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Deciding NOT to Have Children: Progress

Applause, applause, for some very smart writing by bioethicist Elizabeth Yuko, published recently in The Washington Post:

Not All Women Want to be Mothers. Finally, Our Culture is Recognizing That

This is a great debut in the Post’s Solo-ish section for Yuko, whose commentary has appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and The Daily Beast.

While her premise is not new…

“Women have all kinds of options for how or when to get pregnant. It is time for the option not to have children to be viewed as equally viable.”

Yuko adds to an intelligent conversation about the decision more and more women are making NOT to “start a family” by bearing children. Don’t worry, she doesn’t sugarcoat it. She continues the important work of highlighting pro-fertility aspects of our culture that 1) add fuel to the fire of overpopulation (my words) and 2) need to change.

“The assumption of eventual, inevitable motherhood is drilled into girls’ heads at an early age. Girls are given advice preceded by ‘when you have children,’ not ‘if you have children.’ We are brought up thinking that motherhood is something that happens to everyone….”

I applaud this today on the Wall of Fame because the world is overpopulated. The U.S. is overpopulated. Whatever nation you live in is most likely overpopulated. You can tell by the ocean dead zones created growing the crops to feed you. You can tell by the rising CO2 in your atmosphere. You can tell by the animal species you’re pushing off the planet, and the increasing number of rivers and lakes too toxic to support life. In a world like this, every decision to conceive – to add another human being to the planet – should be carefully considered, very intentional and informed. It shouldn’t happen because it’s expected or “the thing to do.”

“…when younger women try to take measures to secure their child-free status, their desires often aren’t taken seriously. They’re told that they will inevitably change their minds…. Society still doesn’t believe women when we say that we don’t want to be mothers.”

But she also offers some good news:

“In the past several years, there has been a rapid change in the sense of what a family is…. This gradual shift in the conception of what constitutes a family is beginning to weaken the default view that all women must be mothers, and that every family requires a mother.”

Yuko has some interesting observations here. See if you agree. We need good news. Progress in moving our culture into a sustainable mode is painfully slow. Declining fertility rates in the industrialized world are raising alarms (economists want more workers and consumers) instead of being celebrated and accelerated. Few couples are aware that the U.S., Australia and Canada are overpopulated and doing more damage to the planet today than sub-Saharan Africa. If they are at all aware of overpopulation, they think it’s a problem “over there.” We need a culture that celebrates the responsible, loving decision NOT to conceive children. I am so glad to see the conversation happening in places like The Washington Post.

More about Elizabeth Yuko here.

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

Comments (2)

  • Avatar

    Stephanie C. Fox


    Being different or what “most” people call selfish is fine. There is nothing wrong with doing what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others, and being child-free doesn’t hurt anyone. Having kids because one feels socially pressured to do so hurts the kids, because they will know that they’re not wanted. Calling women who don’t do the traditional thing with their lives “selfish is mere bullying, and it must be condemned.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      You are very right, Stephanie. Progress is slow on this, but at least it is happening.


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