On January 26, 2009, the nation’s second set of live-born octuplets was delivered. The public fascination with this event quickly turned ugly when the media revealed that the mother was thirty-three year-old Nadya Suleman, who is single, unemployed, and already caring for six children under the age of eight.
The cultural backlash against Suleman has focused on three separate issues. The first revolves around Suleman herself, and her ability as a single, unemployed mother to parent fourteen young children successfully. A second set of concerns revolves around the medical procedures at her fertility clinic. How could the clinic agree to implant a woman under the age of thirty-five with at least six embryos? A final set of issues concerns more fundamental questions about screening parents. How could a clinic provide a single woman with six children with treatment that could double the number of children she has? As a result, commentators and legislators are calling for new, more restrictive regulation of the fertility industry.
We support some of these initiatives, specifically more meaningful limits on the number of embryos that may be transferred in any single IVF procedure. But we are far more troubled by another set of proposals: some commentators are now urging the imposition of restrictions on which individuals may receive fertility treatment. Under this theory, women with a certain number of children, or with limited financial resources, should be precluded from receiving further treatment. Our conclusion here differs from our position about regulating the medical procedures themselves: as we explain, neither fertility clinics nor the state should be in the business of restricting access to reproductive technology.