50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. According to a UN report in 2015, the global population is estimated to be 7.3 billion and growing. It is no mystery that unplanned pregnancies, population control, and reproductive rights are inextricably related. In 1798, famed English scholar, Thomas Malthus presciently wrote that “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” Granted, by now more of us are aware of the frighteningly near future of overpopulation and limited world resources.
What if I told you there is a moral solution that gives these concepts proper consideration?
Consider Sex and Consequences: World Population Growth vs. Reproductive Rights by philosopher Margaret P. Battin. In this article, Battin presents a thought-experiment in which all fertile women and—when the technology is available—all fertile men use “automatic, reversible” contraception. For instance, when a woman starts menstruating, she would immediately see her doctor for the insertion of an IUD. Once she actively decides she wants a baby, she would return back to that doctor for the removal of her IUD. In this way, the default model of human reproduction would be reversed so that bringing a child into this world would require intentional choice.
Underwriting this thought-experiment is the assumption that people would choose to have fewer children than they would have with unplanned pregnancies. Can we really assume that people would choose to have fewer children if this culture of automatic contraception was more widespread? Is there any case to be made in favor of the status quo? Would automatic contraception be sufficient to mitigate the global population crisis? Moreover, what kind of conditions are required to make this thought-experiment a real ethical solution to the problem presented by Malthus, without violating anyone's reproductive rights?