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End this discrimination against the childless

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A husband and wife are waiting at the bus stop with their nine children. A blind man joins them after a few minutes. When the bus arrives, they find it overloaded and only the wife and the nine kids are able to fit onto the bus. So the husband and the blind man decide to walk. After a while, the husband gets irritated by the ticking of the stick of the blind man as he taps it on the sidewalk, and says to him, “Why don’t you put a piece of rubber at the end of your stick? That ticking sound is driving me crazy.” The blind man replies, “If you would’ve put a rubber at the end of YOUR stick, we’d be riding the bus … so shut the hell up.”

That joke reminds me of an article that appeared in the in-flight magazine that I got on the way to Nice two weeks ago. They have a section called “The Big Debate,” and the subject matter was “Should parents get special treatment at work?” Now I know I have parents reading this, and there are other readers who might like to have kids, but my verdict is no.

It boils down to choice. You chose to have children, so arrange your lives to in order to see after them. Childless couples don’t choose to take on more work and/or discrimination due to the choices of others.

British journalist Stephen Spurdon writes, “Work/life balance is the HR buzz-phrase at the moment, and it’s a lovely idea, isn’t it? In the minds of some though, it’s okay if they have the life while you do the work … The resentment of the child-free towards the special treatment given to breeders has led to the formation of organisations to fight the inequality. The lead has tended to come from the USA, but there is some evidence that the ‘childless rights’ movement is becoming more vocal in Europe.”

One lobby for the childless in Britain is The British Childfree Association that runs the website Kidding Aside. They announce on their website that “most people assume that having children is the done thing and that those who do not have children must be deficient in some way,” and aim to convince childless couples that they are not selfish or petty for not breeding and seek to console couples that feel left out solely because of their choice.

A true story: A mother of four asks a co-worker if she plans to have children. “Oh no,” the young woman replies, “My husband and I aren’t planning to.” The mother sneers and quips, “Well, people like you shouldn’t have children anyway,” and storms off. Why is one choice that married couples make (having kids) fine and dandy while the other choice is repugnant?

We don’t live in times where ensuring future generations was seen as crucial to the survival of the species. This is the 21st century. The human race is not in any danger of extinction. No-one needs to have children. In fact, given what has arguably become the overpopulation of our planet, isn’t it selfish for people to keep breeding? Spurdon quotes BCA chairman Jonathan McCalmont:

“We no longer live in a society that needs to encourage people to reproduce … Kidding Aside is in favor of flexible working practices and maternity leave is a crucially important right, but in an overpopulated world, why do we give special priority to those with kids?”

Why indeed?

Also consider, is everyone capable of the difficult task of raising kids? Is everyone fit to be a parent? Don’t you know plenty of people about whom you say to yourself, “They should never have become parents”? Yet, instinctively, most people are under the assumption that having children is natural, is to be expected, and that those DINKs that don’t are aberrant and a threat to society. Hmmm, and I thought the threat to society was the legion of aggressive, thuggish latch-key lads out there because of whom we have to have anti-social behavior orders … silly me. When are we, as a society, going to admit that having a high-flying career and children at the same time is not a good idea and that the impact it has upon the emotional well-being of our kids is anything but healthy? Kids don’t need the nearly 30 weeks of maternity leave to be with and have the undivided attention of their mothers; they need it for quite a long time thereafter. Say, five years. Unfortunately, feminist demands and punitive government taxes have seen to it that mothers aren’t around for their growing offspring the way my mother was there for my sister and I.

But back to the crunch on single or childless couple workers. One CEO of Irish company Graphite HRM, quoted had this to say:

“With over 90 acts, directives and regulatory orders since 1990, today an interesting situation prevails in respect of labor law. Trade unions want more, employers want less, childless workers are starting to feel discriminated against and the very purpose of some of the law is having the opposite effect.”

Spurdon himself writes:

“It is not surprising that such groups [such as BCA] during a period when the UK government has gone into family overdrive. Virtually every policy initiative of the UK government appears to be framed to be family- or child-friendly. A major driver in this has been the Department of Trade and Industry, which was behind the legislation to encourage more flexibility in working hours. This meant that from 2003, parents of young and disabled children gained the right to apply for flexible hours and employers have to consider their requests seriously.”

Well, sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? Who could find fault with that?

