Have Child, Will Abandon Pets

            People love their pets, especially when their dog or cat is put into the role of a child. “Bella (the cat) is my baby,” a pet owner coos to friends and family.  That said, in way too many cases pet guardians’ love loses its luster when they have children of their own.  On babble.com, a blogger mom says it all:

            “This used to be a love story. . . two cats and a puppy found their way into my home and my heart. . . I had rescued them from an uncertain future in the shelter. . .I had groomed them. . . kept them alive for most of my adult life. . .We had been warned that pets would get the shaft once the baby became the focal point of our existence. . .What I was not prepared for was the depth of my hatred for beings I once claimed to love, and how quickly the switch happened.”

            According to 2010 ASPCA statistics, about 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the United States each year. As many pets are turned in by their owners (some animal rights groups prefer the term “guardians”) as are picked up by animal control. 

Photo - CToutandabout.com

Photo – CToutandabout.com

            We feel for pets that have been “replaced” by children and, in essence, disposed of.  The best of guardians see to it that their dogs and cats are sent off to relatives or friends. Those are the lucky ones. But millions are sent to shelters. A big question, of course, is do companion animals suffer about the loss of what was once their “forever” home?

            Although science is inconclusive in this area, some researchers point to the strong bond between humans and dogs, which goes back some 15,000 years when the two species wandered the Earth together. If you have ever pet sat for a few weeks while the human family is away, you can probably draw your own conclusions. Although, we have to admit, we so spoil the dogs we pet sit for that they don’t seem all that thrilled when their “parents” come to collect them. But that’s not the same as being dumped into a shelter.

Indeed, both dogs and cats may mourn as deeply as humans do. Something for parents to think about is that for an animal, banishment from their human family may cause emotional pain similar to what a child feels when separated from mom and dad. 

            We think those who adopt and fall in love with animals before they have children should think long and hard about their motives. Is the animal a substitute for a yet unborn child? Are those who decide to become parents willing to make a lifelong commitment to their animal and realize that this creature is indeed a member of the family? Do the expectant mom and dad have the “heart” to prepare their pet for a new human addition to the family? (There are plenty of tips on the Web about this and veterinarians are good sources of info as well.)

            We also believe it’s imperative that prospective parents think twice about having a dog or cat in their midst. The most compassionate decision may be not offering a home to an animal that will one day be evicted because a child demands too much time and energy. 

 

 

           

           

             

           

           

             

           

 

The Latest Trend in Risks to Newborns – Part I

The average age of first-time mothers has increased by four years over the past half century, according to science editor Judith Shulevitz in the December 20, 2012 issue of The New Republic. Many professional urban couples are postponing making babies until their 30s and early 40s. The downside is, as Shulevitz herself has experienced, recent rises in developmental disorders.

            Some examples: The average new mother from Massachusetts is 28; in Mississippi it is 22.9. The Asian American first-time mother is 29.1; African American 23.1. A college-educated woman has a better than one-in-three chance of having her first child at 30 or older.

           Shulevitz decries late-in-life reproduction, due to the amplified risks to the child and because delayed childbearing will result in a shortage of younger people to support, and replace, their progenitors. While we agree with the former, we dissent from the latter because of its societal self-serving motives. 

Judith Shulevitz

Photo: jtsa.edu

           Judith and her husband weren’t ready for parenthood until she was in her mid-30s and her husband was “forty-something.”  The doctor started her on a regimen of ovulation-stimulating hormones. The most popular fertility drug is clomiphene citrate, marketed as Clomid, or Serophene.

            If the Clomid didn’t work, she might move on to: IVF (in vitro fertilization), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer), or even ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer). The Clomid and IVF worked.

            “My baby boy seemed perfect. When he was three, though, the pediatrician told me that he had a fine-motor delay.”  He needed occupational therapy for his mild case of “sensory-integration disorder.”

