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Why Are Conservatives Obsessed With Making Women Breed?

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is just a high-profile example of the people -- including liberals -- who judge women harshly for refusing to give birth.
 
 
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The following is reprinted with permission from   Religion Dispatches . You can sign up for their free daily newsletter  here.

Ross Douthat  wants you to have more babies. And he wants you to be married when you have those babies. And not just any babies. He wants you to have American babies -- though, if you’re an immigrant, he’ll take your babies, too, because that’s really the only reason to allow immigrants ( who he thinks have been slacking off in the bedroom recently) to be here.

And he wants you to hurry up and have those American babies, because if you don’t, we’ll run out of workers, and if we run out of workers the United States will get “knocked off its global perch.” Because that’s what’s at stake, ladies and gentlemen -- American domination.

So, my (heterosexual) compatriots, take off your clothes, take off your condoms, take out your IUDs and diaphragms, stop swallowing your birth control pills, have your vasectomies reversed, quit it with the rhythm method, and do the hard, hot, steamy work your country needs you to do: reproduce. And then do it again. It’s your civic duty.

Douthat is sounding his make-more-babies alarm in response to last week’s  Pew Research Center report that U.S. birth rates hit the lowest ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1000 women of childbearing age (compared to 71 per 1000 in 1990). Americans used to be good at populating the planet, Douthat laments. “Our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), and our willingness to welcome immigrants” gave us a “demographic edge,” he writes (though Douthat’s own Republican party had a lot to say in the last year about exactly what kind of welcome immigrants should be given -- that is, none).

Douthat seems nostalgic, sentimental over a time when fewer women earned college degrees, when husbands and wives believed children were the key to successful marriages, when gay marriage (which he condemns for “formally sever[ing] wedlock from sex differences and procreation”) was not a “no brainer,” and when women did the only thing they were good for -- making more American babies.

Never mind the melting ice caps. Never mind mass extinction on a scale never seen before. Never mind the environment or pollution or climate change. Make more people! And if you don’t, shame on you. You’re selfish. You’re “decadent.”

Who can help us out of this decline? The government, obviously, which Douthat calls on to “exercise its power over fertility.” “America has  no real family policy to speak of at the moment,” Douthat writes, and he’s not talking about Head Start or a living wage or any other social program that might help support families in concrete ways. He’s talking about a “more family-friendly tax code.” He wants the government to pay people to procreate. It’s a “big government” Republicans can get behind: a “baby government.”

Though women of childbearing age are the people Douthat wants to get busy getting pregnant, he doesn’t talk about women very much -- or the social, physical, and financial costs women still pay for having kids. Douthat blames women without talking about (or to) them, as  Irin Carmon points out in a recent essay for Salon -- and he hasn’t been listening to women much, either. Carmon notes that Douthat ignores the fact that half the pregnancies in the United States are unintended, meaning that if more women had the resources they needed to control their fertility, the declining birth rate that worries Douthat would be even lower.

 
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