In mid-October, the Commonwealth Ministers responsible for Women’s Affairs met in Ottawa. The Honorable Mary Collins, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, hosted the federally sponsored conference.

Prime Minister Mulroney, also present at the conference, delivered a speech praising women’s achievements while lamenting the fact that “15 million of their babies die annually from entirely preventable diseases.” (Mr. Mulroney neglected, of course, to include in his figure the number of unborn babies who die each year from entirely preventable abortions.)

One embargoed paper obtained by The Interim, entitled “Women and Population Issues”, was presented during a closed door session. Written for the Commonwealth Secretariat by Dr. Naila Kabir, the paper cited abortion as “a major means of fertility control in the world.” It presented alarming figures regarding numbers of unborn babies killed. According to Dr. Kabir, approximately 45 to 60 million abortions are performed around the globe each year, or between 24 and 32 induced abortions for every 100 known pregnancies.

Funding abortions

The paper recommended that funding of abortions be “shared” between the public sector and private individuals and called for greater use of “cheaper, safer and simpler” male methods of contraception such as condoms and vasectomy. It also called for a massive effort to educate men about family planning and urged government to raise the level of women’s education and economic well being so that population levels reflected in Western nations will become the norm in the Third World.

Contraceptive health risks

Unlike many such efforts, however, this paper slammed the “population establishment” for past unethical practices and attitudes which reflect “indifference to the health risks of contraceptive technology.”

In the early seventies, high risk birth control pills which had been obtained at low prices from their manufacturers were deliberately dumped in Third World countries. Due to their profit making potential for the pharmaceutical industry such drugs as Depo Provera, an injectable, hormonal contraceptive, were distributed in large quantities in the Third World. This drug has been banned in the United States due to insufficient knowledge of its possible cancer risk.

The report cited “persistent report a of unpleasant side effects” associated with most contraceptives. These included “bleeding, fatigue, dizziness, nervousness and headaches.” It also quotes from a 1988 report entitled Studies in Family Planning by Winikoff and Sullivan which concluded that “the reality of contraceptive practice is one of a high incidence of failure.”

Invasion of local cultures

Another related paper presented to the conferences and obtained by The Interim, was entitled “Women and Population Issues in Africa.” Here, too, family planning received criticism, this time for being “out of tune with African cultural values.”

Reflecting what the Pro-life movement has been saying for years, this paper called for greater attention to be given women’s rights.

The paper cited such abuses as China’s forced abortion policy and a lesser known sterilization program conducted in Puerto Rico in 1968. During this program, conducted with U.S. government encouragement, a third of the country’s women of child-bearing age were rendered barren without knowing that the operations were irreversible. According to J. M. Stycos, an eminent demographer cited in the paper, many physicians assisted in the program because they had allow opinion of the competence of lower-class Puerto Rican women; they believed they were unreliable agents in reducing numbers of children through regular contraceptive means.

This contemptuous attitude towards the poor, so evident in the writings of Margaret Sanger and other early birth control advocates, has not been lost on the victims of population control strategists. According to the paper, at a world population conference in Bucharest in 1974, “number of Third World and socialist countries challenged the focus by western governments on the “population problem”. They interpreted it as “distracting attention from the underlying inequities in the international order.”

The population establishment in the West spends about 500 million dollars each year on birth control programs in the Third World.

More birth control

Dr. Kabir presented a number of vague recommendations intended to deal with the world’s growing population. These include more research into new methods of birth control, well-paid and secure jobs for women (which is supposed to reduce numbers of children) and a reorientation of government funding towards health care and away from military spending.

Although the paper contains a caveat stating that the opinions of Dr. Kabir are not necessarily those of the Commonwealth Secretariat, it seems clear that abortion will continue to play a large part in future efforts to “control” the number of persons born in Commonwealth countries.

Kabir states that her paper is an argument against the “quick technological fix” pushed for years by the Population Control Establishment. Nevertheless, increased access to abortion facilities is one of the paper’s chief recommendations.

This also continues to be the unofficial position of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which has always seen abortion as a primary and essential element of their platform. In 1973, Malcolm Potts, Medical Director of IPPF stated that “as people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate.”