a lapse in morals. But that she already had six that she was not able to take care of on her own and thus knew that she was enlisting her parents in something they didn’t want makes me disinclined to forgive any further pregnancies because her tubes should be tied.

I noticed on the news that they’re investigatinng the fertility clinic, which is something that Clancy and I have been discussing. There aren’t laws, but there are (obviously ignored) guidelines that if followed prevent this sort of nonsense. If there is a positive result in all this, hopefully it is a clamping down on this to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. We shouldn’t even have to be discussing this because it shouldn’t be legally permissible (assuming that it is).

Addendum: Sheila has followed up with a post on three ways to discourage welfare mothers.


About the Author


35 Responses to Suleman v Duggar

  1. Peter says:

    Some liberals are saying that if Suleman were a Christian couple like the Duggars, they’d be applauded as the Duggars are. That this is really a classist issue and, owing to Nadya’s last name, possibly a racist one.

    Nadya Suleman is a lifelong Protestant, and because she has mentioned getting assistance from her church, she’s probably at least reasonably devout if not necessarily a fundamentalist.

  2. Barry says:

    I do see a sort of right-of-reproduction (God willing) in at least a limited fashion. The first child because of the right to reproduce and the second because children need siblings. Had Suleman had the octuplets because she desperately wanted a child, couldn’t afford multiple attempts and so stocked up on her single attempt, and had a moral reason not to abort… I might be willing to chalk it up as an epic lapse in judgment rather than a lapse in morals.

    What makes you say anyone has a “right to reproduce”? Are you speaking from a biological standpoint, or a sociological one?

    Simply because someone wants something, even if it’s something as basic and fundamentally natural as a child, if they are not able to take care of the responsibility then they should not have it. It’s not a “right” that every man and woman (or in this case, just a woman) should have a child just because they want one.

    Having and raising a child is the greatest responsibility a human being can undertake, to be responsible for the development of another human life. If they knowingly bring such a life into a world where raising it well would be difficult if not impossible, they shouldn’t do it – whether it’s their “right” or not.

    This woman clearly had no means to support 8 more children, much less one more child. Even if she’d had none previously and was looking for her first, to willingly take the risk of octuplets (slim a chance as it was) by having eight embryos implanted, just to make sure one became viable, was irresponsible. Taking care of one child in her situation was bad enough, but risking 8 more with 6 already in tow was beyond the pale.

    No one has a right to have children. It’s a privilege, and a responsibility. No more no less.

  3. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    Christian or no, she’s not married. It’s not a conservative family environment. Though it might be in critics’ interest to point out her religious beliefs since maybe that’ll make Suleman’s defenders less amped.

  4. trumwill says:

    Barry,

    I don’t consider a child a “thing” insofar as it’s a thing that people want. Wanting a child and not being able to have one is simply not comparable to much else. I think that people have a right to it the same way that they have a right to food and shelter. Not a biological right nor exactly a sociological, but rather as part of the social contract. Something that society should try to accommodate.

    There are always cases of unfit parents and society has to strip them of their children. A clinic refusing to serve Suleman would have ample reason for doing so well prior to the current brood. I don’t think that I would be opposed to the state forcing some sort of temporary birth control while someone is on government support taking care of the child/children that they have.

    Where I get really antsy is the sort of forced sterilization (which is permanent) in return for government support. Even bribing people not to reproduce (as Sheila advocates) strikes me as problematic unless there is a reversal process for when or if the person does get their act together.

    There are cases where some people should not be allowed to reproduce (or should have their children taken from them). Mostly pertaining to mental illness. I don’t think that monetary concerns should necessarily qualify.
    What concerns me about Suleman is not the fact that she’s on government assistance, but that she seems to have some pretty serious mental issues that make the prospect of her raising two children, much less fourteen, make me squirm.

    I agree with almost everything you say – particularly in the second-to-last paragraph. In no way am I defending Suleman’s having of fourteen children. Like I said, “in a limited fashion”. Fourteen is well beyond that limit. Six is, too. Three probably is even if you could correct whatever emotional deficiency she has that is pushing her to do this.

    As things stand, I don’t have a problem with the state getting involved and taking the children if that’s what they determine is in the children’s best interest.

  5. Webmaster says:

    Tried to comment over there to her points, but she apparently has comments on “approval mode.” 🙁

    Anyhow… I’m probably on the side even further from Clancy. First of all, Suleman should have been turned away from the fertility clinic. They never should even have contemplatd assisting her, knowing she’s a public-service leech who already had six kids and was milking the system. Actually, someone should have probably called the authorities after the second kid… six is ridiculous already.

    My personal thoughts on reproductive rights are a bit more limiting as well. I really think that society needs, through government if necessary (though I really, really loathe government intervention), to tell certain people to stop having kids.

    The old “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins” argument applies. Irresponsible childbearing is an impact not just on the kid, but on all of society. Seriously, we get kids born of an irresponsible jerk of a dad who runs off, a mom who’s too busy partying and hunting up the next irresponsible jerk and so dumps the kid off on her parents to raise, and eventually the kid grows up to cause complete chaos, disaster, and push irresponsible fiscal policy on a federal level (guess who).

