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The War on Population – A World on Third World Women

Category Articles
Date May 1, 2001

A few years ago, I was working on a mobile clinic in western Kenya. Returning from one of our many tours, we found a desperately sick woman lying across the road. Her condition was critical so we drove her to the nearest government hospital, five hours away. When we arrived she was too weak to walk, so I carried her into the reception room, shoving the cows aside. Because the doctor was in the local bar–drunk–we decided to speak with the pharmacist, a kindly man whose pharmacy contained nothing beyond a bottle of penicillin and 75,000 condoms from the US Agency for International Development. There were no gloves, no syringes, no vitamins, no basic medical supplies … but 75,000 condoms from USAID.

That first contact with population control intrigued me, and led me to dig a little. And the more I dug, the more I came to realise that the population control programme is really a ruthless campaign, inspired by racism, eugenics and Western economic interests, against poorer, darker peoples–especially women–of the developing South.

At its origin the programme’s racist motives were blatant. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood in the 1920s, spoke openly of ‘inferior races’ who were ‘overrunning the human garden like weeds,’ and the need to sterilise the ‘genetically inferior’, especially the ‘mass of Negroes particularly in the South.’ Her words echoed what has been said so often about the ‘feckless poor’ on this side of the Atlantic.

* * *

Outrage at the Holocaust forced the movement to go underground–or, rather, change its tune. By the 1960s the talk was all about global over-population. In his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich predicted that by the 1970s hundreds of millions would be starving to death. Worldwide disaster was inevitable unless fertility rates at home and abroad were drastically reduced.

Meanwhile other population controllers painted apocalyptic pictures of the world running out of copper, tin, gold, natural gas, petrol, etc in a few years.

None of this came true. Food production more than kept pace with population growth (indeed, one of our world’s major problems today is over-production of food) and supply of raw materials has so outstripped demand that prices have not risen, but dropped.

Moreover, the population lobby had completely misunderstood (or misrepresented) the cause of the population ‘explosion’ which they spoke about so luridly. The principal cause of population growth was not any increase in birth rates but a huge decline in infant mortality and increased life expectancy, thanks to recent medical advances. As an expert said, the growth occurred ‘not because human beings started breeding like rabbits but rather because they finally stopped dying like flies.’ World population growth was a sign of progress, not failure, therefore. And though the world total will reach perhaps 7.3 billion by the 2030s, thereafter it will decline sharply. As René Bel explained at the last British LIFE National Conference, we face a worldwide population collapse–implosion rather than explosion.

So the population lobby adopted another tactic. Echoing Malthus, they claimed that growth inevitably leads to increasing poverty. This is patently untrue, as Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan can testify. The West’s own past shows clearly that economic expansion was stimulated by population growth.

Doomladen population controllers see people as problems rather than problem-solvers, consumers rather than producers, liabilities rather than assets. They wrongly assume that wealth is finite and that the more people there are, the less will go to individuals. Then, piggy-backing on the environmental movement, they have preached more doom and gloom: only desperate birth control measures could save rare species, rain forests, the ozone layer, etc., they declared.

But this is over-simple. In a desolate area of Kenya, for instance, population growth was the spur to highly efficient terracing, soil cultivation and tree planting. In Nepal, depopulation caused mountain agriculture and tree planting to decline. The fatalistic assumption that the earth’s fragile ecological balance will inevitably be upset by population growth is simply untrue. It is greed, not growth, which does the greatest damage.

* * *

Recently the population controllers have developed a new ploy. They claim that family planning programmes are needed to protect women’s ‘reproductive health’ and ‘women’s rights’.

The truth is that, throughout the developing world women want large families. In Nigeria, for instance, traditional celebrations are held for a woman on the birth of her tenth child. We are told: ‘It is the greatest honour a woman can earn.’ Children are symbols of wealth and reason for rejoicing–and in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America large families make economic sense.

It is not just that Western aid programmes often trample on local cultural values. As my experience in that Kenyan hospital showed, that aid is often failing women badly. Thousands die of malaria whose treatment costs a few pence, while the clinics are stocked to the roof with millions of dollars’ worth of pills, IUDs, Norplant and Depo-Provera. Doctors have cases of contraceptives but no penicillin to treat children dying of pneumonia.

It has been estimated that what USAID spends on population control could save 2 million children each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. In Uganda, Vietnam and Nepal many more people now have access to contraceptives than to safe water.

So the West spends millions on distributing abortifacient pills among women in developing countries but many do not have a glass of clean water with which to swallow them.

Invited to war-torn Kosovo the UNFPA immediately set up abortion clinics and started propagandising for smaller families, thus helping the Serbs to do what they had hitherto failed to achieve: namely, pacification of the region by reducing the Albanian population. What the region really needed was food, clothing and basic medicines.

