Serving Existential Interests By Elevating Reproductive Rights

Michelle Goldberg

I suspect that after several years in retreat, the debate about overpopulation is about to come roaring back.

I’m thrilled by this — it’s definitely a stronger and more unequivocal statement than I would have expected. I’ve long argued that shifts American politics have an even greater impact on reproductive rights abroad than at home, and this seems like evidence of that. It’s astonishing, after the last eight years, to see someone point to the United States as a global leader on these issues. A few years ago, who could have imagined that anyone would describe the position of the United States as "a clear demonstration of the separation of church and state?"

What also strikes me, though, is the emphasis on population growth, a taboo subject for many years on both the religious right and the feminist left. Nor is this a lone example. Yesterday The Guardian quoted Nina Fedoroff, Hillary Clinton’s science advisor, saying, "We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can’t support many more people." I suspect that after several years in retreat, the debate about overpopulation is about to come roaring back. I’m curious as to whether others agree, and whether they think that’s a good thing. I do, to some extent — even though I wish that governments were committed to sexual and reproductive health for their own sake, in reality most are far more motivated by economic and national security concerns. If powerful people can be convinced that their existential interests are served by improving women’s lives, it could seriously expand the reproductive rights coalition.

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