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Debate: Contraception for the purpose of reducing overpopulation

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Revision as of 19:59, 12 September 2007

Is there a global crisis of overpopulation? Is so, is increased use of contraception the solution?


Background and Context of Debate:

It has long been accepted that natural resources are limited. Despite the efforts of scientists to find more efficient ways of using what is already available, it has become clear that no amount of technology will completely solve the problem of limited resources. Attention has therefore turned to the question of population growth – it is far easier to preserve the environment if our natural resources are shared among fewer people. Environmental degradation will accelerate if the increase in the global human population is not slowed down. Over the years, there has been a great deal of debate about whether large-scale contraception is the solution to the population explosion in the developing world. Debates about birth control can exist on two levels; on one level, there can be debate about whether the problem is serious enough to merit some form of action. On the second level, the debate can discuss whether contraception is an appropriate solution. In debate formats where there is some definitional leeway, any debate on solving the developing world’s population crisis can be steered towards this topic, by using the definition to propose a policy supporting greater contraceptive use.

Population crisis? - Is the world experiencing a population crisis?


Population forecasts predict a major spike in the size of today's population: The world population of 6 billion is expected to reach 10.7 billion by 2050.[citation needed] Given the strain on global resources and the environment today, this projected increase in population size is set to push the environmental strains to the level of crisis.


Many population forecasts are exaggerated and do not take into account the decline in birth rates that accompany modernization: A nation’s population may grow rapidly in the early stages of development, but with industrialisation and rising levels of education, the population tends to stabilize at the replacement rate, after an initial boom period. Even if the quoted figure of 10.7 billion by 2050 is true, this is likely to remain steady thereafter, as the developing nations of today achieve maturity. Developed, industrialized nations can use alternative methods to solve the environmental and social problems arising from overpopulation. For example, one could explore options like better redistribution of economic wealth and food, and the creation of a global market which does not disenfranchise the poor (e.g. the EU’s protectionist Common Agricultural Policy deprives developing agricultural economies of a level playing field). All available options should be exhausted before taking the drastic decision to curb reproductive rights.

Effective contraception? - Is contraception effective in stemming population growth?


Contraception is an easy and direct method of reducing population growth. The popularity and success of contraception in the developed world is testament to this.[citation needed]


There are often technical difficulties associated with implementing widespread contraception. The cost can be prohibitive, especially when considered on a national scale. Large numbers of trained workers will be required to educate the public on the correct use of contraceptives. Even with an investment in training, there is no guarantee that birth control methods will be used correctly, especially by the illiterate and uneducated – numerous anecdotal reports exist, where, for example, villagers, having seen a banana used as a prop for teaching condom use, proceeded to place their state-sponsored condoms on bananas.[citation needed]

Family size: Is it in the interests of families themselves to be smaller?


Contraception can reduce family sizes, with many resulting benefits to those family. This will allow a greater proportion of resources to be allocated to each child, improving their opportunities for education, healthcare, and nutrition.


In many agrarian communities, it is actually in the interests of the family to have as many children as possible. Children can be deployed to work on the farm, as a source of income. In an undeveloped nation without a good social welfare system, children can provide security in old age. Furthermore, a large number of children can be an insurance policy against child mortality, which is, sadly, very high in the developing world. Until the child mortality rate is reduced through improvements in public health and sanitation, families will lack the will to use contraception.

Empowering women: does the diffusion of contraceptives empower women with choice?


Contraception empowers women by giving them reproductive control: By deferring pregnancy, this helps restore opportunities for education, employment, and social and political advancement. Birth control can therefore be a long-term investment towards political reform and greater protection for women’s rights – as more women enter the workforce and political system, their voices are far more likely to be heard, and their concerns far more likely to be addressed.


Women may not have a true reproductive choice, even with contraceptives available: In many developing nations, there can be a cultural preference for sons over daughters, religious pressure to have as many children as possible, and a traditional male dominance in sexual relationships and family planning decisions. Birth control may not even be socially acceptable. Even if contraception allowed a woman the potential for biological control over childbearing, these factors can prevent her from exercising this new-found choice. It is also unclear if women’s rights are advanced by contraception. In reality, contraception typically forms part of a wider population control policy by national government. Such policies (e.g. China’s one-child policy), when considered as a whole, often violate the women’s rights that advocates of contraception claim to value so highly.

Saving lives: can the diffusion of condoms help save lives in the developing world?


Contraception can help save the lives of women in the developing world. Due to the lack of advanced obstetric care, and the prevalence of disease and malnutrition, there is a high rate of mortality among pregnant mothers and their new-born children. This risk can be over 100 times that of mothers in developed countries. Birth control allows women to avoid the personal risks associated with pregnancy if they so wish.


Spending money on birth control in certain countries may undermine greater life-saving priorities (such as sanitation): Improving basic healthcare and providing proper sanitation can improve the health of an entire family, in addition to reducing childhood mortality – often a major reason for parents wanting to hedge their bets by having plenty of children. Spending money on such infrastructure and services is a far better long-term investment compared to the ongoing cost of providing contraception.

From developed nations: Should developed nations consider the supply of contraceptives to be an important use of their aid money to developing nations?


Supporting contraception is an easy way for the developed world to help the developing world cope with population crises and the consequent stifling of development: Contraceptives, compared to monetary aid, are less likely to be misdirected into the pockets of corrupt officials.


Contraception is a controversial issue in both developed and developing nations, oppening the supply of contraceptives from developed to developing nations to controversy: Some religions prohibit the use of contraception (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church) – this can reduce the success of birth control programmes in the developing world, and diminish the political (and thus funding) appeal of pro-contraception policies in the developed world.



  • This House supports contraception in developing nations
  • This House would cap population growth in the developing world
  • This House believes that there are too many people
  • This House believes that there isn’t enough room

In the real world (affected legislation and policy)

See also on Debatepedia

External links and resources


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