By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Nadya Suleman is our local, single, unemployed, plastic surgery–enhanced welfare mother of 14, many of them “special-needs” children. Her story is straight out of Brothers Grimm, and by now the world knows that all of her children, including her octuplets, born in January, were conceived through in-vitro fertilization.
“Does she live in a shoe?” asked my friend’s 4-year-old daughter.
Suleman is a staple for Dr. Phil intervention, tabloid prattle and message-board hostility, but underlying it all is an emerging story that pits her against both prolifers and prochoicers.
“It’s a Rubik’s Cube of reproductive issues,” admits Colleen Holmes, executive director of Eagle Forum, a prolife conservative grassroots organization. “It takes childbearing out of the family and is not in the best interest of the children.”
Suleman’s mother snapped back, referring to the embryos her daughter had used: “They were frozen, and you didn’t have to do anything.”
“They were lives,” Suleman insisted.
In other circumstances, prolifers might have taken up her cause, proud of a media-magnet example of a woman who would not destroy any embryos for any reason. Indeed, prolife blogger Jill Stanek says that Suleman’s decision to not abort her babies or selectively reduce their numbers was prolife. But beyond that, Stanek states, “many prolifers believe the process of in-vitro fertilization is unhealthy and/or immoral.” She wrote on conservative World Net Daily, “I tend toward Catholic teaching that it is morally wrong to create the image of God in a Petri dish.”
Normally on the other side of such divides are prochoice advocates like Leslie Marshall, a Talk USA nationally syndicated host in Los Angeles. Instead, Marshall is stunned to see that Suleman, so vehemently opposed to abortion and the destruction of fetuses, is drawing the ire of the prolife movement.
“You would think she would be their [prolife] poster child,” Marshall says. “A woman who can’t afford these babies but had them, didn’t abort them — or murder them, as a prolifer would put it. ... I was surprised they didn’t erect a monument or shrine to her.”
“Freedom, including women’s reproductive freedom, entails responsibility,” says Carole Lieberman, a prochoice Beverly Hills psychiatrist who filed the first complaint with Child Protective Services against Suleman. Lieberman tells L.A. Weekly, “Nadya is the poster child for women’s reproductive irresponsibility. Prochoice essentially means that she had the choice over her body in regard to reproduction. She had several options, including donating her frozen eggs or giving the babies up for adoption.”
For anyone keeping score, the antichoice people think Suleman made the wrong choice and the prochoice people think she made the wrong choice. Normally only in fiction would such a scenario unfold.
Some prolifers have blamed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling for the situation, saying it has led to the erosion of social norms and cut men out of the picture. But Liz Owen, a prochoice activist in Valley Village since the early 1990s and mother of twins by in-vitro fertilization, says, “‘Prochoice’ should not be equated with bad medical decisions.”
Regardless of what the various sides think of Suleman’s resolve to have all those preemies, most of the feeble bundles are home after a reported $1 million in medical bills at Kaiser Hospital in Bellflower.
Suleman’s medical bills are giving the two sides in the abortion wars something to haggle over, while they seem to agree that the eight babies deserve society’s support now that they’re here — but with caveats.
Prochoicer Marshall says of the prolife crowd, “Now they complain because they have to pay for them? So ... it’s okay to pay for the unborn, but once you’re born, forget it?”
Prolifer Stanek is equally ready to slam the other side, telling the Weekly, “They don’t think children should be conceived in adverse financial circumstances. But they aren’t giving Suleman a break. They’re mad she gets financial help from the government, and mad at the thought of her making money from book and movie deals.”
Holmes tries to explain that being prolife means more than caring about persuading women not to have abortions, saying her greater issue is that “life needs to be protected.” She draws a line at government assistance aimed at the parents, saying, “We don’t agree with welfare, though. The focus should be on the children.”
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