Serving Existential Interests By Elevating Reproductive Rights


I’m thrilled by this — it’s definitely a stronger and more unequivocal statement than I would have expected. I’ve long argued that shifts American politics have an even greater impact on reproductive rights abroad than at home, and this seems like evidence of that. It’s astonishing, after the last eight years, to see someone point to the United States as a global leader on these issues. A few years ago, who could have imagined that anyone would describe the position of the United States as "a clear demonstration of the separation of church and state?"

What also strikes me, though, is the emphasis on population growth, a taboo subject for many years on both the religious right and the feminist left. Nor is this a lone example. Yesterday The Guardian quoted Nina Fedoroff, Hillary Clinton’s science advisor, saying, "We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can’t support many more people." I suspect that after several years in retreat, the debate about overpopulation is about to come roaring back. I’m curious as to whether others agree, and whether they think that’s a good thing. I do, to some extent — even though I wish that governments were committed to sexual and reproductive health for their own sake, in reality most are far more motivated by economic and national security concerns. If powerful people can be convinced that their existential interests are served by improving women’s lives, it could seriously expand the reproductive rights coalition.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • rebeccaford

    I always grow wary when a discussion that is truly about resource consumption and general environmental health emphasizes the importance of “population control,” because this almost always unfairly targets the developing world. At this point, the general “stress” on the planet of another American being born vs. a rural Indian is much greater. Further this type of rhetoric often gets molded into policies that often run counter to women’s personal choices. I just joined RHReality Check’s Diary Community and wrote an initial entry about an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife’s experience in implementing policies at the ground level. Check it out “Rainu Gupta- Auxiliary Nurse Midwife.” I hope to write several entries on this topic, so stay tuned.

    While I was living in India, I became fascinated with how both rural nurses who appropriated population policies as well as their clients understood the issue of population. To them, almost exclusively, the “population problem” was a problem that was strictly economic, in the sense that families were having more children than they could support. When I would ask whether there was a population problem in cities/wealthier communities they would typically say no, that there, people understood that they should have fewer children, or knew the number of children that they could afford. “There,” the nurses would explain, “People are able to feed and clothe their children and send them to school and then they can buy their own homes.” For the groups of Indians with whom I spoke then, the population problem goes away when people are able to consume more resources and provide for their families.
    An interesting twist…..