Regarding the protests of Extinction Rebellion and the eco-anxieties of young people, epitomised by Swedish eco-evangelist Greta Thunberg, Zoe Strimpel says that although it is ‘right to be extremely concerned about climate change … we must not let a chronic fear of doom blot out all we’ve done to make our lives, and country, among the most doom-free in the world’, saying that 100 years ago, ‘I or a number of my friends would be dead from childbirth; some of us may have been made to suffer for an accidental teen pregnancy for the rest of our lives. Some of us might have tried a grisly backstreet abortion’ (‘Eco-warriors fail to realise we’ve never had it so good’ (Sunday Telegraph, April 28, 2019).
However, a century ago the vast majority of teenagers did not have sexual relations outside of marriage; if they became pregnant it would most likely lead to marriage unless the father of the child was already married – in which case it might lead to a backstreet abortion, but more often to a family adoption or an unwed mothers’ home. Neither did abortion make childbirth safer – modern medicine did that; ironically, it was in the 1960s, when pregnancy had never been safer, that the abortion campaign finally succeeded in legalising it, claiming that abortion was the answer to illegitimacy, ‘shotgun marriages’, the ‘unfit mother’ and the ‘unwanted child’.
It is indeed the case that our nation is much better off materially than 100 years ago, but this makes it all the more puzzling that in an age of unprecedented plenty, around a third of pregnancies end in abortion. As Zoe Strimpel points out, ‘child mortality has plummeted’, but abortion has skyrocketed. Perhaps someone should look into the psychological effects on young people of a third of their generation going missing before birth because they were seen as inconvenient to society and an obstacle to women’s equality – making their mothers ‘suffer for the rest of their lives’. Now children are also openly regarded as a burden on the Planet, it is no wonder that so many are anxious and depressed, and do not feel lucky to be alive. The ‘wanted child’ has never felt so unwanted.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old student whose school strikes have inspired a global youth movement on climate change.