For over two decades, UNICEF officials in Canada have consistently denied that their organization plays any part in disturbing contraceptives (most of which are abortifacient), or in promoting abortion or sterilization. Official records, however, tell a different story, and the history of UNICEF’s changes in policy shows just how far it has departed from its original mandate.

To forestall UNICEF being attacked unjustly, it is necessary to make clear that the sources of information used here are UNICEF itself, other United Nations organizations, and pro-abortion groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation. One source which deals with UNICEF’s involvement in the “Population Debate” is Maggie Black’s The Children and the Nations: The story of UNICEF, published for UNICEF in 1986.

The aftermath of World War II left many children across the world in dire straits, and UNICEF was called into being to deal with this emergency. This task UNICEF performed to world acclaim, as children (otherwise helpless) were provided with food, clean water, shelter and medical care. In 1950 the UN asked UNICEF to extend its work beyond emergency relief to the long-range needs of children. Un 1953 the name was changed to the United Nations Children’s Fund, but the term “UNICEF” was retained.

The 1960s saw the resurrection of the old Malthusian theory of over-population leading the world to doom. Within the United Nations, there were references to “a new menace” which was blighted “the prospects of social and economic development in the Third World.” Life expectancy in the Third World had risen with the cure, control or elimination of diseases such as malaria, smallpox and yaws. Moreover, improved methods of communication and rapid transportation were cutting the death toll in disaster areas.

This same period saw the development of new methods of fertility control: “The pill,” various IUDs and sterilization.

Two groups, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF were reluctant to join in the growing debate on fertility restraint. WHO’s reluctance was based on lack of knowledge about the health effects of the ‘pill’ and IUDs. UNICEF did not want to act before WHO, and was concerned with loss of financial support from its donors. However, the Bureau of Social Affairs within the UN was “behind the scenes” and “constantly trying to push both WHO and UNICEF in the family planning business.” Moreover, there was pressure within UNICEF itself. The Swedish delegation (especially leader Nils Thedin) had been pushing for population control since 1959, and India and Pakistan wanted help from UNICEF for their national family planning programmes. By 1965, pressure was also coming from the United States.

In June 1965, Henry Labouisse, an American, was appointed as the Executive Board’s Director of UNICEF. He was to be the catalyst for change.

Policies from 1966-70

In May 1966, Labouissse put forward proposals to the Executive Board, on the basis of his own report entitled “Possible Role of UNICEF in Family Planning.” HE proposed that multilateral funds be spent on providing women with access to family planning on request by governments but “UNICEF” would not offer any advice on techniques nor would it provide contraceptive supplies or equipment to make them.”

The proposals split the Board. Delegates from Sweden, India and Pakistan were obviously supportive, but there were many arguments for the opposition: African nations (except Nigeria) believed it to be a racist programme; socialist countries suspected a capitalist ploy; one view was that “it would be wrong for UNICEF to depart from its mandate of saving children to engage in activities to prevent them from being born”; some delegates found it would be unwise to act before WHO; Roman Catholic countries said that education in family planning would endorse the use of condoms, birth-control pills and IUDs implied in the UNICEF programmes.

The rift in the Executive board is well shown by comparing the positions of Nigeria and Belgium. Nigeria condemned the countries which objected to the proposals for religious reasons, saying it was against the University Declaration of Human Rights to impose their beliefs on India and Pakistan by withholding financial assistance for their population programmes.

Belgium’s delegate Hilaire Willot was one of the strongest opponents. He said that the proposals were so far from the original purpose of UNICEF that his and many other nations would consider they were freed from any obligation to the organization if it lent its support to Indian family planning programmes which offered incentives to sterilization.

In the face of this opposition, and to avoid a complete split the proposals were withdrawn, the issue delayed for a year and advice sought (from the UNICEF-WHO Joint Committee on Health Policy) on the “best way in which UNICEF might participate in programmes of family planning, with particular reference to the technical aspects.”

The recommendations made by the Joint Committee used a new line of approach. Political arguments for birth control as a government policy for social and economic reasons were replaced by WHO’s medical advice that birth spacing was a health service for both mother and child. Family planning programmes supported by UNICEF should be “an integral part of comprehensive health services for mothers and children.” However, the terms used were understood specifically to exclude contraceptives and the equipment to manufacture contraceptives.

The Joint-Committee’s Report was discussed by the Executive Board of UNICEF in June 1967 and accepted but not without opposition. Some delegates (including the Soviet’s) wanted UNICEF to stick to its mandate, while others – especially India’s – felt the policy did not go far enough.

Maggie Black in her Story of UNICEF said that the decision might appear to amount to little beyond increased support for mother and child health services and that “progress in policy evolution was minute,” nevertheless “symbolically a major step had been taken; the phrases family planning and UNICEF co-operation had been joined.”

Once UNICEF had taken the first step the second soon followed. Three years later, in 1970. Labouisse, in his General Report of the Executive Director, started:

“Contraceptives are not so readily available from other sources (as the Executive Director had supposed in 1966) and some Governments have indicated their preference to receive them from UNICEF as part of the overall aid to their (maternal and child health) family planning projects. The exclusion of contraceptives from UNICEF assistance has also been a complication to our discussions with the United Nations Fund for Population Activists when Governments’ requests have included contraceptives. WHO, our chief technical partner in connection with family planning, considers that UNICEF should be able to provide contraceptives along with other supplies and equipment.”

According, Labouisse recommended that the Board “authorize UNICEF to include contraceptives in the supplies which can be provided on governmental request.”

This recommendation was adopted, but not without further confrontation. The Soviet Union strenuously objected and said that, “UNICEF’s role was to protect children and make provision for their health and nutrition, Family Planning was not part of its responsibilities.”

When the French representative stated that a condition for approval was “to ensue that governments respected the complete freedom of choice of the family in the matter of family planning,” Labouisse said, “The complete freedom of individuals to use family planning methods or not to use them was a question for governments, not UNICEF.”

Labouisse’s answer shows a blatant disregard for the fundamental freedoms expressed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Individuals were to be left defenseless against any government that would force contraceptives (provided by UNICEF) on unwilling citizens.

The Executive Director refused a request to defer a decision on the issue, and his recommendation was passed. UNICEF now had a policy to supply contraceptives.

Contraceptives and Abortifacients

Much controversy over UNICEF stems from the fact that many contraceptives, are in reality abortifacients whose sole or main effect is to prevent the newly-fertilized ovum from implanting in the womb. This a new human life, which has already begun at conception, is destroyed.

In May 1979, the Catholic Doctors’ Guild of Toronto issued a Statement on Abortion which included the following passage:

“It follows that no person may deliberately abort a human being at any stage. Some of the newer low-dose estrogen birth control pills and the intra-uterine devices act preventing implanting of the already fertilized ovum, and are therefore, abortifacient, and are to be condemned. A similar action is ascribed to high-dose estrogen, the so-called ‘morning-after pill.’ The use of any or all agents which act in this fashion is morally wrong.”

A report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“Second Report on Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices,” Washington, 1979) explains that an inflammatory response to the presence of an IUD always develops in the endometrium (uterine lining) and it is believed that the body’s defence cells wither destroy the fertilized ovum, or prevent its implantation because of alterations in the endometrium.

These so-called “contraceptives” which UNICEF distributed to destroy new human being in their earliest stage, and this cause very early abortions.