    Here’s a few policy thoughts:
    – If you have a kid, and you’re on public assistance, one is what you get. Afterwards, go on either permanent, “reversible”, or drug-induced contraception.

    – If you have an abortion? Well, inasmuch as abortion is legal, fine. However, should you have an abortion on the public dime, your tubes should be tied (and the same goes for the sperm donor aka “boyfriend” etc; snip him too).

    The basic problem: I’ve met way too many people who, after meeting once, my first reaction is “please god don’t let them contribute to the gene pool”, followed swiftly by “aw crap, too late.” And oddly enough, the people you’d want contributing to the gene pool the most (educated, intelligent, responsible) limit themselves responsibly, while those you’d not want doing so (unintelligent, uneducated, perfectly happy living off the public dole in a generational fashion) are the ones who see “motherhood” as somehow automagically making them “mature”, and wind up with 8 kids by 8 different dads (none of who will probably fess up to being dad)… it’s enough to make you cry.

  6. Webmaster says:

    I don’t really mind the Duggars’ having that many kids. They do it while being responsible to their family, not offloading the support to others, and they quite obviously take good care of all their children. Moreover, they make sure that they have the financial viability to do it – they’re not sucking off the system.

    My grandparents had 7 kids. Some people might say “wow that’s a lot”, but they were very responsible and raised their kids in a responsible manner. My dad’s side also had 7 kids, but my paternal grandparents were not nearly as responsible, and it shows in the fact that of the whole lot, there are only two “responsible” kids, my dad and one sister who is now in California. My dad is the only real “success story” of the lot of them – and to this day he winds up supporting my grandmother in addition to the rest of his family.

    I find a lot of the opposition to the Duggars from the democrat/left angle is in the “OMG they’re CHRISTIANS and UNAPOLOGETIC which means they’re BRAINWASHING those poor kids…” routine. I’ve heard such comments even from the “OMG we’re christians sing it to the world” crowd from the heavily-democrat/liberal megachurch that Hugh’s family all attend in South Colosse, which just makes me shake my head – quite a bit of cognitive dissonance going on there.

  7. trumwill says:

    As I said in my commment to Barry, I don’t have as much a problem with providing incentives to people to stop having kids. But that’s providing that they’ve had one. I’d probably spot two because I think siblings are good. I’m not comfortable with the idea of using material means to tell people to have only one or to have none. Beyond using welfare as the determinant, I’m not comfortable with any other criteria for who should be allowed to have at least a couple children. To some extent we have to do that when we take children away from unfit parents, but broadly I think that we should tread in that area with extreme caution (which, except in the most extreme cases, excludes pre-emption).

    The problem with reversible contraception is that we haven’t perfected it. It’s either up to the woman to maintain it (The Pill), reversability is not guaranteed (vasectomy and tube-clips), or there are potential complications (Norplant). I’d probably be more open to suspension of reproductive capacity if we had a good way of doing it.

    In regards to the rights-nose argument, it is my position that the government (and we the people who pay the taxes) should assist families. I don’t consider that a violation. I don’t think that should be a blank check for women to have children repeatedly without regard to their ability to care for them, but I do think that some support for a child or two ought to be a part of the social contract. You disagree with that, which is fine (and I don’t want to debate it), but I wanted to explain why that doesn’t alter my view.

  8. trumwill says:

    Regarding the Duggars, I think there’s more to it than their mere ability to provide. Being able to devote proper attention and guidance to that number of kids is in my mind impossible. It’s good that they can pay their own way, which I think makes their decision less problematic than a case like Suleman (even pre-8), but I do think that something is lost along the way when you have to rely on the older children to rear the younger ones. Of course, one of the worst aspects of the Suleman situation is that since she got them in bulk, she won’t even have that advantage. Nor a partner to help out. It’s that, far more than the money, that concerns me.

  9. Becky says:

    It’s incredibly frustrating that this woman chose to have more kids when she couldn’t take care of the first six — to me, it’s a completely different scenario than The Duggers. I don’t care how many kids a family has as long as they provide for them financially and are good to them emotionally. As the oldest of four, I found myself in the position of doing things for my siblings that were more “parental-like” so that could honestly happen in any family dynamic, esp. if both parents are working.

    As much as I abhor irresponsible people have any children at all, I can’t seem to find a solution that I would feel comfortable with either. The idea that the government could enforce population control is a slippery slope and one that would easily lead to stricter policies that apply to more than just welfare recipients — and why would it just be the woman that has to undergo the prevention measures?

    The other issue is that I’ve known far more people that are probably worse parents that aren’t on welfare — in terms of physical and mental abuse, and those are the kids that are more likely to grow up and be violent (not someone whose mom is on food stamps). The brother and girlfriend of a friend of mine had two kids. They were such bad parents (drinking, domestic violence) that the state took them away and placed them up for adoption. Fortunately, they were adopted by loving families. However, the brother/girlfriend have since had two more kids — and are the same stupid, irresponsible people that they were before and the state hasn’t taken those kids…yet (and they aren’t on welfare). While I don’t agree with population control, those that do, I don’t see how it could just stop with welfare assistance.