Spurdon continues:

“No such provisions exist for cases where the child-free (or others) have to care for an elderly and infirm relative or a sick partner.”

A clearer example of special rights I’d be hard-pressed to think of. I have to go back to the Jim Crow laws to see the resemblance.

The yes argument in the article was provided by Rosie Carr, who writes, “[But] complaints from this group [BCA] should be dismissed for what they really are: petulant outbursts barely above the level of a playground spat. These moaners can’t bear to see someone else getting something that they’d like to have, whether it’s a six-month break from work, the right to flexible hours or just being allowed to leave early to deal with a crisis at home.”

We child-free workers don’t have crises at home to deal with from time to time? Right! Thank you for making that clear, Rosie. While reading that paragraph, I have a clear mental image of you: Your finger is resting on your upper lip and your head is held high. When it comes to petulant outbursts, the childless have nothing on you.

Don’t get me wrong. I think tax incentives for families are vital and maternity leave is warranted. And couples with children should be granted the right to leave early if they need to – but so should we all. The law should not determine that the only family members for which we need to be there in times of crisis be children.

Those with children find it convenient to take their frustrations out on the childless. We aren’t up all hours of the night trying to calm spooked or teething babies. We have more money for ourselves to do with whatever we like. We don’t have to control the content on our TVs or computers. We can easily take long weekend breaks to the south of France. We don’t have to play children’s games when we’d rather just settle down with a beer and watch baseball at the end of a hard day. Far from not having lives, we have great lives. The breeders know this and they can hardly control their anger. Misery loves company, after all, and they dearly wish we could experience theirs.

Well, tough! Again, your choice. Lie in the bed you made. You wanted the kids, and kids are exhaustively demanding, so deal with it. We’re all adults here. Some of us simply choose not to go through the trouble of raising offspring. Call it selfish if you must, but we decided that having a partner and a pet or two was enough and that’s all we need out of life. Life goes on and the world still spins! If having kids was such a great, refreshing, enriching experience, why on earth would anyone choose not to have them? That simply defies human nature.

Spurdon ends his article with a gem:

“[B]eing child-free does not mean that you don’t have to cope with their bad behavior in public, or that you won’t have your ears assaulted by some whining brat when dining out with friends … Having children is – or should be – a conscious choice. It is something that should be planned for, like a holiday. Well, you save up for a holiday, so why should you not save up to have children? Then again, why bother to save for something everyone else is expected to pay for – particularly the child-free folk you work with.”

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About Nightdragon

  • Nice article… good points – nice opening joke, never heard that one before… When I hear that people don’t want children, I just get sad because I think one of the meanings of life is to have children and to be able to extend yourself in this world through them and their life. But I understand that some people don’t want to for some reasons or others. The one reason I often hear is that they are freaked out by babies. But that’s people who are 18-20 with nothing but their education and drinking on their minds.

  • Tan the Man: “I think one of the meanings of life is to have children and to be able to extend yourself in this world through them and their life.”

    But I don’t feel the need to live vicariously through others. That’s one reason, among many, why I don’t want and won’t have kids.

    Glad you enjoyed the piece, Tan.

  • Well, I don’t mean guide them into doing things. I’m thinking in a more spiritual sense. That a part of your soul is a part of them.

  • Fantastic article, Mark. It certainly has been my experience that parents often receive much greater flexibility at work and can often receive preferential treatment.

    My roommate has experienced this, as well, such as when she was stuck on a night shift she didn’t want. When asked why another employee couldn’t do it, she was told that the other employee simply couldn’t because she had children. The other employee was never even considered an option, but she was because she didn’t have children.

    As for me, I don’t suspect I’ll ever have children. I’m only 24 and it’s possible I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it. Frankly, I don’t want to give up my freedom.

  • Let me be the first to say, Happy Father’s Day.

    MEM is a New Yawk liberal — stereotype, that is 🙂

  • Misery loves company, after all, and they dearly wish we could experience theirs.

    Reminds me of Aesop’s tale of the fox with the cut tail. Heh…but not all of us parents feel that way.

    Each to their own.

    Sensible post 🙂


    Well, employers have to weigh out the possibilities of losing an employee because of scheduling problems and choose the most favorable response.

