Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Nadya Suleman and Bristol Palin

I'm sick of hearing religious conservatives attack Nadya Suleman for having 14 kids (including octuplets). Not because I think it's a wonderful idea to have 14 kids when you're unemployed and single and living with your parents whose house is being foreclosed on because they can't afford to support you and your kids. I don't think this is particularly wonderful at all, although it also doesn't drive me to call for the harsh responses that many conservatives are calling for, such as banning them from receiving welfare (punishing the kids for something they didn't do, subjecting them to malnourishment in their childhoods that could potentially damage their brain development permanently). But I do think it's completely in keeping with the principles that religious conservatives claim to think is wonderful. Nadya Suleman's fertility treatments created 36 embryos. Having accepted the religious conservative argument that embryos are human beings and that deliberately not giving birth to them constitutes murder, she felt obliged to have all 36 of them implanted in her, 6 at a time, over the course of 6 pregnancies.

Yes, this happened to produce 14 kids. (The first 30 embryos produced her first 5 pregnancies, including one set of twins, for a total of 6 kids. The last 6 embryos produced octuplets because 2 embryos split to create 2 sets of identical twins within the octuplets.) But what else would religious conservatives have wanted her to do, once those 36 embryos existed?

Of course religious conservatives aren't happy that the mother isn't married doesn't have a husband. (If she wanted a wife, the religious conservatives would do everything in their power to prevent her marriage, no matter how useful the wife might be in helping to financially support and otherwise care for the 14 kids.) But Bristol Palin wasn't married either - still isn't, and there's no wedding date set for the future, despite the talk about how they expect to get married "eventually." Yes, Nadya Suleman is unemployed, but Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston are both 18 and still without a high school degree. Why did the same religious conservatives applaud Bristol Palin's decision to go through with her unwed pregnancy, while harshly attacking Nadya Suleman for going through with hers?

I see several differences that could potentially explain the different reactions:
  1. Bristol Palin only had one baby instead of 14. However, if embryos were human beings and deliberately not giving birth to them were murder, then choosing not to murder them should remain the best decision no matter whether that choice is made once or 14 times. Putting oneself in the position of having to make such a choice 14 times might make the choice a little less praiseworthy, but it certainly shouldn't merit the kind of vicious attacks I've been seeing against Nadya Suleman.

  2. Bristol Palin's embryo was in her actual uterus; Nadya Suleman's was frozen in a lab. However, if embryos were human beings and deliberately not giving birth to them were murder, then it shouldn't matter where the embryos were located. In both cases, the mothers made (arguably) bad decisions when creating the embryos, but in both cases they chose not to "murder" them.

  3. Bristol Palin is the daughter of the former Republican Vice Presidential nominee. Religious conservatives might have harshly condemned her pregnancy if doing so wouldn't have increased the chance of electing Obama president.

  4. Bristol Palin is white. Are religious conservatives only eager to fill the world with unplanned white babies?
I'm not going to speculate on which of these possibilities explains the majority of the different reactions, but I would like to see people start asking religious conservatives to explain their drastically different reactions to these two situations.
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