Childbearing is not a moral choice
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Lack of contraception may produce unplanned children
Procreation becomes beyond a moral choice when women give birth to unplanned children because of unavailable or misused contraception or forced sexual intercourse. Cultural pressure may also cause women to, involuntarily, decide not to use contraception.
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For any procreative decision to have ethical significance, the woman involved must have moral agency, authority, and freedom. However, this is not the case when there is a lack of contraception. Globally, 74 million women living in low and middle-income countries have unintended pregnancies annually. This situation occurs because, mainly, women lack access to contraceptive methods or contraceptive counseling. In some cases, contraception is not chosen because sex is the result of coercion or violence, such as in cases of rape. Such a situation involves a clear violation of women’s rights and integrity. Since women do not autonomously decide to have sex and get pregnant, childbearing is not open to an ethical evaluation in these cases. Besides, most cultures are pronatalist. Pronatalism is the promotion of baby-making for a nation’s social, political, and economic purposes. In pronatalist cultures, women face intense pressure to have children. This pressure leads them to choose not to use contraception. Here, childbearing is, again, not voluntary but is a result of cultural pressure. Overall, procreation is not always a choice. Therefore, only voluntary childbearing should be subject to ethical evaluation.
Many women, though certainly not all, with access to effective contraception can make autonomous procreative decisions. This contraceptive access is increasing in many underdeveloped countries. The rapidly declining birth rate in many countries is evidence of women to make such decisions. Philosopher Lisa Cassidy observes that even though pressures (religious, legal, and cultural) may subject many of us to emotional strain, these social pressures do not wholly co-opt reproductive choice we make. Similarly, author Corinne Maier claims that most children have been wanted children ever since the pill and the IUD. Children are no longer the unavoidable consequence of a sexual act but the product of willpower under scientific management.