  10. Webmaster says:

    Being able to devote proper attention and guidance to that number of kids is in my mind impossible. It’s good that they can pay their own way, which I think makes their decision less problematic than a case like Suleman (even pre-8), but I do think that something is lost along the way when you have to rely on the older children to rear the younger ones.

    There’s a scant difference there between families that have 8+ kids (one every 1-1.5 years), and a family that has 2-4 kids but with a “gap” of 4-5 years between each one. In either case, the older sibling is going to provide both (a) the “example” and (b) part of the upbringing (oversight, babysitting, etc) of the younger siblings.

    The idea that the government could enforce population control is a slippery slope and one that would easily lead to stricter policies that apply to more than just welfare recipients — and why would it just be the woman that has to undergo the prevention measures?

    I didn’t say it should be just the woman – in fact, I distinctly remember saying just the reverse in regard to the public-assistance abortion scenario. Consider my comments amended to apply equally to the male and female in each circumstance.

    They were such bad parents (drinking, domestic violence) that the state took them away and placed them up for adoption. Fortunately, they were adopted by loving families. However, the brother/girlfriend have since had two more kids — and are the same stupid, irresponsible people that they were before and the state hasn’t taken those kids…yet (and they aren’t on welfare).

    In other words, these two are poster-material for the “you proved you can’t handle kids, you abused your privilege, therefore the state will remove your privilege to have kids” option.

    The more I think about it, the more I side with Barry. Procreation, much like driving, should be considered a privilege with serious accompanying responsibilities, instead of a right. Abuse it or prove you can’t handle it, and society should take it away from you.

  11. trumwill says:

    There’s a scant difference there between families that have 8+ kids (one every 1-1.5 years), and a family that has 2-4 kids but with a “gap” of 4-5 years between each one.

    There is a difference between older siblings helping out and providing an example as a supplement and doing so because there aren’t enough parents to go around.

    In other words, these two are poster-material for the “you proved you can’t handle kids, you abused your privilege, therefore the state will remove your privilege to have kids” option.

    So what would you do in a case like this? You can’t use welfare because they’re not on welfare. How do you force them to undergo sterilization? Should that be part of the punishment for the crime of child abuse? I could possibly get on board… except for fear of wrongful convictions and that once you start doing that for physical abuse, “emotional abuse” isn’t far behind.

    I think the CPS should take a look at the situation with a skeptical eye and intervene if necessary, but I’m not sure how you could do so pre-emptively without people suddenly drawing up criteria for who is and is not allowed to reproduce.

    The more I think about it, the more I side with Barry. Procreation, much like driving, should be considered a privilege with serious accompanying responsibilities, instead of a right. Abuse it or prove you can’t handle it, and society should take it away from you.

    The thing about a privilege is that society doesn’t have to take it away, it merely has to refuse to grant it. I don’t think that parenthood should ever fall into that category. I don’t like the idea of a government or entity telling me whether or not I have the right to reproduce – even though I don’t doubt for a second that it would tell me that I can.

    Even if you tie welfare benefits to suspended reproduction, that still doesn’t make reproduction a privilege. It makes welfare a privilege, which it is. I find the notion that society should treat parenthood itself as a privilege to be even more distressing than suspension of welfare privileges.

    I should again say that while I do think that parenthood is a right, I do think that society does have the right to revoke it. However, while revoking a privelege is easy revoking a right is hard. Taking away children from their parents should be hard for the government to do. Likewise, forcibly preventing people from reproducing in the first place should, if ever done, require a lot more than taking government asssistence. And it should never be permanent.

    As I said before, if there were a way to prevent someone from getting pregnant (or impregnating others) temporarily that wasn’t overly intrusive and was reversible, I’m somewhat open to the idea. But there’s not. Norplant and IUDs are intrusive, The Pill isn’t reliable, and tube clippings and vasectomies are intrusive and are not (contrary to sitcom plots) necessarily reversible.

  12. Webmaster says:

    There is a difference between older siblings helping out and providing an example as a supplement and doing so because there aren’t enough parents to go around.

    What’s the difference if someone has 7-8 kids in 10 years, versus having a kid and then 5-6 years down the road winding up with triplets? Sorry, but I’ve had plenty of discussions with my aunts and uncles (keeping in mind that my oldest and youngest uncle are 11 years apart) and the idea that there were “not enough parents to go around” never entered anyone’s thoughts.

    I cannot agree with the starting point of this argument. If the parents are responsible, then they are responsible. If they are irresponsible, they’d be irresponsible whether they have 1 kid or 10. The “not enough parents to go around” idea is just bogus.

    So what would you do in a case like this? You can’t use welfare because they’re not on welfare.

    No, but they have already judged unfit parents and had children taken away from them. Viewing parenthood as a privilege and not a right, that is the point at which their “procreative privileges” should be revoked.

