Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Family planning on a global scale

I am truly tickled to death at the unlikely public opinion that the so-called Octo-mom has ended up with. It seems strange that any successful abnormally large litter would be met with anything less than adoration, fascination and, eventually, boredom. But this poor, misguided woman is now the object of tabloid derision and general disdain. Well deserved disdain, I might add. How irresponsible of her! I'm not familiar with the whole story, but apparently there was some fertility intervention. Even if that were not the case, even if the pregnancy was intended to produce only one child, it would be a mistake. And that has little to do with the fact that she is a single mother, although that certainly does not help. I'm not the sort of person to say that a child needs to have two parents in any kind of traditional manner, but I know (not from experience, fortunately) how difficult it can be for single mothers to get by. This woman had six children already! Isn't that enough?

So maybe Ms Suleman has some mental health issues. Maybe it isn't entirely her fault. After all, it takes two to tango, plus a doctor or two. So I'll let her off the hook - gossip isn't really my beat, after all. What I am happy to discuss, however, is the public opinion. As I said earlier, the fact that the general population has turned a cold shoulder to her story is remarkable! It's entirely possible that I am reading far too much into this story and seeing what I want to see. Perhaps the public thinks that having 14 children (or more!) is a wonderful thing so long as there is a father involved, and possibly the Mormon church. But what I hope to see is a shift in the idea of family size. I hope to see a world where no one has more children than they should rather than as many as they please.

Frankly, it's greedy and irresponsible to have more than your fair share of children, even if you can afford to feed and clothe all of them. Two children per family seems, to me, to be perfectly fair and reasonable. And if America would never place an actual restriction on family size, as they do in China, they could at least limit tax deductions to two children per household.

This is part of the reason that I am pro-choice. In addition to preserving the reproductive rights of women, I am glad that there is another device (albeit crude and ugly) in place to keep the population under control. At the same time, I don't like the thought of abortion as a front-line approach to population control. A perfect world, to me, would involve sterilization (voluntary, course - we are talking about a perfect world here) of adults after two offspring (or less, or none) have been produced. Think of what a great world that would be! The world could relax! We wouldn't need to constantly build new homes and schools and roads. Food production could level off and we could focus on exploring the ocean or space or just produce some really great art.

Please don't misunderstand me. I've not put very much thought into this. I don't plan to have children. In fact, I plan not to have children. I don't dislike children and I don't think less of people who do have children. I don't even have much contempt for people with four or more children - what I want to change is society's mindset, not carp on individual families. I'm certainly not a social scientist or an expert on population or economics. I'm sure that there are gaping holes in my "plan." Sorry about that. Just think before you have more children. There's no shame in going childless, either.

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