Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reckless Procreation

Recently I had a friend contact me about raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  I personally have a chronic respiratory ailment, though it rarely affects my daily life.  The reason that my ailment is not much of a problem in my life is because medical science spent truckloads of money trying to find a cure in recent decades.  Failing that, they sought and succeeded to make the illness manageable.  So, this request to help raise money to cure a respiratory ailment is one for which I have a personal affinity.  Plus my friend has such a good heart.  It should have been a no-brainer for me to open my wallet and hand out a donation.

However, in her attempt to both be honest and move potential donors to compassion, she revealed that the family in whose honor she is raising money has two children with cystic fibrosis.  Two children with cystic fibrosis?  Two?

I know a little about cystic fibrosis.  One of my friends from the past works as a respiratory therapist.  I personally *love* respiratory therapists, as their appearance in the ER when I was a child were a signal to me that I would be able to breathe again soon.  If you know a respiratory therapist IRL, give them a hug for me!

Once when I was telling her how much I appreciated her profession, I followed up with a question about what was the hardest part of her job.  I was expecting an answer like, "when a kid throws up in response to the steroids".  Instead, she said that caring for her CF patients was the hardest part.  It is hard because she is compassionate, kind and loves children.  It is hard because she KNOWS her CF patients will someday die, drowning on their own mucus secretions, and in the end, she can't stop this from happening.

What a horrible death.  At the time, I didn't know what caused CF, mostly because no one in my family has CF and I had no training whatsoever in the medical field.  Since then, I have come to learn that CF is a genetic disorder, and while it is not curable, it IS preventable.  A quick google search turns up this:

Gene that causes CF identified

This was in 1989.  These children my friend loves are now in junior high and high school, so born after 1995.  Plus I am assuming they are more than a year apart, so wouldn't they have known their first child had CF before they conceived their second child?

Since science has known that it takes two recessive genes,  one from each parent, for a child to develop CF, since 1989 and these children were conceived after 1989, what gives?  As a person who has faced the terror of almost dying from a respiratory condition, it seems horrendously cruel to play Russian roulette with the second child's life by conceiving again without genetic testing or IVF to prevent another child from being born with CF.

Which is where my moral dilemma began. You see, I have known more than a few incredibly selfish mothers who were more interested in their own righteousness (as one of God's breeders) than in the health and well-being of their children.  I know a family with three, yes three, Down's Syndrome daughters conceived by a young mother.  They were "trusting God with their wombs" and so even after the first rare genetic abnormality they kept getting pregnant.  When it happened a second time, they still did not stop getting pregnant.  Their third child was also born with Down's, which is really rare in young mothers.  And still they continued to roll the dice and get pregnant! Their fourth child, a son, was normal.   He is a wonderful human being, but what a burden that kid will bear the rest of his life!  His mom developed breast cancer shortly after his birth, so no more children.  She beat it once, but succumbed after it returned a second time.  The care of his three older sisters now rest on her only son's and his father's shoulders.  Once his father dies, it will all be on him. But of course, it is all God's will, right?

Another one of these hypocritically "pro-life" moms posted on facebook a press release heralding the Santorums as heroes for mom's aging eggs* producing a Trisomy-18 child.  There is nothing heroic about continuing to get pregnant after thirty-five when you already have children!  The ONLY reason a woman would do that is in some misguided attempt to "fulfill God's will", i.e. seek her own righteousness and glory in being pregnant- AGAIN.  The more children she has, the holier she can  tell herself that she is.  No matter that she is gambling with someone else's life!  If she has a child with a horrific genetic abnormality, it's God's responsibility, not hers!  (These same people no doubt use seat belts, take antibiotics, and wouldn't skydive without a parachute, trusting that God's will be done.  They won't take those sort of foolish risks with their own life, but with a child's?  No problem.)

Are the Santorums heroes for rushing to the hospital each time their Trisomy 18 child needs to be admitted? Hell NO!  They are goats for cursing her with this disease.  They willfully and knowingly continued to get pregnant when it is clearly proven that older eggs are at much higher risk for producing people with this torturous disease.  They want kudos for this?!?!?!  YES THEY DO!  They think they are heroes for their reckless procreation.

Which is why, when I read that a family has two children with cystic fibrosis, I get angry.  Those parents are not clueless about what causes cystic fibrosis. All high school biology books teach about Punnett squares.  It's easy to see that if you have had one CF child, there is a 25% chance your next child will have it too, and a 50% chance that they will not develop the disease but will themselves be carriers.  There is only a one in four chance they will have a child not affected by the CF gene at all.

