The Duggars want more babies -- and more abortion restrictions

The couple hope to add a 20th to their brood -- while fighting against reproductive freedom

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
October 11, 2013 12:12AM (UTC)
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In this Aug. 2, 2007 photo, Michelle Duggar is surrounded by her then only 17 children, and husband Jim Bob. (AP/Beth Hall)

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar gained reality show fame for their unique talent – having children. Lots and lots of children. So what do they want to do now? Have more. But even for an eternally fertile family, making babies isn't what it used to be.

As the Duggar couple prepares to celebrate 29 years of marriage, Michelle spoke with Celebrity Baby Scoop this week, and answered questions about whether there are more little Duggars in the offing. "I would hope, but we are not expecting right now," she said candidly. "I would be so grateful if the Lord blessed us with another one. We’re trying at this point and we shall see if that is a possibility. If not, we are so thankful and grateful for the ones that God has given us so far."


If the Duggars want to have a hundred babies, that's their decision and theirs alone. They have the desire to bring children into the world and they have the resources to raise those children; they appear to be loving and devoted parents. But they are also undeniably not the same people they were when they had their first child back in 1988. They are grandparents. Michelle is now 47 years old. And while it's not impossible to bring a baby into the world at her age – 47-year-old Halle Berry just welcomed a son this week – there are serious issues to consider regarding fertility and health, for both a mother and child.

Michelle's last few pregnancies have not gone well. In 2009, when she was expecting her 19th child, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Daughter Josie was born via emergency caesarean three and a half months early, weighing one pound, 6 ounces. Yet less than six month later, Michelle was telling reporters, "We would love more! I know that my mommy years are probably numbered and I don’t know how many more children God will see fit to give me." In 2011, she announced she was indeed pregnant again, but just a few weeks later, the family revealed she'd lost the baby. They held a memorial for the child, whom they named Jubilee Shalom, and they grieved her loss.

The Duggars are firmly, vocally against the use of contraception. But given their increasingly fraught last two pregnancies, one could hardly blame them if they decided to not actively pursue conception either. Even the most devout couple might feel at this point they'd really done their part, being-fruitful-and-multiplying-wise. And they might seriously consider the very real risks. But even given all that they've experienced and they know – and despite the intense and inevitable disdain of Internet commenters who call them "disgusting" -- their choices remain their business.


Yet it should be noted that Duggars don't support that same freedom of reproductive choice for everyone. Just this week, the couple announced their support for Tennessee's Amendment on Abortion, which would require a waiting period for abortions and impose restrictions on late-term procedures. While announcing their upcoming appearance at a "Heartbeats for Life" event, Michelle dramatically said, "We must join together and end the baby holocaust that is taking place right here in Tennessee!" There you have it -- they expect the freedom to do what they want with their fertility – even if they increasingly face the threat of things going horribly, heartbreakingly wrong – but would restrict the rights of other families to do the same with theirs.

The Duggars, with their clear enthusiasm for baby making, have done a fine job in keeping the world full of people. But in the same way nobody has a right to tell them to stop having kids, they don't have the right to force others to start having them. What they apparently fail to understand is that being responsible and loving and even godly doesn't just mean breeding without regard for the consequences. That's the great gift of reproductive choice. And it must belong to all of us. The Duggars want to go for another baby, and there's nothing stopping them. But it's worth asking them: How is exercising one's constitutional right to safely end a pregnancy a morally inferior, less life-affirming action than conceiving a child, knowing damn well it might not survive?

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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