23 July 2008 Vol. 10 / No. 29
People of Faith Beware: The Left Has Decided That
There Is No Right To Have More Than One Child
The right to procreate goes back to the very beginning of time, and is part of our very nature. “Be fruitful and multiply,” it should be recalled, was the first commandment given to our first parents. Even Malthus himself, the original population scaremonger, admitted that natural law guaranteed a broad and inviolable right to procreate.
Yet an explicit right to bear children is not to be found in the Bill of Rights. Our Founding Fathers simply never imagined a tyranny so great that it would refuse couples the right to procreate. This would have been akin to refusing the people the “right” to breathe. Nor did the U.S. Congress later pass laws affirming a right to bear children. So fundamental was this right–and so unquestioned–that it was never codified into law.
It is true that in 1968, when the movement to control population began to gather steam, cooler heads sought to check its excesses by passing a U.N. resolution declaring that “couples have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and timing of their children.” But this was merely a resolution, not a binding treaty of the kind that constitutes international law.
Now along comes a proponent of population control, Carter Dillard, to argue that the right to procreate is limited to one child because there are no explicit laws guaranteeing that right. If it is any solace, he does conclude that people do enjoy one absolute right: the right not to procreate at all.
Dillard is not some obscure blogger writing a vanity column. His article, “Rethinking the Procreative Right, was published by the prestigious Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. His “rethinking” turns out to be an interminable recounting of every anti-people argument ever advanced. This, combined with the absence of specific laws guaranteeing procreative rights, leads him to conclude that that human rights theory, legal precedent and national and international practice do not support “a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and timing of one’s children.”
Instead Dillard argues that the right to bear children must be balanced against other rights. What other rights? Dillard enumerates several, including rights belonging to other people, to future generations, and even to nature, wilderness and non-human species. I admit to having trouble understanding how “nature,” “wilderness”, or even “non-human species” can be said to have “rights.” While we are to be good stewards of the earth and its creatures who live there, this does not create “rights” for the redwoods or the raptors. Rather, it imposes duties on us.
Yet the Spanish parliament is even now deliberating whether to grant human rights to the Great Apes–gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. Such an act would not elevate the status of the Great Apes–they are what they are–but it would certainly degrade the status of man and threaten his rights. And because the Great Apes can obviously not speak for themselves, their new rights would have to be defended by the same people who are flogging the proposal in the first place: the radical environmentalists.
As far as who should speak for “future generations of humanity,” I think that it is obvious that this right should, and naturally does, inhere in those who provide for the future in the most fundamental way, by providing the future generations of humanity. Most of radical population controllers, not to mention the Left in general, hardly try. This is, I think, the fundamental complaint of Dillard and the many secular humanists who share his views. Such types, who contracept and abort most of their children out of existence, are increasingly worried that people of faith will win the battle of the cradle. They see that they are not replacing themselves, and that we are. So they are desperate to try and limit our numbers.
Dillard claims that the birth of a baby negatively impacts the rights of others. How so, one can reasonably ask? Here Dillard goes into a long and unconvincing discussion of how “each act of procreation poses a direct and obvious threat to the guarantee of natural liberty in space …” He is thinking of overcrowding, but there are other ways to protect an individual’s “space” than by limiting childbearing. We can, and do, adjudicate these kinds of issues by laws against trespassing, poaching, harassment, noise, and public nuisances.
Instead of an unlimited right to reproduce, Dillard argues that we should only be allowed to replace ourselves. He would, like China, impose a one-child policy on the U.S. by fiat. Like many population controllers, he not only admires how China has resolutely limited its population growth, he believes that its one-child policy is perfectly consistent with international law. The Chinese government has, in his view, fulfilled “its obligations [as a government] to protect children and society as a whole from unjustified and destructive behavior,” that is to say, childbearing. Never mind that it has killed some 300 million children before and, in some cases after, birth.
Perhaps realizing that his policy will be, well, somewhat unpopular in certain circles, Dillard argues that “through a society-wide process of agreement, internalization and normalization – a series of “gentle nudges” rather than “hard shoves”, similar to that involved in seat belt or anti-smoking legislation – a voluntary population policy should be incorporated into law.” Put in plain English, this means that he would first soften us up with anti-people arguments before passing and enforcing stringent laws against procreating.
This, of course, is exactly the purpose of China’s anti-child propaganda. The Chinese people are incessantly warned that too many children will despoil the environment, harm the economy, and could derail China’s plans to become, in the words of the party slogan, a “rich country with a strong military.” Those in China who ignore the propaganda and conceive illegal children are locked up and forced to listen to it. Those who, after listening to it, still refuse abortion and sterilization, are aborted and sterilized anyway. The nudges may be “gentle” at first, but soon enough turn into shoves.
“Given that law guides our behavior, a policy that treats procreation as private is regressive, environmentally damaging and peculiarly anti-social: it teaches us to disregard others and their interests. Until we have policies that reflect the truly public nature of having children, we will encourage irresponsible procreation, and all the harm it causes,” Dillard concludes.
Dillard is not the first to propose bringing reproduction under the direct purview of the state. These ideas have been current since at least the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. And he is backed by large elements of a population control movement that has never been more powerful in terms funding, personnel and institutions than it is now.
Make no mistake about it. Any law limiting the number of children would target religious conservatives. After all, the Left, firmly convinced of their right not to have children, has already adopted a voluntary one-child policy.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute, and the author of Population Control: Real Costs and Illusory Benefits. (Transaction, 2008)