Piper Hoffman, Having Kids’ executive director, has a letter to the editor in today’s New York Times on the Zika virus and family planning. Hoffman writes in response to a NYT article about El Salvador health officials advising women not to get pregnant until 2018 to avoid infant brain damage caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Here’s her letter in its entirety:
One theme is clear in “El Salvador’s Advice on Zika Virus: Don’t Have Babies” (front page, Jan. 26). El Salvador’s advice that women should abstain from pregnancy for two years to avoid having children born with microcephaly, a rare condition in which babies have unusually small heads, is shocking.
But isn’t it more shocking to feel compelled to have children in the face of a growing mosquito-borne epidemic likely to cause them severe brain damage? The surprise in your article stems from historical parenting models that discourage parents from working together to maximize the well-being of future generations by deciding when and how to bring them into this world.
If we care about children, we’ll move away from these models. Supporting El Salvador’s move to work collectively to avoid severe brain damage in children would be a start.
This is what Having Kids is all about: thinking critically about how and when to have children and how to best support the children we do have. El Salvador’s family planning approach moves from a one-sided perspective on parenting (based solely on parental desire) to a three-sided perspective that also includes the future child’s wellbeing and the family’s impact on others. The outraged reaction among rights groups over what was advice from the government, not a mandate, highlights just how ingrained the traditional parenting model is.
We can change that.