Natalism

quiverfull

Natalism [neyt-l-iz-uhm] is a belief that promotes human reproduction. The term is taken from the Latin adjective form for ‘birth,’ ‘natalis.’ Natalism promotes child-bearing and glorifies parenthood. It typically advocates policies such as limiting access to abortion and contraception, as well as creating financial and social incentives for the population to reproduce.

The degree of natalism is individual; the extreme end is ‘Natalism’ as a life stance (with the first letter capitalized), which holds natalism as of ultimate importance and everything else is only good to the extent it serves this purpose. The more moderate stance holds that there ought to be a higher rate of population growth than what is currently mainstream in industrialized countries. Philosophic motivations for natalism may include that of considering value in bringing potential future persons into existence.

Many religions, including Islam, Judaism, and some forms of Christianity, such as Roman Catholicism, with its sacrament of marriage, encourage procreation. The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an average of 6.8 children per family. A recent movement among conservative Protestants, known as the Quiverfull movement, advocates for large families.

Nativity in the Western world dropped during the interwar period. Swedish sociologists Alva Myrdal and Gunnar Myrdal published ‘Crisis in the Population Question’ in 1934, suggesting an extensive welfare state with free healthcare and childcare, to level the number of children at a reproductive level for all social classes. Swedish fertility rose throughout World War II (as Sweden was largely unharmed by the war) and peaked in 1946. Today, Sweden has generous family politics, as well as a growing population.

Many countries with population decline offer incentives to the people to have large families as a means of national efforts to reverse declining populations. Some nations such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have implemented, or tried to implement, interventionist natalist policies, creating incentives for larger families among ‘native stock.’ Immigrants are generally not part of natalist policies.

Another government which has openly advocated natalism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, following a tremendous loss of their population to the Iran–Iraq War. The government encouraged married couples to produce as many children as possible to replace population lost to the war. As a result of this natalist attitude, Iran has experienced a youth bulge, with approximately 75% of its population under the age of 30 as of 2007.

Communist Romania severely repressed abortion (the most common birth control method at the time) in 1966 and forced gynecological revisions and penalizations for unmarried women and childless couples. The birthrate surge taxed the public services. The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was followed by a fall in population growth.

According to Tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein, natalist feelings run high in China’s Tibet region, among both ordinary people and government officials. Seeing population control ‘as a matter of power and ethnic survival’ rather than in terms of ecological sustainability, Tibetans have successfully argued for an exemption of their ethnicity from usual Chinese family planning policies, such as the one-child policy. Natalist literature among the Tibetan exile community discourages sex with foreigners, however it is not particularly successful.

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