            She soon found what she describes as, “a subculture of a subculture: that of mothers who spend hours a week getting services for developmentally challenged children. It seemed to me that an unusually large proportion of these women were older.”

            Subsequently, the couple had a “natural” daughter. But Judith found herself meeting women of approximately her age with kids who had Asperger’s, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit disorder, and sensory-integration disorder.

            As we have previously discussed on this blog, and in our book, Enough of Us, according to the Centers for Disease Control, learning problems, attention-deficit disorders, autism and related disorders, and developmental delays are on the rise.  Between 1997 and 2008 there has been about a 17 percent increase in these disabilities. According to Shulevitz, one in six American children had a developmental disability between 2006 and 2008. That’s about 1.8 million more children than a decade earlier.

            Scientific evidence indicates that aging bodies of potential parents should elicit more cautious behavior than they apparently do. Would-be parents consistently underestimate how sharp the fertility drop-off can be for women after age 35. Inversely, the chances that children will carry a chromosomal abnormality, such as a trisomy—which includes Patau and Edwards syndromes—increase.  Patau syndrome gives children cleft palates, mental retardation, and an 80 percent likelihood of dying in their first year. Edwards syndrome, features oddly shaped heads, clenched hands, and slow growth. Half of all Edwards syndrome babies die in the first week of life. In previous posts we have given the examples of the unfortunate offspring of politicians Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin.

            The risk that a pregnancy will yield a trisomy rises from 2–3 percent when a woman is in her twenties to 30 percent when a woman is in her forties. When born to an older mother: spontaneous abortion, premature birth, being a twin or triplet, cerebral palsy, and low birth weight—leading to chronic health problems later in children’s lives—increase.

            Researchers suspect a link between the 78 percent rise in autism over the last decade and the rise of parental age. One theory “is that the same wised-up, more mature parents have had longer to absorb airborne pollution, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, and herbicides.”

We will continue this discussion next week in Part II of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Population and the Mormon Church

                In keeping with our continuing series about religion’s influence on procreation, we look at the family, birth control, and abortion beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called Mormonism. 

            There are about 12.2 million Mormons worldwide, which makes it a small religion but one that carries a big-population punch.

            In 1995, the church’s First President and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a “Proclamation to the World” that marriage (between a man and a woman), as well as family, is central to God’s plan. The Mormon Church has issued only five proclamationssince the church was established in 1830. This one spoke to the import of God’s commandment given to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish the earth.”

Mormonism's governing body

Mormon Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, including the First Presidency

            For Mormons, the importance of family has its origins in the Church’s belief in premortal life, i.e., the unborn are God’s spirit children.  Each husband and wife brings these spirits to earth, where they become offspring.  They manifest in human form and “gain earthly experience” in order to fulfill their divine destiny. Mothers are the ones who rear and nurture their children; fathers provide for, protect, and generally preside over the family, from which the relationships of the members extend “beyond the grave,” and fulfill the “divine plan of happiness.”

            Although Latter-day Saints (LDS) celebrate and encourage large families, “Church policy supports all methods of contraception except surgical sterilization,” says Joanna Brooks’ post on the Religion Dispatches.org Web site. “Birth control is widely used and accepted among LDS Church members.” Ms. Brooks points to a prominent LDS blogger and editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Kristine Haglund, who asked the question why insurance plans at LDS institutions do not provide coverage for birth control. The answer, it seems, relates to the present controversy over President Obama’s birth control regulation and “religious freedom.” Even so, Brooks notes that premarital health classes, birth control options and contraception itself is dispensed at Mormon owned Brigham Young University.

            The Church’s position on abortion is clear: it’s only acceptable when pregnancy is a result of a rape that causes severe emotional trauma in the mother (when would it not?) and/or when the life and health of the mother is in jeopardy.  The decision to undergo an abortion must always involve a competent doctor and confirmation through prayer of the local priesthood authority.

