Sunday, October 31, 2004

In which I question the parentage of John Edwards's children

According to Slate, Curtis's crush may be the only genetically related offspring of Elizabeth Edwards. While there have been some rumors that the birth of twins at age 36 to First Lady Laura Bush might have been the result of fertility drugs, Mrs. Edwards has been open about using "hormone shots" for her last two pregnancies. Doctors are skeptical that even this could explain births at age 48 and 50.

The theory is that Elizabeth Edwards used donor eggs for her last two pregnancies. This means that she not only underwent hormone treatments herself, she also probably paid an anonymous woman a few thousand dollars compensation to undergo similar treatments, be pierced with a giant needle, and have a bumper crop of eggs removed to be fertilized (presumably by John Edwards's gametes) in a petri dish and then implanted in Mrs. Edwards. This is a lot to go through: tens of thousands of dollars so they can end up with two more kids who are genetically related to John Edwards. The fellow's got some great hair, but it isn't that phenomenal.

Really, I wonder why anyone would go through so much just to have children that were genetically related to the father. The Edwards family lost their son in 1996 and the first alleged donor egg baby was born in 1998, but they didn't stop until 2000, when whatever convoluted medical procedures they used produced another son. Fishy, that.

In closing, a statement and a question:
-Why not just adopt? Their last two kids probably aren't related to Elizabeth Edwards at all. Was it so important for John Edwards to have another genetically related son that he was willing to shell out huge amounts of money and require his wife to undergo two extremely late (and thus more risky) pregnancies? While Elizabeth Edwards might have agreed that this was a good idea, the timeline makes me think that one party had a particular motivation.

-Will Elizabeth Edwards become a spokewoman for the infertile? Some in the Slate piece wish she would, but I hope that she keeps her mouth shut. First of all, I don't care what First Ladies have to say. (I don't care what Teresa Heinz-Kerry babbles about. She's not the person on the ballot. I liked Howard Dean's wife. She knew her place: her office. But I digress.) If Edwards became a spokeswoman for infertile people, it would probably lead to demands for insurance coverage for these highly expensive discretionary procedures. Nothing is more of a choice than whether you become a parent. Mass delusion by Generation X and the Boomers about fertility decreases over time is not a public health problem that needs to be subsidized.

UPDATE: evidently Slate readers think that the article discussed above was disgraceful and shouldn't have been published. To say that it is in poor taste to discuss a concrete, high profile example of a woman who has successfully used complex and expensive reproductive technologies to have children at an age when many Americans are grandparents, especially in the context of a public debate about whether those technologies should be subject to mandatory insurance coverage, hampers public debate. How are we to fully explore the nature of fertility, infertility, and the desire to parent without recourse to the stories of real people and real emotions? Our reluctance to address this, to question the need for such procedures, may lead us to an inefficient and undesirable outcome. The choice if, when, and how to become a parent is deeply personal, but when other people start claiming I should pay for them to have their cake and eat it too I get nosy about why they need my money.
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