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Posted in: Motherhood & Custody, Feminism

Published on Feb 02, 2009 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Octuplets: A Frankenstinian Moment in Modern Obstetrics


Thousands of articles have been written about the California woman who now has 14 children, 8 of whom were just born all at once, together. There is almost an obscene fascination with this story. It is something one reads in The National Enquirer not in the mass media. It is grotesque, a freak Circus Act. Human beings do not give birth to litters, only animals do. And yet–here we are. The woman’s gone and done it.

But who has 14 children? Very religious people sometimes do. They are often opposed to abortion and/or do not value advanced female education or well paid female work outside the home (this includes a relatively small number of Chasidic and ultra-orthodox Jews, Catholics, and Christians), but the collective number of their progeny pales in comparison to that of outlawed, break-away Mormon and law-abiding Muslim men who practice polygamy. Osama bin Laden’s father had 57 children.

Now, without resorting to polygamy or marriage (there is no husband in sight, only a sperm donor), a single mother has joined these hallowed ranks: Nadja Suleman, 33, was the divorced single mother of three sets of twins (six children) before she became the single mother of eight more children, born in California on January 27, 2009. This is sheer female ambition, perhaps as well as madness.

Is Suleman hell-bent on having 20 children all by herself? Psychologically, is she the next version of a surrogate contract breeder who, instead of choosing to give “the gift of life” to another woman, keeps it for herself? Suleman lusts for babies, children. There is no way she could afford to support or even care take so many children all on her own. Not here, and not back in the old country. Her father, Ed, with whom she lives, claims he’s a Palestinian. Once this gets out–will she become a poster child/mother for….free baby formula and diapers? Or for Jihad?

Suleman may have her motives. But the fertility clinic doctors who allowed this to proceed should be…What?

On what basis could they have stopped her? Every woman has the right to her own body. But surely, it was dangerous, uncustomary, and medically unethical to implant eight embryos at once, yes? Why did they do so? But, once all eight embryos “took,” on what basis could physicians, or even the state, have forced her to have a “selective reduction?”

And why did the sperm donor, one “[1] David Solomon” donate his sperm? He is listed as the father on the birth records for some of Nadya’s older children although Nadya was married and divorced from another man. (Or not–see below).

Setting aside all these other issues, let me raise just one. The economic factor.

The fact that these infants were born prematurely places them at great risk. They will, arguably, require additional medical and psychiatric care for the rest of their lives. Who will pay for this? Is this single mother capable of earning enough money to pay for her brood? Is her father, Ed Suleman, who says he was born in Jerusalem, able to afford all his grandchildren? According to several newspaper accounts, the happy grandfather recently declared bankruptcy and claims he is one million dollars in debt. And, Nadja’s mother, Angela, is divorced from him. Ed is presumably on his way to Iraq to work as a translator for military contractors in order to help pay for his 14 grandchildren.

Why is the grandfather of these children acting as if he is their father? According to the [2] New York Post, Nadja’s mother Angela is quoted as saying: “What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed. (My daughter) is not evil.” And, Nadja’s father is quoted as saying: The eight new bundles of joy are “God’s wish. I have no idea what to do with God.”

Why should the taxpayer fund this risky, madcap enterprise? On the other hand, why should the poor be penalized while women of extraordinary wealth remain automatically “funded” to reproduce at will? And no, I’m not in favor of the state re-possessing these children. Foster care has a pretty lousy record, adoption is also a high-risk enterprise.

Any answers out there? Any California taxpayers want to weigh in? Any conspiracy theorists? Is this an immigration ruse? A Jihadic ruse? By the way: There is absolutely no information out there about this family’s political views. Should California yank the license of the fertility clinic that did this?

Newsflash: Folks: No sooner did I post this story when I looked at today’s [3] New York Post which describes Suleman as wanting to “sit down with Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer in order to make “two million dollars.” After which she wants to become a “TV talking head, dispensing advice on child care issues.” And yesterday, the [4] Times of London noted that her father is from Iraq, not Jerusalem (who really knows), that she was never married, only had a boyfriend (who knows).

Only in America, only in the twenty first century. It’s not just Nadja Suleman. It’s we, the people who will watch the interviews and read the stories. It’s we who reward such attention-getters.

What next? A virgin auctioning off her virginity on ebay to the highest bidder? That auction is underway. War filmed live on camera. Extreme fighting. Sexual acts of all kinds. We have it all. I am waiting for the gladiators.


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