More Than Two Children = “Environmentally Irresponsible”?

Joe Veix

Thinking about addressing overpopulation as a critical environmental issue is helpful to the argument for reproductive rights.

Editor’s Note: Please welcome Rewire’s new blogger, Joe Veix! Joe is joined by three other young bloggers – Micah Steffes, Kathleen Reeves, and Elisabeth Garber-Paul –  each of whom will offer their perspectives in our Real Time Blog every week.

On Sunday, Jonathon Porritt, chairman of England’s Sustainable Development Commission, said that couples who have more than two children are environmentally “irresponsible.” The issue of overpopulation is loaded and complex, and puts the well-being of human existence at stake. Our environmental footprints are already large, even for the most sustainable of us, and having children further eats up our dwindling natural resources.

Mentioning overpopulation forces us to think of possible solutions, some of which are anti-choice and anti-democratic. I’m talking here about laws that limit our population growth, similar to the ways in which China limits its citizens to having just one child per family. It gets more complicated when we consider the reasons why people procreate, and the vast differences between procreating in developed countries versus procreating in developing countries (in many developing nations adults have children as an insurance policy of sorts, as the children take care of their parents as they age). To demand that less developed countries simply have fewer children without considering the negative effects on their lives is deeply unfair and misguided. 

The broad solution to the problem, without even getting into all of the aforementioned complexities of the subject, is to first support basic human rights. If people are living better worldwide, the need for having more than two children is decreased. Included in any consideration of human rights, is the need for women to occupy an equal place in their respective societies, with control of their reproductive health – and this includes unrestricted access to contraceptives.

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How does this affect the United States?

Ultimately, if Obama’s administration is serious about helping the environment, it means they must address the issue of overpopulation. If they are to do so, it means they must engage the country in a dialogue about both human rights and reproductive rights. The time is right, too, with overwhelming national support and statistics suggesting that birthrates are already on the decline, as is typical during recessions. If we think of the issue of overpopulation from this perspective, we have yet another great argument for reproductive rights: To help the environment.

Analysis Religion

STOKING FIRE: Islamophobia Trumps “Pro-Life” Ideology

Eleanor J. Bader

Surprising as it seems, a host of anti-choicers have demonstrated a clear tilt toward population control when it comes to Muslims. Indeed, it seems apparent that, for them, racism and Islamophobia trump unbridled procreation for Mohammed’s adherents.

Just three days into 2013, Annika Rydh, a Swedish government official from the town of Almhult, issued a shrill call to both her colleagues and neighbors. Worried about the perceived growth of the Muslim population in her homeland and beyond, she urged the European Union “to act by having some kind of restriction, like the one-child policy in China.” If Muslims don’t like the proposed rule, she continued, they can go back where they came from.

Rydh’s appeal comes on the heels of a decade-long campaign to curtail Muslim immigration into western countries and reduce the number of babies born to Muslim families. International in scope, the anti-Islam movement relies on scare tactics that, more often than not, imply that the Judeo-Christian traditions are in danger of being trampled by Sharia law.   

Joseph D’Agostino of the virulently anti-abortion Population Research Institute makes the case: “Because Christians and Jews are refusing to have children, refusing to get married, and having such low birth rates, the Muslims are going to inherit the earth.”

His boss, PRI founder Steven W. Mosher, goes even farther: “Many security experts have long believed that excessive population growth in Muslim countries is a national security threat to the west.”

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And not to be outdone, Daniel Pipes’ Mideast Forum rails that “indigenous Europeans are dying out. Sustaining a population requires each woman on average to bear 2.1 children; in the European Union the overall rate is one-third short, at 1.5 a woman and falling… To keep its working population even, the EU needs 1.6 million immigrants a year. Into the void are coming Islam and Muslims. As Christianity falters, Islam is robust, assertive, and ambitious.” Pipes then goes on to posit reasons for the diminishing birthrate amongst people of traditional European backgrounds, blaming “the education of women, abortion on demand, and adults too self-absorbed to have children” for the alleged Muslim takeover.