Would you put your child on a roller coaster that kills one out of four riders?  How about buy a car that explodes in ball of flame 25% of the time?  Feed your child a snack that causes every fourth child who eats it excruciating pain followed by a slow death?  No? Neither would I.

That's what took me so long to donate.  I don't want to promote a religious culture of reckless procreation.  I can't imagine getting pregnant again with the same father after giving birth to a child with CF, not unless we used IVF to eliminate the possibility of having a child with CF.  And since IVF sounds really creepy to me (Long needles through my abdomen?  I don't think I could do it.), I would probably adopt if I wanted more children.  But maybe I'd just stop, and pour my life into helping my sick child and raising money for CF research.

I went ahead and donated.  My friend loves this family, and that is enough reason for me to give.  These children are already here, and I honestly and sincerely hope a cure is developed in their lifetime. And hey, at least they stopped at two children, right?  If they were QF, they might have gone right on having more and more children.

But still, we need to stop the reckless procreation. We need to stop the people who advocate reckless procreation.  God is not honored by your denial masquerading as faith.  God is not honored when you make stupid choices and take reckless chances and excuse it with some religious dogma.  No outsider is impressed with anything but your disregard for the lives of your children, and that is not a favorable impression.

How can we stop this reckless procreation without shaming the mothers who were duped by the lame religious arguments? Those mothers don't need shamed, they need empowered to do what's right. I don't know.  If you or someone you know fits this description, I do not intend to shame you for having been deceived.

We do need to expose the people who conned you, though.  And we do need to send a clear message that most of America ain't buying what they're selling.

STOP the reckless procreation.  STOP blaming God for the choices people make.  And for God's sake, STOP gambling with other people's lives in a sad attempt to impress the world with your faith.  

No one is applauding.

*"Advanced maternal age is a risk factor for Trisomy 18."  A quote from here: Older mothers have higher risk of genetic birth defects .  How bad is Trisomy 18?  Horrible, a fate no one should choose for any child.


  1. yes! I like this recent series in which you have been calling out conservative Christianity as the emperor who is wearing no clothes that it is. Rock on, sister!

  2. Wow, yes. I totally agree with you. I do have one point of curiosity though. How would you reply to the oft-proposed pro-life argument that goes like this: "The doctors told me (or someone I know, or someone I heard about, etc.) that my baby would be born with this horrible disease, but I decided to have the baby anyway and now look at him, he's a completely normal and wonderful child! And they wanted me to abort him!" ...or some variation thereof. I'm not exactly sure how I would reply to that...what do you think?

  3. Hmmm, you mean a la Tim Tebow? First I would bite my tongue, because a big church lady, "Well isn't that SPESHUL!" would be wanting to jump out right away.

    So after pressing my lips together and looking down to collect my thoughts, I would smile pleasantly, look them straight in the eyes and say softly, genuinely:

    "I am so happy for you. It rarely works out that way. Doctors are usually very cautious in making recommendations and rarely get it wrong when they do, what with all the diagnostic tests available today. No doctor I know of would cavalierly suggest abortion. I hope you know how very, very lucky you are. Your experience appears to be a true miracle. Too bad that is such a rare occurrence."

    If they are authentically human, and not dogma autobots, the sincerity of my response would no doubt fill them with renewed gratitude for their miracle. If, on the other hand, they continued claiming that God would do the same for anyone, then I would have to follow up with a reality check.

    "No, that can't be true. It wouldn't be a miracle then, and there would be nothing special about your situation. The medical literature about that birth defect and the awful experience of the families who lived with that birth defect before genetic testing was available, that never would have happened then. I am sure many, many of those parents loved God and were faithful Christians. And if God loves everyone the same, then why are those children born to suffer while your child was spared? No, you are very, very lucky."

    And that would be the end of the conversation, because I would move on then, shaking my head sadly as I went.

    1. If they are anything like the woman we grew up under, they would insist that such ailments are a direct punishment from God on wicked and fornicating parents, and they escaped such judgment because they are so righteous.

      FYI, my in-laws say that their doctor recklessly pushed an abortion with their first. I would doubt my MIL's story, but her ex-husband corroborates it and he's not a liar. The only problem their son has is the psychological damage from the abuse he suffered growing up.

