Student: Well, you know, I don’t like abortion. But I mean, isn’t the world so overpopulated?
Me: Actually, no it isn’t.
I have heard the “overpopulation” argument at nearly every campus we’ve visited. I hear it not only from pro-choicers who think nothing’s wrong with abortion, but also from people who claim to be against it. There are two major false assumptions made when this argument is used: first, that aborting preborn children would prevent them from being “brought into the world,” and second that overpopulation exists at all.
Student: Wouldn’t it be better not to bring a child into a world where there aren’t enough resources to care for them?
Me: Maybe. But what if the child is already here?
For most people I speak to on campus, the concept of birth is equivalent to the concept of “bringing a child into the world.” That is, until birth, the child has not been “brought into the world” and isn’t really there. I hear this even with people who claim to know that it is, in fact, a child that we’re talking about. Even though they know the preborn are living human persons, they still seem to keep a distinction in their minds between a preborn person and an “actual baby.”
Me: Do you think a good solution to overpopulation would be killing toddlers in poor areas with few resources?
Me: What’s the difference between killing the toddler and killing the preborn child?
Student: But the toddler is already here, you know?
Me: If the woman is pregnant, isn’t the preborn child already here?
Student: I mean, technically…
Me: The child exists, right?
Me: There’s no preventing them from coming into the world. They’re in it.
It’s often around this point that I’ll start to see a shift in the person’s thinking. If I can show him or her that the preborn are already here and already human, he or she realizes that overpopulation is no longer a good argument unless he or she is willing to sacrifice born children as well.
Depending on the conversation, I may go through the above arguments first, or I may instead start by challenging the assumption of overpopulation (especially if the person seems really concerned about it). The key is to differentiate between overpopulation and urbanization (click to watch a great video from the Population Research Institute that explains this concept). Essentially, overpopulation is hard to define. How many is too many? You can throw around big numbers like 7 billion and 8 billion, but what do they mean? In reality, the problems attributed to overpopulation are actually the fault of urbanization. In New York City, the world feels very overpopulated. You have a large amount of people living in a very small space. But then you drive an hour or two north. You’ll see beautiful forests, vast fields, and serene lakes. Where did all the overpopulation go?
In reality, we have more than enough space and resources to go around. In fact, the entire population of the world could fit in a space the size of Texas, with an average family size of four and each family receiving a single family home and a yard. We also have more than enough food to feed everyone. Hunger happens when war, lack of infrastructure, or corruption disrupt people’s access to food and their ability to either make it themselves or earn an income allowing them to buy it.
So rather than killing children in response to problems like urban overcrowding and poverty, we should instead respond in a way that values all human life. If poverty is the problem, let’s work on lifting people out by equipping them to care for themselves and their families. If lack of access to resources is the problem, let’s work on improving infrastructure so that people have greater opportunities. Let’s support our brothers and sisters in need rather than killing them.