    How do you force them to undergo sterilization?

    By court order. Give them a choice of options (BOTH required, mind you, to undergo sterilization), with consequences if it can be proved they undermine it.

    Should that be part of the punishment for the crime of child abuse? I could possibly get on board… except for fear of wrongful convictions and that once you start doing that for physical abuse, “emotional abuse” isn’t far behind.

    If the child abuse is severe enough that the government is forced to take away the kids? I’d say yes.

    As for the idea of wrongful convictions and “slippery slope”, if you have ideas on what the balance should be, that’s a discussion that definitely be had. If the court system in general needs cleaning up to avoid wrongful convictions, by all means clean it up.

    The thing about a privilege is that society doesn’t have to take it away, it merely has to refuse to grant it. I don’t think that parenthood should ever fall into that category. I don’t like the idea of a government or entity telling me whether or not I have the right to reproduce – even though I don’t doubt for a second that it would tell me that I can.

    Turn it around for a second. Too many people think driving is a “right” because we offer it to just about anybody without a second thought. They pass one drivers’ test, ever, and (short of causing a wreck and having their license revoked) they’re a driver “for life.”

    Now, what do we do for procreation? Arguably, you can screw up a lot more people’s lives worse with bad parenting than with bad driving. Yet the training we give for parenting, and the responsibility to “prove you can handle it”, is even less for procreation. Functionally, a 14 year old can go out, get pregnant (or get someone else pregnant), and the consequences? Pretty much zero, today. That’s a scary thought itself.

    Even if you tie welfare benefits to suspended reproduction, that still doesn’t make reproduction a privilege. It makes welfare a privilege, which it is. I find the notion that society should treat parenthood itself as a privilege to be even more distressing than suspension of welfare privileges.

    Once I would have agreed with you, but society today has gone so far, and so many people are abusing the so-called “right” to procreate (scamming the system/expecting the government to pay to raise the kids, failing to raise good and educated citizens, and just plain being irresponsible) that I’ve had to rethink my position.

    And it should never be permanent.

    As I said before, if there were a way to prevent someone from getting pregnant (or impregnating others) temporarily that wasn’t overly intrusive and was reversible, I’m somewhat open to the idea. But there’s not. Norplant and IUDs are intrusive, The Pill isn’t reliable, and tube clippings and vasectomies are intrusive and are not (contrary to sitcom plots) necessarily reversible.

    Every situation is different. For some people, agreeing to a certain method (with court understanding that it is not 100% reliable) is certainly better than having nothing at all. It should be easy enough for the court to order it, and the person to prove they were following the order (keep pharmacy receipts proving the supplies were purchased on time, etc) and that the control method simply failed if a breach occurs. The court could actually build in a “should the agreed-upon contraceptive method fail, a conceived child will be put up for adoption not later than X months after birth” clause to the court order as well.

    You say that it should “never be permanent”; I offer that if we ever come up with something that is both 100% effective and 100% nonpermanent, I’m all for it. If someone gets to the point where their right/privilege to procreate has been revoked, however, enough damage to society has been done that some punitive risk is in order. Functionally, consider the idea of someone who has their right/privilege to procreate revoked when they are 25, then restored at 45 or 55, only to find out that in the intervening time their physiology has changed (not because of the drugs, simply because of the march of time) and they are unable to successfully procreate anyways. Is that a “permanent” loss? Maybe. Did the state “take it away”? Subject of debate.

    Point being, there is never a 100% certainty of its being “reversible.” I, at present time, consider the plethora of alternatives available to offer enough options that the court and the individual(s) in question should be able to settle on one that fits the situation.

  13. PD says:

    Suleman obviously has some mental problems. It is nice not to be in her shoes. I am so glad I have a well paying job. I am not dependent on anyone for anything. I would try to have some empathy for her.

  14. Webmaster says:

    I am so glad I have a well paying job. I am not dependent on anyone for anything. I would try to have some empathy for her.

    I fail to be able to empathize with someone who says “well here I am. Six kids, no job, mooching off both the government and my parents. I know, I’ll have EIGHT MORE KIDS AT ONCE.”

  15. PD says:

    Web,

    She has issues. She thinks she is Angelina Jolie. She is not normal.

  16. trumwill says:

    The “not enough parents to go around” idea is just bogus.

    No, it’s not!

    Parental love may be infinite (and I haven’t the slightest doubt that they love all of their children), but their time and energy are not. Only children tend to be more successful. As do older siblings, particularly when there’s more than a couple years separating them from their younger siblings. The more children you have, the more ways your attention is divided. The fewer school plays you can go to. Fewer ballgames. Fewer one-on-one moments. Less exposure overall. That I got brothers means that I got less attention from my parents than I otherwise might have had. The same holds true for them.

