A Post-Corona Baby Boom May Be Coming, And It Won't Always Be the Parents' Choice | Opinion

There is continuing debate about whether COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions will produce a baby boom next year. If it does, would that be a good thing?

As the producer and director of the documentary To Kid or Not to Kid, I have given a lot thought to that question. In the five years that it took to produce the film, I talked to hundreds of women about their childbearing decisions. I also wrestled with my own.

While I encountered vastly conflicting opinions, one message came through loud and clear: Child-bearing decisions should not be entered into lightly. So when I read that a COVID-19 outbreak at a major condom manufacturing facility in Malaysia would cause a global condom shortage, the hairs on my neck rose.

Then when I learned that large numbers of women in the developing world—including those living in refugee camps—could lose access to their supply of contraceptives, I got even more concerned. It has been reported that because of the shortage, 49 million women and girls in developing countries will go without contraception, which could result in 15 million unplanned pregnancies. In this time of crisis, that's the last thing women need, or the world needs.

In the documentary, I filmed my husband's vasectomy, and his doctor informed us that an estimated 40 to 50 percent of pregnancies are unintended. A condom shortage would add to that number. And it's not just condoms. My niece, a doctor in the United Kingdom, had to wait in line for two hours to get her contraceptive prescription filled.

Diminished access to contraception aside, will the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions lead to a baby boom? It certainly could lead to more sex, and there's nothing wrong with that. But even before the spread of COVID-19 there were a lot of women who were having second thoughts about bringing another child into this world. Their reluctance was often multi-layered. Many that I talked to cited the financial burden or the mental stress, but just as many were worried about what kind of world their child would inherit. COVID-19 will likely magnify those concerns.

Like a lot of women, I have wrestled with the question of whether to have a child or not. I was part of the ambivalent crowd, and I made a whole documentary just to be sure of my answer. Perhaps no one needs to spend years, like I did, talking with others about this most personal and consequential of choices in order to make their own decision. But having a child shouldn't be taken lightly.

Childbearing decisions are deeply personal. Every woman should be able to make up her own mind about having a child, free from coercion or undue influence. If a woman decides, after careful deliberation, that she wants to have a child,I will support her. The world needs children who get the love, attention, and education required to grow into responsible and loving adults.

Having children can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience, but not for all women. All children, however, need a caring parent and a safe environment in which to grow, and there are no exceptions to that.

I've also worked on a documentary series about foster care, and it made me painfully aware of what happens when an unwanted baby is abandoned or a mother is deemed unfit to care for her child. When bad child-bearing decisions are made, it's often the children who pay the highest price.

Many young people are calling on those in power to protect the Earth for future generations. Shouldn't that also include being mindful about child bearing decisions, and making sure people can avoid unplanned pregnancies?

With world population approaching eight billion, our demand for food and land is destroying forests and biodiversity and depleting the oceans. Our consumption of fossil fuels is radically changing the climate. We are driving extinction of plant and animal species. Unless we do something very different, we risk ruining the planet for those who come after us.

Those considerations played a part in my own decision not to have a child. It's my hope that future generations will benefit from it. Others may decide differently. But no one should be forced to undergo childbearing by default or by accident, particularly when the world is fighting a pandemic.

Maxine Trump is the director and producer of To Kid Or Not To Kid, a new film premiering worldwide June 16. She worked for the BBC in London for seven years as a development executive for scripted comedy.

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