LUCKIER THAN THE FRUSTACI FAMILY -- of whose
septuplets only 3 survived, and those turned out to have cerebral palsy --
the McCaugheys' wish for a sibling for their daughter brought them 7
babies, all born alive ten weeks premature. The family says they just want
to live a normal life in their Christian home, but they have a media
relations representative, and they've accepted dozens of gifts on behalf
of their children, announced in regular press conferences.
The McCaughey case raises many questions. What are their lives like? How
does it feel to "want children" and end up with septuplets? How healthy
will these children really turn out to be? And who will support them if
they do end up chronically ill and/or disabled? The case also raises questions
about personal responsibility. The McCaughey's beliefs prevented them from
having the selective abortion of some of the septuplets that could have improved
the health of the remaining children as well as allowing the parents some control over
the size of their family. But their actions created a situation in which they require
the assistance of their community in order to survive as a family. Where does
personal choice meet community mindedness?
Larger questions abound as well. What are the implications of life in a
culture that exerts so much pressure to have babies? Is it better to risk
multiple births and myriad health problems in your children than to be
childless? Are those risks truly preferable to the experience of adoption?
Infertility has loomed large in our consciousness at least throughout the
history of the United States, and has usually been bound up in ideas about
womanhood and participation in society. Infertility has shifted in the
minds of Americans from a chiefly spiritual and social issue to a largely
medical one, and the advent of drugs like pergonal have even made it
possible to take a pill to get a baby. And pergonal is a noninvasive
answer; in vitro fertilization and implantation allows a couple to
"conceive" a number of embryos from which a small number are selected for
placement in the womb -- sometimes of a woman other than the child's
Even before we get to such sticky issues as prenatal testing, abortion for
genetic defects, or genetic manipulation of embryos, we're mired in
relatively basic questions: Is pregnancy a right? A crucial aspect of being
a woman? Is having a family a necessary rite of adulthood? How far is too far?
What do you think of the McCaughey septuplets? Tell The Net Net!
Read responses from the December 15th issue.
The Net Net review of Empty Cradle: Infertility in American from Colonial Times to