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Putting children first – while there’s still time

With 30 as the average age of mothers now giving birth – ‘four years older than in the Seventies’ - the chairman of the British Fertility Society Dr Jane Stewart has ‘called for a shift in society, urging those hoping for children to start planning at a younger age, when their fertility was more secure’ (‘Put babies before your careers to avoid fertility “heartbreak”, couples told’, Telegraph, June 22, 2019).

Dr Stewart is right to warn that ‘[e]ye-catching policies such as subsidised egg-freezing, offered by companies such as Facebook and Apple, could put pressure on women to defer having a family until it was too late’ - that freezing eggs is ‘“certainly no guarantee”’ that children will be born as a result – but it is the fertility industry that is responsible for developing and offering such ‘solutions’ to infertility, offering a false sense of security to women that delaying a family for a couple of decades will not matter; the fertility industry is actually creating infertility, which they then offer to solve at enormous expense and with uncertain outcomes.

Her own solution to the problem of socially-driven delayed childbearing is for employers to ‘do more to assist family friendly working – including providing crèches – instead of encouraging women to freeze their eggs’, and she says that she herself ‘spent most of her salary on a nanny while her own children were growing up.’ 

But most women, far from focussing too hard on their careers would rather spend more time with their families; they would rather not drag their babies through the rush-hour traffic to dump them in a crèche; and yet our economy is now focussed on ensuring that women have the briefest of breaks from their ‘proper’ work, and indeed the introduction of maternity leave has made employing young women, who are more likely to become pregnant, expensive; no wonder that abortion is so useful to industry, and while the ‘fertility industry’ profits from delayed childbearing, the abortion industry profits from fatal delays – 205,295 times last year, a ten-year high. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/abortion-statistics-for-england-and-wales-2018 

Women’s paid work, it seems, is compulsory, while childbearing is a ‘choice’, and schools sex education reinforces the message that children are an inconvenient and ‘accidental’ by-product of ‘having sex’; the abortion industry benefited greatly from the ‘teenage pregnancy’ scare, which justified it as a lesser evil than young women having children at an age once considered quite normal. Like so many other aspects of modern life, the ‘dilemma’ of having children is a manufactured one, with a pre-packaged solution; whereas children used to be seen as a normal part of marriage, and a mortgage could be managed by one breadwinner, artificially managed childbearing is now the last item on an ever-lengthening to-do list, after career, mortgage and sometimes marriage.

Dr Stewart is right to warn of the dangers of delayed childbearing, but she is looking in the wrong place for a solution. 

We need a society that puts children first, rather than seeing them, variously, as a restriction on personal liberty, a drag on industry, an expensive nuisance, a private hobby, an equality hex, a ‘right’ to be claimed or discarded at will - or a belated afterthought that never arrives.  


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