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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What about the choice to have a large family?

[Today's post by Rachel Cox is part of our paid blogging program.]

I saw an article a while back on Yahoo News reporting the birth of Josh and Anna Duggar’s third child. For those of you who don’t know, the Duggars are famous for their much-larger-than-average family size. Josh Duggar is one of the 19 children of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Josh, their oldest child, married Anna a few years ago and the couple is already on their third child, paving the way for another big family.

I hadn’t followed the family’s show for a couple years so I was pleased to catch up with them. However, I was shocked at how many horrible comments people had written at the end of the article denouncing the Duggars’ choice to have large families. I could not believe how many hateful criticisms there were. It wasn’t just a few rogue commenters who posted their extreme opposition to the Duggars; it was very challenging to find any positive comments at all.  Here’s just a sampling of what people in the comments section of the article had to say:
  • “Disgusting on some [sic] many levels”
  • “Please stop reporting on these freaks. They need counseling and the girls need real futures instead of the slavery of reproduction.”
  • “REPULSIVE. These people are REPULSIVE. They and their REPULSIVE elders are professional f**kers, hiding under the guise of religion (which is even more REPULSIVE).”
  • “They are so saturated in their religious beliefs and think that it's normal to have that many children..idiots. They are addicted to having babies like an alcoholic addicted to alcohol...no difference.
  • “These people are despicable and should be executed for crimes against humanity.”
  • “These people need to be spayed & neutered.”
  • “the breeding like rats continues....”
I could hardly believe what I was reading. Some of the contributors thought Mrs. Duggar must have been brainwashed (or "enslaved" as one person put it) into having that many kids.

The reality is that there are still women out there who have no desire to have careers and simply want to stay at home and raise a family. And if that’s what a woman wants to do, whether it's for religious reasons or just because she loves children, “it’s her choice” and she should be able to exercise that choice without being verbally assaulted and degraded. Based on the sentiments presented in the article’s discussion section, the “it’s my body, my choice” slogan only seems to apply when a woman wants an abortion. When a woman chooses to have more children than average, in the eyes of those who made these hateful comments, she becomes a “repulsive freak” and should stop bearing children.  

In addition to being obviously hypocritical, do these people also not see how blatantly sexist their logic is? They’re basically saying women are animalistic and disgusting for exercising the full potential of their reproductive abilities. Anybody besides me have a problem with that?

So, what happened? Why have the Duggars and others like them been vilified so drastically to the point of being referred to as animals and having death wished upon them? My answer is simple: the proliferation of abortion. Since the 70’s, the abortion industry has drilled into our culture that it’s not only okay to limit your children by having them killed before they’re born, but expected. They’ve preached that the only way women can be truly free is if they can get abortions. They’ve touted abortion as an integral tool of family planning that should be utilized on-demand. The standard feminist philosophy (which is also shared by the abortion industry) is that women should not “become baby factories.” We’ve all been subject to this rhetoric for so long that now a lot of people feel that it is abnormal, or even criminal, to have a larger-than-average family size. 

But they’re wrong. There is nothing abnormal about having babies. That’s what women’s bodies do! There is nothing freakish, disgusting, repulsive, or despicable about it. Contrary to what our culture says, it’s perfectly natural to have as many children as nature allows. If the Duggars want to have as many kids as possible, more power to them, and they shouldn’t be judged hatefully for it.

42 comments:

Jameson Graber said...

You'll probably get some pushback from others on this, so I just want to point out that while outright disgust and even hatred may not be in order, there are still serious ethical questions to consider here.

One issue that the pro-life movement has been really bad at dealing with in a forthright manner is that of overpopulation. There are good and bad answers to this problem. A good answer is to point out that nations with well developed economies have tended to level off to zero population growth rates, and if this trend can be maintained to any reasonable degree, overpopulation is not a longrun problem. A bad answer is to say it isn't a problem, which is to ignore or completely fail to understand the exponential function and basic physics.

