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Environmental Values

Reproductive Liberty and Overpopulation

Carol A. Kates

Environmental Values 13(2004): 51-79. doi: 10.3197/096327104772444776

Despite substantial evidence pointing to a looming Malthusian catastrophe, governmental measures to reduce population have been opposed both by religious conservatives and by many liberals, especially liberal feminists. Liberal critics have claimed that 'utilitarian' population policies violate a 'fundamental right of reproductive liberty'. This essay argues that reproductive liberty should not be considered a fundamental human right, or certainly not an indefeasible right. It should, instead, be strictly regulated by a global agreement designed to reduce population to a sustainable level. Three major points are discussed: 1) the current state of the overpopulation problem; 2) the claim of a fundamental human right of reproductive liberty; 3) an outline of a global agreement to address overpopulation as a 'tragedy of the commons'.

KEYWORDS: Overpopulation, reproductive liberty, tragedy of the commons, Malthus, Kerala

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Population: Time-Bomb or Smoke-Screen? Mario Petrucci

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

Reproductive Liberty and Overpopulation: A Response. Stanley Warner

Reproductive Liberty and Overpopulation: Reply to Stanley Warner. Carol A. Kates

This article is available online (PDF format) from Ingenta Journals. Access is free if your institution subscribes to Environmental Values. Reprints of this article can be ordered from ingenta or the British Library

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