Between them, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have as many children — 12 — as there were tribes of Israel. Ron Paul has five of his own, and in an early debate, perhaps unwilling to be outdone by Michele Bachmann’s fostering of dozens, Paul boasted that when he worked as a physician he delivered “4,000 babies.”
There’s nothing wrong with big families, of course. But the smug fecundity of the Republican field this primary season has me worried. Their family photos, with members of their respective broods spilling out to the margins, seem to convey a subliminal message that goes far beyond a father’s pride in being able to field his own basketball team. What the Republican front-runners seem to be saying is this: We are like the biblical patriarchs. As conservative religious believers, we take seriously the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply.
Especially worrisome is the inevitable corollary to that belief: Women should put their natural fertility first — before their brains, before their ability to earn a living, before their independence — because that’s what God wants.