Defending the Octomom: Why she's being shafted, and why it matters

Man, I hate pop culture.  I hate even more that the news has become little more than a celebrity-maker.  Take, for example, the case of Media-manufactured celeb, Nadya “Octomom” Suleman.  I have wanted, with everything in me, to avoid the whole “octomom” controversy.  I have felt — and still largely do — that this woman’s life and children are just none of our damned business.  Unfortunately, after being force-fed this woman’s story by most news outlets (has anyone noticed that the news has become much like pop radio?  In order to get to what you actually want, you have to listen to minute after minute of cheap, manufactured crap), I’ve started to notice that her story does indeed effect us all.  And in ways many people might not expect.

In the latest chapter of this soap opera, officials at the hospital caring for Suleman’s children have decided not to release her children to her, because they feel her house isn’t ready for them.  Let me repeat:  the hospital has decided not to release a woman’s children, not because of pediatric reasons, but because they, the hospital, feels that her house isn’t adequately prepared for them.

This episode represents the latest round of officials and individuals declaring Suleman’s unfitness to make decisions for her own kids.  There’s just one problem with this: legally, Suleman hasn’t done anything wrong.  There is no recent history of her being deemed unfit as a parent, no situations in which child protection authorities have removed children from her care.  All she’s done is have eight more kids. 

You may think she was irresponsible.  You may think she’s not that bright.  Doesn’t matter.  Doesn’t make a damned bit of difference what you, I, the hospital, the county, or Barack Obama Himself thinks or feels about Nadya Suleman as a person, or as a parent.  These are her kids.  The hospital has the responsibility to make sure they’re healthy before they leave the hospital.  Once they’re fit to leave, that should be it.  Instead, they make her jump through hoops — to get her own children home.

Okay, you say.  So what?  This doesn’t effect my life at all, and anyway, maybe it’s best for the children

Wrong, and arguably on both counts.  The Suleman story represents a great mirror into the mind of our nation.  Nationally, both “qualified” and “unqualified” pundits are weighing in, condemning this woman for choosing to have more children.  Maybe they’re right; maybe not.  Doesn’t matter.  They publicly worry about the drain this woman’s growing family will be on the community because of Welfare, and then, with the same breath, they foam at the mouth demanding that nobody provide for her and her family through charity.

Then, after being roundly demonized on the public square — while recovering from delivering eight babies, by the way — she is asked to tell her side of the story.  Fox News and other outlets then demonize her further… because she wants to be paid to tell her story.  “Anybody who pays this woman is a sucker,” they grouse.  Well, folks, I hate to say it, but if it were me, and the media smacked me around publicly while I was recovering from major surgery, I might just take the same tack she did:  Screw you people… if you want my story, you can help me out financially.

Why do I bring this stuff up; what does it have to do with what’s happening now?  Simply, I’m reminding you, A, of how she got here and, B, that she is a human being.  An American.  Suleman is me, and she is you.  Your personal opinions don’t — and shouldn’t — have any bearing on whether or how she raises her children.  You wouldn’t want public opinion determining your own family decisions, I assume. 

And yet, demonized and unpopular as she is, we find that the same people who would hate to have others judge their own decisions — and then legally sanction them for those actions — applaud when the same is done to Suleman.  Conservatives cannot allow anyone — the hospital, the government, or even private citizens — to violate Suleman’s right to run her family as she sees fit.  Not even if we disagree with her choices.  Not if we want to keep our own rights.