Defending Life


When a woman comes to your center for a pregnancy test and consultation, you and your team have probably heard countless reasons to consider not having a child at this time in her life. 

I'm too young. I’m too old. I’m not married. I have a medical condition. My partner left me. I’m unemployed and can’t financially support a child. My family and friends will disown me. I’m just not ready…and the list goes on. Each of these circumstances can bring about real challenges, and it is a gift to be able to walk alongside clients experiencing doubt. 

But have you heard environmental concerns, such as climate change, being a reason to not have children?

According to a 2022 poll conducted by ABC News and Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, 23% of U.S. adults ages 18 to 45 say that climate change has made them reconsider having a biological child. Another quarter reported climate change has made them consider having fewer children, and 12% stated it has made them consider adoption over having biological children.

The number of childless adults citing environmental reasons is in the minority compared to the other reported reasons, such as medical conditions, financial hardship and the desire to remain childless. However, there continues to be a growing number of social activists and media outlets encouraging responsible child-bearing because of climate change.

Consider news headlines over the last several months: “Wildfires, floods, catastrophes — and kids? Why this gen-Zer pledged not to have children”“Want kids but afraid of climate change? So are these people”; and “How Climate Change is Harming Kids”.

It's no wonder that these ideas have started to take hold. On one hand, individuals deciding whether or not to have a child are concerned about how a child would live in a world that is reported to have more natural disasters and life-threatening hot and cold temperatures now and in the near future. On the other hand, individuals are also concerned about how each new child contributes to carbon emissions that impact the climate.

The catalyst for these ideas making their way into our current society partly comes from a landmark study that provided research into different lifestyle choices and their potential ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries. Researchers recommended four high-impact actions with the potential to contribute to significantly reduced carbon emissions. Their findings suggested: living car-free, avoiding airplane travel and eating a plant-based diet. The biggest reported impact–having one fewer child. 

While this idea has been accepted and passed along by some, this study and many others like it have been scrutinized for various reasons. One notable reason is the insinuation that many developed countries won’t make progress in moving away from fossil fuels, which would reportedly reduce overall carbon emissions. Climate researcher, Zeke Hausfather, commented in a recent article, “It’s [studies of carbon legacy] very egregious in that respect. It not only assumes that we don’t decarbonize during the life of the child, but also that we don’t decarbonize during the life of their children, or their children’s children."

Another notable reason is the declining birth rate many developed countries are currently facing. Countries with a low or stagnating birth rate that will not pass the aging population are likely to struggle due to a shrinking workforce and an increasing cost of caring for the elderly. For example, in Japan, the low birth rate has caused shifts in education, and the increasing elderly population has forced the government to reconsider labor, healthcare and taxation policies. 

Why is this information pertinent to your team?

The research and activism promoting climate change as a reason to forgo having children is impacting women of child-bearing years.

Natural disasters and changing temperatures aren’t new phenomena. However, what is changing are the reactions and beliefs about the harm and negative impact of families and children on society. Your center has the opportunity to share a different narrative than society and uphold children as a gift, and not a burden. Your team also has the opportunity to share the strengths of a family unit, and the importance of sexual integrity and marriage.

Your has the opportunity to show women and men how everyone can live sustainably and be good stewards of the earth even with a child. Consider putting together information about how to live a sustainable life with a child. Gather resources about local second-hand baby retailers, public transportation options and more energy-efficient household practices.

You can make a difference in the lives of every woman, man and child who comes to you for help by providing resources and practical support!