Suleman Octuplets Good Reason to Look at Fertility Regulation

Tue, February 17, 2009


I am weary of the Nadya Suleman coverage. The tiny octuplets. 14 kids altogether. Unemployed mom. Not to mention that whole sort of looking like Angelina Jolie thing.

But one aspect of this baby circus is worth talking about — the fertility industry. Yes — it’s an industry, both here and around the world. It’s a business to the tune of billions of dollars a year. The more fertility treatments that women have, the more money doctors make. It’s not really complicated.

Don’t get me wrong. We went down the fertility road when we were trying to have a family. I have no problem with anyone deciding that fertility treatments are appropriate for them.

While I was on the Clomid train, there were no questions about what kind of parents we’d make, or what our joint incomes were. No one stopped us at the door and demanded to take a peek for dust bunnies in our house or to check the expiration date on our kitchen fire extinguisher. There were no laws we had to comply with and no one wanted to know how much any baby that resulted from those treatments was going to cost.

All that changed when we stepped off the societally accepted way of making a family, the new-fashioned spin on the old-fashioned way, and decided to adopt.

Once we were on the road to adopting the baby who ultimately became PunditGirl, we were required to be fingerprinted by the state and federal governments to make sure we had no criminal background. Health and fire inspectors were mandated to come to our house to certify that we had a safe environment for any child who was to become ours. We had to submit several years worth of financial statements to prove that we could afford to care for a child. Many of our friends were called on to sign notarized statements that we would be good parents. And, just for good measure, Mr. PunditMom and I had to sit through several sessions with a therapist to talk about our family social histories, as well as our feelings on corporal punishment. Then, and only then, were we permitted to be considered as a potential adoptive family.

Oh, and the best part? We really enjoyed spending time with people who felt like they could ask us how much our baby would “cost” and those who kept urging me to keep trying one more treatment in the fertility arsenal so I could have a baby “of my own.” And, of course, there are also those who think I’m not even a mom since PunditGirl, as she used to say, wasn’t “borned” from me.

Many in the fertility industry contend that it would be too burdensome to have requirements surrounding fertility procedures, claiming that self-regulation is the way to go. Free markets, and all. Hmm, where have I heard that before?

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing for there to be hoops to jump through before someone can adopt a child. But if there are scores of laws that address and regulate the adoption process, why is it any less important that there be some regulations when it comes to giving the go-ahead for people to have eight embryos implanted at one time? In one article, an ethicist reasoned that government is “loathe” to tell people who can and can’t be parents. Except that the government does it every day when it comes to adoption.

The regulation question isn’t about parenting. It’s about business. No one’s bottom line was enhanced by the fees we paid to the non-profit agency we chose. And it’s OK with me that the orphanage she lived in for a year, where a handful of caregivers manage 100 or more babies every day, might have used some of the money to buy modern washing machines so they didn’t have to wash all those baby clothes by hand.

But don’t tell me that the lack of regulation in the fertility industry is about the government wanting to stay out of decisions by those who want to become parents. The government had no problem poking its nose into just about everything in my life before I was allowed to become a mother. If that’s going to be the case, then I don’t see how it’s all that different for fertility businesses.

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19 Responses to “Suleman Octuplets Good Reason to Look at Fertility Regulation”

  1. judy in ky Says:

    You make a good point. There does seem to be an inconsistency here. I doubt if Suleman could have qualified to adopt a child.

  2. One Girl's Opinion Says:

    But if there are regulations for having children with the help of a fertility doctor … why cant/wouldn’t their be regulations for having a baby the “old fashioned” way?

    The doctor in the Suleman case is a bit complicit, because that lady has mental health issues.

    Just wanted to drop my .02.

  3. impromptublogger Says:

    Amen to everything you said! I think besides the fertility doctor getting his license taken away (which I think may ultimately happen) – he should be made to pay child support.

  4. Jen Says:

    It’s truly a shame how much it costs for adoption. All the pro-lifers tout adoption as an alternative, but frankly by the time someone is deemed appropriate that child has already spent time with no family of their own. Not too mention, good parents may not be able to afford it.

    The industry of invitro… they prey on the fact that people want children so badly that they can charge outrageous amounts of money for that too…

    I just don’t see how a little regulation can’t hurt. I don’t think the government should be completely in our business, but a little poking around or setting some guidelines isn’t all bad.

  5. PunditMom Says:

    The flip side I see would be to lighten the regulation on adoption. There are so many children who need homes and so many families who are there to provide them. Of course, we want responsible people to provide homes, but is it really necessary to psychoanalyze adoptive parents, but not parents who go down the extreme fertility route?

  6. TX Poppet Says:

    I’m thinking it’s not the parents who need regulation, it’s the doctors. Certainly the Suleman case should be reviewed because it was dangerous.
    Re: adoption-
    Screening is laughably inconsistent. When my parents, (then in their forties) applied to be fosters to adopt, they were turned away because their “high income would create unrealistic expectations for a foster child”.
    On the other hand my batshit crazy, unemployed, on ten different meds, frequently hospitalized, single sister was rubber stamped to adopt by the county.
    What I’m saying is that there needs to be some sort of consistency to prevent tragedies without driving away great potential adopters.

  7. WMW Says:

    Thanks for raising this issue. It’s what I thought when I saw her house: “She’d never pass a home study!” I’m not against most adoption regulation or sure I’m for “fertility regulation,” if you will, but the disparity seems strikingly hypocritical.

