News & Politics

Trump Is Threatening the Future of Our Children and Planet Through Family Planning Position

Pushing for larger families could be the worst way to exacerbate climate change and other environmental crises.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Evidence has shown that the Trump administration wants women, in the United States and worldwide, to have more children. His administration has reversed policies for reporting the state of human rights abroad, burying reporting critical of other countries for denying women reproductive rights. It has doubled child tax credits (a move that prominent Republican leaders admitted was meant to increase fertility), defunded teen pregnancy programs, promoted pro-natal abstinence programs and severely limited family planning abroad.

It has also granted more than $3 million in funding to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which—as John Oliver explains in this segment—pose as abortion clinics in order to persuade women to give birth.  

Why?

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There are many purported reasons that Trump and his supporters push women to have more kids, from appeasing "pro-birth" constituents to reinforcing conservative social norms that a woman's main role in life is as a mother. Still, motherhood seems an odd issue upon which to build so many political moves. What if we look a bit closer and start to follow the money?

Conservatives' real fear seems to be that the trend toward smaller families will harm the economy by limiting the number of consumers and reducing the size of the labor force and the number of taxpayers. One Republican lawmaker recently discussed limiting access to abortions because doing so would eventually produce a glut of more laborers to fuel the economy. The logic that growth equals economic well-being is dubious and contradicted by modern examples of countries with falling populations and healthy economies.

Graph of human population from 10000 BCE to 2000 CE. It shows exponential rise in world population that has taken place since the eighteenth century. (Wikipedia)

Regardless, Trump’s positioning on family planning raises a lot of problems—and many of those problems threaten our well-being and our future. Here are three main ones:

1. Climate change

Pushing for larger families could be the worst way to exacerbate climate change and other environmental crises, by increasing emissions and creating a greater demand on an increasingly degraded environment. Climate change is now a recognized threat to national security, as well as international security and stability. 

If Trump and his supporters are pushing women to have kids, and that is exacerbating climate change, then he and his supporters are acting as manifest threats to our well-being and the well-being of our families and future.

World energy consumption and predictions, 1970–2025. (Energy Information Administration/Wikipedia)

2. Failing systems for children

It’s not controversial to say that there are childcare, child protection and educational crises in the United States, as well as many other parts of the world. This may be obvious, but pushing more kids through systems that are failing is probably not a great idea. That point becomes more obvious in cases of child abuse and neglect, where dismal systems are now dealing with an overflow of kids from parents addicted to opioids.

Is ensuring our already unsustainable level of wealth and consumption worth doing that to kids? Why would we not reform our family planning systems to ensure all kids get what they need before they come into the world? For many, it seems, foreseeable and preventable child abuse is an acceptable cost of our growth-based economic thinking.  

3. Wealth gap

Pushing more kids through our existing childcare and educational systems does more than harm kids. It exacerbates the massive gap between rich and poor, which starts and sets in at birth.  If humans and democracy are premised on the idea that everyone deserves a fair shot in life, policies that push kids into the massive wealth gap that exists today are anti-democratic and a threat to the stability of society. Democracy inherently relies on a highly educated populace that is engaged and that plays an equally influential role in their smaller and decentralized political systems.

CBO Chart, U.S. Holdings of Family Wealth 1989 to 2013. The top 10% of families held 76% of the wealth in 2013, while the bottom 50% of families held 1%. Inequality worsened from 1989 to 2013. (Congressional Budget Office/Wikipedia)

In contrast, the United States is like a massive building with many floors, and with staircases going from the outside directly to each of the floors. Our policies are driving many kids down the stairs and into the lower levels because it supports the lifestyle of those of us living in the upper levels. That’s contrary to democracy and simply wrong. Bullies like Trump, who live at the top of the tower, thrive on these policies, with more and more people who will work against their and their children's own interests in the face of obvious threats like climate change. The longer we allow these policies to stand, the harder it is getting to solve the problems.

A way out

Trump's policies, our growing population, the culture of treating women as mothers, and the ensuing child welfare, environmental, and social problems are all enabled by our current way of planning families. It isolates parents and treats the decision to have kids as a private matter that cannot be discussed publicly. It's hard to make change and enact beneficial policies when it's taboo to even discuss family planning policies.   

One alternative—and a way to break the isolation and begin the discussion—is called child-first Fair Start family planning. It's simple and means working with your community to get the resources you deserve to give your child a fair start in life, with equal opportunities relative to their peers, and planning a smaller and sustainable family where you and others can invest more in each child. This model is a win-win for everyone involved because it shifts the high cost of thoughtless family planning into the production of real and widely-shared values like child welfare, fairness and environmental restoration.

Better family planning is the most effective way to combat climate change, save animals, protect the environment for future generations—and give our children a fair start in life.

Want to take action and lean against Trump’s policies? One effective way to do that is by urging child welfare, human rights and democracy, and environmental/animal protection groups to adopt child-first Fair Start family planning modeling. If you belong to or support any groups like these, please urge them to take a stand on family planning, and adopt a better family planning model like the Fair Start model.

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Rebecca Cross is a food lawyer in the Bay area. She has served as outside general counsel to a number of food products clients, with a focus on plant-based food companies.