Another issue here is social assistance (welfare). This is always a pertinent questions in developed nations. We don't like to see children starve, so we tend to provide assistance to families that have children. On the other hand, the general presumption is that parents get to keep both their children and their fertility. But this does present a real ethical challenge: what *do* you do about a family with 19 children? I suppose a family like the Duggars can pay for all those kids with a TV contract or whatever. But in general, I think it's natural for people to be a bit suspect of families of abnormal sizes, wondering how all those children can get fed.


And finally, there is the issue that a lot of commenters raised, which is that having that many children may very well inhibit your ability to parent all of them. This isn't universally the case, obviously, but I think there are pretty clear drawbacks to take into consideration.

In the end, I'm for tolerance, and I don't think people should be outright hateful (and many of those comments were, which is sad). But people do have the right to ask out loud whether someone else's decision is the right one. I hope one day the world can be free from abortion, but many of these questions will still remain.

Ruth said...

Do the Duggars look like irresponsible parents who don't feed their children? And saying that overpopulation exists is a matter of opinion, based on one book that has been touted for years and now has nothing that it predicted would happen happen, and now in many developed countries we have below replacement birth rates and colapsing economies. At least we have a few people like the Duggars in America to balance our birth rates out compared to Japan, Korea, France...all countries that have to bring in foreign labor because they don't have enough people working in their workforce.

Amy Vallaster said...

You just proved the point of the article.

kcard82 said...

Overpopulation is a myth. I suggest you watch the documentary, Demographic Winter.

BillSamuel said...

The world needs more love. This is a very loving family. Most large families are.

M said...

I think Jameson has good points, particularly the point about welfare. As he said, the Duggars can probably afford it what with a TV contract and so on, but you don't have to look far to find large families that are living on government assistance without any attempt to avoid having more children. I see a moral problem with that.

People shouldn't be hateful, but it's not like the only options are (1) be hateful or (2) be silent. You can speak out about things you think might be problems without being hateful about it, and many of these things are worthy of discussion.

Lilly said...

Actually, the Duggars have plenty of income without any television. Jim Duggar is a successful businessman who has no trouble supporting his family.

Dolce said...

I find it odd that people seem to think that large families have a hard time parenting all their children. I come from a "larger than average" family (though by no means a family with even close to 19 kids), my parents and grandparents also come from "larger" families, and from what I have heard, once you have more than two, parenting becomes a bit easier. The kids entertain each other, the older kids can help out with the younger kids ... and is it really so awful to insist that they do? Since when did siblings get to opt out of helping to care for the family as a whole? It is HEALTHY for children to take on responsibilities. I helped care for my youngest sibling when she was born and I LOVED it. Not that all kids will love having obligations, but then, kids also don't love doing chores and helping clean the house, but they still should. Kids also do not need round-the-clock attention from their parents, and its silly to assume that they do. A single child can just as easily be ignored and feel abandoned by parents, as children from a family of 10 can feel ignored and lost in the shuffle. Dealing with that is a part of life, and its actually a pretty easy problem to fix. If you put in an effort to spend time with your kids when you are able (whether you work or not), and encourage conversation even from those who are hesitant to speak up, then no one should feel left out. People who work with kids do this all the time, and there is no reason to expect that parents cannot also figure out how to be inclusive in a large group.

Candace said...

I believe it is this mentality that has left so many orphans and foster children unloved and uncared for. My Great-Grandmother had 13 kids and that was normal in her time. I don't see people calling the generation of the early 1900's-1930's Animals and Repulsive. This is ridiculous that so many opinions about the Duggars are so intrusive and abusive. I love that they are the way they are! I personally do not feel I have the capacity to handle 19 kids, but they do and are stellar parents to each and every one of them. In Addition, you don't see anyone having a problem with the females that go have a handful of children with ALL different fathers. That apparently is socially acceptable. SMH.

Lindsay H said...

1. NEVER read the comments.

2. Pro-CHOICE is exactly that ( contrary to popular belief it is not just pro abortion). It is the right to choose what is best for you, not just choose to have an abortion. No one has the right to judge your choices NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE.

3.I see no evidence in these articles to support the premise that the people behind the comments cited are inherently "pro-choice" and supporting only the "abortion" side of this argument. Perhaps they have no views on abortion and are just assholes? Since when does criticizing the Duggar's for having many children = supporting abortion? This doesn't make any sense.

