The ethical debate over childbearing has many aspects, including parental motives, the autonomy of the mother, the ability to provide for children, and the environmental catastrophe. Some argue that having children is a biological drive rather than a moral decision.
Yes, it is ethical to have children
The benefits of having a child outweigh the costs. Even though childbearing comes with an environmental cost, its contributions to economic growth and human welfare are remarkable. Therefore, according to utilitarianism, it is ethical to have children.
Population growth is necessary for economic well-being
Most world economic systems are founded on the premise of growth. Without growth, there is no economic prosperity. Since the benefits of having a child outweigh the costs, childbearing is ethical.
First, by making a new person, we inflict that person onto the world. The world is already full and lacks resources. Adding to the population only worsens the current environmental catastrophe. Secondly, we also inflict the world onto the person we create. It is ethically wrong to have children since they will have to live through the world's problems.
Having children threatens the environment
Our planet is currently experiencing an environmental catastrophe with the drastic effects of climate change. These effects are driven by population growth to some extent. Therefore, having children would only damage the environment and the living people’s welfare even more.
It is unethical to knowingly inflict the troubled world onto the children
In a world where resources are becoming increasingly scarce and sociopolitical stability is nonexistent, one should ask about the ethics of bearing children. When people have a child, they put someone that they will predictably love in a world that is in serious trouble.
It is ethical to have children under certain conditions
The ethics of childbearing depends on whether parents can provide for their children well and whether parental motives are selfish or not. If parents do not have enough resources to raise a child, then childbearing becomes unethical. Similarly, if the purpose of having a child is only to make the parents’ lives better, childbearing is not ethical.
Childbearing is ethical only if parents can provide for their children well
If a family has more children than they can properly care for and pay attention to each individual, then childbearing becomes unethical. That is usually the case for poor people. If a parent neglects or mistreats their child, then for them, having children would also be unethical.
Childbearing is ethical if parental motives are not selfish
As long as parents do not have a child for their own sake, childbearing is ethical. However, if the reproductive decision to have a child is selfish (such as for money and personal happiness), then childbearing becomes unethical.
The ethics of having children do not exist. Having children is a biological need. Species reproduce because there is an innate desire to have children, namely the “parenting drive.” Besides, in some cases, lack of sex education or unavailability of contraception may produce unplanned children.
Reproduction is a biological drive
We do not make conscious and autonomous procreative decisions. The biological desire to have children is innate in all species. Therefore, childbearing is not subject to ethical evaluation.
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.