To Address America's Declining Birth Rate, We Need a Culture of Life | Opinion

Americans aren't having kids like they used to. The most recent census shows that the U.S. birth rate has hit its lowest level since 1979. In fact, the birth rate has fallen almost every year since 1991. Today, at just 1.64 births per woman, American families aren't even having enough babies to meet the replacement rate of 2.1 births.

Our plummeting birth rate is a complex issue, of course. But it presents a unique problem for our country. We need to view this trend as a part of a broad and deeply concerning cultural drift away from the importance of the family.

The family is the fundamental unit of society. A country is only as strong as its cities, cities are only as strong as their neighborhoods and neighborhoods are only as strong as the families that live in them. There's a reason the Bible says children are "like arrows in the hands of a warrior." Nations, societies, religions and communities can only be sustained if families are stable and healthy.

But raising a family is hard, and not just economically or financially. Aspiring parents need things like job security and health care, that's for sure. But they also need a robust life-respecting culture that supports mothers, encourages fathers and inspires young couples to raise families.

Our historically low birth rate is the canary in the coal mine; it's a sure sign that we don't have that kind of culture anymore. Young parents need support and guidance, but our culture gives them confusion, doubt, worry, pessimism and fear. Instead of uplifting and protecting the dignity of families, our culture seems to systematically devalue them.

People will talk about how births affect climate change and the economy, and discuss how children do or don't fit into their careers or their travel plans. If you just listened to these perspectives, you'd think children were only a burden, a problem, a lifestyle accessory or a weird form of economic stimulus.

But people need to hear the truth about children. They need to hear stories and learn from perspectives that center the inherent worth, dignity and beauty of loving a brand-new person into existence. People need to be inspired by the special, simple glory of raising a new human being the world has never seen before.

childbirth, pregnancy, parent, stock, getty
A stock image shows a woman just having given birth. Researchers have investigated why some women don't need pain relief during pregnancy. Getty

My wife and I got married at the age of 24—very young by today's standards. As someone deeply shaped by my faith, I thought I knew how much of a blessing a strong marriage and a healthy family would be. I anticipated that life as a husband and father would be a joy, but I was also terrified and felt thoroughly inadequate to be either. I was truly unprepared for just how amazing and life-changing our seven children would be.

It's almost impossible to describe how your life shifts when you have children; it transforms you. Yes, raising children is often very difficult. But I have found that the difficulties pale in comparison to the joys.

Our culture today distorts these truths about the beauty and value of children. Nowhere is this distortion more evident than in our culture's tolerance, and even celebration, of abortion.

Our culture encourages people to treat children like objects to be manipulated and controlled; abortion is our "quick fix" for an unexpected pregnancy that's outside of our previous plans. Whereas before, we encouraged people to form families and bring new life into the world, today we view sex as insignificant recreation, pregnancy as a complication, families as an afterthought and abortion as health care.

It's almost impossible to understate the scale of devastation that abortion is wreaking on the family. With our historically low birth rate, the census data reports that there were just over 3.6 million babies born in 2020. The pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reported that in 2017, the last year of available data, there were more than 860,000 abortions.

Not only are fewer people than ever before finding their way to a full appreciation and embrace of the family, but hundreds of thousands of babies are being killed every year by the for-profit abortion industry. Our culture doesn't just devalue the family and discourage pregnancy; it actively supports killing what few children are conceived.

The alarming trend in our nation's birth rate illustrates that being pro-life has to be about changing our culture at large. Abortion is a big piece of the puzzle and a grave moral evil that threatens the family, but the broader problems we face as a society run deeper still. The pro-life cause has to face these cultural trends head on and bear witness to the fundamental value, extreme importance and incredible beauty of children and family life.

Benjamin Watson is a former Super Bowl champion and current vice president of strategic relationships with Human Coalition.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.