Pro-lifers could rebound with a demographic argument
The pro-life movement took another hit on Nov. 7. In conservative Ohio, voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution allowing unlimited access to abortion.
Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, abortion has been on seven state ballots. Pro-lifers lost every time.
True, they’ve been outspent, sometimes by a wide margin. But lopsided spending can make a difference in a close race. The Ohio vote (57% to 43%) wasn’t even close.
Sadly, abortion foes are losing the debate.
The other side has ramped up the fear and hysteria. Supporters of the Ohio amendment ran ads of a woman who was raped by her stepfather when she was 12.
Abortion opponents offered the same old, same old, including appeals to the humanity of the unborn child, which is indisputably true. But voters who have been hearing this forever weren’t impressed.
Clearly, pro-lifers need a fresh approach, such as declining fertility — aka demographic winter. The babies that are aborted today won’t be there tomorrow, when we’ll need them desperately.
America’s fertility rate — the number of children the average woman has in her lifetime — has taken a nosedive. We’ve gone from the baby-boom rate of 3.5 to 1.78 last year, well below the 2.1 needed to replace our current population.
If it weren’t for immigration, we’d already be well into population decline. But the current level of illegal immigration is unsustainable. Voters will demand that the border be closed, one way or the other.
Even though our population is still growing, growth is being driven by the old, not the young. Between 2010 and 2020, our over-65 population grew by more than one-third, while the number of children born each year fell by 338,000.
This will result in skyrocketing costs for Social Security and Medicare and increasingly fewer workers to support the system, as each generation will be smaller than the last.
Labor shortages are already acute. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that in October, there were 9.6 million job openings but only 6.4 million unemployed.
Where will we find the workers of tomorrow to fill the thousand and one jobs that keep society functioning: farmers, factory workers, physicians and engineers?
Besides open borders, Democrats’ answer to the birth dearth is what you’d expect — more spending on child care, paid parental leave and similar subsidies. But it’s been estimated that added spending of $250 billion annually would raise the fertility rate by only 0.2%.
Demographic winter isn’t America’s problem alone.
An article in the Nov. 13 Japan Times covered what’s called the urban bear phenomenon. Wild animals are invading city centers. This is blamed in part on “abandoned farmland and deserted communities,” which formerly acted as a buffer between densely inhabited areas and forests.
With a fertility rate of 1.3, Japan’s population is declining by 800,000 a year. Today, 3 in 10 Japanese are over 65. The Land of the Rising Sun exists in perpetual twilight.
Italy’s fertility rate is 1.4. In 2022, the number of Italian births fell by 1.7% — the 14th consecutive year of decline. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has earmarked 1 billion euros to address the crisis.
When President Biden met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week in San Francisco, population decline wasn’t on the agenda. It should have been.
In October, Mr. Xi called on China’s National Women’s Congress to promote a “culture” of childbirth. This comes after decades of forced abortion. A communist dictator gets it. Our president, who babbles incessantly about “reproductive rights,” does not.
Mr. Xi is right to be alarmed. The number of children born in China each year fell from 18 million in 2016 to 9 million in 2023. China’s fertility rate is 1.09.
In the United States, abortion isn’t the only factor in demographic decline. But it plays a significant role.
Roughly 930,000 abortions are performed here each year. From a demographic perspective, we’re not just losing those children, but all of their descendants who will never be born. We are quite literally aborting our future.
The left’s fear-mongering can be countered with the very real fear of what a world without children will be like. For the answer, see the P.D. James novel “The Children of Men.”
Elon Musk is right: “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble.” The cracks are already visible.
One solution is to limit abortion if it can’t be banned outright.
• Don Feder is a columnist with The Washington Times.