Abortion, Education and Demographics
09 May, 2013
On Easter the topic of Georgia's demographic problem and abortion was raised. I don't agree that abortion should be illegal or even that there is a demographic problem, but it is good that the conversation has started about the topic. Georgia has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. Also, Georgia, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan, has among the highest rates of sex selective abortions in the world, around the levels of India and China.
These type of
sex selective abortions are less frequent when a woman has had no children or only one but when a Georgian woman has already had two daughters, the abortion rate increases noticeably.
The debate about abortion is an international debate, although abortion is legal in most of western Europe and high income countries, in some European Roman Catholic countries it is illegal or controversial. So Georgia is not alone having strongly divergent views on the matter. The main reason abortion rates in Georgia are so high is because abortion is often used as a first line method of birth control. Many fewer woman use modern birth control in Georgia than are sexually active. So regular contraception methods are less frequently used than in most other countries.

Perhaps this is due to social pressure or lack of education, but certainly the best way to lower the abortion rate is to make contraception and education about contraception more readily available and affordable. The state health insurance should cover birth control. Making birth control difficult to get doesn't increase the birth rate much but it certainly increases the abortion rate. The Netherlands was the first country to make abortion legal and yet has the lowest abortion rate in the world and the countries with legal abortions and active education about sex and contraception are all the ones with the lowest abortion rates.

If abortions are illegal, women who can afford them will simply pay the price for expensive illegal abortions or will travel somewhere to get them. Poor women will have no chance to get them, or even worse will get dangerous illegal abortions near home. Some will die. Wealthy women will always have choices wether abortion is legal or illegal, but poor women will have fewer choices. I am not sure there is consensus on the importance of Georgia's demographic problem, as Georgia's low birth rate is some times called. And is it fair to say that women must be the ones to solve this alleged problem? Is that what women are for? If that is the case, then wouldn't it be more honest to say that all women must have a certain number of children by a certain age or face jail terms or be moved to Demographic Improvement Camps where they can be impregnated? Should society have the right to say that women must carry to term an unwanted pregnancy? Isn't this a fundamental matter of personal choice?

Also, many Georgian's I know have negative attitudes towards adoption. If lowering the abortion rate is a high priority, then wealthy families should take in babies from parents who can't afford them. This is quite common in much of the world, but less so in Georgia. I am not sure why. Is it because bloodlines are considered so important here? Any other ideas why?

Because abortion is used as a birth control method in Georgia, sex selection happens. And this will be a serious problem when there is an imbalance between young men and women in a few years. I understand why in India, Pakistan and China sex selected abortion is a problem because in those places for cultural reasons sons are financially advantageous compared with daughters. But I don't see that in Georgia. And I don't really understand why so many Georgians would prefer boys to girls. But I do think if somehow it were possible to buy condoms that would only let male sperm through, they might be some demand for them.

And finally, there are many countries, like for example the US, that has a fairly low birth rate but a high immigration rate and so the population is growing. That keeps the economy prosperous. So when people discuss the "demographic problem" are they talking about a shortage of Georgian babies? That seems like a very ethno-nationalist worry. I know when my Irish ancestors moved to America, those already there were very worried about Irish immigrants and how dirty and different and dangerous they (we) were. Then everybody stopped worrying about it and started worrying about the Hispanics or some other group. All successful societies naturally have immigrants, and there are always those who worry about immigrants no matter where they come from, then later their grand children will worry about some other group of immigrants. But in the end we are all one species. The descendants of all the Khivchaks of a thousand years ago, or the Iranians who moved to Kakheti four hundred years ago are just as Georgian as anybody else.

The question of who will take care of these children is an important one. The family unit is an extremely effective unit to take care of children. And yet there have been comments made that for those who couldn't afford to have children, the church would take care of them. In practice, how would this work? Who specifically would take care of these children day to day, would feed them and care for them? This almost sounds like a recruitment effort and and is a strange thing to hear from an institution run by men. In my experience many Georgian men don't take a very active role in many of the day to day aspects of early childhood upbringing. Nobody wants abortions, so let's focus on what we can agree on, that other methods of birth control are better and should be clearly understood.