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Leta Hong Fincher’s New York Times piece on China’s family planning regime raises many questions: We decry population growth policies as violating women’s rights and autonomy. Should we also look beyond parents, to future children, and consider their rights to a world free of population-driven climate change and the environmental destruction that typifies massive China today?

Would such rights limit parents’ autonomy in family planning? China is the bogeyman when it comes to family planning, but isn’t the United States attempting to also use women to produce workers, consumers, and taxpayers for the state? China uses family planning to limit the number of children born into poverty, and that has disparate impact on some families, but if a policy does not independently use genetics or race as a factor, is it eugenics? Could states compensate for that disparity by using equity as baseline for cooperative planning?

Regardless of how we answer these questions, family planning is morally complex – with immense consequences for more than just parents – and rarely a matter of evil state actors and blameless citizens. The New York Times needs to dig deeper when it covers an issue that, more than anything else, defines the world around us.

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