    There is a lot of vitriol on both sides of this issue. I agree that parents need to ensure their children behave responsibly in public, and that crying babies should be taken out of theatres. (so should people on cellphones)

    Parenting is a demanding, life-changing experience, and there is a lot of “suck it up” challenges that must be dealt with, it is a conscious choice.

    The childless should also lighten up a littel and remember that they were once snot nosed nuisances, but a few of them managed to grow out of it.

  • The English do often seem more civilized. To choose not to have children if you cannot or will not provide them with enough love, attention, compassion, security, education, guidance, and, need I say it, the 100s of thousands of dollars it takes to raise and educate a child today; then by all mean not having them is a gift to the world. There are a few who can provide all that love and desire for the welfare of others and the time to riase and guide them. They should/must have them or we will end up like the Shakers. But if everyone does we will end up with children shooting up schools, going hungry, joining gangs, having emotional problems and who knows what.
    Only the “pro life” people want unwantedness and unhappiness, hunger,want and death at any cost.


    I was with you until the last sentence, Alpha.

  • SFC SKI. I still believe my ending but it was not germane to the discussion at hand and should have been deleted. As say the English, “Quite so.”

  • Nice one, swingingpuss… brings a little more perspective to what my earlier ramblings

  • Bennett

    Mark, let me add myself to the list of folks that think this is a wonderful and timely post.

    I was at my step-son’s HS graduation yesterday, and there must have been 20 squalling 1 year olds, and a couple dozen or so 2-3 year olds going into random fits. I could barely hear the speakers for all the noise from the brats.

    I didn’t let it ruin the affair, but here were a dozen parents (at least) that really lacked any concept of proper parenting.

    Let’s encourage people to wait on having kids, past their 20s please, just so they have a better grip on societal responsibility. The resulting children will have a better home life, and society will benefit greatly.

    Again, well written post. Thanks!

  • swingingpuss: “Reminds me of Aesop’s tale of the fox with the cut tail.”

    LOL. I love Aesop’s fables.

    Temple Stark: MEM is a New Yawk liberal — stereotype, that is :-)”

    Egad! Believe it or not, TS, it would actually bother me a lot more if people thought I was from NY than if they thought I was a liberal (neither of which is true)!

    Alpha: “Only the “pro life” people want unwantedness and unhappiness, hunger,want and death at any cost.”

    Like SFC Ski, I didn’t see the need for this closing shot. It’s true that the people who tend to be pro-life tend to be the very ones who cannot understand the choice to not have kids, and their Faith holds them to the breeding mentality, but that’s going a little too far. I myself am pro-life, and yet I’m willing to take these people on over my (and my wife’s) choice of lifestyle.

    Bennett: “Let’s encourage people to wait on having kids, past their 20s please, just so they have a better grip on societal responsibility.”

    I would rather people have their children while still in their 20s. I think that age group is responsible enough – if they set their minds to the task at hand – to have kids … I think it’s irresponsible to have kids past 35, especially many of them, because one would be more a grandparent than a parent by the time those kids go to college. It’s not fair on the child. You’d also deprive them of their real grandparents at a pretty young age. I really get disturbed every time I hear of some woman having kids at 59 or whatever … that’s messing with nature. The 25-35 age group is the only window of time in which to have kids, IF you’re going to have them … but let me say, I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, thanks for the compliments.

  • Nancy

    I just wish there were some way to sort of ‘put a plug’ in people so they don’t have kids until they can pass some sort of exam showing that 1) they really want them, 2) they have the common sense to raise them well, 3) they have the motivation and dedication to WANT to raise them well. Those that pass – carry on! So many kids are simply born because the idiot parents didn’t know what else to do, it was ‘expected’, it was an accident, etc. The kids aren’t wanted, the parents are resentful of their time/money/lives being stolen by kids they didn’t really want to begin with – and it shows, and anyone who thinks the kids, even as infants, don’t get it, is a fool. The pain of not being wanted, of being in the way, an afterthought, an accident, or an impediment, is devestating. So many people equate childlessness with being selfish and not loving kids, but in reality, it’s a combination of common sense about one’s own abilities plus (for some of us) the fact that we do love kids, and recognise we just aren’t up to the job of having & raising them to the standards we feel are necessary. I know how I was brought up, by far more people than just my parents: uncles & aunts, grandparents, neighbors, teachers…in my case, it really was a village (possibly a small city) that helped raise me. I don’t have those resources, and without them don’t feel I could do a really decent job that any kids deserves and (imo) is entitled to. There is also the fact that I am aware of our family’s genetics, and feel that in our case, the buck should stop here. Being heir to various allergies and conditions that are untreatable is not fun, and can not only make your life miserable, it can make it untenable and outright hell. Why perpetuate it, just because you can? I don’t really want anyone else to go thru what my sister & I have to deal with as far as physical problems. Finally, there’s the fact that the world is just plain overcrowded and overpopulated, thanks mostly to the marching morons who are oblivious to the above considerations and who breed mindlessly because they can. I do my part not to breed, so that perhaps we have a tad more chance as a species of quality survival, because I chose not to litter.

