Friday, January 30, 2009

Octuplets and preterm birth

One of the things that is striking me, in the whole octuplets news story, is the amount of attention that is being devoted to the problem of higher-order multiples. I agree that the fertility industry is part of the preterm problem. But fertility treatments are almost exclusively used by those who have the least risk of preterm birth: people with high socioeconomic status. Class and race are huge risks for preterm birth. Black women have twice the preterm birth rate of white women, and this is a gap that is not closing. Should people spend their own money on fertility treatments, and then expect society to cover the costs of any consequences? This is an important question. But I think it's also important for us to ask how much time and energy we should devote to garment-rending over these 8 babies - who are an undeniably rare occurrence - when thousands of others die every year, having been conceived without a single fertility treatment.

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