Paying People to Get Sterilized: A Hypothetical Proposal

I have a hypothetical idea to help combat the problem of overpopulation: paying people to get sterilized. We already sterilize overpopulated dogs and cats—and consider this to be humane and for the greater good. However, with cats and dogs we do not consider the issue of consent, which we must consider with people. That is why I propose offering people money to get sterilized—because it gives them choice in the matter. The decision then becomes voluntary.

Meanwhile, our Western society presently does the opposite of my proposal: we offer people financial incentives to have children. This happens in some non-Western societies too, and for the same reason: to increase the future workforce. Depending on the country and culture, people with children receive such benefits as tax breaks, paid time off from work, housing opportunities, and in Australia and a few other countries, even direct cash payments, known as the “Baby Bonus.” And people’s children themselves get many benefits at taxpayer expense, such as free or reduced-cost health care, education, travel on public transportation and airlines, etc. And of course there is the financial incentive provided by people’s own families: parents commonly give so much more money to those of their children who procreate than to those who do not. This is considered normal. Society and the family reward parents. And our world’s greater good, and the ecological future of our planet, be damned.

But what would actually happen if governments, or even private foundations, took my hypothetical proposal seriously? I imagine there would be a fair number of people who would jump at the opportunity immediately. To that end, there already is a program in the UK, called Project Prevention, that pays drug addicts a nominal, flat fee to take long-term birth control or get sterilized. Their motivation, however, is largely different from that of this proposal, though their work does shine a light on one unfair aspect of paying people a flat fee: that it’s more likely to attract people in financial distress. Of course, one could argue that people in more financial distress would be less appropriate parents anyway, though I see that as a separate issue.

One way to help neutralize unfair sides of the problem might be to make the financial incentive income-dependent. For example, perhaps people who voluntarily got sterilized would no longer have to pay taxes. Or, if people were to be paid an immediate lump sum for sterilization, they could be paid an amount relative to their income.

I could conceive of other benefits as well. For instance, presently American military veterans receive many benefits—housing and educational opportunities, medical care opportunities, priority airline boarding, free burial services, reduced costs for many other services, etc. What if voluntarily sterilized people received these benefits, and more? In short, hold these sterilized folks up as examples of model citizens—people making a personal sacrifice for the good of the world.

Meanwhile, this proposal would entail other problems. For example, should people be paid a lesser rate if they’d already had children, let’s say, three or four children, and then decided to become sterilized? Would that be fair? Or what about people who were beyond reproductive age? Or people who were already considered infertile? Should these people be excluded from receiving sterilization benefits?

I’m not saying my proposal is a simple idea, or necessary a great one at all, but I do find it an idea worth contemplating…

17 thoughts on “Paying People to Get Sterilized: A Hypothetical Proposal

  1. I love this theory. I’ve often contemplated the idea myself. And I went to my doctor in my early twenties, asking for sterilization, as I had never wanted children of my own… I was told no. That I was too young to know what I wanted, and that no doctor in their right mind would perform such a surgery on me!
    Fast forward to nearly 10 years later, and I am still child-free. I also now have health problems that (most likely would) prevent me from having a healthy pregnancy, if I wanted one. It’s just outrageous to me that doctors won’t even consider sterilization when the patient is basically begging for it…..

  2. Too much people in this world.
    But could this politics of paying people for not to having childrens result in a world in wich only rich people reproduces? Childrens as status symbols?
    It doesn’t seems to me that choosing sterilization because in poverty is a real choice, and if not in poverty, having childrens is a too badly need for leaving it in exchange of some more money in their lifes.
    Instead, in western countries as mine, Italy, people is detenting to have children. The less poverty, the more choice not to reproduce. It seems alfabetization and culture does a great job in diminishing births.

    • yes, basically it’s an untenable proposition. as a thought experiment it is interesting, i think, but if were actually implemented in this ultra-screwed up modern world i thought it would manifest in ugly ways.

  3. I think your understanding of populations dynamics might be a little week.

    There have been plagues and wars and influenza epidemics and they often hardly dent the increase in population. What seems to work is equality between the sexes and easily available birth control. Women then take it from there as they would much rather do other things than bring up big families.

    • hi John,
      In one sense i agree with what you say. i’m all for equality between the sexes and for making various forms of birth control more available (and i’ve read the articles about the effects this has on the number of kids people tend to have). so i don’t disagree with that in general. but in this essay i am just trying out a different idea. and a hypothetical one at that, because frankly i don’t think anything like this would or could come to be realistic anytime soon anyway. it was more a thought experiment. i could write another essay just criticizing this blog post… daniel

  4. Anyone denying the absolute necessity to do something definitive about this is living in a dream. Here are the up to the minute statistics:

    We must be more responsible with sex, which results in babies. Whether you choose to use birth control or choose to abstain, bringing a child into the world is massively impactful. Not just for your family or community, but for the entire world. But we also must be more careful in choosing partners, and stop treating our bodies so dismally.

