New data released by the CDC reveals that in 2021, for the first time in seven years, the US birth rate actually increased. At just one percent, the increase is pretty insignificant, but still notable, considering births had been declining by roughly two percent each year.
Now, the US birth rate probably isn’t interesting or important to people who don’t give off the vibes of a cult member being featured in a Hulu documentary. But to anti-abortion Republican politicians, the very minor, gradual decline in births in the last decade or so has fueled a pro-natalist panic reminiscent of Italy’s fascist 1927 “Battle for Births” campaign to double the country’s population by 1950. Natalist paranoia from the conjoined anti-abortion and white supremacist movements in the US has also inevitably contributed to the far-right’s “replacement theory,” which posits that western civilization will go into decline because white women aren’t having babies quickly enough.
Earlier this year, Fox News personality and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany theorized that the solution to all the world’s great and many evils is just “filling the world with a lot of Christian babies.” Which… cool! Even Tesla CEO and alleged perv Elon Musk has weighed in. In 2021 he claimed that “one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate, and the rapidly declining birth rate.” Sounding very sane, he continued, “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.”
It would be irresponsible to not note here that in 2019, former Tesla workers claimed they were fired after getting pregnant and taking childcare leave. Musk also spent most of last year lobbying the Senate to reject President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which would offer universal paid leave for families and the most significant investments in child care and early education in recent history. Shortly after Texas’ near-total abortion ban took effect, Gov. Greg Abbott claimed Musk “consistently tells me he likes the social policies in the state of Texas.”
Curiously enough, Musk and other vocal pro-natalists never seem to note the endless economic factors that are all but forcing American women who may want children to delay having them. Or to have fewer children from stagnant wages and lack of paid family leave. Or the fact that there are virtually nonexistent options for affordable child care. Telling people to either birth 10 babies without any support from the government, or shoulder the blame for societal collapse, is pretty convenient logic from a movement that will always find a reason to justify the policing of pregnant people’s bodies.
But maybe, just maybe, now that the birth rate has actually increased, anti-abortion politicians and Supreme Court Justices can take a breather and call off the dogs? This data from the CDC comes just weeks after leaked documents revealed the Supreme Court is on the brink of overturning Roe v. Wade, opening the door for states across the country to fully ban and criminalize abortion, and even a federal ban to transform all pregnant people into state-controlled baby-making machines. Perhaps an increase in the national birth rate is the sign from God that conservatives need to, like, chill for a minute??
Since it’s 2022 and Republican Congress members are comparing pregnant humans to pregnant sea turtles, that clearly isn’t going to happen. But if nothing else, at the very least, hopefully, the increase in the birth rate will shut anti-abortion activists up for even just five minutes to let us grieve the demise of our human rights in peace.