Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Pregnant women get the crazy all up inside them"

One of my good friends pointed out to me the completely ridiculousness of the media coverage surrounding the recent delivery of octuplets. When she first delivered, it was "MIRACLE! BABIES ARE CUTE!" talk, but once the media found out she already has six children, then it became an "ethical dilemma." Apparently women, once pregnant, aren't emotionally stable enough to make rational decisions for themselves.

The title of this post comes from the chat where my friend sent me the link to a CNN article. I think I'll let CNN speak for itself:

Rosenthal, on the other hand, questions the woman's capacity to make a good decision under the circumstances. Some neonatologists believe that when pregnant women are told about dangers of prematurity or have great expectations about giving birth, their judgment can be impaired, she said.

The situation raises the issue of whether a doctor ought to override a patient's wishes for the sake of saving lives, she said. Although the health care system in America gives patients autonomy in making decisions about their own bodies, when emotionally distraught, some people decide poorly, she said.

You know, once the pregnancy gets all up inside someone, everything they do is crazy emotional and irrational. My friend pointed out that these ethicists don't trust the what pregnancy does to women; although if they don't trust women in the first place, it's an easy jump to blaming it on pregnancy hormones. They don't trust the emotional state of pregnancy enough to suggest that it's worth stripping a woman of the right to physical autonomy.

The article states that "when emotionally distraught, some people decide poorly." Poorly by what standard? Who decides what is and is not a poor decision? I think what they mean to say is that instead of people deciding poorly, it's women deciding poorly, i.e. not what that particular person thinks. People (men) don't decide poorly - it's those hormone driven women.

This just seems like one more reason given by "the powers that be" to justify denying women bodily rights, regardless of the circumstances. If a situation like this sets the precedent that the state of pregnancy causes hormonal imbalances which lead to irrational decision making and this is worthy of denying rights to women, then we're just steps away from stripping women of the right to choose at all.

Stuff like this doesn't exist in a vacuum - taking away women's rights in one place just makes it easier to take away women's rights in another.

mzbitca wonders if the media coverage would be different if there was a man in the relationship, as opposed to a single mother. She writes, "I just can’t help but wonder, if there was a man smiling in the pictures behind Nadya if any of these accusations would even be around?"

However, I'm going to have to go with Melissa at Shakesville's approach: None of our business. Whatever issues are involved, it's not my decision and not my place to judge.

The only way I can be sure* that my own reproductive decisions won't be judged by others is to not judge others. It's a small step, but it's a start.

*I'm not 100% sure that my own decisions won't be judged, but I'm going to trust others that I won't be judged when the time comes and extend a little bit of the golden rule/Kant's catagorical imperative.


Amelia said...

I agree with your assessment of this situation. How convenient to blame the hormones. Just another reason why women don't deserve no rights over their bodies! Theyz crraaazzzy. ...Not that it's anyone's business, but whatever.


Nicely done post, Lindsay.

K said...


These kids were all conceived by IFV. That's a deliberate move. It takes a lot of thought & hard work to go through with that. I don't believe blaming the hormones is adequate to explain her choices.

Not that her choices need explanation, of course.

The media coverage of this is scary. It looks like there is no "Right" decision that she could have made. It's like, women get flak whether they get pregnant in the first place, then whether they give birth or get an abortion. There's no way to win.

Anonymous said...

Personally, the miracle to monster mother shift annoys and disturbs me. People have ten, fifteen kids all the time that they can't, on a practical level, care for, but they do it "naturally" by not practicing family planning, and that's okay.

A doctor couldn't-- and shouldn't-- reject a woman for IVF unless she's clearly a psychotic danger (like running around naked with a knife speaking in tongues). Reproduction, even when abused, is a basic that should not be denied on single status or fertility status.

There was nothing to be done to "stop" her unless natural physical roadblocks got in her way. As it should be. That doesn't change the fact, though, that this woman made very bizarre choices and is probably, on some level, mentally ill, and clearly not capable of caring for the children she has, let alone the eight she CHOSE to have against all rational medical advice.

Anonymous said...

Way to miss the point. She's not getting flak because "it's a woman making decisions, onoes!", it's because she's single and has 14 children.

Explain to me how she could provide for them without becoming a burden on the state?

Right. She can't.

That being the problem. Yeah, if there was a man in the picture, people wouldn't be so judgemental, because that would imply there was someone else putting money into the household.

Amelia said...

Editorial note: I published Anonymous2's comment because it brings up some good point. Not a great idea to come here with that attitude. You make it sound like your way is the only way and there is no way to argue it.

Just a note in case you decide to write further comments.


Anonymous said...

"My way"?

What, the way that perhaps you shouldn't have children if you can't afford them? That purposely having 14 kids (IVF is purposely, these aren't accidents) when you KNOW you'll become a burden on the state, and that you KNOW you can't care for all of them is foolish?

Most people would think that.

My attitude is that you're assuming that people are just bothered that a "woman is making decisions about reproduction!" when that clearly isn't the case.

It IS a question of ethics, because is it ethical, or wise, or proper to IVF a woman with 6 kids already? No. Especially when she'll become a burden on the state for doing it.

I don't doubt in the coming months we'll see stories of them getting taken away from her by CPS.

Mike said...

Also, not only is the woman single, she lives in a 3 bedroom house w/ her parents and on top of that, she is unemployed. So I think it is safe to assume that the ONLY income she is receiving is gov't assistance.

Someone did some calculations and all of the hospital costs alone are going to come in just under $1,000,000.