    Parting note: even tho they’re no longer here, I wish my dad, grandfathers, Charlie Neary, Mr. Evans, and all the men who helped bring me up, a Happy Father’s Day, with thanks and gratitude.

  • Nancy: “I just wish there were some way to sort of ‘put a plug’ in people so they don’t have kids until they can pass some sort of exam showing that 1) they really want them, 2) they have the common sense to raise them well, 3) they have the motivation and dedication to WANT to raise them well.”

    Hear, hear, Nancy. I so agree. These days, something like that is sorely needed. I am no fan of big brother, nanny state gov’t, but this proposal makes sense and is def. in the public’s best interest.

  • Waiting past the 20s to have kids only seems necessary because our culture keeps telling people their 20s is a great time to be irresponsible and stupid. We could stop doing that, and drive home the message that it’s time to act like a responsible adult when you turn 21, even if you are still in college and surrounded by opportunities to wander around in a drunken stupor.

    If we make this little change to our cultural standards, it would be no problem for people to have children in their 20s.

    Then we’d just have to figure out how to persuade so many people to quit having children in their teens.

  • Being a parent doesn’t necessarily make one an “adult”. If responsibility is a concern, I know plenty of responsilble 20-somethings living on their own, supporting themselves.

    If you decide not to breed, good for you! It’s important to know oneself and make appropriate choices. I agree our cultural standards need to change, and valuing the childfree option as a legitimate lifestyle is a good beginning. Overpopulation has greatly strained our resources. Simply breeding isn’t really a contribution to society.

  • Eric Olsen

    I have a solution to the surplus of childless adults: screw them

  • Good one, Eric, but it’s not always so simple. For example, I’ve been getting screwed frequently ever since I first starting working for an hourly wage, almost twenty years ago.

    Still no kids yet.

  • Ronnie Bacelo

    Mark Manning, I am trying to locate Stephen Spurdon. I met him years ago in the United States. Can you help with a contact e-mail or could you forward my e-mail. Thanking you in advance.
    Ronnie Bacelo

  • Ronnie,

    Sorry, I’m afraid I don’t know Mr. Spurdon personally. And the in-flight magazine in which his article was published doesn’t list any contact info.

    However, I suggest “Googling” his name – that might yield some contact info.

  • Mark:

    That was a beautifully written piece. I hear you!

    I know we can’t go back to Father Knows Best time, and I don’t think I’d even want to. However, it saddens me to see coworkers have a child and then have to leave that child with a nanny who gets to see baby’s first steps and all the rest.

    I have never had a desire for children, but if I did I think I would if at all possible arrange it so that one person–the mother or father, or some alternating combination–could stay home and care for the child during their early, most formative years.

    There are so many horror stories about nannies and other caretakers abusing their charges. Even under the best of circumstances, these employees are just that–employees–and will likely not be able to give a child the same kind of loving care a mother or father can.

    Though today’s economy may make it more diffficult to have one stay at home parent, I tend to think that in many cases it could still be done, if people live within their means. But then again, I don’t have to do it, so I can’t really say. To me, children are a daunting responsibility and a huge, 18 year plus expense.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Stephen Spurdon

    Hi. I am the author of the piece that appeared in EasyJet in-flight magazine. Just noticed the comment from Ronnie Bacelo. Well, my email address is [oops] and I would welcome any contact with Ronnie again. So I just hope someone would be kind enough to pass this on to Ronnie.

