2009

18 February 2009: Fertility clinics require stricter ethics

Fertility clinics require stricter ethics

My mother, in her younger days, was very Catholic, so gave birth to 13 children.

Later in life, she quipped, “If I had it to do over, I would have been a nun.” Of course, I knew she was joking, or so I hoped.

By the time my eldest sister was born, it had taken two billion years for the world to get to two billion humanoids. In her lifetime of 75 years since, Mother Earth’s population has more than tripled.

At a two-percent growth rate, a population doubles every 35 years. So, if you think finding open space is difficult now, consider that if the world’s population grows at two percent annually, an American child born in 2009 will live in a world of 26 billion earthlings when she draws her Social Security, assuming it hasn’t gone broke.

To hurry that along, Nadya Suleman recently gave birth to octuplets, which has caused many to get their dander up.

What seems to offend are two factors: one, she became pregnant, as she did with her previous five efforts—one set of twins—with the aid of the same fertility clinic; and two, she had been a single mother of six children, one of whom is autistic, with no means to support them, meaning you and I are paying to raise her 14 kids.

Those factors justify outrage, but in the end, it is not those that should raise eyebrows, but the impact she will have on the Earth with her choice.

On its website, the Population Institute succinctly explains why overpopulation is a crisis:

“Achieving a world population in balance with its environmental resources is crucial to the future of our planet and the welfare of its people. Population growth is a complex issue that directly or indirectly impacts all aspects of our lives and the conditions under which we live—-from the environment and global stability to women’s health and empowerment.”

Like that of peak oil production, the debate about peak population—the ability of the earth to support all of its denizens—is whether we are at the tipping point or a few years away from reaching it.

A powerful contributing consideration to the debate is the idea of bettering life for the entire global population, that is, for everyone to enjoy the same standard of living as we Americans. Given we consume 25 percent of the world’s resources with 3 percent of the population, it would take at least 8 other earth-like planets to sustain that.

In her defense though, Suleman is a piker compared to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar of Arkansas who must feel the God of the Old Testament had them specifically in mind when he said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). To date Jim Bob and Michelle have cranked out 18 kids replete with a website promoting their feat at which you can buy their book, The Duggars: 20 and Counting. Should we anticipate more “blessed events”?

One wonders what causes women to desire astronomical multiple births. For my mother, it was her “Catholic duty.” But today, even the Church, while opposing abortion and birth control, does not mandate large families.

For one thing, it is a height of immorality to bring kids into the world to face poverty, disease, and despair due to being born into a situation that is already compromised or hopeless.

Is it then about motherhood or an obsession with breeding?

I not so jokingly quip to nephews and nieces and young couple friends who have just had their first child, “You are allowed one more.”

Perhaps I might be offending their sensibilities, but as an earthling very much concerned for Mother Earth’s future and that of all of her denizens—swimming, crawling, flying, biped or four-legged—I feel compelled to raise the ethical and moral issue of overpopulation.

For those who may either truly have the desire to raise kids or might be obsessed with hosting a large brood, there is, naturally, the adoption option.

Consider Randy and DeannaMarie Wallace who have since 1977 foster-parented over 100 and adopted nine. Some might think them crazy, but most would also undoubtedly consider them heroes, completely unselfish and caring.

Reflecting on both Suleman’s and the Duggars’ choices, we are presented with a teachable moment.

One consideration is oversight of fertility clinics by establishing limits and ethical boundaries, perhaps by making the doctor whose work brings about an abnormal-sized pregnancy and/or the sperm donors held legally liable as one who fathers a child: You make it; you pay for it.

Another should be revising the tax code to make it more prohibitive to produce super-sized families and rewarding those who, like the Wallaces, take on the burden of raising unwanted kids.

Finally, for those women who feel compelled to offer themselves in service to their God, there is the option to get themselves to a nunnery much as my mother mused about.

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