“‘Wantedness’ was originally a term coined to describe a mother’s attitude toward the birth of a child.
“Sociologists decided that the degree to which a birth was wanted could be measured by accounting for less than perfect timing, less than perfect finances, or simply emotional hesitancy on the part of the mother.
“Yet its wider applications had more to do with phenomenology than with science.
“It could describe a person’s value in the social economy and the environmental factors limiting that value.”
These apt words come from Susan Martin in her article, titled, “The Deadly Dance of Perfectionism: How the Rhetoric of Family Planning Hurts Children,” published recently on thepublicdiscourse.com. This is a second part of a two-part series making commentary on Susan’s article. Part one was published on this blog last week.
“WANTEDNESS:” WHAT BABIES MUST POSSESS IN ORDER TO BE ALLOWED TO EXIST
The language of “wantedness” harms both children and adults, Susan explains. She observes that the family planning—a.k.a. population control, a.k.a. eugenics—ideals that sociologists pushed in the 1970’s were bought hook, line, and sinker by the Western world.
She goes on to point out that we now live in a society where folks have the expectation that they control not only how many births they have, but, in some cases, the sex and genetic makeup of their progeny. Such precise detail in genetically engineering births fits into this high bar children must surpass so as to achieve “wantedness.”
Susan notes how people talk about their fertility does not include a question of “wanted vs. unwanted births,” explicitly. Instead, I might add, people do talk openly about “trying” to have kids. Our culture is so messed up that upon the news of a pregnancy, parents of adult, married children openly ask their grown children if they were “trying” to have a baby.
And what if the “wantedness” of a baby does not exist? At the very least, the couple not having the child is done a favor of being able to pursue worldly gain, without being “burdened” by having to raise a child.
And besides, supposedly then the child is done a favor, as well, because then he is being shielded from every into a miserable existence. He can’t be expected to be brought into this world unless his college tuition is already in the bank before he’s born!
But wait, wasn’t control over fertility supposed to be the panacea that would cure a tremendous plethora of ails of our culture? Here’s how Susan describes the rhetoric:
“In the fairy tale world of public health, no mother would ever again have a baby and then suffer with feelings of guilt or regret, and no child or teenager would ever again feel pressured into gender roles that didn’t suit his or her deepest inclinations.
“Potential fathers would voluntarily register for sterilization rather than produce children in less than ideal environments or prevent their wives from pursuing educational and financial opportunities. All this would come about by discipling communities in the new science of family planning.
“The gospel of public health said that women’s desire to have children and nurture the young could be modified through education. Educating the mother of the household about contraceptives would result automatically in smaller families, because that’s what ‘everyone wanted.’
“Public health continuously projected the image of reproductive progress: a perfectible male and a perfectible female to go along with a perfectible human family, shorn of excesses to fit into a modern world.”
Yeah, about that… how is life in this “utopia” working out for everyone? Did the rejection of “unwanted” children become the cure to all society’s problems?
Instead, ever since contraception use and abortion became ubiquitous, abortions have gone up, fewer marriages are entered into, divorces are rampant, sexual abuse prevails, pornography remains a scourge, homosexuality has become acceptable, so-called same-sex “marriage” has been legalized, child abuse has exponentiated, illegitimacy has grown, IVF is prevalent, STD rates are through the roof, teenage pregnancies went up, and on and on and on.
So why then are we still promoting this nonsense as the solution? Rather, it’s the cause!
SADLY, “WANTEDNESS” OF CHILDREN HAS BEEN ENSHRINED INTO MODERN CATHOLIC MARRIAGE FORMATION
Susan hits the nail on the head when it comes to summing up the current crisis of our society: “The decision to have children ceases to be something that people plan for by becoming married. Instead, it is viewed as extraneous to marriage as an institution.”
Susan’s astute observation can be made of most married couple practicing Natural Family Planning (NFP) within the Catholic Church. If they are using NFP as it is most often taught, then they are falling into this modern, secular error in their approach to the marriage bed. Most often, NFP is taught these days as a month-to-month discernment process of whether to allow a child to possibly come into existence. The child’s “wantedness” determines whether he is allowed to come into existence.
The Catholic Church officially teaches that a married couple must grave reason to postpone or to avoid altogether pregnancy. Yet, rarely is this condition of the use of NFP mentioned these days. Instead, the mindset becomes that—of course—pregnancy is to be avoided, even in marriage. And couples who go against this mindset are labeled as possessing heroic generosity just for performing the marital act when the wife is fertile.
Engaged Catholic couples are rarely, if ever, taught that marriage requires an openness to however many children God wants to bless each couple with. It should be, as Susan articulates, that couples plan to have babies when they get married. But instead, the Catholic Church at large has bought the culture’s lie that children are extraneous to marriage, and whether they get to join the family is at the discretion of the wedded couple.
These days unless their financial situation, living conditions, emotion state-of-being, and everything else are in perfect order, only then does the “heroic,” modern, American, Catholic married couple welcome an addition to the family. This may be a bit of a hyperbole, but not much of one.
So then, what is the answer? The cure is to place our trust in the Holy Trinity. Our only hope as a society is to repent and to let the Lord and Savior of the universe be in control. We need to give Christ control, not only of our fertility, but of every aspect of our society.
If a couple has a grave reason to practice NFP, then that’s their cross. But for a society that enjoys more worldly wealth than any in the history of the world, we sure are spiritually poor. We find every excuse to avoid having kids. Our culture rejects the greatest wealth a society could ever enjoy: more human lives, and the Church does little to expose this erroneous mindset.
The answer is to view every human life as… well, human, and therefore of eternal value. Because, of course, that’s something we all have in common.
What’s your take on “wantedness” being the criteria babies must possess in order to exist?
Please leave a comment below.