The Case for Being Born


From radical feminists to radical environmentalists, the word has come down: Children are not the future, but the future’s enemies.

Why are pro-abortion activists such as Brian Sims so angry? Because they abhor the alternative.

Sims, a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania state legislature, filmed himself berating an old woman and a few children who were praying outside of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia — a city that, as the home town of that ghastly butcher Kermit Gosnell, knows something about the horror of abortion. Sims even went so far as to share photos of the children on social media with requests that his followers help him “dox” them, meaning to track down private information about them for the purpose of harassment.

Children, these were.

And that is what this is really all about.

The Left’s war on children is by no means restricted to the project of maximizing the scope of opportunity to surgically dismember them prior to birth, preferably at public expense. From radical feminists to radical environmentalists to academics and such mainstream figures such as Bill Nye, the word has come down: Children are not the future, but the future’s enemies.

An interesting fact about our political discourse is that Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich is still a part of it, commanding some attention in spite of his having been spectacularly wrong about every single major claim of his long public career. Erhlich has been delivering homilies on overpopulation since before I was born. Population Bomb, published in 1968, garnered a great deal of attention (and brisk sales!) for its claims that overpopulation made it inevitable that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s. He was awfully sure of himself, as progressives so often are — “science says!” and all that — writing: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

What happened, of course, was the opposite. Extreme poverty worldwide has been reduced by more than half in the past few decades; to the extent that famine exists at all in the world today, it exists almost exclusively as a political phenomenon, the product of failed states rather than failed crops.

But the cult of overpopulation takes no notice of the facts. Abortion advocates such as Representative Sims habitually present their case in Malthusian terms: He demanded of the elderly woman he was bullying whether she herself would provide for the material needs of the unwanted children who were being chopped to bits and stuffed into medical-waste containers inside the Planned Parenthood facility. Never mind, for the moment, the fact that there are far more American families looking to adopt children than there are abortions performed or children eligible to be adopted — the imbalance is so great that Americans go all over the world looking for children to adopt — and just consider the implicit argument there on its own merits, which is this: “If we think that there might be some inconvenience involved in seeing to the needs of these children, then it would be better to put them to death.”

But this line of argument does not end with the unwanted children who are killed by abortionists. Figures such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) have suggested that having children may be immoral, and many of her progressive allies have gone much further than that. Utilizing the familiar “Science says!” rhetorical formulation, Travis Rieder of the Berman Institute of Bioethics insisted that people should forgo having children because of the impact those children might have on climate change. “Science proves kids are bad for Earth,” NBC headlined the essay, “Morality suggests we stop having them.” Writing in the New York Times under the headline “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” Clemson philosophy professor Todd May concludes that the disappearance of Homo sapiens “might just be a good thing.” The cultivated folksiness of the expression adds a special horror to the display of moral illiteracy. (And ordinary illiteracy: He writes that “nature itself is hardly a Valhalla of peace and harmony,” apparently unaware of the martial character of Valhalla or that the heroes there spent their time preparing for the great climactic battle of Ragnarök.) Professor May asks:

How much suffering and death of nonhuman life would we be willing to countenance to save Shakespeare, our sciences and so forth? Unless we believe there is such a profound moral gap between the status of human and nonhuman animals, whatever reasonable answer we come up with will be well surpassed by the harm and suffering we inflict upon animals.

Unless . . .

Chelsea Follett, writing at Human Progress, briefly taxonomizes the partisans of “anti-natalism,” the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (“vehement,” they pronounce it; at least the end of the human race would spare us these dopey acronyms), etc. “Some anti-natalists are not content with promoting the voluntary reduction of birth rates,” she writes, “and would prefer to hurry the process along with government intervention. Various prominent environmentalists, from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to science popularizer and entertainer Bill Nye, support the introduction of special taxes or other state-imposed penalties for having ‘too many’ children. In 2015, Bowdoin College’s Sarah Conly published a book advocating a ‘one-child’ policy, like the one China abandoned. . . . Even after that policy’s collapse, she maintains it was ‘a good thing.’”

One of the fundamental differences in our public life is between those who see human beings as liabilities — as mouths to be fed and souls to be policed — and those of us who see human beings as assets. The economist Julian Simon ran the numbers and made the case for human beings as assets. His “Simon Abundance Index” measures the availability of resources relative to population and finds that with more people there are more resources. The Malthusians always forget to count the most dynamic and productive of all human resources: humanity.

One might be forgiven for seeing something providential in Representative Sims’s decision to attack a woman praying the Rosary, which points us toward a radically different understanding of childbirth and motherhood and fatherhood, one in which human beings participate in the creative work of the universe. It seems that none of Herod’s men ever thought to demand of Joseph or the Magi: “Are you going to pay for feeding that child? Huh? Huh?” It was understood. One need not be a Christian, or even religious, to grasp the moral philosophy illustrated there — or to be repulsed by the grotesque and vicious alternative to it personified by Representative Sims et al.

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