There are two short answers to that: racism and sexism.
The sexism part is fairly obvious: the anti-choicers (who hate the idea of women getting to decide whether we have children, how many children, and when to have children) see in a “falling birthrate” that a significant proportion of women in a country who have become uppity. (Anti-choice women seem to have achieved the far-from-unusual hypocrisy of thinking that all other women have become too uppity to have all the children they should want to have. (As David P. Barash (via Pandagon)points out in the LA Times op-ed pages recently, humans are evolutionarily inclined to eat when we feel hungry, drink when we feel thirsty, and have sex when we feel horny. We are also inclined to take care of and feel protective of babies when they arrive, but this is a separate bit of programming from wanting to have sex.)
The racism part ought to be just as obvious. The human species is in no danger of becoming extinct. None at all. There are over 6 billion humans worldwide: while it’s possible that a human-created catastrophe could end up wiping out our entire species, in plain fact, a species with as large a breeding pool as ours and as a wide range, is not in any danger of extinction short of a human-created catastrophe such as a nuclear war.
What several people have argued (most recently, I had this argument on Family Scholars Blog [before I was banned] but it’s a standard right-wing anti-choice Thing) is that there’s a problem with demographics – that countries where women are both educated and independent enough to be able to decide for ourselves how many children we want to have and when (and which are usually countries with a good enough health care system that all the children a woman decides to have will most likely survive to adulthood – this is not coincidental) are countries with an aging population, where “soon” there will be too many people too old to work and too few younger people to support them.
One may then – logically enough – point out that immigration generally solves that problem. It’s not as if there’s a real shortage of human beings: if there’s any country in the world which really is having trouble because there’s too many old people and not enough young people, it’s because that country has managed to block off most legal and all illegal immigration. (Needless to say, I do not believe there is such a country, nor ever will be.)
Then your average racist Christian right-winger (I mean that as a compound: Christians who are neither right-wing nor racist, and right-wingers who are not Christian nor racist, should not feel included, but FSB’s right-wingers are both Christian and racist and homophobic and sexist… you can see why they banned me….) frothing gently at the mouth, will say that they want their culture to stay their culture, and it won’t if there’s mass immigration from other countries that don’t share their culture. Right now, this fear is usually ostensibly anti-Muslim. A century ago it would have been anti-Eastern European/anti-Jewish/anti-Irish, and fifty years ago it would have been anti-West Indies. It is the same racist fear, and it is unfounded every time, as one can see by looking back at previous examples.
What this fear of falling birth rates ultimately comes down to is: we want our women to have more and more of our babies. What that means to your average right-wing Christian racist is: white women should have white babies, and a white woman shouldn’t under any circumstances be allowed to abort just because she can’t afford to take care of a child: she should hand the baby over to a white (and heterosexual, and married) couple. (Egg-donation and sperm donation, however, are bad, because anything that lets a woman feel in control of reproduction is fundamentally bad: women who are in control of reproduction have fewer children.)
I got banned from FSB because the moderators objected to having homophobia identified as bigotry, or indeed identified at all: the preference of your average right-wing Christian homophobe is for their feelings about LGBT people to be regarded as normal, not as homophobia – still less to have homophobes called out as bigots. But in a sense, their homophobia is a side-effect: the real motivation behind all this twisted nonsense is a knotted-up combination of racism and sexism. Hard to pick out which comes first, which is more important to them: a riddle as unsolvable as the chicken and the egg.
But it all ties together: these people who oppose contraception, sex education, abortion, and who oppose child support, a right to paid maternity leave, breastfeeding, subsidised daycare, free education for all beginning in nursery school. Racism and sexism are the roots, with homophobia as a flourishing fruit of the tree.
Lovely. Let’s cut it down, burn it up, and party on the ashes.
This post was first published on my greatestjournal, on 13th May 2006.