Rethinking reproductive restrictions

Paul Raven @ 21-10-2010

We mentioned this little lot in passing back in April, but given that they’re cropping up in UK headlines again (and that their modus operandi connects to last week’s discussion of reproductive licensing), I thought it worth mentioning again. I refer, of course, to Project Prevention, a US-based charity now operating in the UK whose ‘work’ involves offering drug addicts and other members of “the undeserving poor” £200 in cash in exchange for undergoing voluntary sterilisation.

I mention it primarily because it makes me think again about my position with regards to reproductive licensing; after all, is it not inconsistent of me to approve of reproductive licensing, if only as a principle with no obvious fair and corruption-proof method of implementation, but to be genuinely horrified by the crudely manipulative way that Project Prevention are approaching the same basic idea? It occurs to me that Project Prevention’s founders and staff probably believe quite earnestly that they’re working toward a social good, namely preventing the birth of children to parents unfit to care for them… but for them, that’s justification for a methodology that I find instantly appalling.

In other words, I’d like to say to Silvia and the other commenters on my post from last week: I think you were right. There may well be a logical core to the idea of restricting reproductive rights, but like many logical ideals, it can’t be brought into the messy sphere of human life without turning into a value judgement that no one has the right to make over someone else. A better – if admittedly harder – solution would be to work towards a society where the root causes of bad parenting are eradicated, rather than bad parents themselves; a utopian dream, perhaps, but a far more humanist one.

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9 Responses to “Rethinking reproductive restrictions”

  1. SMD says:

    All I have to say is: wtf? I get that one doesn’t one crack addicts to have children, but this seems so unethical and evil to me in principle as to be shocking. How about spending that 200 on helping people get un-addicted? Wouldn’t that be better?

  2. Robert Koslover says:

    OK, let me get this straight: (1) In the context of a market, you suddenly find it horrifying that adult people might choose, of their own free will, to become sterilized in exchange for money, and (2) in contrast, you are only mildly-bothered by the possibility of the State having the unlimited power to decide (via licensing) who may and may not have children. Oddly, I am of the reverse opinion. I.e., I am only slightly concerned about adults choosing, of their own free will, to accept sterilization in exchange for money, yet I am utterly repulsed by the idea of the State being able to enforce its draconian reproductive laws upon unwilling individuals. I have some words to describe my philosophy here: “freedom” and “free markets,” for example. I don’t know what you call yours, but (and I apologize in advance for being harsh, but I’m simply being honest) I suspect the best fits to your position are “statism” and/or “totalitarianism.” But hey, that’s just my opinion, and fortunately I don’t need a Government-issued license (not yet, anyway!) to express it. Of course, feel free to tell me why my reasoning is totally, utterly flawed. Or alternatively… you might reconsider your own reasoning?

  3. Robert Koslover says:

    Ok, I should have added that I really do admire your willingness to re-think your original position. But I am still disappointed that the only thing that seems to have caused you to re-think it was the possibility that one option might involve offering people money in exchange for not having children, rather than forcing them to comply via coercive Government power. Your attraction to the latter is truly disturbing.

  4. Paul Raven says:

    … adult people might choose, of their own free will, to become sterilized in exchange for money…

    Free will and junk never share the same room, Robert, especially not in a world where junk puts you on the wrong side of the law to start with. As someone who respects freedom as the greatest human ideal, that should be pretty clear to you, I’d have thought. Addiction is a form of slavery.

    And as I said in my earlier reply, getting rid of big-G Government doesn’t mean that you won’t have to govern your own communities, making decisions exactly like this one and many others, with no paid representative to foist the responsibility off on. When there is no State, we are all the state.

    So no, I have no objection to community governance that makes sense and is decided in a genuinely democratic manner by those who will be subject to it; anarchism != anarchy. You’re conflating the social ideal (protecting children) with one potential method of enforcement (force), and I don’t think they are necessarily connected. Sure, that’s the way it works at present, but the point I’m trying to make is that when force is no longer the yoke that keeps us all in line, we will have to think about the ethics of issues like this for ourselves, rather than leaving it to the “experts”.

    Or, to put it another way: if a man with a gun hurries everyone out of a building that’s on fire, does the fact that he used a weapon to do it mean that saving people from burning buildings is an inherently bad thing?

  5. Robert Koslover says:

    Paul, I suspect you and I might have different perspectives on this particular Aesop’s fable: “The Dog and the Wolf.” See . An alternative version is provided at .

  6. Paul Raven says:

    I think perhaps we do, but it’s a difference of degree; I’m fine with hunger as the price of freedom, but when it comes to “live free or (literally) die”, that’s where I draw the line. Every moment I’m a living slave, I can be working toward making myself more free; at present, death isn’t a state one can return from. 😉

    That said, I like to think there are some things that I’d rather die than be made to do; killing another person, for instance. But I also wonder whether I’d truly have the courage to live up to that if I was put in such a situation; I don’t think you can ever know for sure until you’re there.

  7. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    Desperate people make stupid choices and neither laws nor aid programs should encourage people to make stupid choices. This program may not be as reprehensible as the ones we had in the US some years back that sterilized people who were ruled mentally incompetent, but it’s only different by a matter of degree.

    If you really want to limit population effectively, the best solution is educating women. There’s a strong correlation between educated women and declining birth rates.

  8. Chad says:

    So do stupid people. I am completely ok with them paying people to be sterilized and it has nothing to do with population control. It has more to do with people who should not be having kids. We have enough screwed up people.

    My sister is a special education teacher and at least half her kids are the result of parents wanting more money from the state…not another child to love. I would favor sterilization in welfare cases as well or at the very least limit welfare if you have more than 2 kids.

    I would require a license to have kids, but it would just require you to take a few classes on basic parenting.

    However, none of this means I have religious belief in free markets. I’m so tired of this being a holy belief when it is just a tool. A good one, but just a tool. It doesn’t always work.

  9. Babylon says:

    I am personally very much in favor of Project Prevention’s project. I do hope they don’t have some sort of filter to keep people from getting the 200 pounds that would exclude someone they felt was an allowable parent, although I suppose they might have to to keep from going over budget.

    One of the reasons for bad parenting is over population.