The Cairo conference, as it is called, neglected fundamentals such as access to basic health care, food and clean water, and adequate primary pre- and post-natal care. Instead, the focus was on abortion, sterilization, and contraception, with access to contraception enshrined by the United Nations as a “basic human right.”
Today, the population control movement aggressively pursues more funding for sterilization, abortion and contraception. Because of this skewed funding priority, millions more lives will be lost this year for lack of basic aid.
This off-center agenda thrives today at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and also in a new policy document written by the Global Health Council (GHC) titled “Promises to Keep: The Toll of Unintended Pregnancies on Women’s Lives in the Developing World,” published with the financial support of population control goliath, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
“Promises to Keep…” claims that of the total 300 million “unintended pregnancies” that took place in the world in the six years following the ICPD (1995-2000), 700,000 women died as a result, and of these 400,000 died because of unsafe abortion procedures. “Promises to Keep” concludes that contraception and abortion must be made more widely available to save women's lives. More contraception, the report also claims, will save children's lives by spacing births.
Even if these claims were true (and we believe the numbers are grossly overstated), the report overlooks the principal causes of mortality of women and children: The hundreds of thousands of women who die each year while giving birth to wanted children and the 11 million children who die each year from preventable diseases. Instead of promoting life-saving health care for these women and children, the goal remains to contracept, sterilize, and abort as many women as possible. “Family planning” takes precedence over health care.
“Promises to Keep” praises the Cairo conference for its commitment to generate $17 billion per year for reproductive health services, but ignores the pressing need for immediate life-saving primary health care. For a mere $14 per child, millions of children could be saved from death by pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition. Immunization and food programs are cheap and affordable, and save lives.
The bent of this anti-life agenda may be seen in programs such as UNFPA’s support of forced abortion in China in the name of voluntary family planning, and USAID’s $65 million grant to the Population Council — a group which promotes abortion — in the name of HIV/AIDS prevention.
The USAID-Population Council Horizons Program will in part help provide contraception to women who have been abducted and sold into sex trafficking networks in Thailand and Cambodia. How does this alleviate their misery and suffering?
The international population control movement and USAID are not meeting the real needs of women in the developing world. PRI challenges the international community and USAID to choose another path to help the women and children around the world. A new policy needs to be established, making primary health care and basic aid the priority of foreign aid.
(Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute, and author of Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World.)