Anne Hendershott looks at the decline in male fertility, due partly to the Pill. Clearly, it’s time to consider the sociology and science surrounding the culture of “reproductive rights.”
The recent research revelation that sperm counts for men living in the West have plunged by 60 percent since 1971 provides readers of P. D. James’s great dystopian novel, The Children of Men, with a prediction of an unsettling future for a society that can no longer reproduce. Set in Britain in 2021, James’s frightening fiction described a world of mass infertility among males – a world in which no children have been born in more than twenty-five years. In the novel, the last baby to be born is now an adult, and the population is growing steadily older. And, like today’s reality, James’s scientists have failed to find a cure – or even a cause – for the sterility.
Publishing their most recent findings in the journal Human Reproduction Update, the researchers – from Israel, the United States, Denmark, Brazil, and Spain – concluded that the total sperm count had fallen by 59.3 percent between 1971 and 2011 in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Some scientists are claiming that “modern living” has caused serious damage to men’s health. Pesticides, pollution, diet, stress, smoking, and obesity have all been plausibly associated with the problem. But far fewer men smoke cigarettes than ever before, and the pollution and pesticide controls that the government has implemented in the past forty years have alleviated many of these risks.
Besides, during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, men faced much greater health risks from factory work during a time when there were no OSHA regulations on air quality. There were few fertility problems at that time as families were large – and no one worried about sperm counts.