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The term fertility is commonly defined in reference to one's ability to reproduce.

In demographics the term 'fertility rate' is used to describe the number of children mating pairs actually have - regardless of their ability to conceive or lack thereof.

ie. When we say that country X has a lower fertility rate than country Y we usually don't mean that people in country X are less able to have children - usually we mean that people in country X choose to have less children.

Can we then - use the term fertility to describe an individual's choice about whether they have children. The common usage would be in discussions of birth control and abortion.

For example:

A woman's right to abortion is not just about her autonomy to her body, but the right for her to control her fertility.

Some men's rights activists would argue that men too should have post-conception control of their fertility.

  • "Post-conception control of fertility" makes about as much sense as "retroactive abortion". – Cascabel Jun 6 '17 at 4:08
  • @Cascabel In many places, women do have that control, and they seem to think it makes sense. – oerkelens Jun 6 '17 at 5:44
  • Unless you define what you mean by "fertility" it can be interpreted many different ways. – Hot Licks Jun 7 '17 at 0:00
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the answer to your question is yes.

The OED (link above) distinguishes fertility from fecundity as follows:

1964 J. Gould & W. L. Kolb Dict. Social Sci. 265/2 Fertility in modern demographic usage relates to the actual frequency of births and carries no overtones of ability to have children. For the latter concept fecundity or reproductive capacity are now used.

Thus, a woman can control her fertility by a variety of means, from abstinence to contraception to abortion.

Encyclopedia.com says:

"Fertility control,” as the term is used in this article, refers to patterns of human behavior that have as their primary objective the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and births. Individuals and couples adopt these patterns in accordance with their cultural values, reinforced by formal or informal social pressures.

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I have never heard fertility used in that way , and it sounds kind of awkward to me. Even if it is gramatically correct, people may not understand you, or they might ask for clarification.

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A woman cannot control her fertility by any means, abstinence, contraception or abortion included. She can - with luck - control her pregnancy but although pregnancy is a result of fertility, the idea that they’re equivalent is risible. Fertility should be defined exclusively in reference to ability to reproduce, whatever grotesque references OED provides. Who doubts that, please speak up.

In demographics the term 'fertility rate' is used to describe the number of children mating pairs actually have, not regardless but because of their ability to conceive. Who doubts that, please consider whether anyone could have children regardless of ability to conceive.

When we say that country X has lower fertility than country Y we generally do mean that people in country X are less able to have children. Fertility is solely about physiology, not choice.

Clearly no, we can’t use the term fertility to describe an individual's - nor a couple’s - choice.

Fertility should have no place in discussions of birth control or abortion except that clearly, infertile people have no need of either.

A woman's right to abortion is solely about the autonomy of her body, and has nothing to do with any question of fertility, except to the extent that infertile people need no abortion.

Some men's rights activists might well argue that men, too, should have post-conception control of their offspring and still that has nothing to do with fertility, except to the extent that infertile people need no abortions.

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    You're going to to need to provide some sources for you claims. – dwjohnston Jun 6 '17 at 23:41
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    I think your claim about fertility rate being related to ability to concieve is flatout wrong. If you look at the wikipedia page for fertility rate en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate you can see that TFR is declining around the world, not because people are becoming infertile. – dwjohnston Jun 6 '17 at 23:48
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    I would also look at this article which examples the relationship between income and fertility: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_and_fertility - surely you don't think one's income affects their physiology? – dwjohnston Jun 6 '17 at 23:50
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    Thanks, DW, and actually it would be you who needed to produce sources, even if you’d not started with The term fertility is commonly defined in reference to one's ability to reproduce which in most people’s books negates everything else you posted for the simple reason that it has nothing to do with birth control. You, not I, are postulating a very strange idea. How can you even try to equate fertility which is exclusively about potential, with conception which is purely about the result? – Robbie Goodwin Jun 7 '17 at 0:03
  • Sorry, DW. Please ask any dictionary of your choice what fertility means, then come back and tell all of us whhether it means potential ability, or actual conception… anyone else with an idea about fertility is more than welcom eto joine in here… – Robbie Goodwin Jun 7 '17 at 0:15

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