A 62-year-old woman has given birth to her third child, according to The Daily Mail.
Lina Alvarez is a Spanish Doctor. Her daughter, who Alvarez has named Lina, was born yesterday two weeks early by c-section after Alvarez was admitted to hospital for high blood pressure, a risk factor commonly associated with pregnancy complications including pre-eclampsia.
Alvarez began menopause over 20 years ago, but sought out fertility treatment to fall pregnant.
Mother and child are healthy and recovering well, despite being the subject of intense criticism.
Alvarez follows a number of older mothers, including Indian woman Daljiner Kaur who is the oldest documented mother. She gave birth last year at the age of 70 to a baby boy, Armaan.
A 65-year-old German woman, Annegret Raunigk, also made headlines last year when she gave birth to quadruplets and took them home to join her thirteen older children.
In Australia, it was just months ago that an unidentified 62-year-old Tasmanian woman gave birth to a child, making her Australia’s oldest new mother.
There’s no doubt these women and their partners are pushing the boundaries of medical science, and that raises a number of ethical questions.
How safe is it for women over 50 or even 60 to have fertility treatments? How safe is it for them to go through a pregnancy?
Are there issues around the child’s relative age to his or her parents? How will they be cared for as they grow while their parents age? Who will look after the child if the parent or parents die?
These are not unreasonable questions to ask, except for the fact that they assume the woman having the fertility treatment, carrying the child and giving birth to it is an idiot.
Reflect on it for a little longer.
This is a woman probably of some independent means, at least enough to be paying for expensive fertility treatments. And some education, at least enough to know that there are treatments she can access and to be able to understand enough to know the potential risks and complications associated with them.
Given that, isn’t it reasonable enough to assume that she, and any partner she may be parenting a child with, has given thought to what might happen to her child if she becomes ill or dies? If you have enough capacity to get a donor egg, surely you have enough capacity to get your affairs in order and make arrangements for any event which would leave a child without care.
A 2003 survey found that 81 per cent of Australians support a woman’s right to choose. More recent studies include a 2009 Queensland poll that had four in every five people in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion and a 2010 survey of gynaecologists and obstetricians found that 85 per cent are not opposed to abortion.
We’re overwhelming a pro-choice nation, a group of people in favour of women’s bodily autonomy. We respect the right of women to decide what happens to her body and how it happens specifically in relation to pregnancy and children.
Being pro-choice means trusting women to make the best decisions for themselves. It means we remove our own feelings and emotions from the situation and allow a woman to consult with the doctors and experts she trusts to determine her own course of action.
If that’s the case, then that’s the model we must apply in these situations. We must remove our own misgivings from the conversation and allow women the autonomy to make decisions in relation to her body and any potential children she may have or not have in consultation with her doctor. No one else.
Lina Alvarez was heavily criticised when she announced her pregnancy earlier this year, and she’s being heavily criticised again, just a day after having her daughter. That criticism is misplaced. Alvarez should be allowed the same freedom of choice we would expect for ourselves.
If you’re pro-choice for you, then you must also be pro-choice for Dr Lina Alvarez, for Daljiner Kaur, Annegret Raunigk and the 62-year-old unidentified Tasmanian mother. They deserve nothing less.