A Los Angeles woman gave birth to eight children last week. These newborn octuplets bring her family to a total of 14 children, all of whom are under age 8. They will occupy a two bedroom cottage, where they are going to be raised by their unmarried, single mom, and grandma.
All 14 children were conceived from in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The multiple fathers are not all known, but one of them was mom’s co-worker at an IVF facility.
The doctors who performed this particular implanting of embryos used more than the normal recommendation of two or three embryos. When it was determined that seven fetuses had formed, the mother refused to terminate some of them, even though it was recommended for her health, and that of the fetuses.
My initial reaction to the stunning news was moral outrage. The first obvious question is, who is going to pay for all this? How is a single mom going to be able to give the time and attention to each of these children that it takes to raise a child?
But this is America, stories like this will command money. In fact the family has already begun the process of commercialization of the children and the story. News reports are that she wants to reach out to Oprah and Diane Sawyer, and is expecting to raise $2 million from interviews and product endorsements.
For this family, which will go through approximately 250 diapers a week, in the first few months, the Pampers campaign will be crucial and probably highly lucrative. I’m certain that there are agents circling this woman with deals, and the reality is, she will likely be more than self-sufficient financially in mere weeks if she plays her cards right.
Time will tell if she has the emotional maturity, and intellectual rigor, to control her good fortune in both children and money. If she fails, and falls on public assistance programs, she runs the risk of becoming an icon of all that is wrong with the Pro-Life agenda.
I am not a believer in the proposition that more children is a de facto better thing for society. I believe that every child should be a wanted child, and while certainly this woman is demonstrating that her children are wanted children, she should take care of them herself, and not expect society at large to provide for them.
Children are a huge responsibility, they are enormously expensive and time consuming for attentive parents. People like to say that being a parent is a right. And that is certainly true. It is also true that we, as a society, have the right to demand that parents raise their children well. We have the right to demand that if they are going to have children, they take responsibility for teaching them the mores of our society, that they become productive members and give back to our communities.
This one woman is now in the position of directing the lives of 14 children, who will one day have an enormous impact on the society they live in. Just look into the future six years and see what a kindergarten class is going to look like. Dig deeper and see 16 years into the future and what high school will be like. Not just for these octuplets, but for their classmates.
I remember the effect that just a set of twins had on my high school class. These children will be a force to be reckoned with throughout their school years. That is going to have an enormous effect on their classmates, their teachers, and the resources that are available for all students.
I question the wisdom of a mother of six being allowed to even engage in IVF. It strikes me that at some point, a fertility specialist should have begun to question the need for the procedure. Certainly it is possible that the doctor could require a psychological profile to rule out some dysfunction. This is not McDonald’s after all, where you just drive up to the window and place an order. There are supposed to be professionals involved, exercising judgment.
I wish this mother and her new family all the best. I hope that she has the wisdom to act wisely with the opportunities that are in front of her, and can make a life for all of her children.
But in a world where this type of occurrence is possible, I believe that there is now a need for a wider discussion of what are the boundaries for these procedures. As we have seen with nuclear weapons, just because we have the ability to do something, doesn’t mean that we always should.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.