by Maureen Kramlich
April 11, 2003
Mattel, makers of Barbie, also produces a doll named Midge who is Barbie's friend. Midge is married to Alan and they have a toddler, Ryan. Now Midge is pregnant. Really. The new doll has a detachable pregnant belly—it's magnetic (if childbirth were only that easy!)—and nestled in that detachable belly is a tiny unborn infant.
Pregnant Midge was not exactly welcomed when she arrived on the market. Last Christmas, after an outcry from some parents who complained that the doll promotes teenage pregnancy, Wal-mart pulled her off the shelves. Parents are still complaining. A recent visit to the customer review pages of Amazon.com shows a number of complaints leveled against Pregnant Midge. The grievances are of two kinds: that Pregnant Midge is too realistic, or that she is politically incorrect. One parent writes that Midge is "too weird for kids." Another said that she is "sending a message that sex is cool." One politically correct parent chided, "Keep putting career Barbie on store shelves." (Ironically, career Barbie can now be purchased as an obstetrician holding two newborn babies). Another griped, "I feel that children are not being taught anything with a pregnant Barbie. . . . Barbie is supposed to be a career woman . . . Not making babies. . . . It gives off the wrong message to children."
These parents are wrong. First, Midge is married—there is a ring on her finger—and there is nothing weird about getting married and having a baby. Unitive and procreative sex in a permanent commitment is cool. Second, Midge teaches girls something wonderful about life. Yes, girls can grow up and become wives and mothers, too! We are living in an unprecedented time in which many young women—my peers—are so career-focused that they put off child rearing until they have missed their years of fertility. By the time they focus on having a child, many resort to risky and experimental (and often very morally problematic) fertility procedures. If Midge will encourage little girls to aspire to become wives and mothers, that's a good thing.
But Pregnant Midge also teaches an even more basic lesson. Inside her body is a baby, not a blob, not a nothing. A baby. And the baby, a baby girl, can be taken out of Midge's body, outfitted in an infant t-shirt and wrapped in a blanket. So Midge teaches a basic lesson about the continuity of human life: the baby that once was in a woman's body is the same baby outside of her body.
This is a time when that basic truth is denied, even by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today only a child that is fully born—not an unborn child or even a partly-born child—is recognized as worthy of legal recognition. And the culture has bought this legal fiction for over thirty years.
We need to empower girls with the truth about human life. And the Supreme Court could use a lesson, too. Maybe some of the justices have forgotten that a pregnant woman is simply a woman who is "with child."
Maureen Kramlich is a public policy analyst with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.