Is it ethical to bring a child into this broken world, where she might suffer --and partake in-- various harms and injustices? Some people refrain from having children and this choice also raises ethical issues: is it ‘selfish’ to decide not to procreate? It is tempting to dismiss such questions on the grounds that whether or not you have kids is a personal matter, and that the privacy of this subject should be respected in a liberal society.
If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? We might reasonably doubt that the dictum ‘first, do no harm’ provides such sound ethical advice when it comes to procreative decisions. Every life contains some moment of misery, but as long as there is a positive outlook on the whole, one that the child will consider worth living, then it could not be wrong to bring a child into existence.
Pope Francis argued that it could be wrong to not have children, he describes it as ‘selfish’. A happy life is surely valuable, and our ability to contribute such value to the world is surely of some moral significance. For clarity’s sake, let’s use ‘ought’ to signify that an option is morally good (or recommended from the moral point of view), and restrict ‘obligation’ to the strict sense of moral requirement. We can admit that bringing good lives into existence is a good thing, without committing ourselves to implausible procreative obligations.
Even if one felt a duty to ‘pay it forward’, and contribute to the future of Humanity, there are innumerable ways to do this. Procreating is merely one. Whenever you contribute to society, or act from kindness and concern, you are --in a small way-- maintaining and contributing to human civilisation. There are all sorts of factors that can reasonably influence your personal procreative choices.
Central among these is how you feel about it, and how the prospect of having children fits in with your broader life hopes and plans. In addition to these obvious personal reasons, there are distinctively moral reasons to consider as well, since we can -- through our procreative choices, as with many other choices-- bring an immense amount of value into the world.