Abortion and birth control are popularly believed to have no material consequences outside of the body of the woman. Whatever moral, physical, or psychological ramifications there may be as a result of an abortion or of taking a hormone pill for twenty years are thought to be locked in and confined to the mother, and there is nothing more to be said.

Birth control is held to be an economic blessing to those who practice it and who do not want the financial burden and inconvenience of raising children or raising more children. But the cumulative effect to society at large of millions of these individual decisions about abortion and birth control made over decades is enormous.

Years of the baby boom

The end of the Second World War marked to beginning of the baby boom. The veterans of the war came home determined to find a wife, build a house, and start a family. Everyone was determined that the depression years should never return. The years after the war did indeed see tremendous growth and development in Canada.

Ontario, for example, transformed itself from a rural and agricultural province into one thoroughly urban and industrialized. Electricity became abundant and cheap and available everywhere. A province-wide system of highways was conceived and built. Nearly a score of new universities and community colleges, and a completely new school system, were called into being. None of this spectacular development would have happened without the vigor and exuberance of the new, young, and growing families of Ontario. The experience of the other provinces of Canada over these years were similar.

Decline in birthrate

But since 1965 a change in attitudes brought a decline in the birth rate, and the rates are low in Canada less than half of what they were at the peak of the baby boom; they are now well below the level of replacement. The full effects of this transformation from growth to regression still lie in the future, but some are noticeable even today.

School boards faced with declining enrollment and confronted with rising costs, are compelled to close schools, undertake painful and unpopular rationalizations, and carry surplus stock of obsolescent capital equipment which has been little used. Family restaurants which used to cater to fours and sixes now serve ones and twos. The six-passenger automobile, once the rule, is now the exception.

In some localities the effects of declining birth rate have been especially severe. The Charest committee on the Meech Lake accord heard that the school systems in the eastern townships of Quebec, a province which has seen a frightening drop in birthrate, have suffered a loss of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in enrollment since 1975. These are the visible manifestations of lower birth rate.

Invisible consequences

The invisible consequences are shocking to imagine. TO gain some idea of the loss of human potential which Canada has suffered since 1969, one must resort to a study by Catherine Bolger published in a series of articles entitled “Digging for abortion statistics.” In comparing the figures for abortion reported by Statistics Canada in the publication ‘Hospital Morbidity’ with those in ‘Therapeutic Abortion,’ Mrs. Bolger found that over the period from 1969 to 1988 Canada lost perhaps as many as 1,660,000 people to abortion. This figure amounts to 6.4% of Canada’s population today. To grasp the effect of losing so many people one should imagine wiping out a city the size of Toronto or Montreal. Think of British Columbia with Vancouver, or Alberta without Calgary and Edmonton.

This generation of people which was lost to abortion would all be young, most less than 20, and all of them would need education, clothing, food, housing and entertainment; and all of them would have had the supreme advantage of having been born and raised in Canada. Their consuming potential today would be enormous, and all of the wealth which they could produce and earn and spend would lie in the future. Such is the potential of the people who once existed and were destroyed; that of the people who were never conceived through the intervention of birth control would add to the total.

Threats to the future

This altogether shocking loss of consumer demand today will be matched by a critical loss of national production and income in the future. The generation which chose the comfort of exotic cars, monster houses and expensive holidays over children, ironically may very well have imperiled the security of their retirement years by their improvident decision.

Public health insurance and pension plans depend for their solvency upon their being many more contributions than benefactors. These schemes operate through a process of cash flow, which means that the plan pays the pension or the health care claim not so much from interest of a large reserve of money but form the current contributions of the people who hope to receive a pension from the plan or expect to make an insurance claim in the future. In this way, the financial burden to be carried is widespread over many, and the weight on any one is light.

The pension plan looked at from this perspective resembles a pact between generations. Father looks after grandfather, and in his time son will look after father. Health insurance, to a lesser extent, is also such a pact between generations, for older people usually require more and expensive health care than young people. So far, so good: but when the father neglects to have a son, the scheme breaks down. There is no one to pay the father a pension or help him cover his health bill.

Rising health costs

Speaking precisely, there is no one-to-one correspondence between contributor and benefactor as these schemes are designed, but the ration between contributor and benefactor will be quite different thirty years form now. When the baby boom generation retires, about a quarter of the population will be pensioners and heavy consumers of health care. In Ontario health care costs already amount to a third of the provincial budget, and chronic care of seniors is out of all proportion to their numbers. The burden which is light today will be onerous in thirty years.

In thirty years time the budgetary question, given the legacy of debt which was passed on to them, will be whether the children of that generation will tolerate the complete dominance of government services by their retired parents. When a shrinking productive base means reduced consumption, a smaller economy, lower tax revenues, lower national output, and lower growth, will the taxpayers of the second and third decades of the 21st century redeem the IOUs being run up by the taxpayers of today?

In the light of these questions one can begin to understand why the Department of Immigration wants to increase annual quotas.