    I’m sure that the Duggars take better care of their kids than do a lot of parents with only a kid or two, but the Duggar kids would receive more time and attention with fewer siblings. Children with siblings get less attention. The more siblings, the less attention. Between two kids and three kids, this may not make a whole lot of difference. Between one and ten? A big one. No matter how responsible the parents are, each child is an additional responsibility and nobody is able to juggle an infinite number of responsibilities.

    By court order. Give them a choice of options (BOTH required, mind you, to undergo sterilization), with consequences if it can be proved they undermine it.

    What kind of consequences? On what authority would you do this? You would have to convict them of a crime. That’s not necessary to take away children, but it would absolutely be required to administer a punishment beyond that. Other than child abuse, how do you make “bad parent” a crime?

    I actually have a post coming up on the subject of child welfare authorities.

    Arguably, you can screw up a lot more people’s lives worse with bad parenting than with bad driving. Yet the training we give for parenting, and the responsibility to “prove you can handle it”, is even less for procreation. Functionally, a 14 year old can go out, get pregnant (or get someone else pregnant), and the consequences? Pretty much zero, today. That’s a scary thought itself.

    So you actually would favor a strict regimen to get a license to become a parent? Seriously? I’ll confess that’s a “Wouldn’t it be nice…” thought that I’ve had in the past, but following your logic that’s what would be required here and I can’t even fathom that sort of government mandate with any degree of seriousness.

    For some people, agreeing to a certain method (with court understanding that it is not 100% reliable) is certainly better than having nothing at all. It should be easy enough for the court to order it, and the person to prove they were following the order (keep pharmacy receipts proving the supplies were purchased on time, etc) and that the control method simply failed if a breach occurs.

    The pharmacy would only prove that they were buying the pill, not taking it. Birth control pills are easy for even responsible people to screw up. There’d be no way to prove whether or not a condom or spermicide was used or used correctly.

    The court could actually build in a “should the agreed-upon contraceptive method fail, a conceived child will be put up for adoption not later than X months after birth” clause to the court order as well.

    What courts would determine this, anyway? On what authority? Family courts don’t have the authority to protect babies that haven’t been born (or conceived). Criminal courts rely on a criminal conviction.

    Beyond that, there already is a mechanism in place for this. If a baby is born to a completely unfit parent, it will be taken away. If I’m not mistaken, a mother that’s already in the CPS system automatically gets a look. It seems pretty rigid to suggest that because a mother had a child taken away five years ago she should automatically have her next child taken away, but it’s always possible that the mother has changed in the intervening years. I think a case-by-case is the better way to go. Whether the CPS is too aggressive or not aggressive enough I don’t know enough to say. Clancy and Shiela both have some exposure to this side of things and they could probably provide some input. But I don’t like the idea of it being automatic.

    You say that it should “never be permanent”; I offer that if we ever come up with something that is both 100% effective and 100% nonpermanent, I’m all for it.

    Same here. The question is what we do with the absence of this. I consider any substantial risk to permanent infertility to be too great in almost all cases. You might get me to agree on the most egregiously bad parents out there, but you’re obviously talking about a lot more people than just those.

  17. trumwill says:

    I think PD is saying that we should try to empathize with the mental illness she obviously has. Not the actions that are resulting from the mental illness.

  18. PD says:

    “I think PD is saying that we should try to empathize with the mental illness she obviously has. Not the actions that are resulting from the mental illness.”

    Yes, that is what I meant. It is similar to a drug or alcohol addiction.

  19. Sheila Tone says:

    I had to work hard to find which portion to blockquote. Read it all.

    (Preen, strut, smirk).

    “I think PD is saying that we should try to empathize with the mental illness she obviously has. Not the actions that are resulting from the mental illness.”

    Except I think this is one of those mental illnesses in which the pain is borne by others — similar (or identical) to narcisissm. Or antisocial disorder, or sadism. I doubt Suleman is suffering; I think she feels quite satisfied and validated.

    That brings me to Barry’s point: Is parenting just a privilege? I know I’ve expressed similar sentiments. But, the problem with a blanket “yes” is that parenting is also a hell of a lot of hard work and expense. I think society reaps considerable benefit from the efforts of *certain* parents. We want to encourage *those types of people* to be parents. There aren’t enough of them, and too many of the other types.

    Calling parenthood a privilege implies that it’s purely its own reward, and people can be expected to do it without any gratitude or outside support. It also implies we don’t care whether anyone does it or not. I think that attitude leads to a result we don’t like.

    I think we need to do more as a society to guide *who* has children. Until very recently, just about every society on the planet told women their highest and best purpose was to reproduce as much as possible. It’s easy to see where Nadya Suleman and multiple other welfare mothers get their sense of self-righteousness.

  20. Sheila Tone says:

    If the child abuse is severe enough that the government is forced to take away the kids? I’d say yes.

    Web, you may be making some incorrect assumptions about the severity of what it takes for child welfare to yank kids out of a home. Most of the cases are drug use and/or fights between the parents (plus filthy homes sometimes). And most people take the classes and rehab they need to get the kids back. And there’s a lot of hit-and-miss regarding who gets child services in their lives and who doesn’t, simply due to dumb luck.

