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SHOULD THE STATE CONTROL THE BIRTH RATE?

Yes, Slovakia needs legislation

he current demographic situation in Slovakia preordains our own future. The decline of the birth rate in Slovakia (since 1993 in particular) to a point below that which would sustain the current population level will have several effects in the coming years: a decrease in the population, an increase of the proportion of old people in the population as a whole, a decline in the productive proportion of the population, a fall in the number of taxpayers, and a shrinkage of markets. I assume that just as the Bishops' Conference feels responsible for Slovakia and its future, so the state and its representatives endeavour to provide the country with the best possible future in all areas of life.



he current demographic situation in Slovakia preordains our own future. The decline of the birth rate in Slovakia (since 1993 in particular) to a point below that which would sustain the current population level will have several effects in the coming years: a decrease in the population, an increase of the proportion of old people in the population as a whole, a decline in the productive proportion of the population, a fall in the number of taxpayers, and a shrinkage of markets.

I assume that just as the Bishops' Conference feels responsible for Slovakia and its future, so the state and its representatives endeavour to provide the country with the best possible future in all areas of life. The current situation, in which Slovakia has set out towards gradual extinction, is cause for great concern and should be seen as negative and very damaging for state and society. We need to engage in a society-wide discussion of the problem and seek to analyze the reasons why people are preferring to raise fewer children.

Are the reasons economic, psychological, sociological, cultural, religious, or of a different nature? After analyzing these factors we need to create legislation to ensure a future for Slovakia and to guarantee a sufficient birth rate. Without children, neither Slovakia nor any other nation has a future.

According to the Slovak Statistics Office, total fecundity in Slovakia in 1995 was 1.52 (to maintain the population the rate should be 2.1); around 61,000 babies were born (80,000 are needed to maintain the population). These figures result from a long-term, gradual decline until 1992 and a sharp fall since 1993.

Until 1992 total fertility hovered at a level which still marginally maintained the population; since 1993, the birth rate has clearly fallen to a level which will lead to the extinction of the state and the nation. The current birth rate is the lowest ever recorded in Slovakia. Abortion and contraception are the methods used by individuals to realize their desire to limit the number of children they have.

The current demographic situation shows that these individual decisions to eschew childbirth may be in direct opposition to the future interests of those making them. If a large group of people aged between 20 and 30 decides not to have children today, the demographic effects on their lives in 10 to 15 years will be dire - reducing the amount of money available to pay for their pension and health care, and compromising the economic health of their country (since there will be fewer people of productive age) by exerting an inordinate influence on taxes, inflation and other factors.

XXXTo give an example: Slovakia has 5.3 million inhabitants, of which 2.7 million are of productive age. From 1957 until 1995, 1.2 million abortions were carried out in Slovakia; had these not been carried out, there would be a further 1.2 million Slovaks aged between zero and 39 alive today - a group of young, productive and potentially productive people. The economic consequences of the individual decision to limit the number of children one has can thus be fairly precisely quantified.

If we support, directly or indirectly, this decision not to have children (economically, by means of legislation, or by influencing public opinion through education, the media, etc.), we are supporting our own demographic demise - the extinction of state, society and nation. A nation without children is a nation without a future.

Dr. Andrej Hrádocký is a pediatrician and a member of Donum Vitae which belongs to the global movement Pro Life.

From 1957 until 1995, 1.2 million abortions were carried out in Slovakia; had these not been carried out, there would be a further 1.2 million Slovaks aged between zero and 39 alive today.

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