Most people, I imagine, would think this a less than ideal arrangement for motherhood. It would not be easy for a woman of that age to meet the demands of motherhood; the child would never know a more youthful mother; the child would have no chance of knowing grandparents; and the child would most likely be orphaned when still young.
It seems so much more reasonable to secure the conditions for women to form families and have children when in their 20s.
Maria del Bousado died this month, so her twin children have been left motherless at the age of two. You might think that her death would be a sobering reminder of the pitfalls of leaving motherhood to such an age. But the liberal Alan Howe remains enthusiastic:
Del Bousada made headlines two years ago when she gave birth to healthy and deeply loved twin sons Pau and Christian.
She was 66 at the time -- the world's oldest mother.
... Tragically, it seems the drugs she bought so expensively to deliver her dream may also have encouraged the breast cancer that claimed her life this month.
... Women should be allowed to have the children they want when they want. The rash of suddenly fulfilled 60-something mums should be joyous news.
Of course, mum's time on earth with them will be limited. Kids often lose parents early.
Really? I wouldn't have said that children "often" lose their mums when they're only two. Nor would I accept so casually the idea that a mum's time on earth with her kids will be limited to two years.
But Alan Howe is a liberal who wants, above all, for people to be liberated from impediments to their will. This is what matters to him. So women electing to become mothers in their 60s is "joyous" for him. The human cost is brushed aside.
Nor is Alan Howe the only liberal to take such a view. Jacob Appel wrote a along very similar lines in the Huffington Post:
Our own concerns about later-life mothering may reflect our heightened expectation that children know their parents, and even grandparents, into adulthood, rather than any universal or socially-essential norm.
Parenting is among the most personal choices anyone ever makes. At the same time, no other individual decision has as significant a societal impact. Finding a careful balance between personal autonomy and the public welfare is often a considerable challenge. Fortunately, in the cases of sexagenarian and septuagenarian mothers, the private benefit is obvious - and the social harm, if any, is rather hazy. In some cases, women like Ms. Bousada will live to be 101. In others, tragedy may strike - much as tragedies also strike twenty-five year-old moms.
In order to make it seem reasonable for 60 something and 70 something women to have children, Jacob Appel:
a) Claims that it's not so important for children to know their parents and grandparents.
b) Claims that there is only an obvious private benefit and no private harm.
c) Claims not to be able to think of any clear social harm.
d) Claims that it is a "tragedy" (something that could not be foreseen) if a woman in her late 60s or 70s dies.
e) Suggests that women in their 20s are just as prone to leaving their children motherless as women four or five decades older.
There is no "careful balance" here in measuring the limits of personal autonomy. Jacob Appel is intent on justifying the idea of no limits. Just like Alan Howe, he is willing both to recast reality to make this possible and to brush aside the potential human cost of much older women having children.
Personally, I think it would be far more "joyous" if we took seriously again the idea of women having children in their 20s. The freedom to have children in your late 60s or 70s is a relatively trivial one. The much greater freedom is to be able to secure a good marriage and to have children in your youth. We don't have to kick against reality or natural constraints to secure this greater freedom. It's more a question of getting the culture right.