Reducing sexual activity or conception by behavioural or other means. Interfering with the process of human procreation to reduce the number or extend the spacing between births.
As mortality rates decline and nutrition and health care improve, populations grow much more rapidly than ever before, leading to problems of competition over scarce resources.
If fertility remains at current levels, the population would reach the absurd figure of 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it drops to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion. Current UN mid-range projections assume that women in the developing world will soon average two children apiece – the rate at which population growth stabilizes and the global population reaches a maximum of 10 to 11 billion towards the end of the next century, up from just under six billion at the end of the present century.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), through its family planning programmes, has enabled people to make informed choices about their fertility; it has consequently given families, and especially women, greater control over their lives. As a result, women in developing countries are having fewer children. In the 1960s, only 10% of the world's families were using effective methods of family planning. The number now stands at 55%.
The total fertility rate (TFR) is the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children at each age in accordance with prevailing age-specific fertility rates. Many governments have programmes to reduce the fertility rate by encouraging the use of family planning through offering subsidized information and health care. Family planning ranges from indirect methods such as economic incentives and improved women's literacy to direct methods through use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion.
From 1965-1970 to 1980-1985 fertility in poor countries dropped 30 percent, from a TFR of 6.0 to one of 4.2. In that period the poor countries of the world moved almost halfway to a TFR of 2.1: replacement level. It had fallen to 3.5 by 1994 – almost two-thirds of the way. If the decrease continues, it will be the most astonishing demographic shift in history. (The second most astonishing will be the rise that preceded it.) If this trend continues we will arrive at replacement level in the subsequent twenty years – that is, by 2005.
Human beings are slow breeding animals with a late puberty and few pregnancies well spaced by unconscious physiological mechanisms based on the suppression of ovulation by lactation. Changes in breast feeding and reductions in infant mortality produced an explosion in human numbers, which can be countered only by access to contraception and abortion.
Groups with high rates of infant and child mortality and economic patterns based on a family team do not benefit from family planning; nor do those women to whom few roles outside the home are open. Unnatural devices and drugs used in population control are immoral.