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Natalism (also called pronatalism or the pro-birth position) is a belief that promotes human reproduction. The term is taken from the Latin adjective form for "birth", natalis. Natalism promotes child-bearing and parenthood as desirable for social reasons and to ensure national continuance. Natalism in public policy typically seeks to create financial and social incentives for populations to reproduce, such as providing tax incentives that reward having and supporting children. Adherents of more stringent takes on natalism may seek to limit access to abortion and contraception, as well.
The level of natalism varies between individuals. One extreme end of the spectrum of views presents natalism as a life stance and holds natalism as of ultimate importance. Philosophic motivations for natalism may include that of considering value in bringing potential future persons into existence.
Many religions, including Islam, Judaism and some branches of Christianity, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Roman Catholic Church with its sacrament of marriage, encourage procreation.
A recent movement among conservative Protestants, known as the Quiverfull movement, advocates for large families. Some scholars remark that Quiverfull resembles other world-denying fundamentalist movements that grow through internal reproduction and membership retention such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, Amish, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Salafis in the Muslim world. Many are thriving as seculars and moderates have transitioned to below-replacement fertility.
The canonical text of Hinduism known as manusmriti (The Code of Manu) can be interpreted to support reproduction, equating childbearing with the gods' acts of creation as in verses 88–90: "He who persistently performs acts leading to future births (pravritta) becomes equal to the gods; but he who is intent on the performance of those causing the cessation of existence, nivritta indeed, passes beyond the reach of the five elements." Furthermore in verse 227: "That trouble and pain which the parents undergo on the birth of their children cannot be compensated even in a hundred years." However, there is a strong tradition of celibacy in Hinduism practiced by ascetics.
Politics – Fecundism
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Natalism to increase the numbers of a group and, consequently, its political influence is called Fecundism.
In practice, it is difficult to prove whether a group is conducting fecundism, or if high birth rate is natural consequence of a group's beliefs or actions (and would therefore exist even if it would not result in greater political influence). The religious groups involved most often have long-standing principles and family structures that predate any democracies in which they may take part (although some, such as the Quiverfull movement, openly acknowledge it, and use Psalm 127:5 in its justification). Nonetheless, some groups commonly claimed to practice fecundism include:
For a general discussion of the impact of population change on politics, see political demography.
Some countries offer financial incentives to encourage couples to bear more children. Incentives may include a one time baby bonus, or ongoing child benefit payments or tax reductions. Some impose penalties or taxes on those with fewer children.
Paid maternity and paternity leave policies can also be used as an incentive. For example, Sweden has generous parental leave where parents are entitled to share 16 months paid leave per child, the cost divided between both employer and State.
Nativity in the Western world dropped during the interwar period. Swedish sociologists Alva and Gunnar Myrdal published Crisis in the Population Question in 1934, suggesting an extensive welfare state with free healthcare and childcare, to level the number of children at a reproductive level for all social classes. Swedish fertility rose throughout World War II (as Sweden was largely unharmed by the war) and peaked in 1946.
Today, Sweden has generous family politics, but the Total Fertility Rate is lower than 2.1. Instead the population growth is because of immigration.
Nicolae Ceaușescu's Communist Romania severely repressed abortion (the most common birth control method at the time) in 1966 and forced gynecological revisions and penalizations for unmarried women and childless couples. The birthrate surge taxed the public services received by the decreţei ("Scions of the decree ") generation. The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was followed by a fall in population growth.
Some countries with population decline offer incentives to the people to have large families as a means of national efforts to reverse declining populations. Some nations such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have implemented, or tried to implement, interventionist natalist policies, creating incentives for larger families among "native stock." Immigrants are generally not part of natalist policies.
Another government which has openly advocated natalism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, following a tremendous loss of their population to the Iran–Iraq War. The government encouraged married couples to produce as many children as possible to replace population lost to the war.
According to Tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein, natalist feelings run high in China's Tibet region, among both ordinary people and government officials. Seeing population control "as a matter of power and ethnic survival" rather than in terms of ecological sustainability, Tibetans have successfully argued for an exemption of their ethnicity from usual Chinese family planning policies, such as the one-child policy. Natalist literature among the Tibetan exile community discourages sex with foreigners, however it is not particularly successful.
In a 2004 New York Times editorial, David Brooks expressed the opinion that the relatively high birthrate of the United States in comparison to Europe could be attributed to social groups with "natalist" attitudes. The article is referred to in an analysis of the Quiverfull movement. However, the figures identified for the demographic are extremely low.
In the United States, former US Senator Rick Santorum made natalism part of his platform for his 2012 presidential campaign. This is not an isolated case. Many of those categorized in the General Social Survey as "Fundamentalist Protestant" are more or less natalist, and have a higher birth rate than "Moderate" and "Liberal" Protestants. However, Rick Santorum is not a Protestant but a practicing Catholic.
In May 2012, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that abortion is murder and announced that legislative preparations to severely limit the practice are underway. Erdogan also argued that abortion and C-section deliveries are plots to stall Turkey's economic growth. Prior to this move, Erdogan had repeatedly demanded that each couple have at least three children.
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Official anti or pro-natalist policies can be oppressive of reproductive rights, depending on how they are structured and enforced.
- Breeder (slang)
- Cannon fodder
- Cost of raising a child
- European sexuality leading up to and during World War II
- Gender selection
- Phillip Longman (author of '"The Empty Cradle")
- Parental leave
- Political demography
- Population control
- Population decline#National efforts to reverse declining populations
- Space colonization
- Sub-replacement fertility#United States
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