  • WL

    It’s nice to know someone cares about the childfree, when we are quicked to be judged, with some giving us rude remarks about our lifestyle, thank you.

  • The breeders think they’re privileged and the rest of us just HAVE to put up with their spawn … You’re welcome. I’ll keep fighting.

  • nokids4Me

    I did not have a great childhood, and was raped by a pedophile when I was 14 years old. Why do I want to bring kids into this world? It is an awful place filled with awful people!

  • Not_that_vain

    When I was of child-bearing age, I could not justify having children because it seemed to be such an incredibly vain act: wanting to give birth to someone “just like me”! Procreation is the ultimate act of vanity! There are more than enough orphans in the world that need a home and family – my womb was just not that “special” to me.

  • Frantic Diner

    I reckon there’s a real health & safety issue in hotels (in Australia) that encourage parents in (usually poker machine venues!) by providing ‘Kids Play Areas’. On more than one occasion I’ve seen waitresses nearly fall over with hot plates of food whilst trying to negotiate wayward and uncontrolled kids running under their feet. This excessive pandering to children in our modern society is maddening!

  • Re: Frantic

    Very maddening indeed. There’s no escaping it.

  • Jill

    I’m sorry to say but there is a slight discrimination of child-free women by straight men. The fact of the matter is that most men do want @ leat one child. Sorry. That’s just how it is. A women who is unfortunately “sterile” or “unwilling” to have any children is just not appealing to the AVERAGE man. I hate to be the one to say this because I am a woman of 32 who does not yet have a child. I would like to have only one child in the future. However, I do only want just one. My husband, as well as his friends, as well as male co-workers, male friends, husbands of friends, brothers of friends, male strangers, etc. ALL agree that having children IS important. I don’t know of ONE single man that does not. I also happen to live in the NYC Metro Area, not some redneck town. Some things will just ALWAYS be tradition & just can’t be changed. Men want to procreate. Period. Every man that I know feels that a woman that wishes to remain child-free for her entire life is selfish, lazy, irresponsible, immature, & just plain unappealing. Again, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s just how it is.

    Like I’ve already stated b4, I only want just one child & I’m still not yet ready. However, I CAN’T STAND it when I hear some disgustingly vain women state how pregnancy “ruins” their body. It certainly does not! It only destroys the lazy… Again, sorry to burst some women’s bubbles here… The BEST looking women with the BEST physiques that I know of ALL have children. Why? Cuz they pay more attention to their bodies. They are more mature. They eat right & exercise. It’s so funny because all of these women (well @ least the ones that I know, so please don’t tear me a part!!) who state that they don’t want to loose their figures or their “good looks” never had any good looks to begin with!! I’m not making any of this up ladies. This is all from my own experience. And yes… Men absolutely LOVE, LOVE, & I mean LOVE their pregnant women!. I coulnd’t believe my ears when I heard men talk about how they can’t keep their hands off of their pregnant wives. The women also told me the same stories. Also, every woman I know of has ALWAYS gone back to her normal shape after about 2 to 3 months of delivery. I know not of one woman that was made “ugly” by pregnancy. Not one. I actually know of a female trainer in her mid to late forties that has a dynamite physique & 6 pack abs. She happens to have 5 children… It all comes down to what a person wants. Yes, a woman can have it all! A lot of women do! I’ve always envied women who can balance work, motherhood, & still manage to take the time to take good care of themselves. One more observation on this subject is in the overall “high maintenance” status of women with children. Hmm… The women that I know of who DO have children happen to wear make-up, style their hair, go to the spa, gym, & have their nails done on a regular basis. The childless ones (THAT I KNOW OF.. SO PLEASE DON’T HATE ME HERE!!!) are actually lazy about their personal appearance. They would much rather utilize their time @ the clubs & bars every weekend & spend the rest of their free time bloated & recovering from hangovers. Just an observation that I again have witnessed in my 32 years. You would think that such busy moms would have no time, but how wrong people are to believe that. A woman has as much time as her husband gives her. What I mean by that is, if you have a halfway decent husband, then you can do whatever you want in your spare time. Why? Because you will actually HAVE spare time with the help of your spouse. That’s a key factor here. I do agree that single motherhood is EXTREMELY difficult, & no , you may not be able to make the time 4 yourself that you wanted. However, with the right man, there’s no need to give up your much cherished “me” time. It’s called switching off. One day the wife cooks, next day husband. Vice versa. Wife doesn’t feel like grocery shopping so husband shops. Wife changes diapers one day then husband does tomorrow. So on & so forth. Husband goes out with friends on football Sunday. Next Saturday, wife spends afternoon @ Day Spa. See what I mean… It makes me laugh when a woman gives the exuse of just not wanting the responsibility. It’s actually easier with a family. You have the help of a husband & one day your kids will be old enough to take out the trash & do those dishes for you. Be a single woman alone, & you have to do EVERYTHING!!! The single & child-free woman will have to grocery shop every time. She will have to cook for herself every night or she won’t eat. She has to do ALL of the chores around the house every day. Unless she wants to pay to eat out & pay for a cleaning lady. BUT… Sorry, you can’t cuz you only have one income… It all depends upon the partnership between husband & wife. If the man that you are with is willing to be supportive & willing to share the childcare duties, then the sky’s the limit. However, if you feel that the man that you are with cannot commit to this, then maybe the solution is to find a man that will.. Women short-change themselves by just automatically giving up on wanting to have children. Instead of giving on children, may be that woman should give on on her deadbeat & unhelpful man…

