A Milwaukee-based pro-life activist has just returned from Peru with disturbing reports of a population-control program nearly out of control.

Dan Zeidler, an official with Milwaukee’s Family Life Council, returned from a visit to the South American country Jan. 28.

Zeidler has long monitored population-control and sterilization programs through his association with the Latin American Alliance for the Family.

He told The Interim Jan. 29 that reports of involuntary sterilizations of poor women in parts of Peru are worse than feared. A number of women have died due to unsanitary conditions and the lack of proper medical attention.

Zeidler said an independent investigator appointed by the Peruvian government confirmed evidence of abuses in the population-control program.

“Ironically, it was one of the government’s own officials who confirmed the terrible conditions faced by poor women in Peru,” Zeidler said. “He didn’t attempt to sweep it under the carpet.”

Nonetheless, the question remains as to what the disclosure will mean for the future.

The Peruvian government’s National Population Policy Law was put into effect in September 1995. It aims at reducing poverty and malnutrition by encouraging contraception and sterilization, particularly in the country’s impoverished rural areas.

“At first, it was the country’s Catholic bishops who spoke out against the program, but no one paid much attention,” Zeidler said. “It was only when feminist groups made an issue of the poor hygiene conditions that international organizations began to take notice.”

Zeidler said there have been efforts to uncover if United States foreign aid dollars have been used to support Peru’s population-control effort.

Pro-life groups are also attempting to determine if the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is involved in the Peru effort.

Pro-life Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey has called for further investigation into the Peru situation, Zeidler said.

Smith, who is involved with a congressional committee overseeing the use of American foreign aid dollars, has dispatched aide Joseph Reese to Peru for a first-hand report.

The UNFPA and international aid groups often insist on population-control and contraception programs as a precondition of foreign assistance payments. These groups are often at the forefront of the promotion of abortion and sterilization services and abortifacients.

A program involving the involuntary sterilization of women of child-bearing age was recently uncovered in the Philippines.

Under the program, women were immunized with a vaccine that had been tainted with a sterilizing agent.

It was only through the efforts of Catholic Church and pro-life organizations that the scandal was brought to international attention. The sterilization campaign had been denied repeatedly by official sources in the Philippines.

Last winter, The Interim reported the comments of Antonio de Los Reyes, a former official with the Philippine government’s population-control program. Mr. de Los Reyes noted a number of similarities with the Peru situation in that population controllers generally target the poor and marginalized.

He said many governments in the Third World bow to pressure from international organizations such as the World Health Organization to implement family planning, contraception and population-reduction programs.

“In many cases, bureaucrats charged with implementing the programs are given financial incentives to bring in more people,” de Los Reyes said. Often this results in husbands and wives being sterilized against their will, or without full knowledge of the implications.

Unfortunately for Zeidler, de Los Reyes and others concerned with population-control programs, there seems to be a number of elements in the host countries that support these efforts.

Recent reports out of Peru have attacked the country’s Catholic bishops for opposing the family planning programs. By taking a stand against the progam, the bishops are accused of adding to the poverty situation.