One of the reasons why people believe in abortion is that they think that it is necessary to control population growth. In Newsletter No. 25 I sought to show that population growth is not in fact responsible for the problems attributed to it. Policies of population control will not only solve these problems; in many cases they will make them worse. In this article I wish to take the matter a stage further, and consider what is actually being done to control population in this country and around the world.
There are two principal organizations devoted to promoting population control in the undeveloped world. The most important is International Planned Parenthood Federation, which has its headquarters in London. British taxpayers’ money has been used to support this organization since 1967. The year which saw population control by abortion introduced in this country [Britain] saw us undertake a commitment to control population in other countries as well. The funds of this organization are largely devoted to birth control propaganda, and the contributions to it by the British taxpayer have increased year by year. By 1980 we were giving 2,000,000 pounds a year to IPPF for population control overseas, and the government pledged 6,000,000 pounds for 1987.
The other world-wide population control organization is the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, also significantly, established in 1967. As with IPPF, our contributions have increased substantially from 2,000,000 pounds given in 1980 to 5,000,000 pounds pledged for 1987.
The person at present responsible for this use of taxpayers’ money is Mr. Christopher Patten, MP, the Minister for Overseas Development. In a major speech on the 5th November 1986 he gave these reasons for his commitment:
“Today the world’s population is over five billion, and it will reach six billion before the end of the century. Most of this growth is taking place in developing countries where population growth rates as high as four per cent a year will mean that a country’s population will double each 18 years. In some developing countries, particularly in Africa, population is growing so fast that a significant rise in income per head could only be achieved by economic growth rates higher than those enjoyed by developing countries over the past 50 years or so. Rapid population growth does not necessarily prevent per capita income from rising, but in most cases it makes it more difficult… The risks to the mother’s health are also increased the more children she has. More than a thousand young mothers in the developing world are dying every day, and many of those maternal deaths are the result of too many births, too close together.”
Concluding his speech, Mr. Patten emphasized that we must also respect individual beliefs, making sure such programs were never coercive.
Abortion and coercion
Mr. Patten is, however, well aware that the whole propaganda thrust of organizations like the International Planned Parenthood is not to support traditional and individual beliefs, but to change them. He is also aware that International Planned Parenthood spends a lot of money in countries where coercion is used to achieve population control, such as China. The American government under President Reagan has sought to make it a condition of giving money to birth control organizations that they should not promote abortion, but there is no such condition attached to money given in this country. Indeed it seems likely that one reason for the increase in funds given to IPPF by Britain is the American government’s reduction of support for the Federation due to its involvement in pro-abortion policies.
Nearly all abortion involves coercion of one sort or another. Where there is no pressure on a pregnant woman she will normally prefer a baby to an abortion. For example, abortion among women with stable marriages in this country at an age ideal for having a baby (18-22) is uncommon, even though abortion is freely available virtually on request. For most women the coercion is normally social or economic. Social coercion comes from unmarried fathers, from doctors or parents or even state policy. Economic coercion is exercised by the refusal of the community to give adequate practical help and support to single girls who get pregnant. This often occurs where governments actively or passively are pursuing a police of encouraging abortion for reasons of population control. Coercion of one kind or another is necessary for abortion to succeed in reducing population, and any government which supports population control is hypocritical if it does not recognize this.
How population control works: promoting contraception
Many people who support population control overseas do so because they believe that this will be brought about by contraception without the necessity to kill babies by abortion.
But the belief that you can reduce population by promoting contraception alone is not supported by fact. Contraception is the thin end of the abortion wedge. Although contraception does cause a fall in pregnancies among married people, it also leads to huge increase in promiscuity among single women. This in turn leads to a greatly increased number of pregnancies among single women, and to pressure from single women for the legalization of abortion to cope with the unwanted pregnancies.
This can be easily illustrated from the experience in this country, which is similar to the experience of other countries where contraception has been made generally available. The contraceptive pill was introduced her in 1958. At that time only five per cent of contraceptions in this country were extra-marital. Today, after contraception has been available free to everybody for 30 years, 30 per cent of contraceptions in this country is extra-marital.
It was not until abortion was legalized in 1967 that the birth rate fell. After 1967 the birth rate fell by 25 per cent, but 20 per cent of this was accounted for by abortions, and only five per cent by the fall of contraceptions.
The comparative effect of abortion and contraception as means of reducing the birth rate can be illustrated by comparing countries which have legalized contraception with those which have legalized contraception and abortion. In 1967 Singapore, Kenya and Egypt all had high birth rates. In that year Singapore legalized abortion. Kenya and Egypt only legalized contraception. Since then Singapore’s birth rate has fallen by 20 per cent. In Egypt, by contrast, the average family size is five and the population is growing by three per cent per year. In Egypt abortion is severely punished. In Kenya although abortion is not severely punished it is illegal. In that country the average family size is seven and population is increasing by 4.1 per cent per annum, the highest rate in the world. This is despite the fact that in both Egypt and Kenya enormous sums have been spent on contraception. In the last eight years 61 million dollars has been given to Egypt by the West to be spent on contraception for a population of only 50 million people. Kenya contains the African headquarters of IPPF. As a result of the enormous rise in promiscuity in both countries there is now tremendous pressure to legalize abortion.
