Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Catholic World News News Feature

The War on Population, Continued January 07, 2002

by Jacqueline R. Kasun

An American traveling in India discovers that all of the women in the village she is visiting are sterilized. An employee of Bangladesh Airlines learns that he is ineligible for a foreign assignment because he has more than two children. A Haitian woman learns that her "family planning" clinic will not remove her experimental Norplant implant, even though she has bled heavily for months. A baby girl lies dying of neglect in a Chinese orphanage.

What do these scenarios have in common? They are all ramifications of the population-control movement, which had dominated relations between the industrialized world and the less-developed nations for the past three decades.

The population-control campaign began as a movement that preoccupied wealthy cranks early in this century, but its dark side emerged in Hitler’s Germany, where it so horrified the civilized world that two decades passed before it could again mix in polite company. A barrage of propaganda about the "population explosion" restored the movement’s appeal, and by 1966 the results were influencing official US policy. In that year President Lyndon Johnson required the government of India to establish a massive program of population control before he would release the grain shipments to relieve that country’s famine.

From that time forward, we have witnessed an international slide into laws and more laws, programs and more programs, in a campaign aimed to finance and promote increasing interference in the reproductive lives of men and women throughout the world. The priorities of the population-control movement have now captured center stage in the world of international politics, dominating the recent United Nations conferences in Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing, Istanbul, and Rome.


Through adroit maneuvering and money management, a relatively small group of population-control enthusiasts were able to diffuse their influence through a host of international agencies.

During the 1960s, leaders of the movement in the United States--such as Hugh Moore, General William Draper, John D. Rockefeller, and Philander exploited their acquaintance with prominent citizens and high-level politicians to popularize the alleged need for world population control. President Johnson and the US Congress responded by giving money to a host of private agencies to provide birth-control services both at home and abroad. Population-control zealots took important posts in the administration of US foreign aid, and at international agencies such as the World Bank.

Thus the influence of the movement became pervasive. Such groups as Planned Parenthood, the Population Reference Bureau, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the Pathfinder Fund, and the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception now tapped into the US Treasury--and yet, being "private" organizations, remained largely outside the control of elected officials. They could and did use some of their government funds to lobby for still more funding, and with the help of lavish spending they were able to find--and fund--organizations which would support for their activities in foreign countries. Thus was born the NGO--the "non-government organization"--a category of groups which increasingly dominates the activities of the United Nations.

In 1968 the World Bank committed itself to the cause of population control, and under the leadership of directors Robert S. McNamara, A. W. Clausen, and Barber Conable, the Bank placed heavy pressure on countries receiving its aid to implement population control.

According to a 1974 US State Department document, NSSM 200, the US Agency for International Development (AID) in 1967 "played an important role in establishing the United Nations Fund for Population spearhead a multilateral effort in population as a complement to the bilateral actions of AID and other donor countries."

In 1974 that State Department document, NSSM 200, spelled out the US plan to bring about "a two-child family on the average" throughout the world by the year 2000. The document, which was not made available to the public, named the countries where efforts should be concentrated: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Nigeria, and Colombia. It warned that "mandatory control measures" might be necessary, and called for the announcement "after suitable preparation" of a goal of "near stability" for the population of the US itself.

Since 1978 US law has required countries receiving American aid to control their population growth. The AID initiated Section 104(d) f the International Development and Food Assistance Act of 1978, which provides that "All activities proposed for financing.... shall be designed to build motivation for smaller families... in programs, such as education, nutrition, disease control, maternal and child health services, improvements in the status and employment of women, agricultural production, rural development, and assistance to the urban poor." In Section 102 the Act directs that US aid should be "concentrated" in countries that demonstrate their "commitment" by their "control of population growth." This means, of course, that the entire foreign aid program of the United States is in effect a method of promoting population control.


