Growing up in a large family, my mom would often receive glares from other people when she walked into a store towing all her kids. Women would even chastise her for having that many children, calling her selfish and clearly unaware of how she is overcrowding the world by her actions.
I found that strange considering many of these people were self-proclaimed liberals were for women’s rights’ issues like abortion and privacy, yet they had no problem telling my mother what she should do with her body.
On the other hand, I’ve had friends called selfish because, according to their religious family members and peers, they are not producing enough children.
And all these arguments have recently become tied into the contraceptive debate.
Contraceptives: The People Limiter
In view of statistics in the US, the average number of children being born to a woman is only 2.03, up from the 70’s and 80’s, but still slightly lower than the replacement level of 2.1 [1a]. So all the arguments that contraceptives limit the amount of children born in the US are true! Absolutely true!
And This Is a Bad Thing?
I believe people read these reports and see “less than replacement level” as a concerning point. Replacement-level fertility is actually defined as, “The level of fertility at which a couple has only enough children to replace themselves, or about two children per couple.” [1b] This, however, is not to be confused with a more important term: sustainable population or carrying capacity. According to SUSPS,
The growing population and its consumption patterns have profound consequences for the global environment, including species extinction, deforestation, desertification, climate change, and the destruction of natural ecosystems. [1c]
In my opinion, the decline in birth rates should be seen as a good thing based on the above quote and other concerning bio-statistics. I think they can be interpreted in two ways: One, our evolutionary mechanisms are leading to natural population inhibition – rather than needing a law like China currently has in place – and two, women are finally taking control of their fertility.
My Choice? Sure, If I Want to be Chastised
A major victory women achieved in the 1950’s and the 60’s was finally breaking free from the patriarchy and allowing ourselves to control our own fertility. Considering we have the lion’s share of responsibility when it comes to children, it is only natural that we have more control over if, when, and how many children we have.
But, my idealistic look at fertility rates is continually shattered when I read comments by male leaders in various church and political forums on various woman’s health issues. It’s like a return to medieval times.
Rush Limbaugh considers women “sluts” because they want contraception. 
Foster Freiss, President of Santorum’s super PAC, said in his day, “women used to put bayer aspirin between their knees ,” indicating that they just didn’t have sex. (To which I ask, did he and what were his consequences?)
Rick Santorum, contender for the GOP nomination, has made past and current remarks about how contraceptive “is harmful to women” because it “goes down the line of being able to do whatever you want to do without having the responsibility that comes with that .” (Again, women face the consequences, men don’t.)
Elder Scott, member of the Quorum of the 12 in the LDS church, recently said, “In the past 50 years the birth rate has dropped in nearly every nation of the world. Marriages are being postponed until later in life, and families are getting smaller, even in the [LDS] Church .” (Basically telling women to pop out more children.)
Because, apparently, men have absolute control of their sexuality and never, ever have sex outside of marriage, we women should be punished. Even if men are having more sex than women, they don’t have to worry about unexpected pregnancies because, oh yeah, they’re men. They also have every right to tell women to have more children so that our population doesn’t die out (which wouldn’t happen anyway).
Big Or Small, That’s Your Decision
If a woman wants to have a big family, like the Duggars, good for her! She has every right to a big family and shouldn’t have hurtful comments about her choices slung at her from the left.
At the same time, if a woman chooses to have none or, gasp, one, child, we should support that decision. For many women, pregnancy is awful (I should know) and is not something they could realistically do again. And, for other women, children are of no interest to them. Some of them don’t like children, and others don’t want children. Either way, it’s their choice.
I feel disheartened, though, when I see that men are still trying to control women’s reproductive choices. I also feel sad when women allow this. Ladies, are we not people? Do we not have voices?
On the flip side, why are we so disdainful toward our sex’s decisions? Why are comments of “selfishness” being swung around by both sides? Especially as women, we should support others of our sex in whatever reproductive decision they make because we all know how hard it is – even if you haven’t experienced pregnancy, you’ve most likely experienced menstruation and that alone gives you street cred.
I know that, for me, I pass no judgment on women when I see their family size. I hope they can extend the same courtesy to me. Maybe, just maybe, we we can build a more respectful and kind community of women than what currently exists if we recognize the difficulties and complexities of reproduction and refuse to allow the media to exploit our sexual choices while ignoring the male part of the equation.
Don’t forget to read my review of Looking Up. You could win a free copy!