    I’ve seen very few cases involving significant physical abuse.

  21. Sheila Tone says:

    P.S. I’ve been pimping my pay-people-to-not-breed idea on Half Sigma but it doesn’t seem to stir any interest. I think it’d be a lot more politic than forced sterilization, which will make people think of Communist China.

    Does anyone have an opinion, was Soviet Communism eugenic? My guess would be yes. No coddling of the lower classes over there, for all their rhetoric.

  22. Barry says:

    I find it disturbing that forced, coerced, mandated or even strongly suggested sterilization is even being considered as part of the discussion here, either as a preventative measure or a punitive one. I don’t think sterilization should even enter into this particular discussion as even a wild alternative to the bad-parent-syndrome.

    I can barely get behind the idea as a punishment for child sexual abuse, much less bad parenting. The idea of forced sterilization is pretty nauseating to me, actually and I hate it’s being considered as an option..

    Calling parenthood a privilege implies that it’s purely its own reward, and people can be expected to do it without any gratitude or outside support. It also implies we don’t care whether anyone does it or not. I think that attitude leads to a result we don’t like.

    I was really confused by your reasonings here – can you clarify? What result makes privilege parenting worse that “rights” parenting?

    I still believe parenting is a privilege but I’m thinking you’re not understanding the implication. To me it’s a privilege to raise a child (or children) in the world, and to have a part in contributing not just to the growth and development of a new human being but to society as a whole.

    There are mothers and fathers that think just because they can have a kid, they should. Or just because they can get it on and not use protection and they have a kid, they’re qualified to raise it. Because it’s their “right”, as a human, a citizen, a whatever. But a child is not only an immature human, it’s a potential mature human. The immature humans represent potential and future, and should be guided to be the best people they can be for themselves and the world. But the mature people they become, when raised in an immature way, become burdens on the society they’re forced into. That same society I have to share with them, and improper rearing brings down that society as a whole.

    All those “ADD” kids and neglected kids and latchkey kids and 14-kid household kids and feral kids and broken-home kids and hopeless kids and abused kids and tormented kids and hoodlum kids and unwed mother kids and deadbeat dad kids will grow up to transfer all those deficiencies into society. And is it all their fault? Not really, it’s because their parent(s) were too selfish, too self-righteous, too narcissistic, too successful to be bothered, too distracted, too uncaring and too bent out of shape to bother bringing up their children the way they should be brought up – because it was their “right” to do so.

  23. Sheila Tone says:

    What result makes privilege parenting worse that “rights” parenting?

    Barry, there are certain people whose children I consider a benefit to society. That means, they’re helping me out, not just themselves, when they have and raise children. The “result” I’m worried about is if society takes the attitude that “it was your decision, don’t bug me for help” with *everyone*, it will discourage some of the people we most want to have children. Intelligent, educated people (such as myself) often feel guilty about having children until they have a very high degree of financial security, for instance. Or, they figure it’s just too much burden and expense altogether. I’m willing to provide support and gratitude where appropriate, so as to *encourage* those people to have children.

    But that support and gratitude doesn’t extend to everyone. Right now, it’s politically unacceptable to judge who should reproduce and who shouldn’t, with narrow exceptions perhaps such as repeat serious criminals. I’m hoping the Suleman situation will open the door to a public discussion of that.

    More likely, though, it’ll just bring down more heat on fertility clinics. Which I don’t think will help the real problem — which is that all women feel their motherhood is a social contribution.

  24. Clancy says:

    I try not to get on my soapbox on Will’s blog, ’cause it is his blog and all, 🙂 but there are certain subjects that I just can’t stay quiet about. This is one of them.

    Much of where a person falls on this debate has to do with whether or not he or she feels having children is a right or a privilege. Here Will and I pointedly disagree. A “right” to have children?!? My response would be, “Not no, but hell no!” If you are not able to take care of yourself — financially, mentally, emotionally, etc. — you do not need to be having children. Period. Likewise, if you cannot take care of the children you already have, you absolutely do not need to be having more. Unfortunately, there is not some “one-size-fits-all” highly effective and reversible birth control available yet, so I feel that we, as a society, cannot make receiving various forms of support (financial, social, etc.) contingent upon use of birth control. That being said, given what I see daily in clinic, boy, it’s tempting to argue that he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if none of the available forms of contraception agree with you, well, fine, you can just not receive whatever support you’re looking for, and lose your kids when stuff hits the fan. Tempting, but too much risk to the kids in the meantime. Maybe. Some days, I really wonder about that.

    But I digress. As others have pointed out, tying the use of birth control to receiving welfare benefits doesn’t catch all of the bad apples; there are still plenty of financially independent jackasses out there whom the vast majority of folks would agree are not fit to be parents. Some would argue that we have safety nets for that. I agree with Sheila in that the application of such nets, like CPS, is kind of spotty. I see CPS involvement most commonly in cases of drug abuse, severe mental illness, or prior involvement with CPS. With regard to drug use, it’s got to be something like methamphetamine, or cocaine, or heroin; not marijuana, which would implicate about half my patient population. (I am not exaggerating. We do random drug screens, and fully half of my pregnant patient population comes up positive for pot.) Mental illness mostly includes those with some sort of psychotic break, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with psychotic features. Prior involvement with CPS usually included folks who were previously in the above categories. It’s extraordinarily rare to see CPS involvement for abuse. All of this being said, the overwhelming vast majority of cases of CPS involvement I’ve seen involve people that would already have been targeted by tying the use of birth control to receiving government assistance, whatever the variety.

