An average American woman today who has children will have about two. Economic issues will be an important factor in deciding when and how many to have. Then there’s Michelle Duggar, a 45-year-old grandmother just about ready to give birth to her 20th. She and her husband chronicle their family adventures on a reality show, online and in a book. Her decisions do not involve practical considerations. They involve what she and her husband see as God’s will.
It’s not all sweetness and light, as portrayed in their publicity. According to Salon.com, Michelle developed life-threatening preeclampsia during her last pregnancy two years ago. When daughter Josie was delivered at 25 weeks, she weighed 1 pound, 6 ounces.
But they are acting on faith. Salon.com reports that, on their TLC.com website, titled 19 Kids and Counting, Jim Bob says, “I know a lot of you out there think, ‘What have they done?’ But … we consider each child a gift and a blessing from God. And our goal is to train our children to love God and to serve others and hopefully make a difference in the world.”
Vyckie Garrison has another, darker take in “No Longer Quivering,” her fascinating personal account on RHRealityCheck.org. Vyckie objects to the glib Salon.com line that Michelle’s decision to keep having babies is “just another side” of reproductive choice and freedom. Vyckie does not think Michelle has had choices. Vyckie was in the Evangelical Christian pro-life movement and she knows better. She writes about the coercion she witnessed “based on what we sincerely believed to be God’s perfect will for women. “
She says that
As a teenager, I was introduced to the Pro-Life movement via Randall Terry’s “Operation Rescue.” Led by charismatic Mr. Terry, our church staged a “rescue” at the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City. I was horrified by the ministry’s literature which showed graphic pictures of butchered babies. How could anyone make a “choice” to murder their own tiny, precious pre-born baby?
As she became involved as an activist, her conviction became stronger that “it is God Who gives Life – He opens and closes the womb and it is His perogative alone to determine whether or not a new, living, eternal being will come into existence.”
With that belief, she became involved in the Quiverfull movement, which encourages Christian women to be submissive wives and prolific mothers and teaches that women’s natural function is to be fruitful and multiply.
The Quiverfull ideal, once spread mainly via Christian homeschool venues, has gone mainstream among pro-life evangelicals – largely due to the popularity of the Duggars’ TV show, also called “19 & Counting,” Vyckie writes.
Anyone who is familiar with the Quiverfull philosophy which compels Michelle to keep pumping out babies knows that hers is a bounded choice. To a firmly convinced “Pro-Life” woman such as Michelle, the “choice” is to be open to the possibility of yet another pregnancy, or else tell God, “No thanks – You’ve blessed me enough already” and in so doing, set herself up in the place of God to make decisions about whether or not to bring another eternal soul into existence.
There is no real choice here, she says. And it’s dangerous to think there is.
In the same way that the fundamentalist Christian God allows people to exercise their free will by choosing between worshipping and serving Him or else burning in Hell forever – the Quiverfull woman must make the decision to trust God and perhaps die physically, or trust in the Pill and her own common sense – and die spiritually for all eternity. That’s not a choice – it’s an ultimatum.