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basic human rights
where do you draw the line?
by maigen thomas (@Maigen)
3.25.09
news


We've all read about the "Octomom", an extreme example of the baby-manufacturing industry gone wrong. This woman, a single mother on welfare living in California who already had six children, just gave birth to eight more. All fourteen of them were conceived with the assistance of in-vitro fertilization.

I know I'm not the only person who's quite shocked and not just a bit outraged by this situation -- the country-wide backlash was matched only by the positive outpouring of support for her and her children. Personally, I feel that it was criminally irresponsible of her to proceed with the eight-fetus pregnancy while being supported on both a state and federal level with six children already, three of which are reported to be disabled. It was also criminally and medically irresponsible of the doctor that performed the procedure -- I fully agree with the need for safeguards and regulations regarding fertility treatments and placing limits on the number of embryos that can be implanted.

What I don't think this woman, Nadya Suleman, understands is that this isn't just a burden for her as a mother -- and you KNOW it's nearly a super-human task for a single mother to have twins, much less multiples -- this is a burden placed on society. It falls on taxpayers to, essentially, ensure that she receives the government assistance needed to give these children their Basic Human Rights to health and happiness. As it is, at least some of Suleman's babies are likely to have cerebral palsy or developmental problems and require such government assistance for the rest of their natural lives.

In the wake of this case, some pro-life-anti-abortion activists want to declare an embryo a "biological human being". I'm all about protecting health and safety, I really am. But I find it impossible and inconceivable to declare an embryo a human being with the same rights that I enjoy.

Because of this situation, the nation has become a little more uncomfortably aware of hot-button issues I blogged about during the Presidential Debates last year, namely abortion, but also health care:

On October 21, 2008, I wrote: "To quickly clarify, Obama voted ‘present’ on the bill regarding partial-birth, live-birth or late-term abortions because they ONLY had clauses to provide health care for the infant should it live. there was a) already a bill on the books in Illinois to provide that care, and b) the doctor present at the surgery is REQUIRED by his or her Hippocratic Oath to provide care for that infant. Obama withheld his vote (by merely voting present) until such bill includes stipulations regarding the HEALTH and WELFARE of the MOTHER."

McCain rebutted using “air quotes” when he refered to Obama’s statement “Health of a Woman”. As if to say that the health of a woman is something to be rationalized. That the well-being of a woman is something that should fall within certain boundaries. That the life of a woman is something that needs to have rigid definition and should NOT be stretched to consider all situations.

I bring up this issue because I think there is a visible, tangible, viable difference between the two "Human Beings". On the one hand, we have a fetus that can survive outside the womb, albeit with medical assistance. On the other hand, we have a group of cells. To me, there's no contest. This embryo is not yet anything more than a clump of chromosomes.

Furthermore, I personally resent the idea that a child, a baby, an embryo, a grouping of cells can possibly be granted the same rights and freedoms I enjoy as a United States citizen, a taxpayer and a contributing member of society. How can we be considered the same in the eyes of the law? What's the difference between flushing an embryo and murdering me? I would be surprised and sorely disappointed to find these two instances ranked the same in the eyes of the law.

Seeking legislation to declare an embryo "a biological Human Being" presents a back-door way for abortion to be defined as murder. To go even further, to quote from an article in USA Today, "the efforts [by these activists] could expose doctors who discard unused embryos, and stem cell researchers who damage embryos, to prosecution." This is a ludicrous, and terrifying, possibility. It brings to mind the absurdity of a quote from a pop-culture movie, when the lead actress is arguing a case against a sperm donor having visitation rights with a child born of his donation: "For that matter, all masturbatory emissions where his sperm was clearly not seeking an egg could be termed reckless abandonment." Does this legislation, in fact, our judicial system, account for these kinds of situations? I mean, if we're going to take it this far, why not THAT far?

Some questions this issue raises I ask here, but don't expect to ever really know a definitive answer:

Would you go through with an attempt at a full-term pregnancy involving multiples if you knew birth defects, massive health risks and severely lowered standards on quality of life were likely outcomes? What kind of choices did she have in this case? Is In-Vitro Fertilization "Playing God"? Should the government have to regulate everything -- even the way we reproduce -- just because some people twist situations according to their own desires?


ABOUT MAIGEN THOMAS

Maigen is simple. is smart. is wholesome. is skeevy. is spicy. is delicate. is better. is purer. is 100% more awesome than yesterday. She';s traveling the world and writing about her experiences with life, love, yoga, food, travel and people. Mostly people. Because they';re funny. hear more of her random thoughts @maigen on twitter.

more about maigen thomas

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COMMENTS

jonel burge
3.25.09 @ 11:46a

I agree fully.
Embyros are basically parasites. If the mother fails to eat what she must, or take enough vitamins, the baby will take it from her. Until it no longer needs to take things from her in order to survive, it is still a parasite.
Once it survives on it's own, then it can be called a seperate human being, and capable of life.
One example is parisitic twins. It has the ability to be life, but is basically unable to, and because the mother or how the child developed was unlike normal twins, a parisitic twin developed, and must now be removed, because it has become and will always be, without something to keep it alive, a clump of cells, and something that lives only because of it's host.
Another example of fertility-gone-wrong(besides Octomom) is the family that has something like 18-20 kids(though at LEAST they aren't living on welfare, I should hope)
Not only do people like this cause trouble for society, the children, I find, receive less care in such huge families because the mothers simply don't have time to show them the love they deserve, and it's even moreso for groups of Octuplets.
This the reason why I agree with the 2-child rule.
Quality over quantity!

jonel burge
3.25.09 @ 11:46a

I agree fully.
Embyros are basically parasites. If the mother fails to eat what she must, or take enough vitamins, the baby will take it from her. Until it no longer needs to take things from her in order to survive, it is still a parasite.
Once it survives on it's own, then it can be called a seperate human being, and capable of life.
Another example of fertility-gone-wrong(besides Octomom) is the family that has something like 18-20 kids(though at LEAST they aren't living on welfare, I should hope)
Not only do people like this cause trouble for society, the children, I find, receive less care in such huge families because the mothers simply don't have time to show them the love they deserve, and it's even moreso for groups of Octuplets.
This the reason why I agree with the 2-child rule.
Quality over quantity!

maigen thomas
4.1.09 @ 1:13p

Since there haven't been many comments, I figured I'd share one of the critiques I've gotten and respond:

"Valid societal points. This was hard to read since it consisted of lots of questions and not so much answers from YOU. Where you stand is more important than asking what should be done."

I totally agree that I didn't give answers. I did that on purpose because I feel that this topic fundamentally doesn't have a Right or a Wrong answer. There are right answers for YOUR situation, and there are 'the other things that could have happened but didn't.'

The actual point I was trying to make is that no one else should have the ability to decide what the answer is for anyone else. I wanted to provoke thought about the situation(s) I brought up without shoving too much of my opinion in your face.

What's interesting about this critique is that - as I see it - where I stand is less important to me than hearing other people's opinions. First of all, I like learning about other people. Second of all, my goal for writing this year is to spend less time talking about MY issues and what's going on in MY head and what the world is doing to/for ME, and instead focus on the greater world. Perceptions, realities, truth, fictions-posing-as-truth, news, lies and alibis.



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