Saturday, February 07, 2009


There is a famous Biblical story that deals with two women - prostitutes both, although their profession is not entirely germane to the story - who come before King Solomon with a dispute. As explained by one of the women (let’s call her Plaintiff), both live under the same roof; both gave birth to sons within days of each other. Then, tragedy struck: One of the babies died during the night, his mother (Defendant) having rolled over upon him in the bed. Defendant then quietly swaps the two babies while Plaintiff is asleep. When Plaintiff awakens, she sees that “her” baby is dead... but on closer examination she realizes that it’s not her baby.

Defendant, meanwhile, claims that the living baby is hers. Absent witnesses, who to believe?

Given that this story takes place well before the availability of DNA tests, it falls upon King Solomon to resolve the matter. Which he does with alacrity.

“Bring me a sword!” he famously says. We’ll simply slice the child in two and give each woman half. Case closed!

Whereupon Defendant responds, “OK, fine!” But Plaintiff says, “No! Don’t kill the child! Give it to the Defendant! The child is hers!” Of course, that reveals the Plaintiff as the real mother, for a real mother would choose giving up her child over having it killed. At least, that was Solomon’s take on the situation - demonstrable evidence of his legendary wisdom.

The story of King Solomon and two women, each desperate for a child, is a suitable frame for the story of another Solomon - one Nadya Suleman, to be precise, who recently gave birth to octuplets.

That, in itself, is a singular event. The incidence of natural octuplets in humans is vanishingly rare. Before modern advances in human fertility medicine, even quints were Major News Events. Multiple births now are a lot more common as a result of certain fertility enhancement regimens, but octuplets are still extremely unusual. And once they are born, all of the tools of modern medicine are necessary to ensure that these litters of tiny babies survive.

So here we have the case of the 33-year-old Nadya Suleman, who last week gave birth to eight living children. Instant brood! you may think. But no. Suleman already had six children between the ages two and seven.

Suleman, alas, is a single mother. Unemployed, and likely to remain so, since it’s hard working a 9-to-5 when you have fourteen little ones to care for. She lives with her parents, parents who have economic issues of their own (they filed for bankruptcy in 2008, citing over $900k in debts) - which means, almost certainly, that her army of children will need to rely on government handouts to survive despite her best intentions.

We live in an interesting society. A single mom with Suleman’s resources would have a hard time adopting that many children... and rightfully so, since children should have a reasonable expectation of a minimum standard of care and economic support. But you can poop out as many as you can, no problem.

My issue is with the fertility clinic that enabled this morally questionable situation. Let’s not even get into the matter of the first six children - all the result of fertility treatments. Why would a responsible medical practitioner implant eight fertilized embryos in a woman who already had six healthy children... and, moreover, who was unemployed and unmarried? I mean, what the fuck?

Having children is a wonderful thing. Hey, the Missus and I have two of our own. But we have never set out to repopulate a desert planet... merely to replace ourselves (more or less), and we stopped when medical issues made additional pregnancies risky. How messed up do you have to be to crank out a mess o’ kiddos in order to satisfy your need to be loved?

If I were King, I’d have this woman’s tubes tied. But I never claimed to be a Solomon.

What do you think?

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