Feminism, Steve King, And Birthrate Panic

Marie Diamond flags Iowa Representative Steve King's panic over the possibility that increased access to contraception could lead to the end of America:

They’ve called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine. Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not— that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.

As Michelle Goldberg wrote in her book, The Means of Reproduction, fear of demographic decline is a kind of sweet spot for right-wing panic all over the world. Blending fears of "Islamization," arguments for curtailing women's access to contraception and abortion, and blocking LGBT rights, panic over birth rates provides a convenient narrative for pursuing the agenda conservatives would be pushing anyway.

The irony, though, is that nations fixated on "preserving the traditional family structure," haven't seen their birthrates rise. As a report from the Center for European Reform put it, "The evidence from Italy, and indeed Spain, is that a traditional family structure now leads to very low birth rates." Goldberg cites the conclusion of political scientist Francis G. Castles:

Whereas previously the countries with the highest period fertility rates were those in which family-oriented cultural traditions were most pronounced and in which women’s labour market participation was least, these relationships are now wholly reversed.

As Goldberg points out in her book, conservatives have sought to blame feminism and secularism for declining birthrates, despite the fact that the evidence suggests the way to solve the problem is by making it easier for women to work and be mothers at the same time rather than trying to limit their ability to decide when to have children, which women in developed nations generally respond to by not having many children at all. But I doubt many conservatives would suddenly support such policies even if they were convinced the evidence was accurate -- preserving the "traditional family structure" through curtailing the rights of women is really the more important end.

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