Declining Population – A Fertility Lawyer’s Insight into a Distant yet Certain Future

In its most recent population estimate for the year of 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed a shocking finding of the lowest population growth rate since the nation’s founding. [1] One may take lightly the issue and attribute the year’s slowest growth to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 impact, population growth has been slowing for many years, the obvious culprit behind this downward trend is none other than decreasing fertility. The world population is forecasted to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064, after which a steady decline in population will become inevitable. [2] We are approaching this reality rather slowly, but surely.

There is no doubt that reproduction, in a way, guarantees the continuity of a species. Human societies are built upon this simple complexity. We cherish the concept of family; it provides comfort and stability, but such comfort and stability are in turn products of reproduction. Decreasing fertility involves a wide variety of factors such as aging society and environmental impact, but one prominent subject is the diminishing sperm counts. When research published by BMJ in 1992 concluded that sperm counts had decreased by 50 percent from 1938 to 1991, the scientific world came in shock. [3] Over the years, this conclusion has been repeatedly proven as more and more researchers plunge into the study of the intriguing, yet dire reveal of decreasing sperm counts.

The world, however, is not without progress, the advance of assisted reproductive technology has enabled many people to cryopreserve their genetic materials for future uses, create embryos, or undergo various medical procedures to achieve pregnancy. Unfortunately for some, scientific advances can only help so much, innate physical conditions act as a final wall to their dream of having a family. These people look to help from others; those who cannot produce quality genetic materials look to gamete donors and those who cannot physically gestate look to gestational carriers. In these increasingly common cases, reproduction subsists. Natural and genetic gestations still far exceed that of assisted gestations, but we should not overlook the marks left by the efforts of those donors and gestational carriers who do not have to offer their assistance.

Gamete donation and surrogacy are met with challenges across the world, with its constant uphill legal battle being a major setback for many families. For families seeking surrogacy, the cost is becoming more and more unpredictable as insurance issues often remain uncertain. On might think, if reproduction guarantees continuity, then all efforts to ensure reproduction should be explored. To road for assisted reproduction to be fully accepted by the world sees no end in sight, but that precisely is the reason why we have debates and breakthroughs to widen our perspectives.

[1] United States Census Bureau, “New Vintage 2021 Population Estimates Available for the Nation, States and Puerto Rico.”
[2] Ottawa Citizen, “World population forecast to decline for the first time in centuries.”
[3] Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years.

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