How the movement does its work is well illustrated in the case of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which is the world’s largest, richest, most powerful, and best connected non-government advocate of world population control. Created in 1952 and headquartered in London, the IPPF has an annual income of more than $100 million, three-quarters of which comes from governments, with the United Kingdom as the largest donor. The United Nations and private foundations--the Rockefeller, Ford, Hewlett, and MacArthur foundations prominent among them--provide the remainder of the group’s income. The public and private supporters of the IPPF are so generous that, within two years of the 1986 decision by the Reagan Administration to cut off funding for IPPF because of the group’s support for abortion, the organization had drawn expanded support from other sources, and it total income was larger than ever. And with the advent of the Clinton Administration, IPPF also regained the support of the US government, which now amounts to $7 million each year.

The IPPF dispenses its funds to affiliated "family planning associations" in 140 countries, specializing in population-control work at the local level. These groups employ local citizens as recruiters, promoters, and distributors, encouraging a wide variety of incentive schemes. In less developed countries, some incentives are offered to groups, rewarding or punishing entire villages according to whether or not the individuals in that village comply with the birth-control targets. These "group incentives" have proved be particularly effective.

Effective as they are, however, these local activities are not the main way in which the IPPF wields its influence. The group’s trump cards are networking and exercising political leverage. The Federation carefully exploits its connections among wealthy donors, international agencies, and other population-control organizations. It issues flattering invitations for underemployed UN bureaucrats, socialites, celebrities, and aristocrats to serve as "volunteers" and spokesmen. It places its officers and supporters in prominent positions with international organizations. Its president, Dr. Fred Sai, served as senior population adviser at the World Bank during the 1980s and as chairman of the UN conference on population in Cairo in 1994. Dr. Halfdan Mahler, the present secretary-general of IPPF, was formerly director-general of the World Health Organization.

Large numbers of IPPF officials have attended recent UN conferences as delegates of their respective governments, with all of the attendant privileges. IPPF officials cycle from job to job in the high echelons of international officialdom--now at the United Nations, now at the World Bank, next at the Rockefeller Foundation or one of its fiefdoms. In short, the IPPF has demonstrated its mastery of empire building.

If IPPF is the world’s largest non-government advocate of population control, the US Agency for International Development (AID)--is the movement’s largest government sponsor. AID has reported frankly about the anger and resistance which foreign peoples have shown toward government birth-control campaigns. Since that anger is often directed at the United States, who could deflect it better than a local, private, voluntary family-planning association--an affiliate of IPPF? The Federation thus performs an invaluable service for both the donors and the recipients of foreign aid, relieving them both of tasks which might otherwise entail high political risks. No wonder that governments have been so generous to IPPF!


And how does IPPF use its power? The answers can be found in the group’s published statements, as well as in its works. The IPPF has repeatedly expressed its dedication to the cause of world population control, and the alleged attendant need for change in popular and official views on sexual behavior and public morality. Indeed, much of the language which appears in documents promulgated by the United Nations after recent world summits echoes verbiage that originally appeared in IPPF publications. Key phrases such as "reproductive health," "sexual health," and "safe motherhood" were featured in IPPF products before they were discussed and endorsed at the UN conferences in Cairo, Beijing, and Rome. The IPPF also takes credit for popularizing the notion of "sustainable development," and obtaining funds from the UN to publicize that concept.

The message appearing over and over in the numerous publications of the IPPF is that any attack on poverty must address "the links between development, shrinking world resources, and population." In a word, poverty is said to have a single cause--population--and thus a single cure: the reduction of fertility, by voluntary means if possible, but by other means if necessary.

From the IPPF perspective, then, if a woman sits begging by the side of the road in Lagos, she demonstrates the need for broader availability of contraceptives. The organization acknowledges that there may be a "lack of acceptance" of pills and IUD’s among the people it targets for its charitable work; a disappointing number of beggar women do not perceive that connection, and fail to recognize an IUD as a solution to their problems. Some intractable people prefer bread to stones. But IPPF has an explanation for that disappointment: "religious groups" are responsible for this obstinacy.

Though it has no expert credentials, IPPF is not humble about its ability to achieve a comprehensive solution to an age-old problem. And illustrating the extent to which it will go to reduce fertility, IPPF in 1984 announced that "action outside the law, and even violation of it, is part of the process of stimulating change." Nevertheless the organization prefers to act within the law. So IPPF and its affiliates make great efforts to bring the laws of each nation, and the policies of the international community, into conformity with its vision.

