The week-long Conference on Population, organized by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, (IUSSP) ended Wednesday (June 12) in Florence leaving the distinct impression that something less (or more) than scientific had taken place.


Despite the best academic window-dressing and all the trappings of respectable scholarship that money could muster, one could not help feeling that science had somehow been compromised for the sake of a higher ideal – the world-wide search for lower fertility.


This led to an obvious question: who or what is the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population?  According to a booklet, “The IUSSP in History,” which was prepared specially to coincide with the Florence Conference, “the Union was officially founded in July 1928” but it sees itself as the logical successor to many centuries of Demographic studies – such as the 1798 Essay on Population by the English pastor, Thomas Robert Malthus.


Inspired by Sanger


Despite the fact that Malthus’ theory (that the world’s food supply would not be able to keep pace with a growing population) has since been largely discredited, his admirers appeared to be present in large numbers in Florence.  Admirers of an even more sinister personage, one Margaret Sanger, “whose militant neo-Malthusian views were well known” and whose militancy was “judged to be incompatible with scientific neutrality,” were even more in evidence, however.


Sanger, one of the founders of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, (the world’s leading promoter and provider of abortion) believed that people should, if necessary, be coercively constrained to conform to government population policies and “her profound convictions in this respect were not affected by scientific considerations.”  From her neo-Malthusian base and her preoccupation with the eugenics theories which were to inspire Hitler to try to achieve a master race by the elimination of the “unwanted,” came the idea for the first World Population Conference which was held in 1927.


She believed “that scientific investigations would implicitly support the cause to which she had devoted her life, and she desired that this should be documented in the Conference sessions,” whose proceedings she edited.  One of her major objectives in organizing this Conference was the setting up of the “International Union for the Scientific Study of Population Problems,” the direct forerunner of the present IUSSP.  This objective was achieved the following year (1928) at a meeting in Paris.


Despite protestations to the contrary, the present Union is clearly inspired by Sanger, its conceiver.  This is convincingly illustrated on the cover of its History which has photographs of two women with the caption “From Margaret Sanger to Mercedes Conception,” its President from 1981 to 1985 and its newly elected Honorary President.  What was even more clearly illustrated at the Florence meeting was the continuity with Sanger’s ideas which permeated the entire event and which left one in no doubt but that these people were convened for no other purpose than that for which she convened the first such Population Conference in 1927.


A one-way choice


As at last year’s United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Population in Mexico City, much was made of a couple’s right to freely and responsibly decide on the number and spacing of their children.  However, what was even more “equally” stressed was that people everywhere should be given the means necessary to achieve this purpose – whether they wanted these means or not.  As the welcoming address of an Italian, Massimo Livi Bacci, made clear, “reconsidering the whole question, we cannot be too sure that the forces of choice are now prevailing upon those of constraint in determining population change.”  It is clearly a one way choice that is offered by these elite experts – either you stop having children, whether you have conceived them (or even given birth to them) or not, or else “nature” will be allowed to take its course.


Those dying of hunger in Africa will hardly be consoled to know that their failure to conform to Western projections and to control their fertility by “civilized” Western methods has led to the famines which “are among the positive checks to population growth listed by Malthus.”  They would be much more likely to subscribe to the view, expressed in one paper, that “in several recent famines per-capita food availability did not decrease significantly; what changed was the ability of some groups to purchase food.”


China as role model


One could sympathize with them in feeling that their inability to buy the food, now reportedly bulging from stores in famine stricken regions, owes more to such things as the pressure on these countries to transfer large tracts of their fertile land area from the production of traditional food crops to those which make the multinational share-holders richer and which increase the erosion of the soil and the onward march of the desert.  They could also be excused for being sceptical of the intentions of the powers-that-be, both nationally and internationally, in their stated desire to relieve their sorry plight, when all they appear to be really interested in is who controls what territory under what ideological system does a country operate.


China’s “success” in reducing its birthrate was analyzed from every conceivable aspect, with merely a passing reference to the coercive and inhuman methods used to achieve this purpose – forced abortions, sterilizations and infanticide (especially of baby girls).  In a paper, Cheng Chao-tze said of his country, “facts show that the launching of the movement to spread far and wide heterogeneous ideas in family planning is by no means an empty sermon.  It has already achieved a huge, incalculable effect in the birth control of a family.”


Further measures are needed, he suggested, which will “make full use of all the propaganda channels, such as publications, broadcasts, lantern slides, television, films, etc.,” all of which would make it “accessible for married families and individuals to take in much more alien ideas thus to make it possible to check the raising of fertility.”  He pattern for “success,” according to Cheng, is summed up as follows: speed up the productive forces, based on science and technology, which in turn will lead to extensive social mobility between country and city, which in turn will lead to absorption of those “alien ideas” essential to the achievement of the ultimate objective – the lowering o fertility.


Risks to the life and health of women from present contraceptive and abortion techniques were all but ignored in the rush to get them to adopt anything that would result in a drop in “the crude birth-rate.”  In the name of “progress,” women are practically ordered tout of their homes in order to take up non-existent jobs which, they are told, will make them free of the drudgery of child-bearing and rearing.  Projections are made as to the likely effects of “low family stability” in achieving lower birth rates, and it can only be assumed that if that is what it takes then that is what must be promoted.  The opposite “high family stability” scenario, with its greater likelihood of producing more and happier children, is just too horrific to contemplate, it seems.


We are given a preview of more laughs to come when we are told that “difficult societal decisions will have to be made to deal with the two central demographic changes of the Twenty-first Century: the arrival of the postwar baby boom cohort at retirement age and the projected continued lengthening of the life span.”  It would appear that, for people who are now enjoying the hedonistic lifestyle to which they feel entitled, little can be expected by way of sympathy from the isolated if spoilt offspring they will leave behind.  “But to expect nothing to give is to ignore the intergenerational tension which already is surfacing.”


1984 has come and gone, but the attacks on human dignity which Orwell envisaged appear to be growing in intensity and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men seem intent on ensuring that it is never put back together again – if the Florence Conference is any clue to their intentions.


William Sherman is secretary and executive director of the newly-formed International Right to Life Federation.