“Islamization will happen,” Pipes writes, “for Europeans find it too strenuous to have children, stop illegal immigration, or even diversify their sources of immigrants. Instead, they prefer to settle unhappily into civilized senility.”

Lest you think Pipes can be summarily dismissed as little more than a ranting crackpot—or as someone who has himself succumbed to “civilized senility”—beware. Pipes is now a Taube Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, has taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard, and has served as an advisor to former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former President George W. Bush. What’s more, Pipes surrounds himself with fellow travelers including noted racist Pamela Geller and bloggers at sites including,,, and

And don’t forget the burgeoning population of anti-choice bedfellows. Surprising as it seems, a host of  anti-choicers have demonstrated a clear tilt toward population control when it comes to Muslims. Indeed, it seems apparent that, for them, racism and Islamophobia trump unbridled procreation for Mohammed’s adherents.

“The Muslims have said they will destroy us from within,” Flip Benham of Operation Save America reports. “Today’s 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22 percent of the world’s population. ..Muslims will exceed 50 percent of the world’s population by the end of the century.”

Similarly, Donald Spitz’ Army of God advocates violence against abortion providers as well as against “satanic Muslims” and anti-choice candidates Randall Terry of Operation Rescue and Gary Boisclair of the Society for Truth and Justice coupled ending legal abortion with limiting Muslim immigration in their unsuccessful 2012 bids for elected office.

Ibrahim Hooper, Press Secretary of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, attributes the increasing hysteria over the purported rise of Islam to an age-old trend to demonize anything or anyone perceived as different. “Whenever a minority is targeted by bigots, they start by saying that ‘they’ are going to take over the world. It’s always the same language, and the bigots simply insert the offending group—at different times it has been Muslims, Jews, and Hispanics. In each case the opposition assigns the disliked group far more power than they actually have. The scary thing is that the folks that promulgate this irrational fear and hatred operate in a bubble of unreality that can’t be penetrated with truth, logic, or facts.”

Ah, yes, facts. According to Doug Saunders, author of The Myth of the Muslim Tide, [Vintage, 2012] “the family size of Muslim immigrant groups are converging fast with those of average westerners—faster, it seems, than either Catholic or Jewish immigrants did in their time. Muslims in France and Germany are now having only 2.2 children per family, barely above the national average. And while Pakistanis in Britain have 3.5 children each, their British-born daughters have only 2.5.”

As for the United States, Saunders writes that there are presently 2.6 million Muslims living in the 50 states, and while this number is expected to increase to 6.2 million by 2030, the overall Muslim population will still comprise just 1.7 percent of the total. In other words, 17 years from today, Muslims will account for the same proportion of the American body politic as Jews and Episcopalians.   

Commentary Religion

The Bishops on Religious Freedom: “We Get More Than You”

Sally Rasmussen

The bishops' recent actions show that they believe in unlimited freedom for themselves, but only the freedom they are willing to allow for the rest of us.

Published in partnership with the Freedom for All Campaign.

The Catholic bishops have been talking a lot recently about the First Amendment. They’ve made the remarkable claim that their tradition is a source of First Amendment freedoms, but their interpretation of such freedom is that it should shield them from prosecution for collaborating in the sexual abuse of children, at the same time that they are doing their best to deny freedom of religion, speech, and assembly to American nuns. Nor do they believe in freedom of conscience for the Catholic Church which is the people of God – a Church that has thoughtfully concluded that contraception is morally acceptable.

Nevertheless, they are now promoting a “Fortnight for Freedom” to foster the notion that they are suffering persecution when the government of the people does not bow to every aspect of their demands. It doesn’t matter that even those who at first sided with the bishops in their fight over contraceptive coverage have found the compromise offered to them completely reasonable.

No, the bishops have made their decision. Believing that their orders to the Church will be accepted by enough people to do harm to a particular political party, they have chosen to dive into the endless partisan dog fight.

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The bishops’ recent actions show that they believe in unlimited freedom for themselves, but only the freedom they are willing to allow for the rest of us. As the Fourth of July draws near, all sorts of political ads will try to use the sentiments of the day to an advantage, including ads read from the pulpit. But the message of the day is not one that gives comfort to those who claim a divine right to impose their will on the people.


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