In 2009, Kourtney Kardashian briefly became a pro-life protagonist when she declared in an interview that she could not bring herself to abort the child that she had conceived out of wedlock. That she went to great lengths, in that same interview, to make it clear that she thought it was perfectly fine for other mothers to abort their unborn children did not dampen the enthusiasm of many pro-lifers who would otherwise have pointed out—correctly—that being “personally opposed, but” is a morally incoherent position.
Eight years later, another Kardashian has exposed a similar inconsistency, this time among people who would normally argue that one child, or at most two children, should be enough for any family. Publications such as People magazine and BuzzFeed News rarely shirk their social responsibility to let the world know that the greatest scientists in all of Hollywood have determined that overpopulation is putting the earth at risk. And yet when news leaked out that Kim Kardashian and her husband, Kanye West, have hired a surrogate mother to carry their third child, there was nary a dry eye on those celebrity-watching websites.
Kim and Kanye, it later emerged, would like to have as many as five children, which would mean two additional surrogacies, since Kim has been advised by her doctors that she should not get pregnant again. During her last pregnancy she suffered from placenta accreta, a life-threatening condition in which the placenta implants itself into the wall of the uterus.
The couple has given no public indication that they have considered adoption as a means of expanding their family. Setting aside the moral questions surrounding IVF and surrogacy, these procedures are certainly more expensive than adoption, but for the Wests, money is likely no object.
Celebrities have long enjoyed a double standard when it comes to all things sexual. People who struggle to keep their own marriages together are quick to excuse politicians of any party who are on their second, third, or even fourth marriage. Women who ask mothers with multiple children in grocery stores, “Are these all yours?” grab a copy of People at the checkout so they can keep up with the Kardashians. And some pro-lifers are so desperate for signs of hope in our culture of death that they regard any celebrity who brings her child to term as worthy of special praise they wouldn’t normally heap on the mother next door.
We live in a world in which we feel compelled to refer to the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality as if it is somehow peculiar to the Church, and not simply as self-evident as the fact that the sun comes up in the east and goes down in the west. Civilization has always depended on what we now call the “natural family”—a man and a woman united for life, for mutual companionship and the rearing of children. That marriage is a sacrament is a unique revelation; that marriage and the family are what the two sexes are intended for is not.
Nor, for that matter, is the idea that the sexual act should be open to life. Contraception in various forms has been around for millennia, but it is only in the last fifty years that any significant number of people in any culture has come to believe that its use should be the norm rather than a shameful exception. The same is true of abortion.
We make a grave mistake, both tactically and morally, when we treat it as surprising or exemplary when men and women get married, conceive children, bring those children to term, stay married, and rear those children together. This is what we should expect of everyone, celebrity or otherwise. The lesson to take from Kourtney Kardashian’s inability to bring herself to abort her own child in her womb is not that we are right because a celebrity agrees with us, but that Kourtney Kardashian, despite all of the soul-numbing aspects of the cult of celebrity, still has the same laws written on her heart by nature and nature’s God that we do. Likewise, despite the rather horrifying spectacle that Kim and Kanye often present to the world, we can see in their longing to have more than the socially acceptable 1.7 children a normal human desire.
Having seen and acknowledged that, we are then in a much more solid place to explain why the manner in which Kim and Kanye intend to expand their family does not, and cannot, actually satisfy that desire. As People reported, Kim “spoke to a mother who used a surrogate in addition to giving birth herself to talk about her fear of not loving the child the same.” That very fear comes from the same innate sense of what marriage and motherhood mean that has led her to desire to have more children with her husband. Down deep inside, without ever having examined Catholic teaching on the inherent immorality of IVF and surrogacy, Kim Kardashian West knows what nature intended—not because she is a celebrity, but because she is a woman.