As a young woman in my 20s I pondered whether or not to have children. Is there a way, I wondered, to decide thoughtfully rather than carelessly about this most momentous of human choices?
In fact, people are still expected to provide reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them. It’s assumed that if individuals do not have children it is because they are infertile, too selfish or have just not yet gotten around to it. In any case, they owe their interlocutor an explanation. On the other hand, no one says to the proud parents of a newborn, Why did you choose to have that child? What are your reasons? The choice to procreate is not regarded as needing any thought or justification.
The question of whether or not to reproduce is an ethical one, and one that should be thought through carefully. When having kids is just what people do, it’s not a great system for children, for women or for families. And I don’t mean that people thoughtlessly/accidentally get pregnant and then decide to continue the pregnancy; I mean that childbearing is the assumed life path in American society, and a whole lot of folks don’t take a step back to consider whether they really want kids or whether having kids is just such an ingrained assumption about what a family is that they go with it.