In recent years, much has been made of declining birth rates around the world, particularly in western countries. Whilst occasionally some fears are expressed about how this may impact social care for pensioners, the most common reaction tends to be a dismissive: “So what? The planet has too many people anyway.”
Such Malthusian sentiment is almost a public prejudice amongst the population today, much like the fear of being ‘overcrowded’ by immigration. A recent article by one Martha Gill in the I newspaper carried the provocative title ‘Declining birth rates are a cause for celebration’ provided an insight into the ‘logic’ of modern liberal anti-natalist thought.
Gill claimed that the advance of what she calls “women’s rights” has made declining birth rates inevitable. Defining ‘women’s rights’ simply as women entering the workforce and having access to abortion on demand, Gill claims that the only way to deal with falling birth rates and simultaneously protect ‘women’s rights’ is to import immigrants from countries which lack such ‘rights’.
In her words, the supply of immigrants will not run out “until the patriarchy is smashed worldwide” – ie, until the adoption of her so-called ‘women’s rights’ everywhere causes a global shortage of working-age people.
She fails to see that the ‘right’ to choose abortion is no right at all. The vast majority of people who ‘choose’ abortion do so because they feel they have no choice: the advent of a child, or another child, would impact negatively on their ability to earn a living, condemning not just the mother but her whole family to such a lowered standard of living that they would find it intolerable.
Not many people would ‘choose’ to be a single mother living on benefits, either for themselves or for their children. Interestingly, it is rare indeed for anti-abortionists to advocate the provision of abundant social facilities such as affordable nurseries and after-school facilities that would make a real difference to whether or not a woman felt she had to ‘choose’ abortion.
Just like all capitalistic ideologies that sanctify personal short-term profit over the long-term collective interests of humanity, liberal feminism and its individualist conception of ‘women’s rights’ is no different. Abortion is viewed by the bourgeoisie as a cheap alternative to providing decent social facilities that enable child-rearing to be combined comfortably with working in social production.
The aim of liberal feminism is to tell women how lucky they are to have the ‘choice’ of having an abortion!
The fact of the matter is that as long as capitalist relations of production remain, women face a binary choice between career or children. When private profit is the main motivator of production, hiring mothers will always be unattractive to employers because they work fewer hours (since no government will fund high-quality childcare at affordable prices).
Essentially, the lack of good-quality, freely-available and affordable childcare comes down to the fact that paying for it means reducing profitability. Either employers would have to pay more tax, or they would have to pay higher wages so that workers could be taxed more. Either way, profits would go down.
The only societies to have fully escaped from this ‘Sophie’s choice’ situation are those that transitioned to a socialist economy in which profitability is no longer the criterion for production. Rather, all production is planned for the benefit of society as a whole.
As anyone who wants to get ahead as a mainstream media columnist is, of course, ideologically forbidden from acknowledging the successes of the socialist countries in this or any other field, the only options left are either to wind the clock back to Victorian-style domestic slavery or to go full Malthusian and try to prettify the gradual decline of populations.
Given the current overproduction crisis and capitalism’s tendency to seek to destroy the excess productive forces to extricate itself – and remembering that humans themselves are also productive forces – it is likely that the glorification of childlessness by the lackeys of imperialism will only grow louder.
Meanwhile it is left to socialist societies to put children back where they belong – at the very heart of society, as both our greatest treasure and our hope for the future.