However, IPPF by no means confines its activities to countries where the birth rate is very high. IPPF is active, for example, in Uruguay which has the lowest birth rate in Latin America, far below the level required to maintain the number of children in the community. IPPF also operates in countries such as Argentina and Greece, both of which have birth rates below the replacement level.
In fact no country which has legalized abortion has yet found a way to maintain its birth rate at replacement level. Abortion is accepted to some extent virtually everywhere in the developed world, and every year the disproportion between young and old becomes more pronounced. One of the factors behind the population control policies of the developed world is an unspoken fear that unless they can persuade the underdeveloped world to embrace the same suicide course on which they are embarked, then by the end of the century the developed world of old people will be taken over by the young people of the undeveloped world. The old cannot compete with the young, because their lack of energy, creativeness and initiative. But above all they cannot compete with the young because they cannot reproduce.
How birth controllers operate
IPPF normally operates through affiliated “pro-family” organizations. In Latin America, where the Catholic population is deeply suspicious of family planning organizations, this is its normal method of procedure. Although the “pro-family” organizations have ostensibly as their object helping pregnant women and mothers with babies, their funding is received from IPPF only on condition that they bring down the birth rate. Thus these organizations operate as pressure groups for the legalization of abortion. Their first step in Catholic countries is to persuade women who have large families to use contraceptives, or to agree to be sterilized. Because most women in theses countries are not highly educated or well-informed, they often agree to contraception or sterilization without any clear understanding of what is being done to them, simply trusting the organization which has helped them with their pregnancy or with their babies. Once they become hooked on contraception they come into conflict with the local church, which tells them that contraception is immoral. Often they stop going to church as a result, and then become susceptible to pro-abortion propaganda. “Religious” arguments are used against the churches, by the use of such slogans as: “If God had only one son, why do you want more?”
How population control stops development
Population control in the developing world actually hinders development and public health. It is not possible to provide an infra-structure of public health services where you have a low density of population. An obvious example of this is Victorian England where, as people crowded into the towns, drawn there by the Industrial Revolution, for the first time public health polices became possible. The result was that the infant mortality rate fell far more rapidly in towns than in the sparsely populated countryside where there was no public health system.
In the 20th century a good example of this is Brazil. Brazil has a population density of only 11 people per square kilometre, compared, for example, with a population density of 393 people per square kilometre in Holland. Yet the population control organizations seek to pursue the same polities in both countries. They take no account of the fact that they have completely different needs. In Brazil in the second half of the 20th century economic growth has been taking place on a scale comparable to that of England in the second half of the 19th century. Yet between 1974 and 1984, Benfam, the Brazilian birth control organization, received thirteen and a half million dollars in aid from abroad, making it the biggest birth control organization in the world. Most of this money is spent on promoting the pill. This is not necessary. The birth rate in Brazil is today half what it was in 1940, and with its low population density Brazil need more not fewer people if it is to become a developed country with an adequate public health system.
Population control is not necessary
In fact the birth control pill is not only ineffective as a way of reducing the birth rate, but it is not necessary. Countries which have a high infant mortality rate naturally have a high birth rate. In England in the 18th century women commonly had up to ten children, of whom only two or three survived. In the Victorian era the infant mortality rate fell steadily, and the birth rate fell likewise. By the middle of the 19th century women were having fewer than four children, but the population was still growing, due to the fall in infant mortality. This fall continued into the 20th century. By the middle of our century the birth rate was nearly down to two children per woman and the contraceptive pill had not yet been invented. During the whole of these two centuries nobody (except Malthus and his followers) ever seriously suggested that economic growth could not take place unless there was a Government policy of population control. This was because such a statement would have been blatantly untrue. There was no Government policy of population control, and the economic growth was happening at an unparalleled rate. Nor was the fall in the birth rate accomplished by making free contraception and abortion available to all, regardless of age or marital status.
Despite all this, IPPF continues to argue that the movement into the cities in the Third World is causing major health problems, and that the only answer to this is birth control. The truth is that in the Third World the infant mortality rate is 50 per cent to 90 per cent higher in rural areas than in urban areas (World Health Organization 1987: Intersectoral Co-operation for Health). This is because it is only where there is a sufficient population density that public health programs become practical. The public health programs in Britain in the 19th century led to the population quadrupling, with the effect that Britain became perhaps the first “developed” country in the world. It seems that IPPF is determined to prevent this happening in the Third World.
It is quite clear that the self-interest of the developed countries is behind much of the support for IPPF. Of the 57 million dollars given to IPPF to control population growth in 1987 over 12 million dollars were given by Japan. Japan has no wish to see the population grow in the Third World countries of Asia, because this would make them serious competitors to her. Whenever high population density occurred in Asia, the developed economies which have resulted have immediately become competitors of Japan, such as Singapore, Korea and Taiwan. Japan, due to her high population density, has reached a position of unrivaled economic success in the Third World. It is likely that she can keep this position indefinitely only is she can prevent population density rising in other Third World countries.
(First of two parts)
Michael Bell is a member of the Association of Lawyers for the Defense of the Unborn based in London, England.
This article is reprinted from The Association’s Newsletter.