            Because Latter-day Saints believe that having a family is central to their purpose in life, there is little chance that most Mormons would choose to be childfree.  Yet, there are Mormon women who are childfree by choice. For them, receiving understanding within the LDS community is tough, and in some cases, nonexistent.  “I am made to feel worthless in the eyes of the church,” blogged one woman, who is married but clearly does not want children.

            Mormons may well be turning a blind eye to the plight of our planet by making children a spiritual priority. According to George B. Handley, Associate Professor of Humanities at Brigham Young University, the Mormon Church does not have an official position related to contemporary environmentalism.  He goes on to write that although the LDS scriptures “clearly announce the centrality of human beings as God’s offspring and declare that all of creation was provided for human enjoyment and use,” this does not mean that abuse of nature is justified.

            As long as Mormonism encourages large families nature will suffer. The only light at the end of the tunnel where the LDS Church is concerned is adoption. If a couple cannot conceive, they can (and many times do) adopt, which is a saving grace for our overpopulated world.  It seems, generally speaking, that Mormons do not accept that making more children creates problems that far outweigh their beliefs about the sacredness of populating earth.

           

Men Can Parent Older than Women. Ain’t that Grand? Maybe Not!

Photo: CommunitiesForAutism.org

There is no news in the knowledge that men remain fertile almost indefinitely. And in this blog, as well as our book, Enough of Us: Why we should think twice before making children, we discuss the jeopardies for babies of older mothers.

Now, research is indicating that being an older dad has its substantial risks as well. It turns out that because men generate new gametes (cells that unite with other cells to produce the fertilized egg—oh, what the hell—sperm) for each fertilization, the chances of the sperm having gene mutations increase as the years pass.

You may know that in the United States one of every 88 newborns is inflicted with one of the disabilities on the autism spectrum. That number has been rising dramatically over the past few decades. While it’s true that some of that increase is due to improved diagnostic capabilities —Cheryl’s own brother being an example of that—there are other contingencies that need to be considered.

Researchers in Iceland analyzed the genetic makeup of 78 families in which offspring had been diagnosed with schizophrenia or autism. It was random mutations in the DNA of the fathers’ sperm that were the primary source.

Women develop their eggs very early in life, so there is not a significant ongoing opportunity for mutations. But since men are constantly producing new sperm, the opportunities for mutation present at each occurrence of genetic copying that is part of the sperm production process.

The study found that a 20-year-old father typically produces 25 mutations in his child’s genetic makeup. By the age of 40, that average rises to 65. The Icelandic geneticist who conducted the study tells the Los Angeles Times that the trend toward later fatherhood is “very likely to have made meaningful contributions to increased diagnoses of autism in our society.” The University of Iceland researcher, Kari Stefansson, attributes between 15 and 30 percent of all incidents of autism to genetic mutations from older dads.

Even so, the risk of a man in his 40s producing a child with genetic disorders remains a relatively low one in 50. That liability grows with the father’s increasing age.

The questions remain, is gambling on the wellbeing of a newborn—or the adult it is to become—ethically responsible? At what odds is the gamble worthwhile? And isn’t it an increasingly problematic ethical question if the father takes that gamble to ever-higher levels by inducing pregnancy as he ages?

Women Still Can’t Have It All? Duh! –Part 1

What’s wrong with this picture? Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and was formerly its Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She is an academic, a foreign policy analyst, and a public commentator. Slaughter served as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from January 2009 until February 2011. She is an international lawyer and political scientist who has taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, and is a former president of the American Society of International Law. Anne-Marie has two sons. And while she worked at the State Department in Washington on weekdays, her husband, also a professor, took responsibility for the kids on weekdays. She just wrote an article that appears in the July/August issue of The Atlantic entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Evidently, Professor Slaughter doesn’t believe she has it all.

We think that there is a fine line between having it all and having everything. There’s an old joke that goes like this:

A man takes his first-class seat next to a woman on a plane. They engage in conversation. He glances down at her hand for a moment and comments, “That’s some ring!”

