Is Prince Harry the Arbiter of How Many Children Are ‘Too Many’?

Recently, the UK’s Prince Harry interviewed primatologist Jane Goodall for an article in British Vogue. During that interview, he admitted to only wanting two children “maximum,” citing concerns over the environment.

We’ve all heard that argument before—that there are too many people on this earth for the environment to sustain itself, that we should reduce our carbon footprint, and that it’s a “bad” thing to have “too many babies.” But just who determines that number is “too many?” In actuality, population across many parts of the world is shrinking and some nations face a future demographic winter.

The very pregnant Duchess of Cambridge with husband Andrew and brother-in-law Harry, 2013. Photo credit: Carfax2

According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics: “There were 657,076 live births in England and Wales in 2018, a decrease of 3.2% since 2017 and a 9.9% decrease since the most recent peak in 2012. The total fertility rate (TFR) decreased from 1.76 to 1.70 children per woman in 2018; this is lower than all previous years except 1977 and 1999 to 2002″ [emphasis ours].

The total fertility rate refers to the total number of children born to a woman within her lifetime. The World Health Organization explains, “2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility” (UN, Population Division). This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age. If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself without any need for the country to balance the population by international migration.”

In both England and Wales—as in many other countries—the TFR is well below the 2.1 replacement level, so limiting the number of children for the sake of environmental or population concerns is misguided, at best.

We all know that societies are made up of both old and young people—and every age in between. Because in developed countries people are living longer lives, we have elderly people who are living, but who are no longer able to work and who must be supported. Furthermore, these people must be replaced in the workforce. The young people who replace them will in turn have families, will work, and will either directly or indirectly (through taxes) support the elderly population. In order for societies to not face the threat of a collapse, the numbers of young workers must be about equal to that of the elderly.

According to BBC News, if these numbers aren’t roughly equal, “without migration, countries will face ageing and shrinking populations.”

Many Years of Population Control

Humanity has a sordid history of controlling populations by getting rid of the “wrong” sorts of people (black, brown, Native American, the infirm, the sick, and so on) and encouraging the “right” sorts. We see this ideology in China’s one-child policy, in the eugenics policy of Margaret Sanger, and in the sterilization and birth control practices of organizations like Marie Stopes International in Africa.

Many Chinese poverty-stricken widows affecting by shrinking population commit suicide – Courtesy Reggie Littlejohn and CBN News/

According to Brian Clowes, Director of Education and Research at Human Life International, “One of the most prominent motivations of the population control movement is racism, which has diminished over time but has not disappeared. During the early history of the movement, this racist and eugenicist ideology was undisguised and was led by ‘progressive’ intellectuals, just as prestigious ‘progressive’ academics and celebrities lead the movement today.”

He continues:

The “danger” posed by Africa’s large population is becoming more and more evident. To put it crudely, the white man has one foot in the grave, and the only way to maintain his power in the world is to pull the black man into the grave with him. The best way to do this is through population control. The “developed” nations of the world had to find a way to convince the “developing” nations to hold down their populations while telling them that it was for their own good. Widespread contraception and sterilization, always followed by abortion, fits the bill perfectly.

Sadly, we see evidence of that even here in the US, where 31% of the black population has been wiped out because of legal abortion.

Political economist Nicholas Eberstadt also argues that overpopulation is a myth and that many countries are not hitting that 2.1 replacement level. In addition, he argues though many try, such estimation of future global population is really impossible, simply because no formula exists accurate enough to accomplish that task.

The most important thing to understand is that we cannot solve war, poverty, famine nor eradicate disease by eliminating people. Nor is it morally licit to do so. Imagine what might have happened if population control organizations like Marie Stopes and the United Nations Population Fund used the money they allocated to birth control and sterilization and put that into schools, hospitals, and other ways to help the infrastructure of the societies they are currently helping to destroy. We would see a completely different picture throughout the world.

Catholicism and Children

The Catholic Church teaches that “governments have no right to decide for couples the number of children they can or should have. Only the discovery of the inherent value of the human person, of marriage and of the family can encourage people to be receptive to children in view of the world of the future. . . . The activities of public authorities and private organizations which attempt in any way to limit the freedom of couples in deciding about their children constitute a grave offense against human dignity and justice.”

Pope Francis greets Catholic schoolchildren (2015) Credit:, Pete Souza

As Catholics, we understand that each and every child is a gift from God and that to throw away or reject that gift is a grave sin. Furthermore, we understand the importance of family—of one man and one woman in a faithful and loving marriage. The family is the foundation of society. Children bring immense joy, love, hope, and happiness to a family. How could we ever put a limit on that happiness? Why would we want to?

God told us to “be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” The Church tells us that every child is a gift. We need look no further than God’s word and the Church’s teaching about how we are to live our lives and think about children. We must not allow the rhetoric of the Culture of Death to seep into our minds and affect the way we think. The only laws we must concern ourselves with are those taught by Christ and His Church. The only goal we must concern ourselves with is the one Christ died for—that we may live with Him in heaven when our earthly lives have ended.

This does not mean that we should mistreat the earth or abuse the power we have over animals and the environment and destroy them. These too are gifts from God. And we must tend to them lovingly as a gardener tends his garden. But so too must we tend to our families and our children.

Children are not just numbers. Children are not commodities to be dickered over. Children are the extension of the love between a husband and a wife. They are the extension of God’s love. Dictating limits on how many children we have for the sake of the environment is a ridiculous notion. Being open to Christ’s gift of life, with limitless and abundant love, is what He asks of us. How could we not heed His call?

About Susan Ciancio

Susan Ciancio has a BA in psychology and a BA in sociology from the University of Notre Dame, with an MA in liberal studies from Indiana University. For the past 17 years, she has worked as a professional editor and writer, editing both fiction and nonfiction books, magazine articles, blogs, educational lessons, professional materials, and website content. Ten of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently Susan writes weekly for HLI, edits for American Life League, and is the editor of its Celebrate Life Magazine. She also serves as executive editor for the Culture of Life Studies Program, an educational nonprofit program for k-12 students.


  1. Dr. Robert N. Schwartz on August 15, 2019 at 1:24 PM

    The foregoing article is an excellent summary of where this world is and how the Catholic Church follows the directives that God Himself has laid down for all mankind to follow. This obedience reflects trust and love for God, casting aside any and all humanistic, man-made solutions. Certainly each family must consider its ability to provide for its children. Certainly there are morally correct means to limit family, so long as it is in conformity with morality as defined by God. Some don’t understand that the correct interpretation of God’s Will brings both moral profit and human comfort. This is what each must seek and then follow in order to

  2. […] have increasingly complicated views about their country. And in an age when celebrities like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are pushing the message that having children is actually selfish and harmful to the planet, is it […]

Leave a Comment