IPPF has consistently supported and financed what it calls "the right of access to abortion," including abortion in late pregnancy. It maintains that it has a duty to "exert pressure on governments" to guarantee this right. Thus in Northern Ireland, for example, the Federation pursues its goal of full and free access to abortion under the guise of "clarifying" the existing laws which restrict abortion, and fighting to eliminate "unsafe" abortions. The Federation also insists that the "full range" of "fertility regulation services" should be provided to young people from the age of 10, with or without their parents’ consent.


IPPF acknowledges that "incentives"--such a paying people to have themselves sterilized--can be questioned on moral grounds, but will not back off such policies, explaining, "Incentives and disincentives which create community support for desired reproductive behavior should be considered." In other words, one effective way to discourage a woman from delivering a baby is by threatening to cancel bonus payments to every one on her co-workers--thus ensuring that she will feel plenty of pressure on the job from her fellow employees. IPPF also suggests that incentive payments be given to family-planning workers, since the payoffs encourage those workers to go after their prey with extra zeal.

IPPF began to give money to the People’s Republic of China in 1980--shortly after that country introduced its "one-child" policy. In 1983, as the government policy became increasingly coercive, the China Family Planning Association became a full-fledged affiliate of IPPF; in its magazine People, the parent body asked whether the Chinese program might become a "Third World Model." The Beijing government in turn expressed profound gratitude to IPPF for its help.

Despite the abundant evidence of gross human-rights abuses associated with the "one-child" program, IPPF has continued to shower praise on China. In fact the group took much of the credit for China’s "success," pointing to the role played by the China Family Planning Association, an IPPF affiliate.

Although People in 1989 reported that the Chinese group "believes in education, rather than incentives," the magazine did admit that "volunteers sometimes collect the occasional fine when a couple breaks the birthplan rules." And in a 1994 release distributed to delegates at the Cairo conference, the China Family Planning Association itself proudly reported that its local activists "monitored the formation and implementation of local population projects, participated and supervised so that the awarding and punishing policies relating to family planning were properly executed." [emphasis added] The Beijing government acknowledged the cooperation of the China Family Planning Association, People observed, by donating office space to the group, and paying salaries to the "volunteers," while IPPF furnished $1.3 million annually to underwrite the project.

Throughout the years of the "one-child" campaign, with all its horrors, the Chinese government and the China Family Planning Association have enjoyed cordial relations with the major nations of the world and the most prestigious international organizations. Commended for its population efforts by the World Bank, the Better World Society, and the United Nations itself, Beijing was chosen as the site of the UN conference on women in 1995. Over the years China has received more than $22 billion in loans from the World Bank, as well as millions of dollars in annual subsidies from the UN Population Fund as well as IPPF--all at the expense of taxpayers in industrialized nations.


To justify its programs, IPPF publishes torrents of materials on the alleged dangers of overpopulation, and the resulting poverty and ecological calamities that face China. But China has only one-fourth as many people per square mile as Taiwan, and as of 1993 (before the advent of some free-market reforms on the mainland) Taiwan’s per-capita production was five times greater. Life expectancy at birth in Taiwan in 1995 was at least five years greater than in China. Nor does Taiwan share China’s reputation for air and water pollution. The economic problems that afflict the mainland are the result not of overpopulation but of a half-century of economic mismanagement by Communist rulers.

After so many years of languishing under central economic planning, China’s economy has now finally begun to grow in the warmth of limited free-market reforms; its great unexplored resources are now attracting heavy investment from abroad. Still, there is no signs of slackening in the drive for population control. The constant allusions to "overpopulation" have provided a handy excuse for the ruling clique to explain the misery of the people; they have also been a means of expanding the power of IPPF. Now the population-control behemoth has no desire to relinquish its power. China may be a model of what lies in store for any nation which allows IPPF to have its way.