“Do you like it?” she responds.

“I’ve never seen a gem that large.”

“That’s the Klopman diamond.”

“Very impressive.”

“But it comes with a curse.”

“Really? What’s the curse?” He asks.

“Klopman.”

While Professor Slaughter worked in Washington for two years, her 14-year-old son, an eighth-grader, skipped homework, was disruptive in class, failed math, and was “tuning out any adult who tried to reach him,” periodically necessitating her dropping everything to hop a train back home to Princeton.

Anne-Marie Slaughter. Photo: Princeton University

Slaughter appeared on last Tuesday’s PBS News Hour with two other guests, discussing the issues raised in her piece. And while she admits the article is aimed at a particular demographic – namely, “highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place,” she acknowledges that millions of other working women face much more difficult life circumstances. These include single mothers, those trying to find work, and those whose spouses are unable to find jobs.

Ms. Slaughter makes the case that she wants women to have the opportunities for having it all the way men do. What she fails to understand is that men, too, rarely get to have it all. Let’s put the Brad Pittses and Angelina Jolies aside for the moment. They have it all, at least apparently, for the time being. What “normal” man gets to follow the career path he wants and have a wife who brings in an adequate income and gets to spend all the time he would like with his kids, hmmm?

Having kids is a choice. The world, as we point out in our book Enough of Us, does not need more of them. They threaten the ecology of our fragile globe as well as their very own sustainability. And for the most part, parents are not even sure why they wanted the kids they have. So if the people in Slaughter’s demographic decide to reproduce, work out the game plan before you go out on the field. Make sure you have a husband with an open mind. And whatever you do, don’t ever get divorced. Because if you do split, it’s going to throw both a monkey wrench and chewing gum into the works.

In the second installment of this post we will explore some of the criticisms of Professor Slaughter’s article.

ISLAM’S VIEWS ON BEING CHILDFREE

            In recent articles we have looked at some of the pressures from religions to reproduce. Procreation is embedded in the Islamic religion. Although, as a researcher at Harvard University states in her article, “Female Leadership in Islam,” www.irfi.org/articles/articles_401_450/female_leadership_in_islam.htm,  “there is no term in the Quran which indicates that childbearing is ‘primary’ to a woman,” having children is nevertheless central to a Muslim couple’s life. 

            An English translation of the Quran (Koran)www.us.singlemuslim.com./marriage_articles/birth_control.php is a site that “provides the best possible help for our brothers and sisters to find their ideal Muslim marriage partner and complete their faith within a happy and successful Islamic marriage.” Muslims can discuss matrimony there as well as read articles designed to help them succeed in marriage. “As procreation is the main objective of marriage, and Islam encourages having many children,” birth control is a subject with various rules attached and is “permitted for valid reasons only:”

  • If pregnancy or delivery would threaten the mother’s life
  • To allow appropriate gaps between having children
  • If the married couple is not mature enough to start a family
  • If members of the couple are students and having children would create difficulties

            The use of birth control is prohibited or limited if:

  • It leads to permanent sterility that is not medically necessary
  • The couple uses it due to fear of being unable to afford to bear a child (suggests a lack of faith in Allah)
  • Although not prohibited, Islam does not approve of spouses who put off bearing children in order to take the time to enjoy each other. 

            In our research, we found nothing that expressly allows for a childfree lifestyle within the Islamic community. But what if a couple simply can’t bear children?  Dr. Musa Mohd Nordin, Consultant Pediatrician and Neonatologist in Damansara Specialist Hospital, Malaysia, wrote an essay titled “An Islamic Perspective of Assisted Reproductive Technologies.” Dr. Nordin points to Old Testament prophet Abraham, and his barren wife Sarah who prayed to God for rectification of her infertility, which did result in a child. However, if a couple’s prayers do not bring success in this endeavor, Allah has probably decreed it:  “To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what he wills. He bestows (children) male or female according to His will. Or He bestows both males and females, and He leaves barren whom He wills, for he is full of knowledge and power.”

