Octuplet Mother Remains Target Of Ethical Debate

The Los Angeles area mother of octuplets is out of the hospital and reportedly weighing her options among many offers from television shows, movie studios and publishing houses. But she's still the target of a major ethical debate about why she received fertility treatments.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, it's Day to Day. The Los Angles woman who gave birth to octuplets is out of the hospital, and she's telling her story. This morning on NBC's "Today Show," Nadya Suleman said she wanted a large family because she felt isolated as an only child. But as NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, Nadya Suleman isn't getting the public support multiple births usually inspire.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: The 33-year-old mother says she has no regrets. Nadya Suleman had six embryos implanted, far more than medical guidelines recommend, and she knew there was a good chance she'd have multiple births.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Today Show," February 6, 2009)

Ms. NADYA SULEMAN: Those are my children, and that's what was available, and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is.

BATES: The fact that Suleman already had six children at home wasn't a factor.

Ms. SULEMAN: It turned out perfectly.

BATES: For Suleman, maybe, but others are less optimistic. In downtown Whittier, California, not far from Suleman's family home, Gloria Lewis(ph) and DiMarcia Stafford(ph) debate the mega-birth.

Ms. GLORIA LEWIS (Resident, Whittier, California): I think she was only going for two, and it happened that it turned into eight.

Ms. DIMARCIA STAFFORD (Resident, Whittier, California): Right. But still, even going for two after she had six small ones...

BATES: Suleman says once she's finished her education, she's confident she can provide for all 14 children. But if she can't, who's going to help? And therein lies much of the controversy.

Dr. DIANE G. SANFORD (Psychologist; President, Women's Healthcare Partnership): I think there are lot of people who really feel like there is no way that she can adequately parent these children so that they will thrive as they grow up.

BATES: St. Louis psychologist Diane G. Sanford specializes in maternal psychological issues. Sanford says Suleman might be an extreme example of women who dread having their children leave infancy.

Dr. SANFORD: What we typically see is that they may have three children under the age of 4 or 5, and decide to have another baby or two because they cherish that time in their life so much.

BATES: In the past, miracle mega-multiple births have resulted in mega-gifting to the babies' families. The McCaughey family in Iowa was given a van and a big house for their septuplets. The octuplets born to the Chukwu family of Houston also got a bigger home and lots of volunteer help. So far, companies aren't flooding Nadya Suleman with endorsement offers. In her exclusive NBC interview, Suleman told reporter Ann Curry her decision to be a single mother of 14 may be a contributing factor.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Today Show," February 6, 2009)

Ms. SULEMAN: For me, I feel as though I've been under the microscope because I've chosen this unconventional kind of life.

BATES: Endorsement expert Noreen Jenney says that could make a difference for potential corporate sponsors.

Ms. NOREEN JENNEY (Founder, Celebrity Endorsement Network): I think that her situation is a little contrary to what is normally attractive to marketers and advertisers, because I think that they generally look for squeaky-clean without any kind of suspect element.

BATES: Jenney says companies considering endorsements would take public opinion about Suleman very seriously. They don't want to alienate their clients, current or potential.

Ms. JENNEY: I think if there's concern about what the general public feels about this, they're not going to get involved in a situation where the people they're trying to attract to buy their products are unhappy or not feeling warm-fuzzy-cozy about this situation.

BATES: Suleman is hoping people will feel more compassionate toward her as she starts to explain her side of the story. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Stay with us. Day to Day returns in just a moment.

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