- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009



Cheryl Wetzstein’s article about “Octomom” Nadya Suleman (“Mom is behind 8 ball,” Plugged In, Culture, Tuesday) raises subtle issues that deserve further thought. Although Ms. Wetzstein’s article is fair and thorough, it is wrong in one important detail.

Ms. Wetzstein writes that Bobbi McCaughey, mother of septuplets, “had an IVF treatment.” This is not what happened. Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey used artificial insemination, not in vitro fertilization. (The Times graciously corrected this error in its online story).

For the McCaugheys, this was an important distinction because the process of in vitro fertilization results in “extra” fertilized eggs (zygotes) that end up getting destroyed in the lab after the fertilization process is complete.

Pro-lifers like the McCaugheys believe these fertilized eggs are persons, or potential persons. For this reason, the anti-abortion movement generally views artificial insemination as morally acceptable and IVF as reprehensible.

I raise this point because brief news articles are not always effective in reporting these subtle distinctions. Frankly, the anti-abortion movement has thought much more deeply about these murky ethical quandaries than the mainstream media, which often lump the two methods into indistinct “test-tube baby” descriptions.

Understanding this difference will also help the reader understand why the pro-life movement has embraced some parents in multiple births (the McCaugheys) and distanced itself from others (Nadya Suleman). In her article, Ms. Wetzstein is right to suggest that there is more to the story, and I hope she will continue to explore this in future columns.

Perhaps there is another subtle distinction at play as well. In 2007, I was happy to interview the McCaugheys for an article in the Baptist Bulletin. I learned that Mr. McCaughey is a “hands on” dad who works long hours to support his family and then returns home to oversee the children as they finish their household chores. I concluded that the family was completely normal. However, I also left with a twinge of admiration. When the McCaughey children grow up and hit the work force, their Social Security taxes will pay the retirement checks for a few journalists who never had children. So then, who has contributed more to the old-fashioned virtue of labor capital?


Palatine, Ill.

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