    • No one cares what you or Mackler think they should be doing with their bodies because they are free. Enforced sterilization has been used on incarcerated women in many oppressive countries before. In tge past, US Corporations have also forced sterilization on their Latin American women workers. Both you & Mackler are over-reaching when you suggest people sterilize themselves. We’re free including to reproduce indiscriminately, if we wish. You will never stand a chance in getting people to sterilize themselves because you feel it’s the right thing to do. Are you insane, to think you can condescend to us so thoroughly? You think you’re enlightened? You are suffering from megalomania as well as naïveté if you think any working poor person will ever follow your beliefs.

      • I appreciate your passion. And I am not suggesting any such thing as forced or coerced sterilization. It is criminally wrong to force others to do anything against their will, especially to their person. As a victim of violent crime I am the first to join you in this obvious rejection of control by others. At the same time, we must all wake up and realize what is happening to our world. It is obvious that if we do nothing, those who come after us will suffer greatly, all because we were too selfish to think ahead from our own lives and personal desires. So, a solution is needed. Rather than suggest things that hurt one another, or lashing out like children, what answers would you suggest to this problem? Notice I offer abstinence. Is that really so hard to do? Are we such animals unable to control our reproductive impulses? I do not believe it is so.

      • It need evidence to prove “No one cares” what chromalyn and Mackler talked about.

        I doubt if “You will never stand a chance” to having people consider a different choice.

        Obviously it’s not about “getting people to sterilize themselves” – it’s about creating alternative choices.

        The labels of “insane”, “megalomania” are insults without grounds.

        dimitra, I urge you to be mindful of your language. It’s nice that Mackler’s page provides a space for comments. It does not mean this page allows personal insults and bully.

        • hi vida — thanks for your comment. i appreciate it. it is very stressful for me to read comments like dimitra’s. but sometimes that is the risk i take by putting up an essay that speaks about a hot-button topic like sterilization in anything other than a negative light. the reason, however, that i am choosing to leave up her comment is that i think she’s not the only one who feels that way, so i think she speaks for others. so even if the dialogue is a little ugly, at least it’s a dialogue. and i appreciate that others have participated in it. it takes away some of the sting! daniel

          p.s. for the record, i think forcing sterilization on anyone is awful. maybe i wasn’t explicit enough about that in the first paragraph.

          • Daniel, you were entirely explicit, and while i don’t personally know completely how I feel about the suggestion, I appreciate the courage it took to articulate it and share it here as you have.

            I can say that I feel that perhaps an open and stated and option of sterilization with incentives might be a better solution than what is currently being enforced on the general population, which has the same aim, but is being done in a surreptitious manner, thereby removing any choice as an option for individuals.

            Anyway, I always appreciate that you tackle subjects and topics that evidence your awareness about deeper issues.

      • Whoa dimitra….. I felt like I had just been severely beaten up, just by reading your comment. I also felt like your perception of both the essence of Daniel’s post and chromalyn’s comment was perhaps not entirely accurate – not making you wrong for having your feelings, just sharing my observation and perceptions. I can also clearly see that you are very triggered by both the post and the scantest suggestion of anything related to this topic, and you are of course allowed to be thus. I simply wanted to share that I personally felt attacked by your comment – even though I haven’t even commented, which may be your intention or not, I don’t know.

        No one here is even remotely suggesting enforced anything, to be clear.

        With that said, I hope you can find some support in working through some of the heavier emotions/feelings that this post raised for you, if you think that is something that would be beneficial for you.

  5. I absolutely agree with the idea, I have not had any children, I made that decision together with my partner & have never regreted it, I am 59 y.o. & am very happy of the decition we took so many years ago. It is a fact the world is over populated & people should be aware of the consecuences of this, it is not good for the human race nor nature in general, much suffering would be avoided if more people were aware of this.

    • i am also glad i never had kids. it’s hard enough to be a good parent to myself, and i’m glad i’m not responsible for bringing more people into this sadly overpopulated world. all the best cristy! daniel

  6. No es una buena idea lo que está proponiendo, tampoco lo es el incentivo económico a adictos dado en Londres por una ONG estadounidense para el uso de anticonceptivos y opción a esterilizarse.

    En el corazón de esa idea late el estigma.

    En su propuesta parece haber un gran desconocimiento de los fracasos de las políticas sobre el control de la natalidad.

    Igualmente parece desconocer la esterilización masiva de mujeres en América Latina y las leyes que regulan la esterilización de mujeres y niñas con discapacidad psicosocial.

    ¿Qué le hace pensar que padres con problemas económicos pueden resultar poco fiables? Usted está cuestionando los sistemas de seguridad social que significaron un avance en el mundo entero. Los países que pagan incentivos para tener hijos son países con altos estándares de vida que se ven afectados por la falta de nacimientos, en otras palabras: los afecta tener una enorme población de personas mayores y pocos jóvenes.

    Me preocupa un poco (mucho) su post. Muy sinceramente, Lucila

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