Author: Elizabeth Cutler
She’s been called many things over the past several weeks: crazy, needy, Angelina-obsessed and reports tend to imply that she is stupid for thinking that she can support fourteen children without a job. But this article is not about what I think of Nadya Suleman’s desire to have a large family. This is about how instead of speculating about her mental state, we should be discussing the fact that this occurrence reflects the disparity between science and the law.
We have been told over and over that Suleman has been treated for serious mental health conditions and experienced extreme post-partum depression after the birth of one of her first children–this should not be treated merely as an anecdote of her past. There should be no way that someone facing such serious psychological and emotional difficulties can go unassisted.
Incredible strides made in the field of fertility treatments and technology pushed the gap between science and the law into a gaping chasm. This is why an unemployed, nearly-bankrupt woman can be implanted with a dangerous number of embryos to result in fourteen children. The grandmother now says that she would consider putting them up for adoption because the family simply cannot take care of them. Just to put this in perspective, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommends that a woman Suleman’s age (33 years old) should not be implanted with more than three embryos. Suleman’s doctor implanted her with six embryos, two of which split, resulting in eight fetuses.
Again, it’s really not about her desire to have many children and reasons behind that wish. It’s about the fact that we are simply ethically and legally unprepared to even handle a situation like this. The law needs to catch up with science, plain and simple. It needs to be clear, focused, and take into account the best interest of all parties involved: the future children, the parent(s), and society at large because, let’s face it, right now we’re going to be the ones paying for the Suleman clan.
Moreover, there are serious ethical issues at work here when it comes to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all fourteen of Suleman’s children as they grow up, no matter who is raising them.Fertility Today magazine has said that “Every day we are finding an ever increasing need for clarity and consistency in the area of reproductive law in order to keep up with these scientific advances.” No kidding. It may not be what Aldous Huxley had in mind, but as many commentators have noted, this story makes our world seem like a brave, new world–and we need to improve and update reproductive law to keep up with it.
Otherwise, multiple aspects of U.S. society will be impacted: health insurance, welfare, children’s services, education, and much more. Making reproductive law current is no longer just something for legislators to get to later. It’s a priority.
Elizabeth Culters is a senior ECLS major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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