Global Ethics Corner: Global Fertility and U.S. Politics

May 21, 2010

Fertility is a massive global issue.

In the poorest of the poor countries the issue is stark. Nicholas Kristof vividly describes "how breakneck population growth is linked to poverty, instability, and conflict." The people and situations are wrenching.

"In almost every village we stop in we chat with families whose huts overflow with small children—whom the parents can't always afford to educate, feed or protect from disease."

In Africa the linked issues must be addressed, while in the U.S. birth control is regularly a polarized debate.

Both pro-life and pro-choice poles have strong ethical positions. Both sides do good work around the world. Nevertheless the polarity of U.S. politics often distills the debate to shouted slogans.

Getting past the dichotomy is difficult at best, but for global issues, both sides need to address these linkages, not stop at assertions of a right to life or to choice.

Kristof takes the pro-choice side beyond, "What's needed is a comprehensive approach to assisting men and women alike with family planning—not just a contraceptive dispensary."

Similarly, the pro-life position argues for education and economic development which strengthen individual commitment.

In addition, a focus for both sides must be; how to find the money and implement the programs, not simply the ethics of their opponents.

What do you think, regardless of your view on pro-life or pro-choice?

How do we meet the massive global issue of fertility without being mired in the abortion debate?

By William Vocke.

For more information see:

BBC Ethics Guide: Contraception, BBC, 2010
Nicholas D. Kristof, "Poverty and the Pill," The New York Times, May 20, 2010, A27.
Nicholas D. Kristof, "Is Consensus Possible on Birth Control?", On the Ground, May 20, 2010

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