      Which brings up my next point: I think that having children is a very personal decision and should not be criticized by outsiders. My pet peeve is mothers who continue to have children in abusive relationships when they have access to birth control; but still, I think that is beyond my right to condemn. We are entitled to our opinions, but no one should have the right to forbid someone else to have children. That is a violation of an extremely basic human right.

    2. We disagree.

      I would be in favor of a law charging parents who procreate KNOWING they carry fatal genetic disease or at high risk because of maternal age. It should be a charge of reckless endangerment, akin to driving drunk.

      Since a reasonable person knows they are putting other peoples lives at risk by driving drunk, they are culpable. Seems to me that parents who continue to reproduce with reckless abandon, knowing they are carriers of (or likely carriers of) deadly genetic diseases, are also culpable.

      You could still get pregnant, just like you can still drive drunk. But if you hurt another person by your reckless behavior, you have to bear the penalty. I propose the same accountability for such parents.

    3. If anyone is pushing, coercing, demanding or manipulating a woman to abort then it is NOT a choice she is freely making. That's why they call it PRO-CHOICE.

      I don't believe that doctors go around pushing abortions on people. There's just no reason to do so. It's not like your average physician performs elective abortions, so he would have no profit motive.

      Perhaps he feared the abuse the boy did grow up to experience, and the doctor was encouraging very early termination to prevent that boy from being brought into such horrendous circumstances?

      To me, if the doctor knew the likelihood these parents would be abusive was high, then he had an ethical obligation to explain to them that an early termination was advisable. He didn't force them to accept his advice, but ethically he was obligated to offer it.

      Medical doctors know that nervous system development in a fetus isn't advanced enough to generate pain or conscious thought until around 24 weeks.

    4. Shadowspring, Thanks for the reply. Well thought out.

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  5. Yes, we definitely disagree. I don't know how anyone can justify legislating another person's right to have children and still expect to retain any rights whatsoever themselves. That is no different than racism. It's unconscionable and presumes an omnipotent and superior understanding of life that no human posesses.

    1. You mean like outlawing birth control and giving the state legal right to a pregnant woman's body by legallly declaring feritlized eggs "citizens with full legal rights"? I'm not sure what you're talking about.

      People can have all the children they want. I was proposing that those who recklessly endanger resulting children's lives be subjected to legal penalties. In other words, be responsible for your actions.

      How is holding people responsible for reckless actions that hurt another person anything at all like racism?

    2. ps But we DO know that post-thirty five year old eggs have an increasingly higher rate of genetic degradation with each passing year. It doesn't require omniscience to know this, regular science does the work. We DO know that if you have had a CF/MD/other genetically disordered child that you carry the genetic material to doom any other children you might bear in the future. This is not science fiction: we have the technology right now to KNOW the genetic causes of these diseases.

      We have the ability now to test prospective parents and know for sure if they are carriers, or in the case of CF, having a CF child means BOTH parents are carriers.

      Humans DO possess this understanding.

      In order for any action to be considered reckless, that IS the predetermining condition: would any reasonable person in this situation KNOW the likelihood of harm coming to another person? If the answer is yes (i.e. driving drunk, texting while operating a moving vehicle) then the action was indeed "reckless endangerment".

      I think you are misunderstanding me to be saying that anyone having a genetically disabled child is guilty of reckless procreation? I hope not. I am writing as clearly as I can:

      It is continuing to procreate in spite of clear evidence that you are taking reckless risks with any conceived child's life that I condemn as irresponsible and inhumane. I stand by my conviction.

    3. ps Since you were home schooled, Searching, you may not have been taught about inherited genetic diseases, DNA, Punnet squares and the existence of genetic counseling/medical ethics boards. Here are some links:

    4. Yes, I know about genetic diseases and I applaud those who exercise that knowledge to prevent passing things on. I just don't think you have a right to demand that others do the same. It's a personal choice.

      I'm not quite sure of my stance on early abortions right now. I am all for birth control, and am using it myself. If I get pregnant anyway, I will not abort. But I am doing all I can to prevent it.

      As far as abortions that require dismembering the fetus, I am and will always remain adamantly opposed to that, for the same reason I would oppose letting my kids tear apart a little kitten. My nephew was born at 23.5 weeks gestation and lived for 19 days. He definitely had the ability to feel pain and show awareness of being handled. I can't bear the thought of someone tearing him apart. I'd have to kill them.

