July 6, 2022

Demography still on the political agenda

Bernie Sanders stirs up a hornets’ nest

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Population policy was in the headlines around the world this week.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential nomination, made a gaffe which was picked up and derided by conservatives.

He responded to a question about climate change in a CNN town hall debate in New York City: “in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies, and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have, is something I very, very strongly support.”

Pouncing on this apparent endorsement of population control, Republican-leaning CNN host SE Cupp accused Mr Sanders of entertaining the racist ideology of eugenics.

Another conservative talking head, Liz Wheeler tweeted: “Imagine being so disgusting that you want to force Americans to pay for abortions to kill brown babies in foreign countries so you don't feel guilty flying private jets & visiting communist nations.”

And over in Hungary, at a conference on population policy, former prime minister Tony Abbott was ridiculed for advising Australians to go forth and multiply rather than relying on immigration to bolster flagging birth rates. He criticised Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for announcing that they were only planning on having two children because of their concern for climate change.

“Members of the royal family are entitled to have as few or as many children as they choose,” he said. “But having fewer children in Western countries will hardly make the climate better given all the children that will be born elsewhere. It will, though, certainly make Western countries smaller and the economy weaker too.”

The conference, the third demographic summit sponsored by the Hungarian government, explored ideas for strengthening the family unity and increasing the birth rate. Its philosophy is:

Not enough children are born, cradles are empty. In other parts of the world demographic growth takes place: several nations double or even multiply their population in just a few decades. There are those, who see an opportunity in these parallel processes and would channel the demographic surplus of the thriving nations to countries with shrinking population. However, there are those – among them Hungary – who say that they are capable of changing these trends and bringing an end to population decline relying on their own resources. This is a difficult challenge that requires strong families and an effective family policy.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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