Thursday, October 13, 2005

Birth Restraint

Today I read a story about an Arkansas woman who has given birth to her 16th child with plans to have as many more as she can. Her husband has been a politician and they, apparently, do not practice birth restraint, on religious grounds.

There was a time when having a lot of children was a badge of honor for a woman, provided she had a husband who could afford to feed and clothe those children.

To carry all pregnancies to full term was a great blessing a hundred years ago when mortality rates for mothers and their children were high. Prior to modern medicine and science, a woman's body and genes had to be very tough and she had to have immense stamina and character to raise a large family.

But having a lot of children today is not the triumph against odds it was in the past.

On the contrary, with a burgeoning world population of 6.3 billion we have immense problems of pollution and global warming, threats of world pandemics and a third of the world's people living in poverty and hunger. To help further overpopulate the earth under these conditions is not a triumph, but a failure of restraint, for birth restraint is no longer a choice, but a necessity.


Imagine if every woman of childbearing age spent her life like that woman in Arkansas, having as many children as possible. We would soon be like fruitflies in a sealed bottle.

Put two fruitflies in a closed bottle with water and food and they breed until there are hundreds of fruitflies, life is no longer sustainable in the bottle and all die.

I was taught this by an astute fourth grade teacher and the lesson was very powerful. Yet we, in this country, are going backwards, arguing for more children instead of less.

Do you know that, currently, we withhold foreign aid funds from women's clinics in foreign lands that dare to offer those women sex education and contraception?

So while on one hand we bewail the millions who will starve in those countries in the next ten years, we also actively work against real solutions.

It has been said that the ideal, sustainable population for the earth is around 3 Billion. We now have 6.3 Billion, with a third of them living in wrenching poverty.

Let us return to our couple in Arkansas, for this decision to have as many children as possible is not just the woman's, but is also the choice of her husband.

Is it responsible for anyone to bring so many children into the world - whether they can "afford them" or not - when we already have 6.3 billion people on the planet?

The fact is, our planet cannot afford the ecological footprint each one will leave in combination with all others.

We are all in this together and have an obligation to work for the greater good, which includes voluntarily working to limit population levels.

If we want our species to survive and the children of the future to have any quality of life at all, we must stop giving approval for this kind of, ultimately, destructive behavior.

How this behavior must gall those who have no children and desperately yearn to have one upon which they could lavish their love.

And one must wonder how loved - and how special - a child feels when he or she is one of a dozen or more for whom mom has no time.

God helps those who help themselves and He never meant for us to populate our Mother Earth to the point of destroying her.

Neither is there any justification for ignoring the children we have for the purpose of creating more.

In Biblical terms such people are living immoderately, without any self control or temperance. For them to justify their intemperance on religious grounds is fallacy.

It is time that Christians stop apologizing for advocating birth restraint and contraception. Both are in keeping with the spiritual value of being partners with the Earth that nourishes us. We are charged with her safekeeping to assure not only her survival, but our own.

For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread. I Corinthians 10:17

The fruit of the Spirit is...temperance. Galatians 5:22-23


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