By Clarke Smith
Editor’s note. Mr. Smith is a member of the board of South Carolina Citizens for Life.
I recently began reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an intriguing book by the Swedish academic and TED speaker. The premise is that the world isn’t as bad as we all think it is, nor is it regressing on the scale that we imagine. In fact, the world has made much progress in the average human’s standard of living.
He quotes UN statistics comparing world income, healthcare, and mortality from 1965 to today, and many of the figures shock in a good way.
Despite the astounding progress in many areas, I have to ask if the moral compass of the world has kept pace with the economic progress? I doubt that very much. In fact, it is often in the name of economic progress that morality is discarded.
Rosling writes in chapter one, “I put the pen down and said, ‘Do you know why I’m obsessed with the numbers for the child mortality rate? It’s not only that I care about the children. This measure takes the temperature of a whole society. Like a huge thermometer. Because children are very fragile. There are so many things that can kill them. When only 14 children die out of 1,000 in Malaysia, this means that the other 986 survive. Their parents and their society manage to protect them from all the dangers that could have killed them: germs, starvation, violence, and so on. So this number 14 tells us that most families in Malaysia have enough food, their sewage systems don’t leak into their drinking water, they have good access to primary health care, and mothers can read and write. It doesn’t just tell us about the health of children. It measures the quality of the whole society.’”
Rosling in no way was attempting to assist the pro-life movement or make an argument in our favor, but I believe he has. The way that a society treats its children is indeed like a huge thermometer measuring the health of the society as a whole. It is an issue of character and values that if missed undermines the sincerity of all other human endeavors.
How many times have we heard the refrain that those in low income households cannot afford to bring another child into the world, and therefore should be allowed to terminate the child’s life? How many articles with career advice in mind pop up on the web every day asking if having children will get in the way of your latest ambition? This is effectively putting a monetary figure on the value of a child, subjective to each mother’s financial goals. Not just a hypothetical child but also a growing and developing baby currently in her mother’s womb.
There are multiple ways to address poverty and need, but the culling of the most vulnerable is an unthinkable answer. Those who differ in opinion would do well to read Rosling’s book to better understand true poverty and the world’s history regarding material possessions.
Rosling is correct. Our children are very fragile. Many dangers can and do kill them daily, and they need our protection.