The overpopulation of the planet and the subsequent struggle for survival are among the main fears of civilization over the past centuries. Society has taken the challenge seriously, launching programs for reproductive health and family planning: from promoting barrier-based methods of contraception to regulating abortion and managing migration. The measures are taken predictably resulted in fierce demographic disputes, most of which rested on fundamental human rights.
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As for the United States of America, the historical trend shows that the rate of population change here is dictated by several factors, such as the birth rate, the death rate, and the increase due to migration. The basis of natural population growth, in addition to the birth rate, is determined by several social and demographic factors, among which one of the main ones is the reduction in the death rate due to an increase in the quality of life, primarily due to advances in medicine and the improvement of the health system. Although the United States is not the most overpopulated country globally, the state authorities are actively working on birth control and migration policies.
In the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, birth control and various means of contraception were an acute social problem full of contradictions. Doctors were not allowed to talk about birth control because it was obscene, and only nurses were legally allowed to provide birth control education and counseling. One of these nurses was Margaret Sanger, who founded the first birth control clinic in the United States (Fieldstadt). She believed that for women to have more equal opportunities in society and lead a healthier lifestyle, they needed to determine when to give birth to children. She was also against illegal abortions and promoted the use of birth control instead. In addition, she founded the American Birth Control League and is still considered the founder of the birth control movement.
Birth control in the United States began to gain momentum during the First World War when many soldiers were diagnosed with various sexually transmitted diseases. Large-scale educational campaigns focusing on abstinence among military personnel were launched, and special attention was paid to multiple means of contraception. Birth control clinics have become more common than before, but a large number of medical professionals still resisted this. After a while, contraceptives began to be perceived as a standard medical service and widely distributed throughout the country. Then, at the legislative level, they established a permit for abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy. Several drugs that terminate pregnancy were developed, and specific contraceptive actions were covered by insurance.
Another group, which aimed to combat unwanted reproduction, was the eugenicists. They advocated sterilization in psychiatric institutions so that offspring with mental disorders would not continue to develop. Levine claims that eugenicists played a leading role in shaping population control policies (1). Unfortunately, there were several cases when sterilization took place without people’s consent during other surgical procedures. Naturally, the direction of eugenics exists today, and only it has a more modern name of genetic engineering. Now this direction makes it possible to identify acute diseases of the child in the womb and, in some cases, terminate the pregnancy.
After World War II, many family planning and birth control agencies began to appear, as the US government allocated considerable financial resources for this. For example, in 1968, the Alan Guttmacher Institute was established, which positioned itself as a family planning institute. Their main task was to legalize abortions at women’s request, carried out at the expense of public funds. The institute has proven that abortion is not a threat and has actively promoted sexual education in schools. They also keep informed of the number of abortions, the number of pregnant adolescents, and how many adolescents use contraception. This institute has been awarded several times as a charity in reproductive health, as they actively help conduct and disseminate research in the field of population.
Later, in 1972, the American Health Association was founded, which was not concerned with family planning but with birth control. The main activities of this organization were the promotion of abortion and sexual education. They insisted that all families have the right to determine the number of family members independently. All public and private programs that monitor family size and population should be transferred to health programs. Moreover, they believed that an active distribution of contraceptives among the population is required in order to exert physical influence and to some extent, psychological.
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Immigration played an essential role in the formation of the US population, as a large number of handypersons, scientists, and skilled workers of rare specialties flowed into the country as immigrants. Moreover, immigration has had a significant impact on the formation of the racial and ethnic population of the United States. People from Italy, Russia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and various Asian countries moved to the United States. Thus, the population of America became not only white but also black. In addition to the positive effects of immigration, some see the negative ones. For example, Okrent states that immigrants brought with them various contagions, crime, and anarchy (57). Perhaps the differences in national cultures have caused quarrels and conflicts within the country, but it is difficult to say that this has had a significant impact on people’s lives.
Currently, the United States heads of state are negative about abortion, which will understandably have a positive impact on the growth of the American population. As for immigration, in this case, the heads of state have decided to limit or complicate the resettlement of people from other countries.
Improving living standards and health services will have a positive impact on the growth of the United States population. It is vital to have a specific influence on people’s thoughts about starting a family, to encourage them to realize and make an unconditional decision to withstand financially. Silva and Tenereyro suppose that two main points are included to all population control programs: promoting the information about contraception methods and creating campaigns propagandizing that small families are better than big ones (206). Furthermore, an active policy of school sex education should be implemented to at least reduce the number of abortions and accidental family creation.
In conclusion, the question of population size has always been an important task and remains essential to this day. Naturally, uncontrolled population growth can lead to famine, depletion of the planet’s resources, wars, and epidemics. To avoid this, it is necessary to control the birth rate and the heads of state and pay attention to the formation or improvement of family planning policies. Of course, explicitly promoting abortion is not the best solution to the issue of overpopulation, but other ways can help slow down population growth.
Fieldstadt, Elisha. “Planned Parenthood of Greater New York to remove late founder’s name from center due to ‘racist legacy’.” NBCnews, 2020. Web.
Levine, Phillippa. Eugenics. A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Okrent, Daniel. The Guarded Gate. Simon & Schuster, 2019.
Silva, Tiloka & Tenreyro, Silvana. “Population Control Policies and Fertility Convergence.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 31, no. 4, 2017, pp. 205-228.