    5. Late term abortion has been illegal since the Bush presidency.

      It's interesting that you believe your nephew had the ability to feel pain; I am sure he did. 23 1/2 weeks is only a guess, you know. Gestation could have been even earlier, as much as three weeks earlier.

      That's why many states, like mine, only allow abortion up to 20 weeks. In my city, there are only three places that will do abortion, and two will not go beyond 16 weeks. Those two only use R-486.

      What you're missing here are two important facts: the word abortion is a medical term that refers to the evacuation of the contents of the womb. When a person miscarries, yet ultrasound shows they have not lost all the tissue from the pregnancy, a D and C will be performed to save that mother from going into septic shock. That's an abortion.

      Laws that only allow abortion when the life of the mother is at stake, would require women go into septic shock before a D and C could be performed.

      Medically, even miscarriage itself is abortion. The term used is "spontaneous abortion".

      The other thing you are missing, having been raised pro-life, is that women seek abortions in the best interests of the conceived potential person. Very few people use abortion as a fail-safe when unplanned pregnancy happens. Those who do are able to make that decision early.

      Later abortions are often (I would write always but I'm not God so I don't know that as a fact) intended to save the child from MORE PAIN and SUFFERING, not in any way to contribute to their fetus's pain and suffering. When we as a culture demand that children suffer more because it eases our conscience, that's wrong. A mother and her doctor are the best people to make the call in that situation.

      There's just way more to this issue than pro-life sources ever inform the public about.

    6. First sentence should read "partial-birth abortion has been illegal since the Bush presidency". Sorry for the misinformation. I needed to be clearer.


    1. I am providing this link for anyone who wants to discuss abortion in general.

  7. I completely agree with you, Shadowspring. I have a genetic illness as well and would never, no, NEVER have biological children since they would have a fifty percent chance of inheriting the Huntington's gene, and back in the day when I thought birth control sheer wickedness, growing up amongst my many siblings, I swore I'd never get married at all if I found out that I had the gene. Actually my two full siblings from my mother's first marriage also have Huntington's but of course my father didn't start exhibiting symptoms or was diagnosed until after we were born.

    That being said, I know a couple of families with children with SF, and I don't think either of them, although they were homeschooling families, adhered to the no-birth control mindset, since each of them had only three children. One couple had three little girls with two of them with cystic fibrosis, the oldest and youngest girls. But they never knew they were carriers or that the older child had it since hers was a much milder case than her sister. When their youngest girl was born she was diagnosed right away and then they also tested the other two girls. So this family does have two children suffering from SF but they weren't trying to be irresponsible. Not to say of course that the family you heard about are in the same category... if it had been my mother and stepfather who had been carriers, I honestly doubt they would have thought twice about procreating just as much as they did.

  8. Thank you for sharing that, Rebecca! It is good to know that scenario. It helps me to be more compassionate towards the family with two CF children. Perhaps they didn't have any way of knowing their oldest was CF until after the second child was born.

    Even though no one in my family to my knowledge has CF, I will encourage my children to be tested before they start a family. It's good information to have. My husband has a cousin whose son died of Duchenne's MD. When his son was born, it was a mystery why some people got this and others didn't. Now that we know it's genetic, I hope we can eliminate that killer disease from our world. Again, a simple DNA test before becoming parents can spare so much suffering in our world.

    When I started my family, in the late 80s, before I even went off birth control pills I got tested for HIV. I had little risk, but it was a newly discovered disease and the public was told it could lay dormant for as much as ten years. So, the responsible person that I am, I went to be anonymously tested in the big city before I even thought of getting pregnant.

    Today, I would get a full genetic work-up before having kids of my own were I a young person just starting out. I would've done so then if the technology had been available.

    My husband is at risk for Alzheimer's, diabetes and heart disease. We know this from family history. My genetics is sketchier, but I know my bio-dad died of lung cancer in his early sixties after a lifetime of smoking. I am pretty sure my family has more than one person on the autism spectrum, but at the low side of that scale- very high functioning, just appearing quirky, odd, what I would call emotionally impaired. My maternal grandparents both died of undiagnosed colon cancer. Other than that, there is asthma, allergies, and an affinity for linguistics in our DNA.

    I am so sorry to know that you carry the Huntington's gene. I hope and pray they find a cure soon. I appreciate your sense of responsibility shown by your determination not to pass that gene forward, as well as your courage in letting us know. You are a beautiful soul.

