Octuple the Controversy


In a culture where, unfortunately, having more than 3 kids will get you some dirty looks, having octuplets certainly brings out the critics.  And that’s exactly what has happened this week.

Nadya Suleman just gave birth to octuplets.  These eight children happen to be in addition to her other six children.  So now she has 14 kids.  Quite the family – for a single mom.

And it’s got our country in an uproar.  But why?

Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a big family.  But how did this single mom end up with 14 of her own kids?  And no father to be found?  In Vitro Fertilization (i.e. Test Tube Babies).

But the uproar is not against the practice of In Vitro Fertilization – it’s about every other thing you can imagine.

Some blame the doctors for allowing this woman to do this.  “Those doctors shouldn’t have ever allowed this single mom to implant those embryos when she already had 6 kids.”  But wouldn’t that violate a woman’s so-called “reproductive rights” we hear about all the time?  Or maybe these people are suggesting that the doctors should have…what?  Forced her to abort some of them? Sounds kinda like China.

Others blame the government for not stepping in or having better regulations on how we manufacture human beings.

Some say that it’s about personal responsibility.  This woman should not have deliberately brought 14 babies to term (and certainly not 8 at one time) with no father around.  They say she should have “selectively reduced” the number of children inside of her – a.k.a. aborted and killed some of them.  And it was irresponsible for her not to do so.

Some say it was irresponsible for her to implant these embryos in the first place.  Perhaps they’re right.  People say there is no way she will be able to properly care for these kids and be a good mother.  I’m not willing to judge her on that one.  But kids don’t only deserve a mother.  They deserve a father, too.

Or perhaps if she were very rich nobody would have cared.  But since she is not, we are all worried about how much these kids will cost us?  Oh, the burden on us they will be!  We won’t be able to buy quite as many fancy cars or iPhones.

Here’s a little side note for ya.  This woman apparently had her first 6 children by In vitro as well.  And she actually still had some number of frozen embryos leftover (i.e. frozen human beings).  The mother didn’t want those leftover embryos destroyed, so she decided to have them implanted.  Now 8 human beings have been given a chance to live their lives.  In that regard, this woman is a hero. You won’t hear that story on the news, though.  Headline: “Woman recognizes right to live of tiny frozen human beings – saves their lives!”

There are countless other frozen embryos out there that all have a right to live their lives, too.  But are they a part of this ethical conversation? Of course not.

The problem with all of the arguments I’m actually hearing in this “controversy” is that they are all just more oil on the slippery slope we’re already on.  It seems we’re willing to criticize just about anything and anybody in this situation except In Vitro Fertilization itself.

The fact that we’re sitting around talking about human life in terms of whose fault it is should set off some alarms.

In 1968, Pope Paul VI released an encyclical called Humanae Vitae – “Of Human Life”.  In it he made a few predictions of things that would happen if our culture continued on a path unfaithful to God’s design of sexuality, marriage, and procreation.  He was addressing the use of contraception, but also other artificial means of birth control and procreation.  It turns out…he was right on every single one of his predictions.

He predicted that the use of contraception, sterilization and artificial means of birth control (such as In vitro) would lead man to think he has “unlimited domain” over his own body.  That we would start to treat our bodies as machines, altering them to fit our own selfish desires and timetables.

The real tragedy is that our culture and technology have enabled us to abuse our bodies in regard to something as fundamental as procreation.  It allowed this woman to use her body as a machine to get what she wanted.  She took some of her eggs and had them put into a test tube where a scientist then conceived many little human bodies and human souls and froze them to be used at her disposal.

These children are nobody’s fault.  However, the difficult situations and “ethical controversies” we find ourselves discussing now are every bit our own fault.  Pope Paul VI warned us.

23 comments Add comment

Cade_One February 4, 2009 at 10:42 am

The problem is not that this lady had 8 children at one time that bothers me, it is how she did it! People are misplacing their outrage at the number of babies for a few reasons I suspect.

1. They don’t want to sound apposed to in vitro fertilization (as I am strongly against).

2. They don’t want to admit that they are okay with the aborting of babies if they are for in vitro fertilization. Because the standard practice of in vitro fertilization is to “reduce” the weaker babies (the main reason that I’m so against invitro).

3. They have bought into the idea that we are going to overpopulate the Earth and thus see this incident as an argument in support of this idea.

Face it, In Vitro Fertilization does not justify the means. Folks think they are doing the loving thing, but they don’t see how truly selfish it truly is.

Your post is spot-on! God Bless.

Manya February 4, 2009 at 11:29 am

Thank you for making some sense of this highly controversial event. Your points are well thought out and well stated.


Cindy February 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

I concur. The problem is In Vitro Fertilization. Period. The slippery slope begins with contraception and carries through to “selective reduction.” It’s the dirty little secret of modern suburban America.

