How Full is Your Quiver? - 13 November 2006

It’s hardly a typical scene from the suburbs. The Bortel home outside San Antonio, Tex., counts 12 members—parents David and Suzanne and their 10 children, ranging from 13 months to 15 (the 20-year-old married and moved away)—all crammed into a four-bedroom house that trembles constantly with activity. Everything revolves around the home: Dad works there, the kids are schooled there, the youngest three were born there. The family uses a 15-passenger van to get around, and at night, the kids climb into multiple sets of bunk beds. David and Suzanne hear the same questions repeatedly. So for the record: No, they’re not Catholic. Yes, they’ve heard of birth control. And no, they’re not crazy. In fact, they’d happily welcome a twelfth child. “It’s about obedience to God,” says David, 38. “The Bible says that God is the only opener and closer of the womb.”

The Bortels form part of the “quiverfull” movement, a small but growing conservative Protestant group that eschews all forms of birth control and believes that family planning is exclusively God’s domain. The term derives from Psalm 127.