I have seen plenty of people who do support or want an abortion meet the same type of vitriol and criticism for simply exercising their own choices as well (I have not, however heard of any pro-life supporters being murdered based on their viewpoints), so this type of animosity extends both ways. The fact that you wrote an entire column based on the comments section of a yahoo article seems questionable at best and completely out of touch at worst.

Kelsey said...

I just want to address one of your points: "I have not, however heard of any pro-life supporters being murdered based on their viewpoints."
You're about to. Google Jim Pouillon. The murderer's name is Harlan Drake.

The Nun said...

Rachel, great blog! I especially like the last paragraph.

After meeting recently with a mother who just recently gave birth to #10 I was saddened to hear all the nasty comments from perfect strangers she was subjected to. I will have to book mark this and send it to her.

The Nun said...

Jameson,
Out of curiosity where do you get your numbers for overpopulation?

I was born in a Canadian province that has a population density of roughly 2 people per square mile. I have traveled through India, Central America, Southern Africa in their poor districts I still saw many open spaces where a person could farm or create a cottage industry.

Lindsay H said...

I stand corrected :) The numbers are still grossly one-sided though. I think people on both sides of the debate would mostly agree that violence is not the answer.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abortion_violence#Murders

RB said...

"Contrary to what our culture says, it's perfectly natural to have as many children as nature allows" I'm sorry, this statement is just untrue. Contrary to what Pro-Duggar people seem to believe, a child is a privilege, not a right. Each of those Duggar children are unique, with differing needs, personalities, and all have the equal right to be noticed and cared for adequately by their parents. How in the world can all 19 of those Duggar children be getting the attention and love they need if they're competing with 18 other siblings to get it?

Mrs Duggar is not respecting them or herself by having child after child with no regard for her health (which her doctor had told her was in jeopardy after the birth of their 18th) . She uses the older children (say, 10 and up) as full time babysitters instead of letting them live their own lives and be children themselves.

There's quite a large difference between having a fairly large family (7 or 8 children) AFTER you have considered whether you are financially and emotionally ready, and whether this might negatively impact your current children. I come from a family of 9 children. My parents didn't plan or think about what a large family might mean to them and the sacrifices they might have to make with having to support so many children. They only did it because they thought it was right. (they're catholic). As a result, everyone suffered. Many of my siblings felt neglected. My father had to work all the time to support us, leaving my mother to feel like a single parent. And we simply didn't have the financial resources to care for all of us.

I am all for women making choices about their own bodies and reproductive systems. I'm also of the belief that just because we have the capacity to make tons of babies, it doesn't mean they should. I believe children are a blessing. But I don't believe having them should be an obligation or looked upon as a necessity. Intelligence and self-control is what separates us from animals- that's why you don't see many families like the Duggars. Because most women recognize having that many children comes with a price- to themselves, their children, their husbands, and the community at large. The Pro Life community has to recognize that children, myself included, aren't "presents" (the more you have, the more blessed you are), we're not a means to further our population to show we're better than other countries ("If more people were like the Duggars, maybe our country won't die out like China will") and we should not be looked upon as a woman's duty to have. We are full human beings that are expensive, demanding, and unique, and everyone needs to recognize that.

Caila Caudle said...

Good article here! The comments you have included concerning the Duggars are ones I have heard from many people... not just in the comments section of a news article. My friend has four boys. And she said she deals with DAILY comments from strangers on how "they must be a handful." (This is one of the nicer comments she receives.) I think there are pro-lifers and pro-choicers in this "no-to-big-families" group, but I think that is an extension overall of how inundated our culture is with pro-abortion ideals. Personally, if I want to have 12 children, that is my business. It has been my experience, as a young mother of three (unplanned but absolutely loved) children, that abortion proponents vilify MY choice to be a mother, and yet, shove the whole abortion thing down my throat as the only viable "choice" I have. It's unfortunate that their loud and often obnoxious and contradictory assertions on a woman's "choice" doesn't extent to anything outside of what they think it should.

Jameson Graber said...