            Along with the complete acceptance of Allah’s will, assisted reproductive technology is acceptable in Islam, only if “it is practiced within the husband and wife dyad during the span of the marital contract.” This means that artificial insemination is permissible, as long as the sperm belongs to the husband. 

            Adoption of a son or daughter, which would be an avenue to raising offspring without making more children, is prohibited in Islam. The reasons range from issues regarding natural paternity to claims on inheritance. Muslims may foster children, but the children must be called by “(the names of) their fathers; that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they [the children] are your brothers-in-faith and your wards,”  (33:4-5) of the Qur’an.

            According to the web site www.us.singlemuslim.com/marriage_articles/introduction.php, “one of the main purposes of marriage is to raise pious children, who are faithful to Islam, in order to continue the Muslim Ummah,” (community or nation). About one in four people is Muslim – the second largest religion behind Christianity.  In spite of these numbers, which point to an already sizeable nation of Islam, a childfree lifestyle may not, if ever, be accepted by Islam for generations to come.

             In our book Enough of Us we consider the ramifications of religious pressures to multiply. We question whether ancient mandates to preserve the faith are still relevant as we face an ever-more overpopulated planet whose human inhabitants threaten to devastate God’s, or nature’s, or the universe’s natural legacy bestowed this tiny, unique orb as it hurtles alone through space.

             We’ll discuss additonal religious principles in upcoming posts.

 

World Population Grows Daily by the Population of Akron, OH . . . Oh!

      We’re always reading about how many billions of tons of carbon dioxide are spit into the atmosphere each year. The concept is difficult to wrap our heads around because, let’s face it, carbon dioxide is a gas (as in soda bubbles), so how do scientists weigh it? In any case, the seven-billion-plus humans on the planet are causing nine-billion-plus tons of CO2 to contribute to global warming annually. CO2  output has more than quadrupled in the last 50 years.

     According to Jake Abrahamson, writing in the May/June issue of Sierra magazine, CO2 levels are likely to double again over the next half century. At that point the Greenland ice sheet will start caving in. What, you may ask, is the Greenland ice sheet? It is a sheet of thick ice that covers most of Greenland. If it melts, the world’s oceans would likely rise about 22 feet. If that happens, people will be buying beachfront property in Tennessee.

     What, pray tell, could we do to stop this headlong drive to crash ourselves into an environmental brick wall? How about, say, family planning? Right now the world grows by more than the population of Akron, Ohio each day. Akron has about 218,000 people. Put another way, we need to accommodate the equivalent of another mid-size city – population-wise – each day! Housing, schools, transportation, roads, food, waste disposal, consumer supplies, the whole shebang . . . every day!

     Abrahamson contends that a concerted, worldwide family planning campaign can do as much to reduce emissions as conserving electricity, trapping carbon, or using alternative fuels. What if we were to initiate five strategies to slow population growth?

The Pill
Photo: Marie Stopes International

The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates there are 215 million women who would like access to contraceptives but cannot get them for various reasons. Contraceptives for these women would reduce unintended pregnancies from the current 76 million to 22 million, annually.

  • Women who benefit from literacy tend to have smaller families (with the bonus of lower child mortality rates). They are also less likely to bear children before they can afford to.
  • Comprehensive sex education would limit teen pregnancy rates. We have discussed the impact of consumer consumption frequently in this venue. Nearly half of the world’s population is under age 25. The reproductive decisions and behaviors of the current generation of young adults will reverberate for decades. According to Abrahamson, by having a child, an American woman increases her CO2 footprint sixfold.
  • Where women lack essential human rights, they lack control over their own fecundity. Gender equality, including suffrage, education and control over women’s own bodies, has to be taught to cultures that value male dominance. This is no easy task, but it has happened all over the globe.
  • “Where welfare is tied directly to the land, aid groups are promoting a development approach called population, health and environment (PHE), which integrates improved access to health services, with models for sustainable resource use.” This dynamic development is most important for societies in tropical wilderness area.

