It's (Past) Time to End Population Control
"Every man's death diminishes me." --John Donne, 1631
"Every babe's birth diminishes me." --Garrett Hardin, population control advocate, 1970 1
Since the 1960s, population alarmists have been shrilly predicting demographic disaster for the human race. The potted prophecies of population bomber Paul Ehrlich have been the most notorious. In 1972, he warned that 65 million Americans (!) would die of starvation by 1985. Hundreds of millions would perish elsewhere. Needless to say, this predicted decimation never happened.
Great advances in agriculture -- we have set new records for global grain production in 16 of the last 30 years -- have left us better off than ever before. Although an estimated 1,644 people still die from malnutrition each day, this is only about one-40th of the number of deaths from hunger claimed by the population fear-mongers. Moreover, those deaths that do occur are primarily a consequence of civil war. 2 Food is frequently used as a weapon. Opposing armies target the civilian populations of their enemies for extinction, destroying their crops and interdicting food convoys.
Still, the prophecies of Ehrlich and others have fueled massive programs, through the UN Population Fund and other agencies, to constrict human fertility, especially in the developing world. Why is the developed world so determined to reduce population growth in the developing world? One answer comes from Dr. Charles Ravenholt, former director of the Population Office of USAID: "Population control is needed to maintain the normal operation of United States' commercial interests around the world."3
This view is more than just Dr. Ravenholt's personal opinion, for it is enshrined in an official document of the U.S. government entitled Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests. Drafted by the National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger, and secretly published as National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) on December 10, 1974, this document declares:
"The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less-developed countries. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birthrates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States."
These recommendations were adopted and carried out. For the past quarter century, America and its allies have carried out a covert war on people in the developing world. In 1998 alone, the Clinton administration spent $385 million to promote abortion, perform sterilizations, and ship contraceptives to countries around the world. And still this is not enough for the Contraceptor-in-Chief: Clinton has vowed to increase population spending to a whopping $561 million in 2000.
To mask U.S. involvement and allay Third World suspicions, population control aid is funneled through the UNFPA and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). For the same reason, strenuous efforts were made to create the appearance of an international "consensus" on the need for population control at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development and elsewhere. The "surplus population" of the Third World must not suspect that it is being deliberately "reduced."
Too Few Children
"One remarks nowadays over all Greece [there is] such a low birthrate and in a general manner such depopulation that the towns are deserted and the fields lying fallow, although this country has not been ravage[d] by war or epidemic. The cause of this harm is evident. By avarice or by cowardice, the people, if they marry, will not bring up the children that they ought to have. At most, they bring up one or two. It is in this manner that the scourge, before it is noticed, has rapidly developed. The remedy is in ourselves, we have but to change our morals"4 -- Plutarch, remarking on the decline of Greek civilization.
In part because of urbanization, modernization, and industrialization, in part because of America's effort to export a contraceptive mentality, global population growth is now slowing dramatically. Fertility rates country after country are falling below replacement. According to the latest UN Population Division (not to be confused with the UNFPA) figures, fully 71 countries representing almost half the world's population now have below replacement fertility rates. Those countries with still healthy fertility rates -- more than 2.2 children per woman -- grow fewer in number with each passing year.
Humanity's long-term problem will not be too many children, but too few children. The UNFPA, as well as population control programs in general, have outlived whatever usefulness they may once have possessed. Why should the United States spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to further reduce fertility in countries whose populations will all too soon be in decline?
In Europe's graying present we can see the world's future. This year, for the first time since the Black Death in the Middle Ages, Europe's population will decline. Population projections point to a demographic debacle of the first order in the decades to come. Worried governments from the Mediterranean to the Baltic have begun to encourage couples to bear children, and reward them for doing so. To date such programs have had little effect.
The picture for the world as a whole is little better. The current world TFR is at 2.48 children per woman, not far above replacement. Given still high infant mortality rates in many parts of the world, the replacement fertility rate is about 2.2 children per woman, a figure that will be reached by the year 2005. For all practical purposes, then, the world is currently at zero population growth. Should current trends continue, the TFR will fall to only one child per woman by the end of the next century. At this anemic rate, the world's population will be cut in half each generation.
Even in the developing world the population growth is slowing dramatically. The current population of the developing regions of the world is about 4.84 billion. It will peak at about 6.4 billion in the year 2040 and then begin a slow but accelerating decline to about 4.3 billion in the year 2100. The developing world is following in the developed world's demographic footsteps, with this disturbing difference: The developed world grew rich before it grew old. The developing world will grow old before it grows rich. Whether this will condemn them to perpetual poverty remains to be seen.
Given these sobering demographic realities, the UNFPA and all population control programs have clearly outlived whatever usefulness they may once have possessed. Such programs should be terminated before they do even more damage to humanity's future.
The U.S. Congress has begun to subject population control programs to more scrutiny in recent years. On March 23, 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the UN to curb the Chinese-style abuses endemic to many population control programs. Earlier that same year, Congress zeroed out UNFPA's annual $25 million subsidy from the U.S. Treasury because of that agency's ill-considered decision to resume participating in China's infamous one-child-per-family policy. Although the funding was restored the following year, it put the population control lobbies on notice that their programs were no longer sacrosanct.
The previous October, Cong. Todd Tiahrt (R., Kans.) sponsored an amendment ensuring that the U.S. would no longer fund coercive international family planning efforts. The Population Research Institute had brought overwhelming evidence of forced sterilization and family planning in Peru -- done under the auspices of USAID -- to Congress' attention. Not only were medical staffers in poor regions given targets to meet, but they also were paid bonuses if they met them. USAID promised to correct the abuses.