I tend to agree with you, this post doesn't really address anything directly "pro-choice." And as a corollary to your first point, maybe I shouldn't have commented on this post ...

Jameson Graber said...

Really? The point of the article was that all of these rude, hateful comments against families with lots of chidlren flow out of a pro-abortion mentality. Tell me exactly what you think that has to do with my comment.

Jameson Graber said...

Thanks for that bit of solidarity, M. It bothers me often the way certain parts of the pro-life community shut down important questions, as if there's absolutely no ethical dimension to having a large number of children.

Lindsay H said...

haha I guess I shouldn't have commented either. I just feel like the whole article is more of a commentary on the proliferation of internet trolls than anything else. The Duggar story says absolutely nothing about the pro/anti abortion movement.

M said...

Yeah, I think comments on the internet (especially on youtube, but other places too) are often the very worst examples of human thought processes, but I don't think they are representative.

I also agree that there's little evidence to show the commenters in particular are pro-choice, but I think the blog post is still worthwhile because so many people have experienced comments like this about big families, including from pro-choice people (if not *these* people), and it's good to show that not everyone agrees having a large family is inherently a problem. It's good for you to comment as a pro-choice person and agree on that point, further showing that a lot of people think you should be able to have whatever size family you want.

simm805 said...

I thought the point of the article was more about our current cultural climate with regard to children makes it unacceptable to question someone's decision to kill their unborn child, but culturally acceptable (apparently) to openly criticize those who make the opposite choice, even if done in a responsible manner. (I haven't seen anything to indicate that the Duggars are a drain to the system, or that their children are neglected in any way.) I don't have any issue with the points in your original post per se, (although I think it is a bit odd to call large family sizes "abnormal" even if they are atypical in current American culture) but I don't think it is appropriate to translate those concerns into judging a particular family based on what other people may or may not do.

simm805 said...

*how* our current cultural climate...

Coyote said...

Just curious--are you pro-choice?

Also, I fully agree with you that no one should use violence in order to achieve political goals.

Coyote said...

I didn't see that documentary, but the Earth does have a limited carrying capacity, even with technological advancements.

Coyote said...

In regards to overpopulation, I point out that if one considers it morally justifiable to violate individual rights in order to prevent a bad outcome, then the same rationale can be used to justify other atrocious things (infanticide, genocide, et cetera) in order to prevent and/or reduce overpopulation. I fully support efforts to make contraception accessible to everyone and efforts to teach sex ed to everyone, both of which should help in fighting overpopulation without violating anyone's individual rights.

Coyote said...

When did you travel to these poor countries? If you travelled there 10 or 20 years ago, these countries have more people right now than they did back then.

Lydia said...

Thanks for writing this....I was shocked by some of the comments, too.

Marauder said...

Lots of women have been killed by their partners because they were pregnant and the partners didn't want to have children. Laci Peterson, Belinda Temple and Cherica Adams are the ones who first come to my mind. They weren't killed because of a stance on abortion, but they were killed for choosing life.

Lindsay H said...

That's getting really convoluted, but here goes. Those women were killed because they were in abusive and chauvinist relationships in which men thought they had control over those women and their bodies and choices. As I have said before, pro-choice does not mean one will always choose abortion or even supports abortion at all. Pro-choice means that you support each woman's right to make her own choices over her own body with her own medical professionals and not intervene as these men thought they could and should. I feel like this whole conversation has been hijacked by the pro/anti abortion argument because it gets emotions running high. Really women should be standing in solidarity with one another to stop men like the one's you mentioned from controlling women and their bodies.

Lindsay H said...

Pro-choice as you can probably tell from the comment above :)

Coyote said...

Thanks for clarifying--your earlier comments sort of left me wondering whether you were pro-choice or simply a more analytical and/or liberal politically anti-abortion person.

I also want to elaborate on this comment of yours:

"No one has the right to judge your choices NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE."

I don't think that this is entirely true. Even if one was pro-choice, one can still judge people for deciding whether or not to abort in certain cases (such as in cases of sex-selective and/or race/ethnicity-selective abortion) but still think that these people should be the ones making the final decision(s) on whether or not to abort.