     The Sierra article compares these population efforts with eight other CO2-reducing goals:

  • Replacing oil and gas with renewable energy sources;
  • Cut consumer power use by 25 percent;
  • Run cars on clean hydrogen;
  • Double vehicle fuel economy;
  • Replace coal with solar energy;
  • Replace coal with wind;
  • Practice conservation tillage;
  • Stop deforestation.

     In our book, Enough of Us: Why we should think twice before making children, we direct our case at the United States. But as far as worldwide reform goes, we see little chance of wholesale reform without America taking the lead. We must lead both by example and by reaching out to people all over the globe, with both education and money. Even while our own economy is struggling mightily, we must make the effort or future generations will suffer the consequences of our lack of foresight.

     We Americans have the knowledge and the means. Now we must muster the will. At seven billion, there are lots more than enough of us.

Do College Protesters Have Legitimate Complaints?

Across America college students are complaining about rising tuition at public institutions of higher learning. This leads us to a pivotal question: How much are those who aspire to advanced education entitled to?

Student protest
Student protest at U.C. Berkeley –                  Photo: Elizabeth Popham for Politics Daily

We invite our readers’ comments. We would love to see open dialog about this timely and important issue in our blog. There is, of course, no right or wrong answer to that question. Each person’s opinion depends, of course, on individual sets of values and beliefs. In our book, Enough of Us, we raise our own concerns about the inequities of a system that charges higher income taxes on those who choose to have fewer kids, or none at all.
Every child in America is entitled to a free 13 year scholarship. And while they are receiving their K-12 education, their parents are getting tax deductions. Why should that be? No one forced them to have kids. It was a choice.
After high school, lots of young women and men get low-cost educations at junior and senior colleges. But exactly what should these students be entitled to? Why isn’t it their parents who should be footing the bill? After all, we’re talking about their kids.
Of course, many kids are the progeny of poor homes, incompetent parents, and parents who abandoned them, are in prison, or died. We certainly make no case for leaving the unfortunate out in the cold. But what about the rest? How many middle class families live with an expectation of entitlement?
Here are some questions that might focus the discussion a little:
• Did the parents stash away enough money in anticipation of the cost of college?
• Did the parents spend a lot on a mortgage for an expensive home, which cut into the amount they were saving? Were they upgrading their kitchen when they might have been increasing their nest egg?
• How many expensive vacations did they take?
• How many computers, family cellular service bundles, and other tech devices did they spend money on?
• How many TVs were there, and were they attached to cable services. Did the cable packages include premium services like HBO, Showtime and the like? (In today’s dollars, HBO alone costs more than $3,000 over an 18-year span.)
• Did the kids get cars – and insurance – from their parents?
• Did they shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s when they could have been buying at Target and Costco?
• Were the kids raised with a boat, RV, or other recreational vehicle in the family?
Here is our point. When a family indulges itself in other than the necessities of life, only to find there is not enough left to finance their kids’ educations, why is it the government’s (read “taxpayers’”) responsibility to make up the difference?
The average 4-year college graduate owes $26,000 in student loans. That’s $6,500 per year. So? We understand that in times like these, when the government let us down and looked the other way while corporate America gave us – and is still giving us – a royal screwing, it is not a good time for students to pay debts.
Repayment on those debts should be delayed without interest while the federal government pays the interest (or requires the private lenders to hold the debt without interest). After all, it was the government’s lack of oversight that got the world into this mess.
But when times are better, the families that borrowed the money should pay it back. As for those who could not afford college and who did not squander their incomes for eighteen years per child, they deserve help. It’s not the kids’ faults that parents who could not afford them had them.
These are our points. We’re sure you have opinions of your own. We’d love to hear them and we’d love to open a dialog between the folks who read our blog.
One last point. To us, Thanksgiving is the gold standard of American holidays. It’s about gratitude, period. Except for groceries, it’s not about buying stuff. Holiday materialism doesn’t start until a second after Thanksgiving. We both give thanks every year for the bounty in our lives. Unfortunately there are now millions of homeless kids in America. It’s not fair. Our hearts go out to them and we wish them all good fortune. Whatever the status of those striving for higher education, and those participating in Occupy _______ (fill in the blank), we all have much to be thankful for, not the least of which are the freedoms to assemble and to speak out for what we believe in.

