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Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Apathy & Childlessness
Various publications from the BLI have reported on the dramatic increase (up 90% in 20 years) in childlessness among women nearing the end of their childbearing years. [A previous issue of this publication (“New Census Bureau Report Confirms Earlier Observed Trends,” Dot.Commentary, October 19) reported on an October 2001 Census Bureau report, Fertility of American Women: June 2000 (PDF), which confirmed the presence of a growing trend toward childlessness among American women. As reported in the 2001 BLI publication, Gaining Ground: A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century, the proportion of American women at the end of their childbearing years (age 40-44) who have not yet given birth has increased by 90 percent in the past 20 years (from 10 percent in 1976 to 19 percent in 1998).]

Now a story by Pamela Paul (“Why Child Free?”) in the November 2001 issue of American Demographics magazine reports on the reasons that so many American women have chosen to remain childless. Quoting studies on the subject by several social scientists, the author concludes that, while career and environmental concerns account for much of the decline in fertility over the past few decades, most childless couples simply have no desire for children or do not think they would be suitable parents. In other words, they simply can’t be bothered. As the article’s author puts it, “They wouldn’t like being mothers, don’t think they’d be good fathers or they simply aren’t especially inclined toward having children. Many lack the emotional desire.”

United Nations Relief Efforts Ignore Basic Medical Needs of Women
According to a story posted on the website for the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), United Nations (U.N.) officials appear to be uninterested in relief efforts directed toward women in developing countries unless they offer contraception and abortion as part of their services. Dr. Robert Walley, medical director of a Catholic relief agency called MaterCare International (MCI), charges that because “motherhood is not politically important,” U.N. officials routinely ignore relief efforts by organizations like MCI, whose efforts focus on the medical needs of pregnant women and women who have suffered complications associated with pregnancy and delivery. MCI specializes in treating women, who suffer from a complication of childbirth called obstetric fistulae, which occurs almost exclusively in countries that lack basic medical services. It is a consequence of obstructed labor, and causes extreme pain and incontinence. They also provide training for midwives to prevent this condition.

U.N. relief agencies have shown an eagerness to provide “reproductive health services,” including abortion and contraception, to refugee women displaced by recent conflicts in Kosovo, for example, and more recently, in Afghanistan. This is despite the fact that women in developing nations, where malnutrition and infectious diseases are common, are consistently more concerned with clean water and other basic necessities than with family planning services. Moreover, Muslim cultures are traditionally opposed to abortion and premarital sex, so attempts to foist such services on Muslim women have, understandably, met with resistance. Dr. Walley believes that U.N. funding priorities demonstrate that they are more interested in population control through contraception and abortion than in addressing problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth: “While billions of dollars have been spent on abortion and birth control programs, only a small fraction is focused on providing emergency obstetric services.”

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