  9. I do not believe that it is irresponsible to have a baby after 35, regardless if genetic defects are more common, they are still exceptions, not the norm, and the majority of women over 35 will have perfectly healthy babies. I do not believe that this one factor cannot be one to lead all women to obstain from having babies just because they are of a certain age.

    I do understand your thinking in your example of the families with CF and DS. If my child (I am pregnant now) would have a genetic desease I would have myself and my partner tested to see what the genetic situation is to be able to make a decision to perhaps not have more babies. I would probably have my tubes tied if I thought that another baby would be a catastrophe because I would not want to have an abortion even if my baby had a genetic disorder. Would I still somehow become pregnant I would however keep the baby.

    I am pro-choice but I do not think that I personally could go through with an abortion except if my life was in danger or if the baby was already dead, but I do not want to force others to feel like I do or change the law.

  10. Well, E., if one has several kids already, I still think it is reckless to have children after 35. My little sister didn't even get married until she was 37, so it's not like, as a Christian, she had any other choice. But the Santorums, the Duggars, etc., that is just reckless for them to keep getting pregnant.

    It's especially important to have basic genetic screenings before you plan to get pregnant if you know you won't abort. It's especially important for an older mom to fully familiarize herself with the risks and potential problems with a planned pregnancy. I have a friend who didn't become a mother until her late thirties. She fully researched all possibilities and was willing to live with the consequences.

    I have to admit I am still uneasy with that. *She* may choose to live with the consequences, but it's not *her* life, is it? I would rather not exist than with the horror of Trisomy 18, or Tay-Sachs, or Dechennes MD.

    All of this conjecture on my part is completely moot at this point. HOWEVER if the pro-life factions succeed in defining citizens as fertilized eggs, then all decisions pertaining to a conception will suddenly become the governments business. That's when getting pregnant will REALLY be fraught with danger. Right now, my opinion is only my opinion. Who else cares, really?

    But what if....

    1. I definitely don't want fertilized eggs defined as citizens, that's just stupid. I doubt that will ever happen. I think the religious right likes to keep that smokescreen up so we ignore the real damage they are doing.

    2. It is being attempted:

      and from the "pro-life" org itself:

    3. But I am curious now, Searching! Where is the real damage being done by the religious right? Do tell. Take all the space you need. I would love to know your opinion, having grown up in it as you have.

      Peace and good will, SS

    4. Lol, if only you could give me time too! Hehe. But in a rush, I guess I see the religious right as really just another facet of the great political monster, hypocritical and many-headed, with one of its millipede feet in each voting pool out there. They all benefit from shocking people with insane extremist positions because they can cater to the wackos, polarize the sincere, and ultimately divide and conquer us. I get really annoyed with people who vote based on abortion, gay marriage, or any of the other IMO trumped-up issues that make convenient bandwagons for swinging large numbers of votes. I firmly believe that money and power are the only things any real politician is interested in, regardless of their party affiliation or campaign claims. And they just say whatever they think their constituency wants to hear, and like dumb sheep their constituency keeps on voting for them over and over while they continue to do nothing but throw smoke in the air and find more ways to steal our freedom. If they can steal it by convincing us that someone else has too much and we need a law curtailing it, they will. The drug war comes to mind strongly, as does gay marriage. After all, the government should not have anything to do with marriage at all. It's a religious institution. Who are they to grant or deny anyone "permission" to wed?! If they can make us afraid of ourselves and convince us that we need them to keep us safe, they will. It is vital to liberty that we all be willing to protect the freedom of that person we can't stand and totally disagree with, or we will lose our own. We as a society will never, ever benefit from the government having more control.

    5. Well put. On this, we totally agree. =D

  11. The first time I expressed opinions that contradicted the homeschoolers I was around was when I was 13 and a dad of one family was talking about how he had gotten two German Shepherds and was going to breed them to make money. As an avid animal person I was concerned right then with the red flag that he wanted to make money at it. I tried to be super respectful and asked if he had gotten them tested yet (for a couple genetic problems rampant in German Shepherds). I will never, ever forget how he froze in what I now recognize as a dangerous silence. He knew I was questioning him and he did not like it one bit. I think that is what started my "adults who believe the same way can still be jerks" realization.

    And yeah, my interest in animals is what kept me from ever embracing QF, or "reckless procreation." I like that phrase much better!