By: DOROTHY GIOBBE
APREGNANT ENGLISH woman who is expecting eight babies is the starring “freak” of a circus-like display in which London’s News of the World acts as blowzy ring announcer and other newspapers serve as peevish spectators.
The spectacle ? in which the woman may be paid as much as $530,000 for the “exclusive rights” to her story ? has prompted an ethical outcry, even in London’s ribald newspaper environment.
‘Preggers’ times eight
Mandy Allwood is in the second trimester of her pregnancy. Early this summer, she discovered she is expecting octuplets. The unusually large number of fetuses is attributed to a combination of fertility drugs for which Allwood had a perscription.
Doctors urged Allwood to abort most of the fetuses, cautioning her that carrying all eight to full term ? let alone delivering them ? seriously endangers her life.
Despite the health risks, and the fact that no one has ever given birth to surviving octuplets, Allwood is determined to move ahead with the pregnancy, saying that she wants to let “nature take its course.”
That’s sound judgment to the News of the World. Britain’s largest-selling tabloid has a contract with Allwood that will pay her depending on how many children are born, though the newspaper denies it is a per-baby deal. Various media reports place the value of the contract at $530,000.
“We’ve agreed [on] a sum of money should she give birth to eight children,” Phil Hall, editor of the tabloid, told a BBC interviewer. “And we’ve agreed to discuss the situation with her should it change.
“If she had a miscarrige or changed her mind about going through with the pregnancy, we would pay her a small amount, but certainly we’re not going to pay her a large sum of money and she’s aware of that,” Hall added. “The News of the World isn’t a charity.”
Allwood’s gynecologist, Professor Kypros Nicolaides, has urged that the newspaper contract be canceled. Indicating that he might stop treating Allwood, he told BBC radio, “it would be very difficult for her to take right decisions under the spotlight of the media.”
In addition to the newspaper contract, Allwood and boyfriend, Paul Hudson, father of the octuplets, hired publicist Max Clifford, best-known for orchestrating O.J. Simpson’s recent visit to Oxford.
Clifford is trying to line up product endorsements for Allwood that could earn her as much as $2 million. Reuters quoted him as saying, “I guess it was a sign of the times that the first person she contacted was her gynecologist and the second was the PR.”
In a separate interview, Clifford also acknowledged that Allwood will receive a reduced sum from her News of the World deal if she delivers less than eight children. He attributed the smaller payment to “market forces.”
Cash For Kids Criticism
“WORLD EXCLUSIVE: I’M GOING TO HAVE ALL MY EIGHT BABIES (full amazing story pages 2,3,4,5)” read the headline in the Aug. 11 issue of the News of the World. The article was accompanied by photos of “wondermum” Allwood, Hudson ? dubbed “hunky Paul” ? and Allwood’s son from a previous relationship.
As the drama unfolded and news of Allwood’s contract with the newspaper spread, competitors began to lob salvos at the News of the World, many suggesting that there may be a certain moral deficit at the newspaper.
“For most people, life is priceless, not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder,” editorialized the Daily Mail.
The Sun, the News of the World’s sister paper, stated, “this disturbing case . . . reduces the preciousness of life to a supermarket commodity.”
The Guardian criticized the News of the World contract as a “birth bonus” that touched a new low in checkbook journalism.
The Daily Mail ran a front-page interview with Hudson’s mother, Sybil Wheeler, who said: “I love Paul but this is all wrong.
“I think the real reason he is so happy about the pregnancy is because he believes it will make him rich.”
Politicians are also weighing in. Parliament member Nicholas Winterton said the News of the World reduced Allwood to a “freak show.”
The News of the World defends its contract, in part, on the grounds that the money will help Allwood and Hudson with the fantastic costs of raising the children.
“It’s quite simple. There is no cash-per-baby contract,” said Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, in an interview with E&P.
“Mandy Allwood has received a substantial sum and substantial practical support, as well. She found herself in a unique situation, and she realized that they would need substantial financial support. She approached the biggest-selling [tabloid] and we have given her that support.
“She is completly free at any stage to withdraw from the arrangements,” Kuttner said.
“It makes no sense whatsoever for the News of the World to pressure or encourage this lady to go down a path that she is unwilling to go down. The decision has been hers, and hers alone,” he added.
“It is this lady’s own determination to press
on. . . . We’re not in the business of encouraging her.”
Kuttner also acknowledged that sniping from competitors may be rooted in envy.
“Of course there’s been some sour notes from some newspapers and perhaps there is an element of jealousy,” he said.
“It’s fascinating how some newspapers, in criticism of the News of the World and Miss Allwood, have stolen ? and stolen is the correct word ? exclusive photos and reprinted them and have had to pay substantial sums to do so,” Kuttner said.
?(After signing her contract with
the News of the World, Mandy Allwood, shown here with her boyfriend,
Paul Hudson, father of the octuplets, hired publicist Max Clifford,
best-known for orchestrating O.J. Simpson’s recent visit to Oxford.) [Photo & Caption]
?( Following disclosure of the contract that will pay pregnant Mandy Allwood for her exclusive story,
tied in to the birth of her octuplets, a circus-like
atmosphere has been created in London, where the News of the World has acted like a blowzy ring announcer and the city’s other newspapers have served as peevish spectators.) [Caption and Photo]