Apparently, we’re supposed to feel sorry for Nadya Suleman, the mother of the octuplets. When the babies were born, I noted it as a remarkable feat of modern medicine and questioned the medical ethics involved in the process. Well, since I first saw the squib on the AP Wire, we’ve learned a lot more about this remarkable situation.
- We’ve learned that Ms. Suleman is a single mom. We’ve learned that she’s a graduate student and has no job. She has had jobs intermittently in the past, but quit her most recent job while she was pregnant.
- We’ve learned that she had six children, including a set of twins, before giving birth (by Caesarian section) to these eight. One of them is autistic.
- The suggestion has been made that she was depressed after her previous birth, and became pregnant to cure her depression. All of her fourteen children have the same sperm donor father (who is not her ex-husband). Her mother says that she was “obsessed” with the idea of having children since she was a young girl.
- During her pregnancy, she was told that she had eight viable fetuses, and was then offered the opportunity to abort some of them, and refused to do so.
- She’s filed for bankruptcy and is the recipient of ample welfare payments. (I’m not entirely sure how we’ve learned that, since it’s not the sort of thing that I think is subject to public scrutiny, but that’s what’s circulating around the Intertubes.) Her folks have also filed for bankruptcy. Now, I’m not going to fault anyone for filing bankruptcy, because sometimes people get in over their heads or are confronted with overwhelming situations. I would, however, fault someone for making colossaly bad economic choices after having to go through that process. You’re supposed to use bankruptcy as a last resort and ideally, you won’t be a repeat customer of the bankruptcy courts.
- We’ve learned that she leans heavily on her parents for support, and live in her parents’ home, a 3+2 in Bellflower, a small suburban city southeast of the city of Los Angeles. Her parents are planning on moving back to their native Iraq to earn money to support this geometrically-expanding family. Try to imagine what it would be like for three adults, six children, and eight infants to live in a 3+2.
- She’s hired media agents and publicists. According to the Fish Wrapper, the publicist was referred by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, where the C-section took place and the babies are still being kept in an incubator. Again according to the Fish Wrapper, the tab for the medical bills so far is in excess of $300,000. (Bear in mind that the kids are at the moment one week old.) (!!!!) Her publicists are trying to offer the spin that if economic times were better, we’d all be happy for her.
- She’s hoping for two million bucks to sell her story and wants to start a career as a television child care expert. She does have an M.A. from Cal State Fullerton in child and adolescent counseling, and was working as a psychiatric technician but quit during her pregnancy.
- She says she plans to breast-feed them all. (Her teats are going to be limper than a used-up pastry piping bag if she goes through with that plan.)
Count me among the number of people who are stunned with outrage over the situation. (Example here.) A single mom who already has six children and then consciously decides to have eight more all at once is making a choice that seems irresponsible on a galactic scale to me. But, as I’ve said many times, freedom means tolerating it when other people make choices with which you disagree.
For me, the issue is that I, as a taxpayer, am being
asked forced to pay for and support this decision. It’s one thing when I have to sit back and tolerate someone else doing something I wouldn’t have done. When that thing doesn’t really hurt me or cost me anything, I can exercise my tolerance and say, “Well, that was a poor decision, but what can you do? It’s a free country.” And I think that, for instance, China’s population control laws are morally repugnant. It ought not to be for the government to tell anyone how many kids they can or cannot have.
But at the same time, Suleman has quite obviously crossed a line. She is very, very clearly not up to the task and demands of providing for these kids. It’s questionable if she will be able to sell her story and publicists are questioning the ethics of pimping the kids out for money as it is.
Judith Regan, the controversial agent behind O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It” book, said she does not believe there’s a market for Suleman because “she seems so selfish and irresponsible.”
When O.J. Simpson’s publicist says you’re being selfish and irresponsible, you’re being too selfish and irresponsible.
But actually, I don’t question that she will be able to sell her story for a substantial amount of money. I’ve a nearly infinite well of cynicism about how many people will buy tabloids with shit like this in them. I do question, however, whether she has the financial skills necessary to navigate the world of big publicity, press agents, entertainment lawyers, and the like — all of these people work on contingency — and manage the money she will get before we all forget about her and stop buying stuff or watching programs about her, such that she will be able to provide for her kids.
And then there’s the other issue about public money. Until and unless she starts getting Big Tabloid Bucks, there is no means of support for a woman trying to raise fourteen children — at least one of which has special needs — on her own, with no job and insubstantial health insurance. How did she pay for the fertility treatments in the first place, with no job? Easy — she skimmed money from the AFDC payments she was getting for her first six kids. That money — yours and mine — was supposed to feed, clothe, and house the six kids she had already popped out. Instead, it was used to make eight new siblings for them.
Meanwhile, the State of California is furloughing non-essential government services one day every other week because the state is so completely out of money.
Then there’s the issue of the doctors who helped this woman get in the situation in the first place. There is no review process for this, and while many other doctors are tut-tutting what they are calling a lapse of medical ethics, there is a rather difficult question of what can be done to prevent this? Ask any lawyer — there are doctors out there who are simply whores, will do anything for money. I’m not picking on doctors here, there’s lots of lawyers like that, too. But in this case, some doctor’s ethical lapse enabled this to happen.
Freedom may mean tolerating other people making bad decisions, but it doesn’t mean paying for them, too. Clearly, there has not been enough policing for AFDC abuse if she was able to pay for fertility treatments with AFDC money. Tighter auditing of welfare is obviously needed, because here is a spectacular demonstration of the system being abused. When you take public money, you have to take the strings that go along with it. And maybe there aren’t enough strings attached to social welfare programs like this; as they are written, it seems as though we are paying for people to create babies they can’t possibly support.
I can’t make myself feel sorry for a welfare cheat. I can’t make myself feel sorry for someone who has gone out of the way to make herself a massive burden on the rest of society. And I certainly can’t make myself feel sorry for someone who has gone so far out of her way to make such a spectacularly bad decision.