The Orwellian Logic Behind Abortion and Population Control

A recent Associated Press story on the work of the ASPCA had this to say:

It took years of campaigning to change thinking about sterilizing pets, but it has paid off. This year fewer than 4 million unwanted dogs and cats will be euthanized, down from as many as 20 million before 1970.

There are several reasons: Aggressive adopt-a-pet campaigns are carried out every day in cities all over the country and breed rescues save many dogs. But animal experts believe spaying and neutering has played the biggest role in saving so many lives.

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal correctly calls this out as eerily Orwellian:

Did you catch that “saving so many lives”? True, fewer animals were put to death, but that’s because they weren’t born in the first place. By this logic, hunting a species to extinction “saves lives” because it prevents any more of the species from being killed.

This sort of deceptive language is commonly deployed on behalf of totalitarian regimes to conceal their brutality to human beings. It’s fascinating to see it used in this context, where the moral stakes are so much lower.

Exactly. It’s a classic case of a warped “destroy the town to save it” mentality. The ASPCA is saving the animals lives by preventing them from being alive. What’s far more disturbing is that the ASPCA’s Orwellian language of animal control is often used against unborn humans, in two inter-related debates: population control (which even has an ominous name), and abortion.


Pro-Choice Action Network crows about “the tremendous benefit to society of ensuring that every child is a wanted child.” But abortion doesn’t magically make children suddenly become wanted. What they’re really saying is that they’ll prevent “unwanted” children from being born. Unlike ASPCA, they don’t stop reproduction before conception, so their real message is that if all the unwanted children would die, children would be happier. You might as well suggest raising the per capita income by killing the poor.

Of course, these pro-choice mantras about wanted and unwanted children are false: many women abort children they want but feel they can’t keep, due to pressures from their finances, families, or the fathers of the baby; and of course, an untold number of children who reach childbirth are abused or treated as if they’re unwanted by their families. Two things should be noted about this. First, many of those children grow up into happy and well-adjusted adults – a lousy childhood is a terrible shame, but it’s generally not the final chapter. Second, abortion actually makes this problem dramatically worse, not better.

We can see this most acutely in the realm of children with disabilities. Right now, the statistics for the unborn disabled are disturbing: over 90% of those children who are identified as having Down’s Syndrome while they’re still in the womb will be aborted, and the statistics aren’t much better for a number of other mental or physical disabilities. What message, exactly, does this send (on behalf of both parents and society) to those children who are born with Down’s Syndrome, or to those physically- and emotionally-healthy children who suffer some sort of childhood accident, and become disabled? If you’re aware that your sibling was killed by abortion for being disabled, and then you become disabled, who wouldn’t feel like an “unwanted child”?

The fact is, abortion perpetuates a mentality which treats children like commodities. If you don’t like the hand you’ve been dealt, get an abortion and try again. It’s this mentality which creates a culture increasingly hostile to children, and it’s no mystery why, even as society has become more economically enriched and technologically advanced, we’ve become increasingly barbaric towards the vulnerable. If we could just eliminate the undesirable members of our society, every citizen would be a wanted citizen, right?

Population Control

On the population control front, the parallel is obvious. Not only do the two groups use identical language about controlling population sizes, but many of the more famous would-be population controllers have backgrounds in biology (Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich) or environmental sciences (Club of Rome’s founder Alexander King, Limits to Growth author Donella Meadows, etc.), and have approached the idea of controlling humans as if we’re simply another animal.

Here’s how Paul Ehrlich begins Population Bomb:

I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time. I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi a few years ago. My wife and daughter and I were returning to our hotel in an ancient taxi. The seats were hopping with fleas. The only functional gear was third. As we crawled through the city, we entered a crowded slum area. The temperature was well over 100, and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people. As we moved slowly through the mob, hand horn squawking, the dust, noise, heat, and cooking fires gave the scene a hellish aspect. Would we ever get to our hotel? All three of us were, frankly, frightened. It seemed that anything could happen – but, of course, nothing did.

If you didn’t already know that this book was about population control, you could hardly be criticized for expecting that the author was some sort of racist or xenophobe, talking about how disgusting and scary he finds the people of the Third World. And frankly, you wouldn’t really be wrong.

Ehrlich didn’t think that the problem with the world was that there were too many Ehrlichs — that his wife or his daughter simply put too much strain on the Earth to be allowed to live — but that there were too many beggars, paupers, and Indians. Of course, the absurdity is that the natural resources being used by the Ehrlichs (for example, in flying a family of three from the United States to India, and staying at a hotel) dwarf what the average Indian was using, and natural resources, after all, were what Ehrlich claimed to be worried about.

Like the other examples discussed above, Ehrlich was quick to employ the Orwellian claim that he was wanting this for India. It was our moral responsibility to make sure that fewer Indians were poor. Earlier, I remarked that you “might as well suggest raising the per capita income by killing the poor.” Ehrlich drains that claim of any irony — that’s his actual proposal. Widespread abortions, along with birth control and sterilization of the poor, were all part of his plan (and still are). Here’s how he presents this as a sort of charity:

Old India hands will laugh at our reaction. We were just some overprivileged tourists, unaccustomed to the sights and sounds of India. Perhaps, but the problems of Delhi and Calcutta are our problems too. Americans have helped to create them; we help to prevent their solution. We must all learn to identify with the plight of our less fortunate fellows on Spaceship Earth if we are to help both them and ourselves to survive.

So we should prevent poor children from being poor … by preventing poor children from being, period. By this logic, bringing humanity to extinction helps “both them and ourselves to survive” because it prevents any more of the humans from being killed (or worse, poor).


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