In 1968, Richard and I lived in California. We had two little children with number three on the way. This third pregnancy happened to coincide with the release of Paul Ehrlich’s best-selling book The Population Bomb with the cute baby on the cover.
The book’s thesis warned that earth can only support a given number of people, and that earth’s natural resources would be depleted in twenty years. The prologue began: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…. Our position requires that we take immediate action at home and promote effective action worldwide. We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail…. The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion…. Population control is the only answer” (https://www.amazon.com/population-bomb-Paul-R-Ehrlich/dp/0345021711).
You have likely learned through experience that when someone says, “This is the only way to solve the problem,” that there are other options to consider. But the world was convinced. The zero-population theory almost immediately became a truth in the public mind. Richard and I read the book and didn’t buy the arguments. We knew the Lord had said, “For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves” (D&C 104:17). We knew if we as agents and stewards of the Lord’s resources used them His way, He would bless us.
As I went about our California town, pushing my double stroller and obviously expectant, people on the streets and in the stores made my pregnancy their business. “You must be crazy. You got a boy and a girl. Why’d you go and get yourself pregnant?” said a store clerk. “Either Catholic or Mormon” said a woman passing me on the street, and others made snide remarks about how I needed a lesson in how reproduction works.
Baby number three was due in February. In early November, a friend in our apartment complex had her twenty-six-year-old unmarried sister move in with her. I met her and saw that she was about as pregnant as I was. Somehow, I felt I should not make reference to our pregnancies. Just before Thanksgiving, I saw my friend and her sister walking around the courtyard. Thinking I’d be friendly, I went into the courtyard to visit, very soon wishing I hadn’t. My friend was weeping inconsolably and her sister was obviously no longer pregnant. A few days later my friend wept profusely again as she told me her sister had had an abortion despite the fact that my friend and her husband had offered to raise the baby as their own.
Fast forward some years. We now had four children and were expecting our fifth. In my sixth month I went to the hospital for a minor pregnancy-related procedure. When I arrived, I was shown to a room, told to undress, lie on the examining table, and cover myself with a sheet. Soon the head nurse and a doctor came into the room and stood over me in an intimidating way. The doctor said, “When do you want your abortion?” “What?” I said, taking a deep breath to collect my thoughts. The doctor repeated his question. “I want this baby,” I said. This provoked a tirade from the nurse and the doctor. I was called a traitor to mankind, my intelligence was demeaned, and as I continually repeated, “I will not have an abortion,” they raised their voices and threatened me. “Well, then,” the doctor said, “I will tie your tubes after this baby is born. I will not be party to you single-handedly over-populating the world.” I had no way of escaping the situation and was fearful for what could happen.
I hadn’t noticed a student nurse standing quietly in the corner. Suddenly she grabbed a large towel, stepped between the doctor and me, helped me off of the examining table, wrapped the towel around me, and said, “Let’s get you out of here,” all in the blink of an eye. The doctor and head nurse stood speechless. The student nurse took me to another room, went back in and got my clothes, helped me dress, and showed me how to leave the hospital. I’ve always regretted I didn’t get her name. I hope her nursing career wasn’t adversely affected because of her courageous interference in my behalf. The baby the doctor wanted to abort is coming up on her fiftieth birthday—a wife, mother, college graduate, a leader in her community and church. She is a special joy to her mother. Had she been aborted, she would have been nothing more than a statistic—one more senseless, useless sin against humanity, and I would have been grieving to this day.
The zero populationists preached and the world’s population listened, gave heed, and met the goal to equalize births and deaths. In many countries the birth rate is now below the replacement level, which is 2.1, causing unforeseen problems. World Population Review lists 189 countries and their birthrates, highest to lowest. Ninety countries are 2.1 or lower. Notable countries in descending order are Mexico, Iran, New Zealand, France, North Korea, Romania, Sweden, Costa Rica, China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Russia, Germany, Chile, Canada, Japan, Italy, and Spain. South Korea has the lowest birth-per-mother rate at 0.9 (https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/total-fertility-rate).
It’s estimated in a few years the average child will have no siblings and no cousins. Already, many nations fill more coffins than cradles, and soon there won’t be enough young to care for the old. It is called “birth dearth.”
It’s been over fifty years since Ehrlich’s dire population-bomb prophecies, yet starvation is still a great concern world-wide even though prosperous countries have done exactly what Ehrlich said would fix the problem. Too many children is not the issue. The challenge is we fail to see and attend to the real problems as the Lord’s agents.
Throughout history, there have been pessimists and prophets of doom and gloom with limited vision who see nothing but trouble in the future and try to influence, if not enforce, detrimental change. Thank goodness for the optimists who see opportunities and get to work, making the world a better place. Perhaps Dr. Ehrlich would like to go back to 1968 and give up his plasma television, his digital cameras and computers, amazing photos from the James Webb telescope, his medications and healthcare. Perhaps he prefers no air bags, no cell phones, no Internet, no DNA fingerprinting, and no global-positioning satellites. All these inventions and many more came through unaborted babies. One of the unintended adverse consequences of abortion is denying society the benefit that could have come from aborted babies. Pope John Paul II said: “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”
Statistics vary depending on the slant, but reliable sources indicate that since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, about one million babies a year have been sacrificed in the United States not to a rain god as the ancient Incas did, but to the god of convenience. In 2001, Norma McCorvey, who was Jane Roe in Roe vs. Wade said: “My case was wrongfully decided, and has caused great harm to the women and children of our nation.”
With Roe v Wade overturned, there is no question that pro-life state laws are saving lives. “As reported in The New York Times, WeCount [a group who documents shifts in abortion] estimates that 22,000 fewer induced abortions were performed in states with pro-life laws in July and August, compared with the baseline beginning in April, before the Dobbs decision. In states where abortion-on-demand remained legal, abortions increased by roughly 12,000, leading to a net decline of 10,000. Taking a deeper dive into the report, the number of lives saved has the potential to grow significantly in the months and years ahead. There were just under 7,400 fewer abortions in August than in June. If you extrapolate that figure over 12 months, you get a drop of nearly 90,000 abortions per year” (https://thefederalist.com/2022/11/22/since-dobbs-pro-life-laws-have-already-saved-10000-unborn-lives-and-counting).
I believe in babies. I believe in adoption for unwanted pregnancies. I also believe in no sexual relations before marriage, but that’s a topic for another day.