14 July 2008

When Should a Woman's Right to Choose Be Overruled?

Most people in the US and other Western countries with similar laws and mores equate Reproductive Rights and Freedom with access to contraception and abortion. But though the right to choose when NOT to have a baby is an important plank in the platform, and the one that most needs vociferous and vigorous defending, it's equally important to defend a woman's right to choose when TO have a baby. And that covers everything from equitable labor laws allowing women the freedom to have children without being "punished" to forced abortion and state-imposed limits on number of children. But is the time drawing near that we all have to consider limiting the "allowed" number of children per couple the lesser of two evils? While the UN Population Day report certainly doesn't go that far, it does remind us that the current and upcoming crises of scarce/expensive resources such as oil, water and grain are compounded by overpopulation. And I think it makes sense to begin to consider how this would affect the progressive stance on the issue before our backs are against the wall.

Fortunately, the UN report is very level-headed and calls for women in poorer countries to be given greater access to information and contraception so they can choose to have smaller families if they want to. Considering that the birth rate has dropped in Western countries as women were given access to eduction and work opportunities, and given more access to family planning services, the issue may work to correct itself. And, even if more stringent steps become necessary in the future, the foundation of an educated and empowered female population is crucial for those rules to be effective and humane.

I'm actually both cracking myself up and feeling kind of sick, thinking about a "child credit market" a la the emerging carbon credit markets that are part of emissions cap & trade system. God, how scary would it be to be selling your right to bear a child.. and what a crazy new sphere it would open up for economists!