Michele Simpson February 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

Wow! You are right on. I found myself annoyed that she was having more babies without a father. But you are right she is a hero to those babies. But even more important is how right on you are about In Vitro Fertilization.

Lindsay February 4, 2009 at 11:55 am

For me it’s not about how many kids she has or that she’s a single parent. It’s about her being able to take care of them on her own. She chose to have 14 kids so does this mean the tax payers are going to be paying for her choices? I don’t really think thats fair. She lives with her parents so that tells me she isn’t really in a place in her life to be having 14 kids 8 of which are newborns.Her mom already said she wasn’t going to help because she didn’t agree with her single mother of 6 daughter having 8 more babies.
Bu it is great that she saved the embryos and now maybe she should look into giving those babies homes with couples that can’t have their own children.
As for in vitro fertilization, i don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s the last hope many couples have at having their own child.

Bill February 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I was proud of her for not aborting any of the eight, or destroying them prior to implantation. However …

… about the in vitro fertilization, not so much. She made some seriously bad decisions, right from the start, beginning with deciding to have children with a man outside of her marriage. This is not a person who decided to submit herself to the will of God, but who decided she knew better.

But now, what happens to her and the children? Those children are going to need two parents present (they’ll only have one). They will need to be fed, clothed, housed, and cared for (Mom is unemployed, and despite what her publicist (!) says, her chances of becoming a media star are slim to none). Mom will be trying to do all of this alone (her dad is taking a job in Iraq — risking his life — and her mom is moving out of the house — who could blame her? — and I don’t exactly see people lining up to get trapped in her delusional fantasies). This whole thing is pretty sad. I will remember her and her children in my prayers, as will others, and we’ll just have to hope that the outcome is one that gives glory to God, in spite of the way this started.

Jill February 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm

All good points. However, there were not 8 embryos left over. The article I read in Ft. Worth Star Telegram said that there were “significantly less” embryos implanted, but the reproduced probably due to the amount of fertility medications she had been taking. So, the doctors were prudent not to implant 8 embryos at one time.

This is an excellent case against In Vitro fertilization. It points out the inconsistencies in the common “logic” that the secular world holds so dearly. I have yet to find that inconsistency in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Challenging to live by, no doubt.

Matthew Warner February 4, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Good point, Jill! I misread that. I will correct it – Thanks!

Matthew Warner February 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

@cade_one – Great insights!

@Lindsay – I would ask you to reconsider that just because In Vitro is the “last hope” for some couples to have their own kids that then that means the process is OK.

There are many problems with IVF. We can start with the fact that many embryos (human lives) are usually “selectively removed” or destroyed in the process (something you won’t often hear about).

I certainly understand the heartache of a couple who truly desires to have their own biological child and for whatever reasons can not. But we must give the dignity of human life and God’s design for procreation precedence over our OWN wants.

Bill February 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I was under the impression that there was/is nothing “wrong” with the lady’s ability to conceive, nor with her husband’s ability to make that happen. If that’s the case, then the “last hope” argument won’t wash.

And in any event, Church teaching about in vitro fertilization is still that it is wrong.

Lindsay February 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I think every couple deserves to have their own children if it’s possible. Not every couple chooses to reduce the embryos and they also don’t always choose to add more than they need. Most people that use in vitro end up with one child or twins but 8 babies is not the norm. Experts have said that it’s not normal to implant 8 embyros in a woman so there would be no need for a reduction.

If God didn’t want the couple to have children he wouldn’t have let in vitro be invented and if he really didn’t want them to have their own child the procedure wouldn’t take as it sometimes doesn’t.

and Bill I wasn’t using the last hope argument for this lady’s case. She doesn’t even have a husband.

Matthew Warner February 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Lindsay, i would ask you to please look more closely at the process for in vitro fertilization. It is very normal that embryos are destroyed in the process.

Your logic is severely flawed too. Just because “God doesn’t stop something from being invented” of course does NOT mean he approves of it. That makes no sense at all. Following such logic would lead to a very dangerous world view.

God gives us the free will to choose good or evil – he doesn’t prevent us from doing so.

It is up to us to discern and make the morally good choice.

Further, as Bill mentioned, the Catholic Church is very clear on its opposition to IVF and has many, many reasons for being so.

God bless you.

Bill February 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Lindsay, the woman did have a husband. He divorced her last year (haven’t heard why, but I could guess …). SFAIK, the two of them would have been more than capable of having children of their own. There was no fertility problem that I’ve heard about. And even if there was, it’s still wrong to go through in vitro.

Here’s an article that explains clearly what the teaching of the Catholic church is regarding in vitro fertilization. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but Catholics are bound to follow the teaching of the church.

In addition, of course, every MD that has been interviewed on television has said that multiple embryos, delivered to term, increases the chances that those babies will have problems. That’s why they want to reduce the number of babies in the womb by aborting individual babies selectively. The whole procedure is filled with ethical and moral problems.