    The specific case of Suleman? Sad, really sad. I’m not going to rehash the issues above as they apply to her case; suffice it to say she’s a case in point for all my previous arguments. I agree with whoever said she’s mentally ill. She is, whether it’s OCD, narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar with delusions of grandeur, or whatever. The problem is that she’s not seeking treatment for that, where use of taxpayer dollars might enable her to ultimately become a productive and contributing member of society. Instead, we’re feeding into whatever her mental issues are in such a way that it’s just going to keep on costing her and us.

    Another thing virtually no one’s touched on is the ethics involved in transplanting eight embryos for IVF. It’s not illegal at this point, but that goes against every medical reproductive society guideline that applies to the procedure. What that doctor did was ethically, morally, and medically wrong, and I think he or she should lose his or her license for it. I don’t care if it’s “what the patient wants;” many of my patients want things from me that are not medically good for them. (Hee hee, if some of my patients had their way, I’d be a dealer with an MD, not a doc!) From the standpoint of being a physician, one is NEVER forced into doing any medical procedure that one feels is morally wrong. If it’s a legal procedure and falls within the guidelines of appropriate medical care, one is legally obligated to refer the patient to someone who can provide that care, but one is not required to give care one finds morally objectionable. (An obvious example would be the case of birth control; some residents I work with find this morally objectionable and won’t prescribe it. They don’t have to prescribe it, although they do have to refer the patient to someone like me who will assess them and prescribe the medically appropriate contraception.) I’m not even going to get into the ethics of doing IVF on someone who already has more children than she can support.

    Alright, enough from me for now. . .

  25. Abel says:

    Here’s a thought (and I hope no one has said this already above): Why are we outraged at her and not others with kids who feed their kids from the public trough? It it just because she as 14 kids? What about the lady with 4 kids who does the same thing?

  26. Webmaster says:

    Abel,

    I’m outraged at those who have 4 kids on welfare. I’m more outraged at “mothers” whose kids are 3rd- or 4th-generational welfare recipients, and for whom only All-Powerful Atheismo knows who/where the dad is…

  27. trumwill says:

    Barry,

    I was really confused by your reasonings here – can you clarify? What result makes privilege parenting worse that “rights” parenting?

    Because to suggest that it is a privilege is to suggest that some greater authority has the right to grant (or decline to grant) said privilege on the basis of your conduct. The only greater authority I would ascribe that power to is God. So in that sense it could be a privilege, but God declines that privilege to people that would be (and are) great parents and extends that privilege to people that are utterly unworthy. So I wouldn’t accept the notion that it is a privilege from on high (without also accepting an incompetent deity).

    I don’t disagree with the notion that people that can’t take care of their kids shouldn’t have them. I just think that it’s the government’s position to make that declaration (except in cases where the life already exists and must be looked after).

    Abel,

    I think the main reason we focus on Suleman is that we know so much about her. Bring to our attention a lesser case with four kids instead of fourteen and I think that you would find similar responses. One difference between Suleman with six kids and Suleman with fourteen is that we now know who she is. The other factor is that with Suleman it was completely intentional and when there are four we might ascribe it to carelessness rather than recklessness unless we know for sure that it was all intentional. On the other hand, in Suleman’s favor is that she is quite apparently mentally ill. So in some sense she may be less worthy of condemnation than an intentional or reckless mother of four who has control of her faculties but very poor judgment. I think far too much of the condemnation (including my own) has been towards Suleman herself and not nearly enough at the fertility doctors.

  28. Sheila Tone says:

    We do random drug screens, and fully half of my pregnant patient population comes up positive for pot.)

    Is this the case for insured (non MediCal or whatever your state calls it) patients?

    Does that figure make you worry your screening method might be inaccurate? I’ve heard some horror stories about that.

  29. trumwill says:

    I’m not sure that she actually sees many privately insured patients where she works. The 50% figure does seem high to me, but she doesn’t seem to have any problem believing it.

    (She’s working an overnight tonight and will be recovering tomorrow, so I’m not sure when she’ll have the time to answer. She can elaborate if she chooses to.)

  30. Sheila Tone says:

    The other factor is that with Suleman it was completely intentional and when there are four we might ascribe it to carelessness rather than recklessness unless we know for sure that it was all intentional.

    They never, ever admit it was intentional. Even when it’s four with two different dads. Like that reporter (former) friend I had, about whom I’ve blogged periodically. Every single time, it’s because the Pill just didn’t work or something. Or they thought it was the wrong time in their cycle. Or the guy said he’d pull out.

