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Suleman Octuplets Are a Good Reason to Look at Fertility Regulation

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I am weary of the Nadya Suleman coverage. The tiny octuplets. 14 kids altogether. Unemployed mom. Not to mention that whole sort of looking like Angelina Jolie thing.

But one aspect of this baby circus is worth talking about -- the fertility industry. Yes -- it's an industry, both here and around the world. It's a business to the tune of billions of dollars a year. The more fertility treatments that women have, the more money doctors make. It's not really complicated.

Don't get me wrong. We went down the fertility road when we were trying to have a family. I have no problem with anyone deciding that fertility treatments are appropriate for them.

While I was on the Clomid train, there were no questions about what kind of parents we'd make, or what our joint incomes were. No one stopped us at the door and demanded to take a peak for dust bunnies in our house or to check the expiration date on our kitchen fire extinguisher. There were no laws we had to comply with and no one wanted to know how much any baby that resulted from those treatments was going to cost.

All that changed when we stepped off the societally accepted way of making a family, the new-fashioned spin on the old-fashioned way, and decided to adopt.

Once we were on the road to adopting the baby who ultimately became PunditGirl, we were required to be fingerprinted by the state and federal governments to make sure we had no criminal background. Health and fire inspectors were mandated to come to our house to certify that we had a safe environment for any child who was to become ours. We had to submit several years worth of financial statements to prove that we could afford to care for a child. Many of our friends were called on to sign notarized statements that we would be good parents. And, just for good measure, Mr. PunditMom and I had to sit through several sessions with a therapist to talk about our family social histories, as well as our feelings on corporal punishment. Then, and only then, were we permitted to be considered as a potential adoptive family.

Oh, and the best part? We really enjoyed spending time with people who felt like they could ask us how much our baby would "cost" and those who kept urging me to keep trying one more treatment in the fertility arsenal so I could have a baby "of my own." And, of course, there are also those who think I'm not even a mom since PunditGirl, as she used to say, wasn't "borned" from me.

Many in the fertility industry contend that it would be too burdensome to have requirements surrounding fertility procedures, claiming that self-regulation is the way to go. Free markets, and all. Hmm, where have I heard that before?

I'm not saying that it's a bad thing for there to be hoops to jump through before someone can adopt a child. But if there are scores of laws that address and regulate the adoption process, why is it any less important that there be some regulations when it comes to giving the go-ahead for people to have eight embryos implanted at one time? In one article, an ethicist reasoned that government is "loathe" to tell people who can and can't be parents. Except that the government does it every day when it comes to adoption.

The regulation question isn't about parenting. It's about business. No one's bottom line was enhanced by the fees we paid to the non-profit agency we chose. And it's OK with me that the orphanage PunditGirl lived in for a year, where a handful of caregivers manage 100 or more babies every day, might have used some of the money to buy modern washing machines so they didn't have to wash all those baby clothes by hand.

But don't tell me that the lack of regulation in the fertility industry is about the government wanting to stay out of decisions by those who want to become parents. The government had no problem poking its nose into just about everything in my life before I was allowed to become a mother. If that's going to be the case, then I don't see how it's all that different for fertility businesses.

Joanne Bamberger is a professional writer and political/media analyst & consultant in Washington, D.C. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the political blog, PunditMom. You can also find her at BlogHer, where she is a Contributing Editor, and MOMocrats.