On March 14, 2000, PRI presented new evidence from a recent fact-finding mission, undertaken in December 1999, of possible violations of the Tiahrt amendment. Our researchers detailed case after case of Peruvian women who had been intimidated into taking dangerous contraceptives or had been sterilized without their consent. Many women reported that they were told by their health care providers that they were "too stupid" to be given a choice about contraception or future fertility.
Responding to this new information, Cong. Tiahrt said, "We will not tolerate the use of American tax dollars to coerce women into family planning against their wishes. Clearly the spirit, if not the letter, of the amendment has been violated." The House Appropriations Committee refused President Clinton's request for a $169 million increase in population control funds.
Harming Or Helping Women?
Population control advocates claimed that cutting off $25 million in U.S. funding in 1999-2000 "has deprived 870,000 women in developing countries of modern contraception, leading to half a million unintended pregnancies, 200,000 abortions, and thousands of maternal and child deaths." 5
These numbers are grossly inflated and misleading. Even if they were correct, however, this would still be a wasteful and inefficient way to reduce maternal and infant mortality. If the entire $25 million were spent in Nigeria, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world (there are 1,030 deaths per 100,000 live births), then the UNFPA would claim that 5,150 lives (5 x 1,030) would be saved. The cost per life saved would be $4,854.
Far more lives could be saved if this money were spent on other health care measures, such as maternal tetanus immunizations. An average expenditure of $126 on maternal tetanus immunizations will save the life of one baby. 6 For $25 million, the lives of 198,400 African babies could be saved -- nearly 40 times as many as the UNFPA claims to save by contracepting and sterilizing women.
If the $25 million were spent on breastfeeding promotion among AIDS-free mothers, the lives of more than 50,000 African infants would be saved, more than nine times as many as would be saved if the money were given to the UNFPA.
Spending the funds on having trained medical personnel attend births would also save tens of thousands of lives, as UN statistics themselves show. In African countries where an average of only 15% of all births are attended, the maternal mortality ratio is a high 1,340 per 100,000 births. Where an average of 83% of all births are attended, the maternal mortality ratio is a much lower 320 per 100,000 births, a tremendous decrease. If the $25 million were spent on attending births, assuming a cost of $50.00 per attended birth, an additional 500,000 births could be attended. This would save the lives of 7,500 mothers and 42,500 infants, more than nine times as many as the UNFPA claims by distributing contraceptives.
In short, as many as 193,000 women and babies will die if the $25 million is restored to UNFPA instead of going toward primary health care programs. Think how much good we could do with the funds now poured into urging -- and even insisting -- that families not welcome children, were the funds used instead to provide basic health services and sanitation.
Contraceptive Dangers And Abortion Designs
Most so-called modern contraceptives are designed for use on healthy women of the developed world. Their indiscriminate use on women in the developing world who may be malnourished, anemic, or otherwise in poor health can lead to serious medical problems. With follow-up care nearly nonexistent, these problems go untreated. The UN Population Fund also claims that contraception is a panacea for abortion: "Where abortion is safe and widely available, and other reproductive health services are in place, rates of abortion tend to be low. The simple conclusion is: Better contraceptive services for all people will reduce abortion."7
But one only has to look at the relationship between contraception and abortion in the U.S. to unravel this specious argument. Fully 94.8% of sexually active women in America are now either sterile or use some form of contraception -- yet the abortion rate has not changed significantly since 1975. 8 Contraceptive use in developing countries has increased from about 8% of all couples in 1960 to about 60% of all couples in 1998. Yet the number of legal and illegal abortions worldwide continues to increase, reaching an estimated 55 million per year by the early 1990s according to the statistics provided by the International Planned Parenthood Federation. 9 If contraceptives were truly the answer to reducing "unwanted pregnancies," we should have seen a drop or a leveling out in the number of abortions worldwide. Instead, the numbers continue to rise.
The final reason that population control programs should be ended -- yesterday -- is straightforward: We as a people simply have no business telling families in the Third World how many children they should or should not have.
(Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute, based in Front Royal, VA., and is the author of Hegemon: China's Plan to Dominate Asia and the World [Encounter Books, forthcoming]. PRI can be contacted at P.O. Box 1559, Front Royal, VA 22630; at www.pop.org; or at 540-622-5240.)
1. Garrett Hardin, "Everybody's Guilty: The Ecological Dilemma," California Medicine, November 1970, p. 42.
2. World Bank, Development Report 1993, "Investing in Health," 224-225.
3. Dr. Charles Ravenholt, director, Population Office, quoted in "Population Control of the Third World Planned: Sterilization Storm in U.S.," Dublin, Ireland, Evening Press, May 12, 1979, p. 9.
4. Plutarch, "Remarking on the Decline of Greek Civilization," Pulibus, vol. 37, p. 221.
5. Eric Onstad, "West Misses Cash Target to Curb Population Growth," Reuters, February 12, 1999.
6. Malcolm Potts and Julia Walsh, "Making Cairo Work," The Lancet, January 23, 1999, 315-318.
7. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), The State of the World Population 1997: The Right to Choose: Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Health.
8. United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States 1997 (117th edition), Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1997. Table 110, "Contraceptive Use by Women, 15 to 44 Years Old: 1995," and Table 114, "Abortions: Number, Rate, and Ratio, by Race: 1975 to 1992."
9. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Meeting Challenges: Promoting Choices: A Report on the 40th Anniversary, IPPF Family Planning Congress, New Delhi, India, New York: Parthenon Publishing Group, 1993, 6, 23. © The Wanderer, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.
© The Wanderer, 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733.
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