    With my clients, I cut them a bit more slack because it is believable they might not be able to use birth control correctly. They usually don’t claim accidents, though. The philosophy seems to be: If a kid’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. They’re not ashamed to admit they want babies.

    Finally, with Suleman, we have irrefutable proof that someone absolutely planned such a situation.

  31. Sheila Tone says:

    Will, re the pot sceeens, I’d be interested in knowing if that’s at birth, or at the first appointment. It’s a lot more forgivable if you didn’t know you were pregnant. I had several big drinking nights in the very early stages of my pregnancy.

  32. trumwill says:

    I don’t take a woman’s claim that it was unintentional at face value, but it’s usually the case that you just don’t know for sure either way. Also, when I say “unintentional” I am including cases where she was careless about protection.

    The sort of way that people convince themselves that the chances of getting pregnant in any given encounter is rather low, not taking into account that repeated encounters increases the odds at each go.

    Just about any time I hear of an unplanned pregnancy, I assume that something could have been done to prevent it from happening. I’ve had a condom burst and I’ve had instances that we weren’t positive that she was as meticulous about taking birth control as she needed to be, but such instances were so rare that statistically the likelihood of a mishap are pretty small.

    It’s sort of like drunk driving in that regard. A whole lot of people drink and drive from time to time, but to do it frequently enough to actually get caught? The correspondence with alcoholism is pretty high. If you get caught twice, it’s almost a certainty. Granted, that’s using the AMA’s questionable definition of alcoholism, but even so.

  33. trumwill says:

    What’s particularly morally problematic is when a woman is pregnant, doing drugs, then avoids any prenatal care because she doesn’t want to get caught. Sadly, it happens. They get caught anyway.

    I actually have a tag saved to make sure I post on the subject at some point.

  34. Webmaster says:

    Well, having tried repeatedly to reply to Sheila on her blog only to see my replies go off into the bit bucket, I give up.

    Sorry, Sheila. You seem interesting to converse with, but I can only do so much when my replies never show up on your site!

  35. Clancy says:

    Abel,

    Frankly, I’m outraged at all with multiple kids on the public dole. Suleman’s just become a focal point, I think, since she’s such an extreme example. But as far as I’m concerned, once you have even one and you end up on welfare, that should be an absolute indication to have no more, at least until you’re self-supporting. Hell, back when I was in residency in Deseret, the wife of one of my fellow residents had their fifth child. . . and they were on Medicaid. I was appalled. My thought is, if you’re on public assistance and can’t support the one(s) you have, don’t be bringing more into the world for the rest of us to support.

    Sheila,

    My patient population is very much a low SES group. About the only ones we get with private insurance are those that move into the Soundview area from elsewhere late in their pregnancy; we’re pretty much the only group in town that accepts transfer of care late in pregnancy (most other groups don’t for liability reasons). There are maybe a few others that are “working class” and have a job with benefits, but most don’t. I haven’t broken down the drug use statistics by insurers.

    We do drug screens at the intake exam (which for some of our patients can be pretty far into the pregnancy) and then throughout the rest of the pregnancy if we get one screen that comes up positive and is confirmed. If someone shows up at the hospital in labor without prenatal care, or has received prenatal care elsewhere the entire pregnancy and then shows up at our hospital knowing her doc doesn’t deliver here, we do them then, as that’s frequently a red flag for drug abuse. If we’ve got any suspicions that someone’s been using and has been “cheating” the system (I’ve had a least several patients tell me that they know how long drugs stay in their system, and they skip appointments when they know they’ll be positive), the baby gets screened, via urine and meconium (baby’s first stool). All positive screening tests get sent for confirmatory testing (like what they use for legal purposes) to try to avoid the kind of horror stories that people talk about. I find the statistics believable. There seems to be a very high correlation between what patients tell me regarding their drug use and what shows up on the test. Also, I think the part of Soundview in which we live has much higher marijuana use in general, not just in the pregnant population, than pretty much any place I’ve worked before.

    The vast majority of pregnancies at my clinic aren’t intentional, at least in the minds of my patients. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this interchange:
    “Were you trying to get pregnant? Was this a planned pregnancy?”
    “No!”
    “Were you using birth control?
    “No!”
    Hmm. Anyone else see a logical disconnect here? The level of denial out there is unreal. Sorry, folks, if you’re having sex without reliable birth control, you’re trying to get pregnant, whether you intend to or not. The odds of conception with one year of regular unprotected sex is 85%. But again, I digress. Intentional in their minds or not, let’s just say that the ones I see having these “unplanned” pregnancies seem to have no qualms about being on public assistance. These are the same ones who can afford to smoke a pack a day but can’t “afford” Tylenol over-the-counter and want me to write a prescription for it so their insurance will cover it. Somehow I have to think that if they weren’t assured of such assistance, they’d be a whole lot more concerned about birth control. . .

    *Clancy steps off the soapbox* Thanks, Will!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

If you are interested in subscribing to new post notifications,
please enter your email address on this page.