In the developing countries there has usually been a different twist to the story: Western aid has been available only on condition that population control measures were implemented. So governments of the poorest countries, desperate for basic help, have been blackmailed into allowing the IPPF and the others a free hand. Alas, an increasing number of those governments, corrupted from within, have succumbed easily to this pressure.

* * *

But just consider what really happens to women’s rights when the population controllers get to work.

In India sterilisation squads rounded up people and sterilised them against their will. In Peru we hear of women receiving food for their under-nourished children only if they consented to being sterilised. Sometimes no consent is given. Victoria Espinoza, for example, a Peruvian woman, had gone to her local hospital to deliver her baby. Tragically, the baby boy died shortly after birth. Yet Victoria was nevertheless determined to have another baby–until she discovered that her doctor had secretly sterilised her. ‘When I heard that,’ she said, ‘something deep in my heart broke. Now there is a terrible hole inside.’

In Indonesia obstinate women have had IUDs inserted at gunpoint. From Bangladesh, the Philippines, Haiti, and Sri Lanka come repeated reports of women being refused food and medical treatment unless they consented to sterilisation.

In Brazil, 7.5 million women have been sterilised, many against their will. In Mexico government doctors will tie a woman’s tubes–with or without consent–after delivery of her third child. Programmes like these make many women reluctant to accept official medical care or even food. There is such fear in Mexico, for instance, that government medical personnel are sterilising women without their consent that, it is reported, Mexicans avoid government clinics. In the Sudan, an aid worker found women refusing milk (and most other food) because they were frightened that it had been laced with sterilising agents. ‘They preferred to die in their tents.’

And then, of course, there are the horrendous stories about the one-child policy in China. Women are being forcibly aborted even at 9 months and sterilised. Officials will fine families out of existence if they break the one-child rule and even burn down their houses. There is a reign of terror in the countryside. Frightened women go into hiding or throw their forbidden babies into ditches.

All this is supported directly or indirectly by agencies like USAID, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and United Nations Fund for Population Activities. They supply the drugs and IUDs and equipment. They set up abortion units. They teach local people how to sterilise and insert IUDs–and abort.

Millions of pounds (£20 million from the UK alone) are donated by Western countries and Japan to IPPF; UNFPA, etc., every year. Even the Irish government is now contributing generously. And when President Bush halted federal funding of foreign abortion and sterilisation programmes, the European Union dipped into its coffers to make good the shortfall.

* * *

In Brazil the sterilisation programme targeted the poorest women–mainly those of African descent. In Peru, it was the poor, indigenous Quechua-speaking Indians of the Andes who bore the brunt of the government’s population campaign. According to human rights activist Giulia Tamayo Leon, ‘In rural areas, health workers persecute people. They enter their homes. Some women tell us they have to hide. They are told they are animals for bearing so many children.’ Not surprisingly, the programme spawned growing resentment among Peru’s six million Quechua-speaking indigenous people. ‘They want to exterminate our race,’ said one Quechua woman.

Western-funded programmes generate similar resentment. ‘How come there is money for contraceptive pills and billions are being poured into the [population control] system, and there’s no money for anything else? Isn’t it genocide?’ asks Dr Margaret Ogola, a Kenyan doctor.

* * *

Western politicians and media are quick enough to denounce human rights abuses, when it suits them, in other countries, but are heedless of what the Western-funded population control programme is doing to millions of the poorest and most defenceless of women. What is even more sickening is the silence of most Western feminists in the face of mass violation of basic human rights of millions of their sisters in developing countries. They do nothing while helpless women are called animals and treated like them–and forcibly mutilated. Not only are they silent: worse, in the name of advancing ‘reproductive health’–which is the code for contraceptive, sterilisation and abortion programmes–they are actively promoting it.

The truth is that the vast sums pumped into population control each year have not produced dramatic improvement in living standards or economic development. Vietnam, Bangladesh and much of Latin America bear witness to that fact. Nor have they produced political stability. Aggressive population control policies have caused dramatic social unrest in India and Kenya, for example.

What USAID, IPPF, UNFPA and the rest have done is to make war against the poorer, darker populations of the developing world and to ensure that fewer African, Asian and Latin American babies have been born. Western governments spend millions on all this; some like Germany and France (a major contributor) are at the same time doing all they can to promote childbearing at home.

The unspoken truth is that the big world players like the USA, Western Europe and Japan view with alarm the prospect of larger populations in the developing world. They want to maintain their dominance and to curb future rivals like China. They are fearful of increased migration, major changes in the existing balance of power and in the control of natural resources. Racism and eugenics go hand in hand with economic self-interest.

Princeton & Oxford-trained Dr Mary Haynes is an American prolifer with wide international experience. This is a shortened version of her paper given at the LIFE National Conference 2001 published in Life News, Issue no. 36. Visit their website

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