Population Control

Do you guys worry about the human population? Because I do. There are a lot of us, and that is going to be a problem.

Population-growth is in decline in Europe and in Japan, as people (particularly women) gain more bodily and financial autonomy, focus more upon their lives and careers, and make more responsible choices when planning their families.

But that is not the case everywhere. And it’s a problem.

Did you read about how Israel may have sterilized some Ethiopian refugees without their permission or knowledge? Because I did. It is a little difficult to find a new source that is not either uncomfortable with levying the accusation, a source with a reputation for paranoid conspiracy-theories, or a news source with anti-Semitic leanings.

Just hearing the headline reminded me of two things: the first was an episode of Law & Order in which a doctor who worked at a free clinic in the inner city would occasionally implant IUDs in women whom she determined to be less-than-ideal potential parents. She did this without their permission or their knowledge (I say “less-than-ideal,” but one of the young women poured boiling water on a baby that she had already had, so don’t worry that this woman was sterilizing women whom she thought would feed their babies inorganic food or let them watch too much television). I was torn in that episode—I mean, I am a strong supporter of female reproductive rights, and that does not mean just supporting a woman’s unquestionable right to contraception and to abortion.

The “what would I do if I were in charge” question is a bit moot when it comes to how I would prosecute the IUD-happy doctor. The only case that I can make for forced sterilization is in cases of an abusive parent, and if I were in charge, no parent whom I knew to be abusive would be alive, much less free to get pregnant again. Am I okay with a vigilante who secretly sterilizes child-abusers? Absolutely. Is that a reliable rule for anything or how policies should be set? No. Does that mean that I am okay with refugees being sterilized? Absolutely not.

The second thing that came to mind was the larger question of population-control. I mean, it should be voluntary. There are organizations, such as Population Action International, that work to bring reproductive health services to developing nations. Now, I support this organization (um, in spirit—not financially, as that is so not in my budget at the moment). Their stated mission is to “ensure that every person has the right and access to sexual and reproductive health, so that humanity and the natural environment can exist in balance with fewer people living in poverty.” This is wonderful. It’s great from a human rights standpoint. It’s great from an environmental standpoint.

That said, organizations such as this one (I am not levying specific accusations, of course) represent an unlikely marriage of three different groups—feminists (and others interested in human rights), environmentalists (healthy families help make a healthy planet), and racists who believe that non-whites (and, realistically, many of those in developing nations are not white) continuing to reproduce in large numbers “endangers the white race.” Guess which one of those groups horrifies me?

I, however, am the sort of person who will take money from bad people if it will do a good thing. Working to combat poverty, disease, world hunger, and suffering? Yes, I will accept money from crazy people for that kind of cause. But I think that education and access to health care, particularly something as crucial as reproductive health care, is the key to making our planet a better place. Ideally, one that is no longer a home to racists.

What do you guys think?



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India Has Problems

India has been in the news lately. In part, for gang-rape (which, as you may have noticed, is a horrific evil on which India does not have a monopoly). A seventeen-year-old girl in India killed herself after she was gang-raped and failed by her law enforcement community. A twenty-three-year-old Indian woman (a medical student) was raped in front of her boyfriend and left in critical condition.

I suggest that you read this post on HelloGiggles (which is an excellent site, by the way, and often covers topics a lot less upsetting than this one). Among other things, it details the struggle that the teenage girl underwent in attempting to file her complaint with the police. Being sexually assaulted is horrible—and that horror should not be compounded by police who try to convince the young woman who survived the assault to drop the charges or to possibly marry one of her attackers. Her attackers were only detained after she specifically named them in her suicide note. Barring the most dreadful of illnesses, I would never counsel suicide as the better option, but I can understand why she did it.

India has more problems than that—and, honestly, nightmarishly high levels of incidents of violence against women should be enough of a problem for any country. I think that a lot of us have read about villages and other local governments in India in which unmarried women are being forbidden from using mobile phones. “Reasons” (using the word reason loosely, here) range from that they might form their own, independent social connections to simply that mobile phone use will “spoil” them. It is disgusting.

Online communication through computers, whether they sit on our desks or we carry them in our pockets, are opening up isolated communities, helping to advance peoples’ educations, and gradually transforming the entire world into one community out of many. It is wonderful. But that is also frightening to some more conservative individuals who believe that too much freedom for younger generations will erode their culture. Honestly, it will. It happens in the US. Sometimes, the internet and television can help a closeted fourteen-year-old boy in rural Alabama …

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