What about OctoMom?

I’ve been holding off on commenting on Nadya Suleman. I may have more to say later, but I think Jennifer Roback Morse nails what is truly so disturbing about this case. In part:

Now children get separated from their parents all the time. But we usually recognize this as an unavoidable tragedy, from which any humane soul would spare the child if we could. But in the case of artificial reproductive technology with anonymous sperm donors, the state is actively separating a child from his or her father. The state itself is enabling something that we ordinarily strive to prevent.

And why is the state acting as the agent of separating children from parents? Because the woman wants the state to do so. But her desires are sufficient reason to violate so basic a right as the child’s right to affiliation with both parents.

This is the real tragedy which the Nadya Suleman case brings to light. It is not that she made an unconventional decision, in part using other people’s money, and counting on financial support from her parents and the state. The problem is that no one has a right to have a child, in the way that anyone with the ability to pay has a right to buy a house. This use of the language of the market assumes the very point that is necessary to prove, and which I believe can not be proved: namely that a child is a kind of commodity, to which other people have rights and entitlements. The child is not an object of rights, but a person who has rights of his or her own. The child is an end in himself or herself.

The violation of rights in this case took place well before she and her doctor decided to implant “a lot” of embryos, rather than a “reasonable” number. The real violation took place when she decided, with the help of the state, that she was entitled to the use of someone else’s genetic material to achieve her personal reproductive goals.

4 thoughts on “What about OctoMom?

  1. This is a rehash of Dan Quayle’s “Murphy Brown” speech, only with a new boogieman — the state. Exactly how the state forced this woman and her doctor to implant her with a mess’o’embryos I don’t know. The state barely interferes with a system that works quite well for responsible couples and single women but doesn’t guard well-enough against the extreme case. I thought this was the conservative free market way to do things. Put it into the 2nd amendment context: you can have my turkey baster when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

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  2. This is a classic example of an area where conservatives and free-market libertarians diverge. Conservatives believe that the state ought not allow a market for products and services which enable children to be born into fatherlessness, or which otherwise treat a child’s genetic material as a “thing” or “product” divorced from the act of total self-giving of two parents — regardless of what the adults involved may consent to.

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  3. Is conservatism now defined by religious interpretations of what the state should allow others to do, rather than by the relationship of the individual to the state? My grandfather (not a libertarian) is spinning in his grave.

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