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Political thinkers have long worried that freedom might be selfundermining, tending to erode the liberal rights and democratic politics that form its foundations. The argument has ancient and modern versions, versions of the political left and of the right. No doubt the only adequate answer is the sum of the answers to many particular questions: whether and when popular elections undermine liberal rights, how free markets enhance or undermine democracy, and so forth. In this article, I address an emerging problem in a central area of contemporary freedom: reproductive autonomy. I ask whether reproductive autonomy can undermine the political conditions that sustain it: a political and legal culture committed to individual rights and the stability of the political order across generations. The possibility that reproductive freedom might be self-undermining arises from two demographic crises. In Europe and Northeast Asia, fertility rates – the number of children the average woman will bear in her lifetime – have fallen well below the level needed to replace the existing population. Meanwhile, in the largest and more important developing countries, India and China, young men outnumber young women by scores of millions, and the gap between the sexes is growing.


Health Law and Policy | Law | Law and Politics


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