I cannot say that I ever was a frequent viewer of the TLC reality series, “18 Kids and Counting” (formerly known as “17 Kids and Counting”) but I have watched a good handful of episodes. I would never have called myself a fan of the show, but like with so many of the programs on TLC, it can be hard not to get sucked in.
What had previously made me watch the show was probably the same reason so many other people watch(ed) it- the fascination almost to the point of disbelief that any couple would have- and would want to have- so many children. Personally, I don’t know anyone with more than 5 children. Eighteen seems literally hard to imagine. I have 1 brother and 2 sisters, so I always had my choice of up to 3 siblings that I could talk to about any given thing, but it’s hard to picture myself growing up with my choice of 17 people to talk to at any given time (not that I could really avoid any of them with so many of them running around).
But, I’m sort of getting away from my point. The reason I have chosen to not watch the show anymore is not from my inability to relate to it. My decision was prompted by an article from People.com, titled “Duggars Expecting Their 19th Child!”
It is not merely the fact that Michelle and Jim Bob are having another baby. (I purposely did not say that they “chose” to have another child because I don’t believe that choice had anything to do with it. Michelle and Jim Bob obviously do not use any form of birth control and therefore have, by choice, ironically, no say or control in if and when Michelle becomes pregnant. Yet, still, my reasoning for this decision is not based on my aversion to this fact.) As much as I personally disagree with the choice some couples make not to use birth control, it is not my decision to make for them. Just as I choose not to follow their example, I would never presume to force them to follow mine or to denounce them for making their own personal choice. For them, this decision is based on religious beliefs, and no matter how unfounded and impractical I personally find their basis for this, it is, again, their decision to make.
I admit being put off by the fact that they do not use birth control, but what, as a woman, I felt insulted by was this fact pointed out in the article:
Michelle  says that since she was 36 years old, her doctor has given her and Jim Bob pamphlets about prenatal testing since there is an increase of risk of health problems in babies with older mothers. But, she says they don’t worry about those risks and don’t take the tests.
"We know what could happen," she says. "We read through the information. If the Lord chooses to give us challenges along the way, we know His grace will be there, so we don’t opt to do the testing."
This is not only inexcusably foolish, but it is, especially considering her age, inexcusably dangerous. I do not doubt the love that the Duggars have for their children or for each other, but, in acknowledging that love, how could they consciously be so careless, not only with the lives of their future children, but also with Michelle’s life? For the sake of and in the name of their strict religious beliefs, they have put lives in danger. I don’t logically understand how, as they say they love their children and feel blessed to have them, they refuse this medical care that would help them ensure that their babies are healthy. It doesn’t make sense. Strong religious beliefs are one thing, but when you refuse a test that is meant to inform you of possible health issues/concerns, you are going too far. It is beyond logical reasoning.
So, I asked myself: How can I support a show which features/promotes a woman who has so little respect for herself that her actions go beyond allowing herself to be a “baby-making machine,” to actually refusing to take steps to protect her own health? How can I, as a health-conscious woman with respect for my own body and a desire and ability to make intelligent and informed decisions; as a woman who does want to have children some day and views the health and safety of those children in high regard; as a woman who demands a voice in deciding what happens to her body; how could I support a show that, at its core, so strongly goes against what I consider to be essential values? Again, this is not strictly about the number of children or their refusal to use birth control. For me, they crossed the line at their blatant disregard for health and safety. Based on religious beliefs or not, I think they’ve gone too far. That’s not a value, or as show, that I feel I can support.
And so…that’s why I chose not to watch their show anymore.