Down with big, Intrusive Government (Except for Going into Women’s Wombs) – Revised

What on Earth is going on in Mississippi? On yesterday’s ballot, America’s most regressive state – more about this in a moment – voted to determine whether a fertilized human egg – a single cell – is a “person.” If it were voted into “factitude,” it would make all kinds of behavior subject to criminal indictment. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed as 58 percent of voters rejected the amendment to the state’s constitution.

Yes on Amendment 26 graphic

       Take a “morning after” pill – you’re a murderer. Abortion . . . likewise. The idea behind this so-called Personhood Amendment was to establish the strongest so-called pro-life (read: anti-choice) laws in the country.
One in three children in the Magnolia State lives in poverty, the highest rate in the nation. It also leads the nation in percentage of population living in poverty. It’s tied for fifth in high school dropout rate. It has the second highest incarceration rate.
We won’t take a stand here as to whether abortion is right or wrong. That’s an individual decision. If you are against abortion, don’t practice it. Voice your opinion. Dissuade others. The question becomes this: If you believe that a person becomes a person when a sperm enters an ovum, does that make it so? Does a state have the right to enforce essentially religious beliefs?
If the answer is yes, here are some complications to consider:
• If a woman takes a “morning after” pill, how does the state prove there was a fertilized egg in her womb? With no corpus delecti, how does one prove murder?
• How would Mississippi afford to provide social services for the likely growing population of financially and emotionally needy unwanted children?
• How will the state accommodate the likely increasing criminal population as these unwanted kids age?
Three of Mississippi’s four members of the House of Representatives, and both of its senators, voted to terminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood. If the Personhood Amendment had passed, it would mean that Mississippi opposes funding family planning and it wants to prevent those who thereby have unwanted pregnancies from removing that predicament.
What if the tables were turned? Imagine if you will that over the decades America develops a population that is overwhelmingly in favor of population reduction. It then mandates that, like China, no mother may give birth to more than one baby. Pregnant with a second child? Too bad; you must have an abortion for the overall betterment of society because, by preventing overpopulation, many lives would be saved. How fair would that be? Would the good people of Mississippi likewise say that since the majority voted for such a program, it should be enforced?
_______________________
Here is an interesting sidebar that appears in the October 2011 issue of The Reporter, the magazine of Population Connection, a nonprofit formerly known as Zero Population Growth (ZPG), that advocates for a sustainable world population. Its president, John Seager, tells a story of the Bush family. Yes, that Bush family.

Prescott Bush

Before he became a senator from Connecticut in 1952, Prescott Bush served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. The first time Prescott ran for the senate he lost, due in part to his favoring family planning, which did not sit well with much of Connecticut’s heavily Catholic population. He eventually won a Senate seat in 1952, serving two terms.
George H.W. Bush, Prescott’s son, wrote an expression of praise for ZPG when he was Ambassador to the United Nations in the Nixon Administration.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the White House. H.W. realized that if he were to win over the southern states and maintain Nixon’s so-called Southern Strategy, he would have to steer clear of any associations with abortion. Then came George W. Bush, who did away with  contributions to the United Nations Population Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s family planning program. So the once enthusiastically pro-family-planning Bushes transformed into neo-pioneers of the philosophy that family planning is not a good idea.
“Why would anyone oppose reducing abortions by providing women with the ability to manage their own fertility?” asks Seager. Speaking of today’s Congress, he adds, “It turns out that a majority of the U.S. House can’t or won’t accept this simple notion.”
As for Mississippi’s vote on personhood, if the ballot initiative had passed, you can bet that this matter would not have been resolved until the U.S. Supreme Court were to decide on its constitutionality.
The ultimate solution to issues of unwanted pregnancies lies with each of us individually. We need to think, and think twice. We need to decide whether unplanned pregnancy – nay, unplanned sexual activity that results in hit-or-miss pregnancy – is a reasonable way to live.
But undermining family planning is definitely the wrong way to go.

