The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last takes a look at declining fertility rates world-wide. It’s a very long article, but it’s interesting to see how many countries seem to have voluntarily adopted China’s forced “one child” policy over the years. His main focus is America (which has a fertility rate of about 2.06, so pretty darn close!), who he says owes it’s decline in birth rates to a variety of cultural and economic factors: the American drive for education, the broadening of women’s career paths and delayed family formation, a higher cost of living over the years and the rise in government programs (social security, medicare, etc…) that have reduced the pressing “need” for one to have children who will help take care them in old age (nevermind the fact that these programs, to be effective in the long run, require a steady supply of new workers to replace the ones who retire and want to reap their benefits).
And then, of course, there’s this:
If the G.I. Bill could wreak so much havoc on fertility rates, imagine the effects of the last century’s two great changes in sexual life: the contraceptive pill and the legalization of on-demand abortion. Calculating the number of babies not born because of the birth control pill is impossible. But without confusing correlation and causation, it is worth noting that the pill became available in America and much of the West in 1960, the precise moment when fertility rates began heading into deep decline.
On the other hand, it is quite easy to make an accounting of abortion’s effects. Before the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the tide of public opinion in America was against abortion. Accordingly, there were relatively few abortions, even though most states allowed for early-term abortions. In 1970, for example, there were 193,491 reported legal abortions. Certainly, this number undercounts the real total because it does not include illegal abortions. But let’s take 200,000 as a baseline. In 1973, as Roe created a universal abortion right, the number of reported abortions rose to 744,600. The next year, that number rose by 20 percent, to 898,600 abortions. By this time all abortions were legal, and so we can be confident that this number is fairly accurate. Over the course of the next 15 years the number of abortions rose by almost 100 percent.
In 1973—the year of the Roe decision—there were 3.1 million babies born. Over the next 10 years that number rose only slightly, despite the fact that America’s total population was increasing quickly. Why weren’t there more babies born in the decade following Roe? Because during that time, 13.6 million were aborted—meaning that 28.5 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Since Roe more than 49.5 million babies have been aborted in the United States, and the fertility rate has varied inversely to the abortion rate, generally declining when abortion is on the rise and rising when abortion is on the decline.
Last goes on in his article to spell out what he thinks the government could do to try to promote procreation (reducing taxes for every child born per family, reformatting the college system, etc…), but is that really enough to reverse this trend?
It seems to me the problem is a lot deeper than potential parents needing a little extra money in their pockets and a quicker education. Just look at what passes for “entertainment” and largely influences our society these days. It is obvious that one of the main reasons Americans are having less children is because, for the most part, they simply do not value large or even medium-large families, period (just ask any couple expecting their 4th or 5th – sometimes even just their 3rd – child what kind of comments they get from people), nor do they necessarily hold the traditional family model or its values in very high esteem, either. Our morals have drastically changed over the past few decades and there’s little the government can do to really change that. Not that they shouldn’t try to make America more “family friendly”. One of the best ways they could do that (which Last doesn’t mention): get rid of abortion on demand. Would this end abortion altogether? No. But, as you can clearly see by the numbers above, at least less children are killed when abortion is illegal.
What we really need in this country is to get our priorities straight. To put God’s will above our own selfish desires and to rediscover the value of marriage and family and the truth and meaning of human sexuality.