If she had conceived naturally and this hadn't been a contrived idea, it would be a totally different conversation we'd be having. This was intentional. And I do think the question of ethics (and sanity on part of the woman) needs to be addressed.

Because I didn't want to have kids right now, but unfortunately, as a taxpayer, I get to supprt hers.

Amelia said...

@ Mike:

I think that the fact that you say "If she had conceived naturally and this hadn't been a contrived idea, it would be a totally different conversation we'd be having." is problematic.

If her having so many children because she is not economically well-situated is your real issue with her, it should be an issue whether or not she intended to have so many babies.

Sounds like you're really holding entirely something else against her and are using other things to cover for it.

Am I wrong?

Mike said...


Actually yes, you are wrong. And I guess I'm not 100% sure what exactly you are referring to.

I was simply agreeing with the Anonymous poster and bringing up other factors.

Amelia said...

Mike -

You said things would be different if she had conceived naturally. To me, that sounded almost like you were holding her morally accountable for practicing a form of family planning that you did not agree with.

Just to clarify.

Mike said...

To be honest, I guess I'm not a big fan of IVF, but that's not my gripe. When I said it would be different if she conceived naturally I meant that it would be different if she had sex, got pregnant and just happened to have octuplets. However, she had 8 fertilized eggs implanted in her with the intention of having 8 kids. So I am holding her morally accountable, not for conceiving via IVF, but for being irresponsible in her decision to have 8 children on top of her 6 also considering her status as single, unemployed, living at home w/ mommy and daddy still in a 3 bedroom home.

lindsay said...

My question is how is it your place to decide if she's being irresponsible, regardless of the details of her life?

Mike said...

How can you say she is being anything but irresponsible?

What is the responsible part of what she did?

And what should stop me from being able to decide what is irresponsible or not?

Amelia said...

A large part of the problem for me is that women are judged all the time for their reproductive decisions. This woman is getting a lot of attention because of the unusual stats in her case, but the fact of the matter is that many women are judged.

Getting pregnant without being married? Having an abortion to deal with an unintended pregnancy? Having a child at a young or old age?

It's like people feel they have a right to comment and make judgments all the time when women's bodies are in the picture. And that, IMO, is not right.

Mike said...

My suggestion is quite simple: don't flatter yourselves.

Men don't want to "control" you or your bodies. If you want to get 100tattoos, we don't care. If you want to pierce your face 8000 times, we don't care. It's a little gross, but again we don't care. We don't care what you wear or how you wear it. In fact, thank God you live here in America. Because you like to complain about oppression, go to some of these Muslim countries where you will be beaten for looking at a man.

What we do care about is when your "choices" involve the most innocent of us, babies. The woman who now has 14 kids, I don't care about the woman, but what I do care about is whether or not these kids are going to be adequately cared for.

So yes, your examples do involve a womans body, but they more importantly involve the life and body of a child. That is what we care about.

Amelia said...


I published your last comment because I have hope that I can make you realize how horribly sexist it was (I'm not saying that you necessarily meant for it to be sexist, but it definitely was).

First of all, the idea that American women face little to no oppression is just plain wrong. Even American society has systematic inequality built into it. If you surround yourself with white American women, this inequality and oppression may be easier to overlook because white women are privileged among the women in America. Women of color, however, face even more problems in our society due to the intersectionality of race/gender oppression.

Second, the last part of your comment, to me, seemed to be saying that you care more about children than women. The way you said things were completely disrespectful.

The woman who now has 14 kids, I don't care about the woman, but what I do care about is whether or not these kids are going to be adequately cared for.

Well, it's interesting that you say this. One of the best ways to make sure that this woman's children are taken care of would be to help the mother by making sure she had some sort of income, a good home, etc. If you care about her children you have to care about her as well, because they are her children.

The wage gap, the restrictions placed on women through traditional gender roles, the fact the poverty is a huge problem for women, all these things make it difficult for women to take care of the children they have. If you really care so much about children, why not help out the women who often care for them? You can't care for one without caring for the other.

So yes, your examples do involve a womans body, but they more importantly involve the life and body of a child. That is what we care about.

Right. Because the bodies and dignity of women mean nothing when compared to a child? All are human beings. You can't respect one at the expense of another. It troubles me that you seem, in this comment, to see women as expendable...like they don't matter. The only thing that you seem to find important about women is that they can give birth to children. That's horrible.

If my impression was wrong, please let me know.

Mike said...

Ok. Congratulations for taking me completely out of context.

Let me rephrase...When there is a child involved, it stops being solely about the woman. That is why abortion to people like me isn't about controlling what women do with their bodies, it's about protecting the life of the child.

So my point was that we don't care about controlling your bodies or what you do with them, that is your problem. However, when you start to use that lame argument in defense of abortion rights, then it becomes a problem.

But it seems as though you think there is some big conspiracy out there in which we are trying to devise a plan in which we can control women and their every move and decision. That is nothing but paranoia.

And I also find this quote from you a little trobling:

"Because the bodies and dignity of women mean nothing when compared to a child? All are human beings. You can't respect one at the expense of another."

Does abortion ring a bell? That is exactly the definition of "respecting one at the expense of another".

Amelia said...

Does abortion ring a bell? That is exactly the definition of "respecting one at the expense of another".

No. The whole reason the abortion debate exists is because no one can agree on when "life begins" etc. etc. When does a fetus become a human life with rights? This is the whole question of the abortion debate. And no one will ever agree on that, so your point is invalid.

Amelia said...

Also, I don't want to hijack this comment thread. We're a bit off topic.