Individual rights. Individual rights must be balanced against the power of the government to control human reproduction. Some people—respected legislators, judges, and lawyers included—have viewed the right to have children as a fundamental and inalienable right. Yet neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Constitution mentions a right to reproduce. Nor does the UN Charter describe such a right, although a resolution of the United Nations affirms the “right responsibly to choose” the number and spacing of children (our emphasis). In the United States, individuals have a constitutional right to privacy and it has been held that the right to privacy includes the right to choose whether or not to have children, at least to the extent that a woman has a right to choose not to have children. But the right is not unlimited. Where the society has a “compelling, subordinating interest” in regulating population size, the right of the individual may be curtailed. If society’s survival depended on having more children, women could he required to bear children, just as men can constitutionally be required to serve in the armed forces. Similarly, given a crisis caused by overpopulation, reasonably necessary laws to control excessive reproduction could be enacted.
It is often argued that the right to have children is so personal that the government should not regulate it. In an ideal society, no doubt the state should leave family size and composition solely to the desires of the parents. In today’s world, however, the number of children in a family is a matter of profound public concern. The law regulates other highly personal matters. For example, no one may lawfully have more than one spouse at a time. Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?
This is, of course, appalling to any person who identifies as ‘pro-life’ – but it should be even more appalling to any person who identifies as ‘pro-choice.’ It is simply impossible to reconcile the position that the government may regulate the number of children with the position that a woman has a ‘fundamental right to choose’ whether or not to have an abortion. If you consider that right to automatically overrule the government’s ability to force you to carry an unwanted child to term, then it logically follows that you must also consider that right to also overrule the government’s ability to force you not to carry a wanted child to term*. And if you admit that the government has the right to dictate your fertility, then you don’t actually believe in a ‘fundamental right to choose’ in the first place; you believe in the government’s right to choose for you. Reading the rest of Zombietime’s article, it is fairly clear that Holdren is firmly of the opinion that the government does have that right, and that it trumps individual opinions on the matter. And now he’s in charge of science policy.
Or, to put this another way: they told me that if I voted for John McCain the President would appoint an anti-choice fanatic as science czar, and they were right.
*State-sanctioned population-control programs almost guarantee forced abortions. Like it or don’t like it, as you please; it still happens.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.