The most fashionable argument for world population growth today is the environment. On the first Earth Day in 1970, industrialist Hugh Moore distributed 300,000 flyers blaming the "population bomb" for the environmental problems which the demonstrators had assembled to protest. Environmental problems do exist. But "overpopulation" is not the cause; once again, the cause is bad behavior: mistaken government policies, industrial production without regard to the consequences, and unthinking individual behavior.

Many of the claims regarding environmental calamity have proved to be false or disputable. The hysterical forecasts of impending famine have proved inaccurate. The earth has not run out of cooper or zinc or oil, as predicted by Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome. Scientists (such as geophysicist S. Fred Singer of the University of Virginia) have offered strong evidence that the so-called hole in the atmosphere’s ozone layer actually reflects nothing more than a hole in the reasoning processes of those who have seen a disaster developing there. Atmospheric scientists (such as Hugh Ellsaesser of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) say that the specter of global warming has little substance; the 1995 Leipzig Declaration on Global Climate Change, signed by 79 world-renowned scientists, agrees.

There is no evidence to support the claims of massive extinction of species; even University of Chicago paleontologist David Jablonski, who believes that massive extinction will occur, nevertheless admits, "We have no idea how many species are out there and how many are dying." The spotted owl, on whose behalf which the timber industry in the western United States has been devastated, is now believed to be more numerous than previously reported. The world population of blue whales, also once believed to be threatened with extinction, is now similarly recognized as larger than the doomsayers had realized. The black-footed ferret, which has twice been declared extinct, each time has been found thriving in another locale.

"Deforestation" reflects the simple fact that trees are being cut in some places, while they grow in others. Throughout the United States vast forests cover a third of all available land. Trees are growing faster than they are being cut, according to the US Forest Service--on the Pacific Coast, 14 percent faster. Some environmentalists have raised the horrified alarm that a tropical forest area twice the size of Belgium is now being logged worldwide each year. But an area 500 times the size of Belgium could fit neatly into the world’s tropical forests, and meanwhile the other 99.8 percent of the world’s forests continue to grow. The annual forest estimates put out by the Food and Agricultural Organization show that the world’s forested area now amounts to 4 billion hectares, covering 30 percent of the land surface on earth. These figures were the same in the 1950s. Yes, people are cutting down trees in some places--with increasing difficulty, in view of environmental restrictions. Elsewhere, trees continue to grow.

Human beings have always lived in crowded conditions, simply because we need to be near each other in order to exchange services. But outside our crowded settlements there are vast uninhabited lands. All of the world’s people could theoretically be settled into the state of Texas, with each individual assigned an area the size of the typical American home.

Although the world’s population is still growing, it is doing so at a diminishing rate because of rapidly declining fertility in both the developed and undeveloped worlds. (The average woman in Spain today now has 1.4 children; in Italy, 1.3. Even in the developing world that figure is less than 4.) If present trends continue, the world population will stabilize well before the end of the 21st century. By that time the European nations will have several million fewer people than they do today.


In the Western world, we have begun to address the very real problems of air and water pollution, by requiring polluters to clean up or pay up. But the problems of pollution have been--and still are--most serious not in the heavily populated regions of the industrial West, but in the government-dominated economies of the old Soviet Union and its satellites, which have comparatively low population densities, and comparatively low fertility. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank reported in 1990 that pollution in the Soviet Union was between 10 and 100 times as severe as in the West. The evident is clear: government planning cannot deliver either a decent standard of living or a healthy clean environment. Nevertheless, it is precisely government planning--or, to be more exact, super-government planning--which UN agencies and their NGO supporters have been promoting at recent international conferences.

At the Cairo conference in 1994, the Sierra Club--a leading American environmental group--announced its support for population control, and announced its plans to survey different areas around the world in an effort to determine whether the population was "sustainable." The group did not explain what it proposed to do in places where the population was higher than its "sustainable" norm. But Herman Daly, economist from the World Bank, proved more forthcoming.