  • Jill

    In respnse to “Frantic Diner”. That’s a ridiculous reason not to procreate. You obviously don’t have the priviledge of owning cats… (or might I rephrase that to cats owning you!!) I have 2 wonderfull cats that ALWAYS try to trip me everywhere I walk. I’ve learned to become more surefooted & agile. I’ve tripped & fell dozens of times cuz of my 2 cats. They are like having 2 furry kids!! LOL 🙂

  • Mark Edward Manning


    This is one man who does NOT have a pregnant-woman fetish. You’re right, though, many straight men do seem to be complete saps when it comes to child-bearing women.

  • Lee Jones

    Actually, Jill, a lot of men don’t really care if they have children or not–they just say that they want them because most so many women act like having children is a requirement and start to think “babies!” right away. (And why would men care anyway? After all, it’s not their bodies, and they often don’t do the majority of the child care, nor suffer the career setbacks that often come with child care.)

    The old story of the woman who is convinced that a baby will make the man commit is much more common than a man discarding a woman because she can’t or doesn’t want to have children. I have so, so many female acquaintances who are just sure that, despite his lack of interest in children, deep down he’s dying to be a daddy, and will throw himself into it whole-heartedly once she *oops* gets pregnant. And you know, it rarely works that way. If it did, we wouldn’t have such an epidemic of children being raised without fathers in their lives. That outcome is FAR more statistically likely than the one where a man rejects a woman over the issue of not having children.

    Also, you apparently only know bloated alcoholics. Not surprising, since you seem like a holier-than-thou twit. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps some women have physical conditions that would make a pregnancy devastating to their health? It’s not always about vanity (although it seems to be with you, given how much time you’ve apparently put into judging your female friends’ bodies and exercise levels). I have a serious chronic illness that would make any pregnancy extremely high-risk. Now, I have never wanted children, and made that decision before my illness developed. But it’s also legitimate to say that I absolutely would not want a pregnancy, given what it would do to my body and health. However, my health issues are no one’s concern but my own and my spouse’s. So maybe some of these supposedly “vain” women have legitimate reasons not to want to wreak havoc on their bodies for reasons other than vanity, and they’ve chosen not to confide in you (understandable since you come across as Judgey McJudgerson).

    PS: I wish I knew you personally, because when/if you do finally have a child, and find that whipping yourself into supermodel shape (which is what I assume you look like now, given your judgmental attitude) after pregnancy is far more difficult than you might imagine, I would just laugh, and laugh, and laugh…

  • April

    MEM, loved the article. Then I read the comments, and you lost all my support.

    Who are you to dictate during what age range people should be permitted to reproduce? If a person/couple wants to have children and can safely conceive and carry to term, telling them that they’ve missed your 25-35 window and so shouldn’t breed is a violation of their reproductive rights. Further, I’m astounded that you are so eloquent in your support of the childfree, while also being anti-choice.

    Essentially, you’re preaching the virtues of reproductive freedom while denouncing all the tools available to people who want to control their own reproductive destiny. Nice double-speak. Have you considered a career with the KGB?