Give birth, give birth, give birth! That’s the message being given to the women of Iran, where, due to dropping birthrates, the country has decided that it is time to consider more extreme moves to up the population. According to Business Insider, Iranian lawmakers are considering a ban on vasectomies and potentially tubal ligation, hoping that more pregnancies means more children and more children means more economic prosperity for the country.
“In response to the falling birth rate, the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a 14 point decree that called for Iranians to double the population from around 76 million to 150 million,” reports the outlet. “He said that reaching such a goal would ‘strengthen national identity.’”
According to the article, birth control was beginning to be frowned upon by the country’s leaders as too “secular” and “western,” two criticisms that are ironic after a week of hammering on the availability of contraception in the United States. Just days after the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit companies have the right to deny coverage of some forms of birth control as a matter of religious conviction, the court has already returned to their own decision and expanded it to include all birth control coverage, not just the original few forms being challenged, and even given religious non-profits the right to refuse to sign an accommodation paper that would take paying for birth control coverage out of their hands and instead put it on the federal government instead, a move that the religious right is now claiming is still tantamount to promoting abortion.
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While the idea of a ban on sterilization procedures may seem impossible in the United States, the mindset that has lead to the proposal in Iran really bears little difference from the conservative arguments against abortion and birth control here in this country. After all, how many times has a leading Republican candidate mentioned that our problems with social security could be solved if we had more children to rely on, or that we will lose our economic edge without a robust baby boom to make more mini-taxpayers?
This mindset is even echoed in the recent Supreme Court ruling on birth control, which inherently relies on the belief that the state has “no compelling interest” in providing contraception to people who could become pregnant, or at least, it’s not important enough to make business owners “violate their conscience” over. According to the five man majority, making it easier for anyone who wants to not be pregnant to not be — an act that would both improve their physical and financial health but also in many cases reduce the cost in government services to support that pregnancy — is not as important as protecting a handful of social conservatives who believe it is actually in their best interest to bear children, and that the price for having sexual intercourse is that they should be open to that possibility.
Of course, the United States will never go as far as to criminalize sterilization, as Iran is considering. Instead, the religious right will continue to buy and merge hospitals and medical systems, and forbid them from allowing vasectomies or tubals to be done. They will use their politicians to block grants for IUDs and other long acting reversible birth control programs, and to defund any federal assistance for other forms of hormonal birth control. They will continue to fight to have birth control coverage stripped from insurance programs, ensuring that the most effective long term contraceptives will be too expensive to pay for up front, and that monthly co-pays will eat away at a person’s budget in the hopes that one month it will be too much and that person will skip it.
In the U.S., we would never do anything as blatant as ban birth control. Instead we will continue to chip away at its availability, one path at a time, leaving it there for those who can afford it. For those who don’t have that privilege, well, then the message is the same as in Iran: give birth, give birth, give birth.