Should This be the Last Generation?

Peter Singer,- photo -Wikipedia.org

Last year, bioethicist Peter Singer wrote an essay for the New York Times web site that asked the title question. Who is Singer? He has written many books on issues of human treatment of animals, both domesticated and wild. Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University. He published his seminal book, Animal Liberation, in 1975. This and other of Singer’s works has led to him being referred to as one of the leaders of the animal liberation movement.

In his Times essay, Singer makes the point that “we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing a child into existence (italics added). This has come to be known to philosophers as ‘the asymmetry’ and it is not easy to justify.” To put this another way, if there is a likelihood that most children brought into the world will be happy, does that justify procreation in light of the fact that many of the children who would be created would be profoundly unhappy?

At this point Singer raises the question of how good an anticipated life must be in order to justify bringing a child into existence. To put it another way, is the life that most people in developed countries lead good enough to justify creating it?

Singer refers to the 19th-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s belief that the best life we can ever hope for is one in which we reach a goal that brings us satisfaction. However, that satisfaction is fleeting. We then set our sites on new ends, bringing us a cycle of futile struggles. It’s hard for us to believe that Schopenhauer’s pessimistic point of view holds up across the board. You might have a hard time convincing Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Cosby, Mohandas Gandhi, Jimmy Carter or Oprah Winfrey of that argument. We use famous folks here only because they are the ones we all know in common. But these examples are the exception – by a long shot.

Professor Singer refers to South African philosopher David Benatar. Benatar’s argument is that to bring a person who will suffer into the world is to harm that person. And most people will suffer. He also makes the case that a child brought into the world who will have a good life is not done for the benefit of that child. In all, reproduction will harm some children severely and benefit none.

Benatar’s argument, Peter Singer explains, is that most of our lives are filled with unmet desires. The occasional satisfactions are not enough to outweigh the prolonged negative states of mind. “This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nevertheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we could see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone,” declares Singer.

The solution? Singer makes the case that the most conscientious of us do things like reducing driving, not flying, or not eating meat, in order to reduce our carbon footprint. The ever-expanding carbon footprint will damage future generations. But why are we creating future generations? In our own book, Enough of Us: Why we should think twice before making children, we discuss that even American slaves kept reproducing themselves without any hope that their offspring would have happy lives.

Singer presents us with this question: Why don’t we all agree to get sterilized? That way we won’t create any new unhappy generations. The current generation would not have to worry about what we’re doing to the planet. We could thereby rid ourselves of all guilt about our impact on the earth.

In practicality, Professor Singer acknowledges that agreement on universal sterilization is just an idea with no chance of actualization. Here is the remaining question: Can non-existent people have a right to come into existence? He believes that eventually mankind will get “it” right simply by learning from its mistakes, and thereby reduce suffering (he is more optimistic than we are). But, he asks, is that enough to determine that life is worth living?

Are the interests of a future child enough of a reason for bringing that child into existence, knowing that the survival of our species will almost certainly bring suffering to future innocents?

There is a lot to ponder here. The toughest part of considering these questions involves admitting that for most people, on balance, life is not the relatively happy existence we perceive from observing the outward demeanors of others. We must, to boil it down, decide whether gambling on bringing new lives into the world is worth the risk.