The Death of Birth — Our Dismal Fertility Rates

Through Collapsed Fertility Rates, We Are Self-Exterminating

Archive for October, 2007

The Threat of Thailand’s Low Fertility Rate


Those, who think that the collapse of fertility rates threatens only the most highly developed nations, should take a look at this article, published in “The Nation.” (Thailand [per capita GDP $9,200 in 2006] is marching toward high development, but it isn’t, for example, Japan or France [per capita GDP $33,100 and $31,200, respectively in 2006].)

As the article states, “Kua Wongboonsin, a population studies expert from Chulalongkorn University, said the problem of dropping fertility rates needed immediate attention.” The country’s fertility rate has fallen from 6.3 in 1964 to 1.61 in 2005 (1.64 2007 estimate). According to Wongboonsin, social and economic problems are bound to result.

The world would do well to remember 1997-1998, when the collapse of the Thai currency (the baht) damaged many economies of southeast Asia and sparked fears of an international financial meltdown. We’re all deeply interconnected, and far too many nations are facing severe problems as a result of collapsed fertility rates.

Reproductive Technologies: Hopes and Disappointments I

Reproductive technologies offer some hope for increasing fertility rates. Though the number of additional births that result from the use of such advanced methods may be small, they promise at least a little relief from our current demographic dilemma. Unfortunately, these technologies are far from perfect and often end in disappointment for those who rely on them. A number of recent articles emphasize this fact.

According to this essay, “Women worried about being unable to get pregnant as they grow older should not be offered the chance to have their eggs frozen, because the procedure is still unproven, a group of influential fertility doctors said yesterday (October 17, 2007).” It seems the doctors are concerned that women may be given false hope because successful pregnancies are rare, when based on fertilization of eggs that were extracted by drug stimulation of ovaries, surgical removal of the eggs, and subsequent freezing. The article goes on to state, “At best, the chance of a woman having a live birth from a single thawed out egg is just 2%,” while 10 to 12 eggs are collected in a typical removal.

The objections are not to the removal of eggs from women about to undergo a procedure, such as chemotherapy, which has a high probability of damaging fertility, but to treating young women who are concerned about delaying childbearing until their fertility has begun serious decline in their mid-30s. By the age of 40, a woman’s eggs have suffered so much genetic damage that the miscarriage rate reaches 40%.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has now advised clinics to halt the service for healthy women and to provide extensive counseling for those who insist on the measures. The chair of the society’s practice committee, Mark Fritz, stated, “The sole purpose of this advice is to prevent women from being exploited.” The article also says, “Figures from the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority show 3,602 eggs have been frozen in UK fertility clinics since 1999. Of those, 483 have been thawed to use in fertility treatment, but only four babies have been born as a result.”

On the other hand, the medical director of Midland Fertility Services, Gillian Lockwood, states that she would prefer to treat a woman in her younger 40s with eggs frozen when she was 35, than with her current 40-something year old eggs. The success rate is far too low using eggs of this age and older. Unfortunately, Lockwood adds, “Many of those women have been with commitment-phobic men,” without considering the reasons that men might steer clear of marriage and parenthood in a time of unprecedentedly high divorce rates, when many perceive extreme anti-male prejudice in courts, where divorce settlements and access to children are determined.

Perhaps the procedure should be offered to young women, but it makes sense for fertility clinics to ensure that those women know the risks of reduced fertility with aging as well as the low probability of successful IVF using frozen eggs. For additional information on this topic, see here.

Opportunity 08: Advice and Questions for US 2008 Presidential Candidates


The Brookings Institution describes its Opportunity 08 as a bi-partisan project aimed “to help 2008 presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation, presenting policy ideas on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy questions. The project is committed to providing both independent policy solutions and background material on issues of concern to voters.”

As part of this project, Opportunity 08 has published “America’s Economy: Headed for Crisis.” The report does not address developments that have led us to our current fiscal tribulations; instead, it focuses on what must be done to deal with the impending economic difficulties. The paper gives an overview of our growing challenges and proposes reforms that should be taken now to keep a trying situation from developing into a crisis. Every concerned voter should consider these recommendations; only then will politicians give them their due attention.

According to the paper, “One thing is clear: the status quo is not acceptable. The next President will inherit a fiscally lethal combination of changing demographics, rising health care costs, and falling national savings.”

Another way to look at the size of the problem is to total up the government’s explicit liabilities, such as the national debt, and its implicit obligations, such as future Social Security and Medicare payments. According to the Government Accountability Office, all such ‘fiscal exposures’ have a present value of $50 trillion — almost as much as today’s net worth of all household assets and far more than the commonly cited national debt, which is approaching $9 trillion.”




And politicians promise additional, enormous programs.

Perhaps the most telling statement of the report is the following: “No one can say when all this might end up in a crisis, nor what a crisis would look like. Indeed, there might be no crisis at all — just a long, slow erosion in our nation’s standard of living. In either case, it’s a dismal future, and doing nothing now to avoid it would be an act of fiscal and generational irresponsibility.”

You read that right. The best case scenario, to be achieved if we act responsibly and sacrifice now, is a dismal future. Failure to act now would prove far worse, possibly catastrophic.

Read the report. Become aware of the structural faults within the US economy as well as the authors’ proposed solutions. And remember, this was written by a bi-partisan group.

Male Birth Control and the Further Collapse of Fertility Rates

Fertility rates began a dramatic collapse following the development of female hormonal birth control. The average number of births per woman in many countries reached a peak in the late 1950s, just before the release of “the pill,” which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1960 and first entered the market as “Enovid” in August of that year. Further developments have included patches, implants, and injections. With development of safer, less expensive, and increasingly accepted abortion, women’s control over fertility became paramount.

A new player, however, may soon enter the field.

Male birth control has been relatively difficult to develop, and many have questioned men’s willingness to help shoulder the burden. Recent surveys, however, indicate that numerous men are more than willing to share this responsibility. Many are also quite concerned over becoming fathers when they don’t want to. According to Dr. Bill Bremner, chair and director, respectively, of the University of Washington Department of Medicine and the Male Contraception Research Center, “up to 80 percent of men surveyed worldwide claimed they would use a new male contraceptive.”


On September 27 and 28, 2007, Seattle, Washington, hosted the “Future of Male Contraception” conference. Sponsors of the gathering included the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Institutes of Health, DHHS; the University of Washington, Seattle; CONRAD; and the World Health Organization. One message in particular underlay talks on this developing bio-technology — male birth control, beyond condoms and vasectomies, may soon be widely available.

Women have gained far greater control over their lives through the use of birth control; men may soon enjoy a similar increase in control over their own lives. The National Marriage Project, based at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers, has for years released annual reports, “The State of Our Unions.” In their 2002 publication, “Why Men Won’t Commit,” the authors told of many men choosing never to marry. Among the most common reasons for avoiding marriage was that “They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks.” To this might well be added a decision to forego fatherhood in order to avoid losing contact with children after the breakdown of a relationship with a woman. Many a man has come to fear that if things go bad with his children’s mother, the mother may prevent contact between him and his children. While men must pay child support (really household support) under penalty of imprisonment, women who deny contact between fathers and their children often face no consequences.

When male birth control becomes available, and especially after it has had time for bugs to be worked out, it’s likely that many men will avail themselves of the opportunity to have sex while avoiding the possible, devastating loss of contact with children whom they otherwise would have sired.

In any case, the whole purpose of birth control is to reduce the number of children. It will be interesting to see if male birth control has an impact on total fertility rates comparable to that of female birth control. A negligible effect is unlikely.