If threats don't work, try bribery

Perhaps you, like me, are one of those last stubborn hold-outs who still thinks that people should be able to choose for themselves whether or not to have children. Well, consider this. If laws that restrict your access to birth control and abortion don't work; there's always pseudo-science, and if, that fails, good old-fashioned palm greasing.

First, the Washington Post reports that new federal guidelines ask that doctors treat all women who are physically capable of having children as "pre-pregnant," regardless of whether or not they have any plans to have children.

The report acknowledges that "women with no plans to get pregnant in the near future may resist preconception care." Well, yes. Given that this "pre-pregnancy" care requires taking folic acid supplements and giving up smoking, it's no wonder that some women, who aren't planning on having children, might not take kindly to it. As Dan Savage writes, categorizing all women as "pre-pregnant" vessels, only makes sense in a dictatorial society where you're also categorizing all post-pubescent males as "pre-fathers," who should similarly give up smoking, take supplements, stop taking hot baths, and, while we're at, learn to change dirty diapers. (Hmm, doesn't sound too bad now that I think about it.)

Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Union, where people are just not having enough children, the government is trying bribery, offering the equivalent of US $36,000 to any woman who has a second child. Alas, as Slate points out, it's probably not going to work. After all, the cost of raising a child to seventeen is somewhere between $140,000 and $280,000. That's not including any pre-high school expenses or the loss of income when one parent stays home to take care of the child.

I'm not saying I wouldn't reject the $36,000 check if someone offered it to me, but I do have a little hint for those governments who really want more children. It won't guarantee your country is chock-full of kids but might help make it easier for those who do decide to help out the state of the union by reproducing: try national good quality health care; universal preschool and college; increased equality, and respect for women's reproductive and political rights. If that doesn't convince folks to have children then, hey, maybe they just don't want to.

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