2003 Anne Horton Writing Award
Population control is the regulation of the number of humans allowed to live in an area. This regulation can come about in one of two ways, either natural phenomena can result in a balance of human population with the environment, or humans themselves can intervene, causing the population to increase or decrease at their own will. The question is whether or not humans should regulate the population.
Population control by human intervention was at one time unthinkable, but that changed when the world's population reached 6 billion people in 1999. In just 40 years, the number of people living on earth had doubled. (Elsis1) Fear of a population bomb began to materialize. If the number of people continued to double with each generation, eventually there would be twice as many humans as the earth could maintain. "[he media soon brought news of this threat to the public. In the words of Matt Kaufman, When the world's population hit 6 billion last month, most of the media coverage delivered the message you've probably heard all of your life: the world is overpopulated, it can't survive this rate of growth, the birth rate must he cut now before it's too late, etc." (2 Kaufman 1) Faced with this fear, people began to support programs for population control.
Skeptics, though, soon began to point out flaws in the theory of overpopulation. For example, Max Singer noted, in August of 1999, that while the world population had been growing at a rate of two percent per year in the 1960s, "The rate is now down to one percent a year ..." (Singer 2) In fact, he suggested that the real threat would eventually be depopulation and not overpopulation. Others, such as Mark Elsis, suggested that the world population would reach a limit and then stabilize. To quote Elsis, "... we will peak in population reaching zero population growth in 2020 with 6.64 billion people." (Elsis 1) Finally, the most optimistic pointed out that earth's resources were far vaster then those we were using. 'theoretically, more people would mean more workers to develop these resources. In Julian Simon's view, 'Wiry should we view newborn people as only mouths to feed? They have brains that can help solve problems, invent new machines. new products."' (Riche) 1) Production statistics supported this theory. Between 1970 and 1990 production of cereals, fruits, vegetables, and meats all outstripped the rate of population growth for the same period. (2 Kaufman I)
However, the possibility of one generation someday outgrowing earth's limit could not be dispelled by these facts, and people began to review the options available for preventing a population explosion. These included government regulation of family size, individual regulation, abortion, sterilization, and noninterference with natural killers such as age, disaster, and sickness. As can be seen, the options were and are all controversial and require careful scrutiny.
Government regulation is perhaps the only program for population control currently used on a grand scale. This alternative to overpopulation is used by the Chinese government. The rule is that each family may have only one child. Any other pregnancies must be ended by abortion; women who break the law can be sterilized and fined. Some people, such as Ted Turner, believe that this policy is ingenious and should be adopted by the whole world. (Mosher 2) However, others consider China's policy an infringement on human rights. They point out abuses of this law such as the following one, "Chinese brides of Taiwanese men who went to China to visit their families were ordered by Beijing to have abortions or to undergo surgery to have their fallopian tubes tied." (Laogai 1)
Some propose that population control should be regulated by the individual to avoid government abuse. The idea is that everyone in the world be educated about reproduction and that contraceptives and tools for abortion be made available to everyone. Each family could then control their own population. This is the system currently used by such organizations as the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] and USAID. However, as opponents of these programs point out, individual regulation is too expensive and there are more immediate needs. As Kenyan doctor Stephen Karanja puts it, "A mother brought a child to me with pneumonia, but I had no penicillin to give the child. What I have in the stores are huge cases of contraceptives." (1 Kaufman 3) In addition, it is equally as hard to avoid abuse under a system of individual regulation as it is under a government-controlled system. As the UNFPA points out, "Men have an important role to play in respecting the rights and aspirations of women, protecting women's health, ending gender based violence, and sharing household responsibilities." (UNFPA 1) The problem is that often there is no way to ensure that they do.
