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Around the nation abortions bans, many planned decades ago and lying wait for the death of Roe v. Wade, are proliferating. While defended as protecting life, these bans do two things, and the facts are irrefutable.

First, they force women that do not want children to, and in a climate crisis where the harm to infants – from things like deadly heat waves and climate-induced wildfires - is mounting. That has little to do with respect for life. It is rather a blatant attack on child welfare, to say nothing of equity.

Second, these bans drive up fertility rates, increasing the arc of our population growth – something that has severe long-run impacts on our attempts to mitigate the climate crisis. Those increases have already reversed our attempts at mitigating the crisis, and as the bans continue to spread this trend will get worse. This problem goes beyond forcing individual children into the world, in conditions most children would never choose to be born into, and towards collective impacts on our ecologies that will harm future generations around the world.

The emerging drought in Kenya is exemplary.

The Anthropocene is hurting the children we profess to love. 

The Anthropocene is hurting the children we profess to love. 

How can we ignore what we are doing to women, children and future generations? How can we not see these moves as a war on families? If one takes a worldview in which a deity controls all, rather than humans, and the ideal lies in the afterlife rather than on Earth, we can begin to understand how these policies came to be.

But that brings us to the ultimate solution to them. The separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of democracy and freedom because the subjective views of the religious (unlike objective views and values, like having good health) should be inflicted upon others. Worship and belief are protected but acts that impact others – that are public in nature – are not. Regardless of what courts say, is the core distinction. To move past abortion bans we will need more than clever arguments before politically motivated judges.

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We will need to revisit the idea that creating children – that procreation – is a private matter to be reserved to the realm of the personal. Instead we will need to see it as interpersonal in nature, and not subject to religious policies and preferences, but rather secular ones that promote child health and welfare, and the common good.

If it takes a village to raise children it takes a village to plan for them. 

If it takes a village to raise children it takes a village to plan for them. 

How would this get us past abortion bans? If women’s autonomy to terminate pregnancies is one reason to evade the bans, certainly ensuring that children are born into the best social and ecological conditions would be another, as would ensuring those children eventually comprise democratic communities defined by equality of opportunity.

In short, moving from the mistake of seeing the act of creating others as personal to seeing it as interpersonal, and limited by individual and collective obligations, moves us from a one-side Roe focused on women to a weightier and more powerful Roe reincarnated, an obligation that is three-sided. If it takes a village to raise a child it certainly takes a village to plan for one.

Protecting the majority, future children, save the world we will share with them. 

Protecting the majority, future children, save the world we will share with them. 

Such a move goes beyond mitigating the climate crisis, and just as importantly, how people are prepared – from birth – to deal with it. The move opens the door for truly equitable family planning that gives children social and ecological equality of opportunity, or a fair life. And while religions are keen to see life as unfair, that is more a product of human policy – and the poor family planning it drives – than any inevitable state of affairs. 

Fair family planning is actual or real fairness, built into the fundamental relations between people and between people and their ecologies, fairness that liberates.

Giving kids a fair start in life is not abstract law or directives that don't work, like past environmental policies that ignored families and enabled the crisis. It’s justice from the bottom up. And nothing could be more consistent with protecting families and ending the war many religious factions are waging on them, as well as taking the next step of making them pay for the harm they have caused.