    Wendy in Oregon

  8. Kim Says:

    Wow, you definitely make a good point. I think there should be regulations for adoption and fertility. My concern is this woman has 14 kids and is now asking us, the American public, to help support her not only through taxes but directly out of our pockets now. I think this is about responsibility and accountability and while I don’t ever want to see any child suffer my thing is if you think you’re ready to have them, be ready to support them.

  9. impromptublogger Says:

    On the other hand, while your assessment was way over the top – think of people like the lady in MD who killed 2 of her 3 adopted children. They were adopted in DC, where they didn’t do a decent background check obviously.

  10. Big Red Says:

    I would hate for the Suleman case to inspire the sort of regulation that would come between me and my dream of cloning myself 14 times and going on welfare.

    We all have the right to produce babies.

    My Babies

  11. Al Says:

    Interesting post!

  12. anniegirl1138 Says:

    A topic to which I have many emotional ties and sometimes they conflict.

    I am adopted. I can remember visits to the social worker during the first year of my younger brother and youngest sister’s lives. Follow-up I guess to whatever they were supposed to do to prove they were fit or worthy. But whatever rosy picture we painted in the early days, had the social worker come back when I was sixteen, they might have taken all of us away from my folks because things had changed a lot – as things sometimes do.

    My late husband and I had to go through IVF. Until I was forced into the whole Medicaid/SS system when he got sick a little bit shy of two years later, I have never been through anything as emotional trying and – humiliating as fertility “treatments”.

    There are no really good solutions for the infertility problems that the Suleman case brings to the harsh light of day. If doctors are allowed to decide who can or cannot undergo fertility treatments doesn’t that invite a slippery slope that will eventually be applied to other medical procedures. Like which premature babies should be saved or not based on a family’s income level or whether or not the mom is a stay at home, for example.

    It’s not fair that adoption places burdens on perspective parents that so-called “real” parents don’t have to face. But how do you safe-guard a child and honor adoptive parents dignity too? As it stands, our society anymore errs on the side of extreme overkill because no one seems to know what good sense is anymore.

    The industry does have guidelines and doctors do follow them. I had six embryos but my doctor wouldn’t have taken my advice to “put them all in” because that wasn’t the protocol for my situation or age. Suleman’s doctor didn’t follow guidelines, it appears though the story seems to change all the time. And what happens to doctors practicing medicine if they are hamstrung by regulations that might not fit a woman’s or couples medical situations? Didn’t we go down a similar road with mandatory sentences in the court systems not long ago?

    This is an extreme case but I wonder should regulation be a blanket reaction?

  13. JudeB Says:

    It seems pretty simple to me. Make the medical guidelines into law. Not so that the Government can decide if you are good enough to be a parent, but putting some common-sense restrictions on the amount that can be implanted at one time. Humans are not naturally made to have litters; let’s keep that in mind.
    On a different topic, Punditgirl is gorgeous and I bet you are so proud of her!
    I am 41, was adopted, and those that make comments about a baby not being yours unless it is “borned” to you just makes me sick.My biological mother found me at age 30, but she can never be anything but a friend to me. My Mom is who raised me; and she always will be my Mom.
    Congratulations on adopting Punditgirl!

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry adopting wasnt the shopping experienfce you hoped it would be, but stay the hell away from my uterus, yotch. The uncommon Suleman case is the price we pay for reproductive freedom in this country. People do stupid things to their bodies every day. People have children (naturally) that shouldnt every day. Children re abused, neglected, and exploited every day by their own natural birth parents. The Suleman situation is sad, but regulating reproductive rights is a slippery slope, honeybun. Signed, Mother of Two IVF Baby Boys

  15. Jen Says:

    With all of the posts lately, there has been a common theme.. People don’t take responsibilities for their own lives.

    Yes, people have reproductive freedom to have children, but just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

    ie.. I love being a mom, would have 5 kids if I could… but I can’t afford that, and I don’t expect to burden other people.

    People need to start policing themselves and then maybe the government wouldn’t have to step in.

  16. karyn.moran Says:

    Jen – well said! You make an excellent point.

  17. Fibro Witch Says:

    Suleman truly has no clue about her own situation. She considers food stamps and Social Security Disability that three of her children receive to not be welfare, does she understand that it is government aid.

    Suleman might firmly believe she will pay all that money back some day. She could be correct, I have no idea. I just don’t think she will. Her loans, her debts are just to high, and getting higher faster than she can count.

    She took out several student loans using them to pay using them to purchase fertility treatments instead of an education. I understand she has a BA, already, has she paid back those student loans yet? Or are they part of her mounting debt.

    I understand that not counting the student loans she is already over 50,000 in debt. Her parents home was foreclosed on last year, the small home she shares with her mother and 6 children was foreclosed on.

  18. OldWestMom Says:

    Well said, well said, well said.

    We are adoptive parents ourselves. Thank you for eloquently stating what we’ve been feeling through this whole Suleman storm.

    I think there’s also a common misconception that adoption has to cost a fortune. Adopting from foster care can cost nothing.

  19. siridog Says:

    I just read your op-ed on NPR’s website about the new BK commercial – I disagree with you, and left a comment. However, I saw the brief bio with your photo and remembered having read this article on fertility regulation a few weeks ago. Your take on this one made sense to me. As tight as the adoption procedures in this country are, some children still slip through the cracks into ultimately bad homes, while others wait and wait and never have the opportunity to place with a loving family. And more and more couples are choosing lab-facilitated higher order multiples over adoption. Something’s got to give.

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