Bill February 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Sorry, forgot to insert the link to the article.


Jill February 4, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Thanks, Bill, for the link. http//:www.cuf.org is also an excellent source for questions/answers regarding the Catholic Faith. cuf stands for Catholics United for the Faith and is true to the magisterium of the Church.

Lindsay, also consider that children are not “rights” they are “blessings” I suffered with 5 years of secondary infertility (I had 2 live births and 2 miscarriages prior) and know the heartache that comes with the territory. We must always surrender to God’s will if we are to truly find joy and peace in our lives. In my own personal journey, my husband and I surrendered to the Church’s teachings and it led us to Creighton University and the wonderful work Dr. Hilgers and his staff are doing to help women with all health issues unique to women (post partum depression, PMS, menopaus, ovarian cystic disorders, etc.) as well as fertility/infertility issues. Now we are blessed with seven children and I cannot even tell you how the process has enriched our marriage, family life, faith and my own health. May God continue to guide us in search of the Truth!

Matthew Warner February 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm

That’s such a beautiful story, Jill. Thanks for sharing!

Lori February 11, 2009 at 9:28 am

Another fabulously written blog, Matthew. If you haven’t already, you may want to check out Dignitatis Personae from Dec 12.

Mjay February 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm

It is very easy for people without fertility problem to sit back and say “am so against invitro”. Because Nadya made a huge mistake to have more babies, everyone suddenly think Invitro is bad. A reminder to all, do you know how it feels to be told you can’t have a baby on your own? Does anyone know any infertile couple? I guess not because everyone speaking against invitro do not recognize it’s a treatment not a luxury. The only problem is only the rich can afford this treatment, and sometimes people might abuse it, but that doesn’t make it bad. As for Nadya, I wish her and her 14 children well.

Jill February 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Yes!! I DO know the pain of infertility. It is a difficult cross to bear, indeed! I am blessed that God lifted the cross from my shoulders through the help of Catholic NFP doctors like Dr. Pilkington and McDonald in North Texas. I have read testimony from other Catholic women who carry the same cross, like Claire who frequently comments on CatholicExchange.com. The fact is that In Vitro is wrong and puts babies at risk of death or being frozen in time. It removes the marital act from procreation. And it does not allow God’s will over our own wants. The 14 babies are here now and they need to be loved and cared for. Do not confuse the conception of a child, any child with the sin of how they were conceived—whether it be Invitro, or out of wedlock relations, or rape. All of which have affected me on a very personal level. Children–ALL CHILDREN–are blessings from God.
I pray for peace to fill your hearts and the hearts of all the women who wish to feel life within their wombs. Sts. Sarah and Elizabeth, pray for us.

Sac February 20, 2009 at 10:48 am

What is the issue?
1. Lets imagine it was found that she was mistreating her first 6 kids….. no, is not happening.
2. Is she really crazy because she love kids? I don’t think so.
3. Will she be crazy if she does not loves kids? then yes…
4. Why a father?? imagine this… the kids have a father, he is a drug dealer, or he went to war and got kill, he is not working because there is no jobs, would that make a difference? I don’t think so. So why does the kids needs a father? How many kids are out there with no father and become great persons and how many have a father and are the worst things on earth.
5. Who is going to feed, dress, etc? we are? so what? once in a while we need to be good persons and give donations, stop using drugs or smoking or drinking expensive wine or going to eat on expensive restaurant. We are feeding a lot of them in Irak, why not here?

Everyone should start blaming doctors, the mother or who ever, the kids are here. so what? lets help instead of criticize

Where can support be sent????

Sac February 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

meant… should STOP blaming……

Jean February 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I personally have nothing against any person, single or married who makes a choice to have multiple children, whether triples or sextuples or Octuples so long as they are in a financial position to take on that burden themselves and are emotionally capable of handling that many children alone. When you have any person doing sometime as irresponsible as this woman, people need to stop preaching and putting God in the mix and look at the bigger picture. Six was more than enough children. Her act was of pure selfishness, and it looks like to me a way for her to make this her big “Pay Day”. She is not working, lives with her parents and was collecting workers comp. (which sounds like a whole other scam, if you are so injuried how do you plan a pregancy, and eight at that). If destroying the embroyos is such a religious issue, there is always the option of donoting them to a couple who had no chance of reproduction. The children shouldn’t suffer, but they should be placed in homes that can provide for them. Why should society pay for her “planned irresponsible act”. It angers me that I can’t get assistance for my child’s college tuition, and there are many more like me, because I make just a little too much money by our governments standards, yet my tax paying dollars are suppose to go towards supporting this womans childrens. When is enough and enough. This is abuse on both sides, the Doctor and this woman.

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