How will "Octuplet Mom" support her brood? You and me, baby


After Nadya Suleman's delivery of eight artificially-implanted children almost three weeks ago, the internet was fairly humming with questions, speculation, and thunderous statements about the 33-year-old unemployed woman and her gargantuan brood. At the center of discussion, however, was the biggest basic question: how can she hope to support these children?

Last week, Walletpop's Sarah Gilbert reported that Suleman is planning to take her show on the road. She apparently opened negotiations with Oprah and Diane Sawyer, and is contemplating a career as a childcare expert. Like many other commentators, Gilbert questioned whether or not Suleman's decision to birth octuplets was based on a cold-eyed plan to cash in. This perception was further supported by the slick Suleman family website, which encourages visitors to send cash and presents.

As further details of Suleman's finances emerge, the picture becomes even darker. Prior to last month's delivery, Suleman was already receiving $490 per month in food stamps, as well as state-funded disability payments for three of her children. While Suleman apparently paid out-of-pocket for the fertility treatments that produced her octuplets, her hospital has already begun requesting reimbursement from Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.

Given that the cost of caring for a single premature baby is over $160,000, the total bill for Suleman's eight preemies is expected to run approximately $1.3 million. This, presumably, will be covered by California's taxpayers. Further, if Suleman's previous child rearing is any indication, a hefty chunk of the funding for her kids will also come out of the social safety net.

In a Today Show interview, Suleman expressed that having babies is an obsession for her, which is part of the reason that she insisted on having six embryos implanted in her uterus. While many commentators have heaped criticism on Suleman, some have also attacked her doctor, arguing that his treatment may have violated the standard of care. As Dr. Gail Saltz, an NBC contributor and psychiatrist noted, given Suleman's emotional issues, she should have seen a therapist, not had a huge passel of children.

Overall, this raises a bunch of difficult ethical questions: to begin with, are California's taxpayers responsible for Nadya Suleman's happiness? She chose to have children that she cannot currently support, trusting in the social safety net to keep them in Pampers and pacifiers. Now that she has the children, it's worth asking if she should be allowed to cash in. Moreover, given that many of her childcare expenses will presumably be covered by state funds, should the state have a voice in determining how many children she is allowed to birth? An even more difficult question is, now that the babies are out of the bag (as it were), does the state have a right to take them away from their mother?

Speaking as someone who loves being a father, I can relate to Suleman's appreciation of parenthood. On the other hand, speaking as someone who sometimes has to scrimp to provide for his daughter, her determination to produce eight children that she cannot support enrages me. What's your take?