Overpopulation, Limited Resources, and Poverty

Have you ever heard the argument– “We need abortion because the world would be overpopulated if we get rid of abortion! We won’t have enough resources for everyone if all the babies were born!” Or maybe someone challenged you with conversations about poverty?

The Myth of Overpopulation – Let’s get one thing straight before diving into this topic. The world is not overpopulated. The myth of overpopulation originated in 1798 with Thomas Malthus. In An Essay on the Principles of Population, Malthus predicted that overpopulation would lead to a food shortage by 1890, ultimately leading to the destruction of humanity (1). This “crisis” was re-predicted numerous times over the past 2 centuries, but conveniently rescheduled when it did not occur. Yet, here we are, over 100 years later with the highest population of people on earth and the best food production rate in history.

The myth stems from the idea that there are so many people on the planet that our resources can’t possibly keep up. But, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as the World Food Programme say, “There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.” And “the world currently produces enough food for everybody, but many people do not have access to it.”(2)

Then why are many people in the world starving or don’t have access to adequate resources? It’s not that there are too many people and not enough resource; it’s an issue of insufficient infrastructure. The World Food Programme lists 6 key causes of hunger, and overpopulation is not one of them. They are poverty, lack of investment in agriculture, climate and weather, war and displacement, unstable markets, and food wastage. (3) Reducing the number of hungry people will not make people less hungry if the infrastructure to get resources to them is inadequate, or war is destroying crops and interfering with relief efforts.

Does Overpopulation Justify Abortion? – Although we’ve already established that overpopulation is a myth, even if the earth was overpopulated, does that justify the taking of innocent life – abortion?

Let’s assume the world IS overpopulated – killing off living human beings is not an acceptable solution to that problem.

If we attempted to kill human beings to solve the overpopulation problem, it would make the most sense to kill the people who are not contributing to society, being toddlers and infants. Is it morally acceptable to kill them? We would never accept the killing of toddlers to reduce the population, so if we believe in human equality we cannot accept killing of pre-born human beings to accomplish the same goal.

In the name of “overpopulation,” abortion is morally justified because people refuse to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn, not because we are actually lacking in resources, which we are not. If we can’t kill infants or toddlers in effort to control population, why is it okay to end the life of the pre-born child

Here are some great videos to review to better understand the myth of overpopulation and limited resources:

Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth

7 Billion People: Everybody Relax!

Urbanization: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad City

Poverty: Where We All Started

Food: There’s Lots Of It


1) http://www.esp.org/books/malthus/population/malthus.pdf

2)  http://www.wfp.org/hunger/faqs;

3) (http://www.wfp.org/hunger/causes)

Return to: Get Educated