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Friday, November 17, 2006

Who pays for this?

The Bortels with 10 of their 11 kids, who range in age from 1 to 20.
Courtesy of Dave Bortel
The Bortels with 10 of their 11 kids, who range in age from 1 to 20.

Making Babies the 'Quiverfull' Way
In a new movement, Christians 'open their wombs to God.'
By Eileen Finan
Updated: 10:39 a.m. PT Nov 13, 2006

Nov. 13, 2006 - It's hardly a typical scene from the suburbs. The Bortel home outside San Antonio counts 12 members—parents David and Suzanne and their 10 children, ranging from 13 months to 15 (the 20-year-old married and moved away)—all crammed into a four-bedroom house that trembles constantly with activity. Everything revolves around the home: Dad works there, the kids are schooled there, the youngest three were born there. The family uses a 15-passenger van to get around, and at night, the kids climb into multiple sets of bunk beds. David and Suzanne hear the same questions repeatedly. So for the record: No, they're not Catholic. Yes, they've heard of birth control. And no, they're not crazy. In fact, they'd happily welcome a 12th child. "It's about obedience to God," says David, 38. "The Bible says that God is the only opener and closer of the womb."

The Bortels form part of the "quiverfull" movement, a small but growing conservative Protestant group that eschews all forms of birth control and believes that family planning is exclusively God's domain. The term derives from Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.

Back in 1995, when the Web site was founded, it had only 12 subscribers; today, the site, which is administered by the Bortels, has more than 2,600. Many followers have abandoned mainstream churches in favor of smaller nondenominational congregations of like-minded families. A cottage industry has sprung up in support of them. There are books like "A Full Quiver," by Rick and Jan Hess; Web sites like, which raises funds for couples to have reverse vasectomies or reverse tubal ligations; and scholarly treatises like "The Natural Family: A Manifesto," put out by the Rockford, Ill.,-based Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank in Utah. "We're still on the fringes," says Jan Hess. "But it is much more embraced than it was before."

Quiverfull beliefs are absolutist. Purists don't permit even natural family-planning methods, such as tracking fertility cycles (the only form of birth control condoned by the Roman Catholic Church). Also taboo: any form of artificial fertility treatment. "The point is to have a welcoming heart," says Mary Pride, a mother of nine whose 1985 book, "The Way Home," celebrated a return to traditional gender roles. It has sold about 80,000 copies and has inspired many quiverfull families. "You shouldn't be unnatural in going to a fertility clinic or in trying to avoid having children by regulating when to have sex with your husband," says Pride.


These activities have encouraged more discussion of quiverfull ideas among conservative Christians. Stephanie Coontz, director of research for the Council on Contemporary Families, says she has increasingly noticed articles on the subject in the Christian press. Part of the reason, she argues, is that conservatives are reacting to revolutionary changes in women's social roles and seeking to re-impose a more traditional order. "The rhetoric is getting more shrill because people are getting more desperate," she says. "It's a backlash that I don't feel will triumph. In the past, large families were helpful economically, but today, they become a disadvantage, especially to younger kids who don't get as many resources."

Don't tell that to Ken and Devon Carpenter. They live on 21 acres outside Nashville with their eight children, ages 1 to 15. The Carpenters are what some have described as "back-to-the-land" Christians, typical among the quiverfull community. They embrace home schooling, grow some of their own food and reject television in favor of evening family time spent singing or reading. Though Ken admits life isn't always easy—last spring, all eight kids came down with chicken pox at once—he says the family became "exponentially happier" after relinquishing control of Devon's womb to God. He's counting on his eldest daughter, Peyton, 12, to carry on the tradition. She "will stay under my covering until I turn her over in marriage to a God-honoring young man," he says. Hopefully, he adds, they too will reap a full quiver.

Who is paying the health care and benefits for all these people? Unless they have massively well paid jobs?

When black women have eight or nine kids, they're called welfare queens and looked down as parasites.

Why not these people?

posted by Steve @ 12:26:00 AM

12:26:00 AM

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