Closely tied in with both government regulated reproduction and individual
regulation is abortion. Whether the government tells people to stop having children or the people decide it for themselves, eventually "accidents" will happen, and to have a system that can truly cut down the world's population there has to be a way to remedy these accidents. The solution, some say, is abortion, but abortion is very controversial. Pro-choice activists like Judith Winkler argue that, "The availability of safe, effective, and acceptable technologies for pregnancy termination is an important component of women's reproductive health." (Mosher 5) On the other hand, however, pro-life activists say that safe and effective technologies are not readily available and even if they were they would be unacceptable. They point to some of the major problems with the more common methods of abortion such as D&C, RU-486, and D&E. Complications of D&C, which uses a suction tube for the abortion, include infection and cervical laceration. For RU-486, a chemical that starves the fetus, the main complication is several days of bleeding. D&E, abortion with forceps, can result in infection and uterine perforation. (IRLC I)
The final options are the most controversial. These include sterilization, euthanasia, and noninterference. Sterilization would involve tuba) ligations or immuno Âsterilization. In either case the sterilizations would have to be forced and they would be permanent. The most humane approach found so far is to not provide poor women with food or other aid unless they are sterilized. For obvious reasons no organization states support for such a method, though some, such as USAID, have practiced it. (1 Kaufman 1) Euthanasia and noninterference have a little more public support because they are seen as accelerated natural selection. The argument in their favor is that by forcing some people to outlive their usefulness we are killing others who are useful. As Roy Johnston puts it, Some people know that their time has come and want to embrace the peace that death will bring." (Johnston 2) Still, critics point out that euthanasia, besides being considered immoral by many, opens the door for unrestrained abuse. To repeat a statement found on the Queensland Right to Life web site, "The situation is seen in the Netherlands where, despite the provision of so-called `strict guidelines', thousands of citizens were killed without their consent." (QRTL 1) Finally so far as noninterference goes, few people would sit and watch people they care about die from some war, plague, or disaster no matter what the long term benefits.
Overall, population control has to involve the taking of millions of human lives tobe effective. The question is really, "Who has priority in the right to live'?" The vast majority of papers presented, both those that support population control and those that oppose it do not deal directly with this question. I could find none that took a purely objective view because they were written by individuals who had personal agendas to support. As proof of this accusation I point to the emotional appeals, generalizations, and plain errors found in the papers. In truth, one can not take population control without emotional involvement.
So far as I can find there is no proof of any imminent population bomb, only speculation, and I do not support any infringement on human rights based solely on speculation. If eventually billions of people start to die and we have to choose who goes and who stays, I suggest that we do what is possible to save the lives of those around us and leave the lives of those we can't help to God. There is no sense in killing one innocent person to keep another innocent person from dying.
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"Beijing Orders Chinese Women Who Are Married To Taiwanese lb Have Abortions." Laogai.org 17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.laogai.org/chinese/ news-news-population-bride. html>
Elsis, Mark. "Zero Population Growth Will Occur Somewhere Between 2020 To 2029" Overpopulation.net 24 Nov. 2002 <http://www.overpopulation.net/>
"Euthanasia" QRTL.org 17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.grtl.org.au/euthanasia/>
"How Abortions are Done." IRLC.org 24 Nov. 2002 <http:/www.irlc.org/medica:/methods.htm>
Johnston, Roy. "Overpopulation and Population Control." Wiener Pages 10 Nov. 2002 <home/Weiner Pages/ e-mail/ Top of Page>
Kaufman, Matt (I). "The Depopulation Bomb." Focus on the Family.org 10 Nov. 2002
Kaufman, Matt (2). "Too Few People On Earth." Boundless.org 17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.boundlesss.org/2000/regulars/Kaufman/a 0000207 html>
Moore. Stephen. "Don't Fund UNFPA Population Control." CATO.org 24 Nov. 2002
<http://www.cato.org/cgi-bin/scripts/printtech.cgi/dai lys/05- 15-99.html>
Mosher, Stephen W. "The Billionaire Bomb." Focus on the Family.org 10 Nov. 2002 <http://www.focusonthefamily.org/eitizenlink>
"New UNFPA Report Contradicted by More Credible UN Sources." C-fam.org 9 November 2002 <http://www.e-farn.org/FAX/Volume_4/faxv4.46.html>
Singer, Max. "The Population Surprise." The Atlantic.com 17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99aug/9908popdrop.htm>
Sullivan, Morris. "Population Control: How Many Are Too Many?" Impact Press.com 17 Nov. 2002 <http://www.impactpress.com/articles/febmar99/ population2399.html>
"Why Population Matters To Natural Resources." Population Action.org 24 Nov. 2002
Winkler. Judith. "Early Abortion Services: New Choices for Providers and Women." Focus on the Eamily.org 10 Nov. 2002 <http://www.focusonthefamily.org/Billionairebomb>