Also, two more questions for you, if you don't mind:

1. What exactly is your rationale for being pro-choice?

2. Do you support giving men the choice to sign a legal contract with women before sex in front of a lawyer and/or notary which allows the man to opt-out of paying child support if these women get pregnant afterwards and refuse to get abortions? Basically, both the man and the woman would need to sign this contract (in front of a lawyer and/or notary) in order for this contract to be valid.

Ally said...

Jim Bob/Michelle and Josh/Anna or any of the Duggar family can have as many kids as they want to. I could care less. I am pro-choice.

This means, for pro-lifers that don't seem to want to understand the view of most proo-choicers either, that I am for a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, take contraception, have proper sex education, have access to family planning, have access to emergency contraception, have contraception included in insurance plan that the woman pays premiums on, to be sterilized without doctor's denying her because some women change their mind and sue or the doctor wants the money that comes from contraception and pregnancy visits, to carry her pregnancy to term, to put her baby up for adoption,

The people that you're talking about may be pro-choice in other areas, but they are actually anti-choice when it comes to the size of family one has. See anti-choice to me doesn't just mean anti-abortion, it means anytime you want to restrict any kind of reproductive choice that a woman makes.

The Duggars and SPLP are hypocrites. The Duggars are hypocrites because they even though they are from Arkansas, they pushed for Ohio to pass the 6-week heartbeat abortion ban that, thankfully, died last session. They went down to Texas to push for the omnibus abortion bill that passed. Texas already had a post-viability ban by the way. They pushed for a 12-week abortion ban in Arkansas. They want to have this big, large family, which is totally fine, yet they want abortion and contraception banned. I would say to them, pot meet kettle.

You, SPLP, are always hypocrites because you are getting on pro-choicers that are actually anti-choice when it comes to the size of a family one can have. You are no different then them in that you want abortion to be illegal and may want certain forms of contraception to be illegal. So why you are complaining about another form of an anti-choicer is beyond me. Again, Pot meet kettle.

Will said...

Wait a second, if you are going to claim that these women were killed because the men were bad men, then you must accept the same excuse for those who kill abortionists. They were bad people and do not represent the pro-life stance so please stop using them as an argument against the pro-life movement.

Lindsay H said...

That's not what I was doing at all. I was simply stating that so far all of the arguments (posed in the article and the comment which you are referring to) are citing people who have expressed neither pro-life or pro-choice views, so it is pointless to use them to support either cause. No one can say whether the commenters on the Duggar article or the women murdered felt one way or the other, or whether their specific viewpoints are what resulted in violence, therefore using them to support a specifically pro-life stance is completely redundant and far-fetched. The people I mentioned were met with violence as a DIRECT RESULT of their views. My statement was simply that this direct result is seemingly one sided strictly based on the numbers. Obviously none of these men represent the majority of sane, civil minded people who are willing to have an open discussion.

chicagorefugee said...

"...a child is a privilege, not a right."



Not according to the US Supreme Court, it isn't. But it probably sounds better in the original German ....

Alden Smith said...

I wished I had that many siblings. I should have eight brothers but one died in the womb and the rest were miscarriages which both tore my parents up. My sister first pregancy was twins but like my mother they born premature and one died a month and six days after. That is incredibly sweet and loving family that looks after each other. But those comments are wholly unnecessary but are sadly typical of the Radical left.

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Alden Smith said...

People having been having large family's for years had haven manage to take care of them successfully. I know people that have five kids more and can take care of them. And know a lot of large Catholic family's.

Leslie Smith said...

Every family with spaced out siblings use the elder sibling as a babysitter. This helps teach responsibility, and can help siblings grow closer.

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Lauren Borrero said...

Well first off I happen to be Pro-LIfe and I never saw children as presents even before I became pro-life to me they were simply children who wanted someone to give a damn about them.


I don't think that we'll die out like China. As a matter of fact Chine is doing very good. The only reason why China is dying out is because of the one child policy and the fact that boys were "better" than girls when really both genders are the same in a lot of ways. Because there are only so many women around this is why a certain generation of China is dying out. Recently in some parts of China they allowed people to have 2 children instead of one.