Daly has long argued that governments should issue "birth licenses" to restrict parents to the number of children deemed acceptable by government planners. He claims that his system would be fair because, although the total number of licenses would be fixed by the government, people could buy and sell them in accordance with their individual desires. Daly also argues for the resettlement of large numbers of people, in order to convert large tracts of land to unsettled wilderness inhabited only by wild animals. He would abolish private land ownership, as well as direct election of most public officials; he proposes heavy new taxes to reduce industrial output in order to relieve the alleged pressures on the environment.

Although recent UN conferences have not gone quite as far as Daly might like--in large part because of the political resistance set up by pro-life activists--there have been uncomfortable intimations of his vision in some of the conference documents. All of the recent conferences have proposed measures to restrict population growth, including easy legal access to abortion. The Habitat II conference gave new prominence and powers to NGOs, vouchsafing them a role which rivals the authority of democratically elected representatives of the sovereign people. The Commission on Global Governance proposed that the UN be given the power to impose its own direct taxes on persons throughout the world, without reference to their national governments.

Under the UN’s global Biosphere Reserve Program, 324 Biosphere Reserves have been established in 83 countries--47 of them in the United States, including more than 43 million acres, or more than the acreage of the entire New England region. They are part of an international network of such reserves, managed by government officials in accordance with UN land-use guidelines on "biodiversity, climate change, desertification, forest management, and sustainable development"--all of which, of course, require population control in the eyes of the international supervisors.

In a statement on "Ecosystem Protection" published in 1993, the US Environmental Protection Agency said that the US government should "develop human population policies that are consistent with sustainable economies and ecosystems," and called for coordinating government actions at all levels--local, state, federal, and international--toward that goal.

President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development has officially called for "stabilization of the US population" as well as "stabilizing global population," moves which it says are "critical if we hope to have the resources needed to ensure a high quality of life for future generations."


If you are a lover of nature--as I am--I do not ask you to give up your concern for the environment. But I do hope you will be aware of the hidden agenda of the world environmental movement. It is a campaign for population control. It is lurking there, not often expressed, behind the professed concern for trees and birds and the other wonders of nature. It is characteristic of this mind-set to see human beings merely as users and abusers of nature and natural resources, without recognizing that humans also create resources--we plant trees, we build fish hatcheries, we invent cleaner sources of power.

The organized environmental movement regards human life as a biological species which has multiplied and grown far beyond its proper bounds, and must now be brought under control. Its leaders do not shrink from the god-like responsibility of deciding the proper bounds of what the UN Environment Program, in a 1995 draft on "Global Biodiversity," called "the human ecological niche."

This arrogance alone should give us pause. Yet some of the mainline churches in the United States have become involved in eccentric forms of the environmentalist movement. In its most extreme form, environmentalism worships nature as the goddess Gaia, while speaking of human beings as if they were a kind of pestilence.

There is not an enormous array of UN agencies and related affiliates claiming an official interest in the reproductive decisions of the world’s families. These include not only the UN Population Fund, but also the UN Environment Program, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the World wide Fund for Nature, and the World Resources Institute. The list also includes the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the Global Environment Facility, the UN Children’s Fund, the Commission for Global Governance, the UN Development Fund for Women, and many others.

The UN Environment Program publishes Our Planet, which it calls "a magazine for sustainable development." A recent issue contained a blunt statement that "if men will breed like rabbits they must be allowed to die like rabbits." The article continued by calling for "equilibrium between resources and population and the environment" and a "relatively steady-state economy." That last phrase is the name given by Herman Daly to his design for heaven on earth.

The real cause of poverty and pollution throughout the world is not overpopulation but government mismanagement of economic life;; heavy taxes, corruption, restrictions on trade and productive effort, and misuse of resources. If governments will perform their legitimate functions honestly, protecting the persons and property of their citizens, then the people can be trusted to manage their own affairs, both productive and reproductive. There is no need for the overweening meddling of an overpaid international bureaucracy. It is time to make a stand for human dignity.

[AUTHOR ID] Jacqueline R. Kasun is professor of economics emeritus at Humboldt State Universy in California, and the author of The War Against Population (Ignatius, 1988).