My colleagues reported last week that the “Latex Left” lost at the just ended UN Commission on the Population and Development, that they came away “empty handed.” With respect, I disagree with this assessment.
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and its allies scored a victory. What they got was a (non-binding) declaration setting funding priorities that calls for “comprehensive” sexual education for youth and adolescents, marginalized parental involvement, and increased funding for “reproductive health-care services, commodities and supplies.”
The latter is a global industry projected to top $17 billion by 2015. Funding from the UN and donor nations translates to money not going to meet more pressing needs of the developing world, such as malaria elimination, infrastructure development and access to clean water – all concerns acknowledged in passing at CPD, while disproportionately focusing on sexual themes favored by the developed world.
IPPF representatives were a constant presence throughout negotiations, with some serving on delegations such as that of the United Kingdom.
Though the most contentious terms, such as “gender identity,” were eliminated, internal sources say these were chips intended to be bargained away, with support for the contraceptives industry and “comprehensive education on human sexuality” the true objectives.
Such “comprehensive” programs are problematic because they emphasize “risk reduction” as opposed to “risk avoidance,” creating a demand for condoms and other contraceptives that are far from failsafe even when used properly. A comparison of condom-emphasizing AIDS-reduction programs in Africa with one emphasizing risk avoidance – that is, abstinence and fidelity – shows the superiority of the latter model.
“Comprehensive” sex education programs also marginalize parental involvement. A paragraph on the responsibilities of parents also called for programs that “do not restrict the access of adolescents to appropriate services” and information while emphasizing the “right” of adolescents to privacy.
Dr. Nanci Coppola, a physician and critic of such approaches who runs a highly regarded risk-avoidance program directed at vulnerable youth, remarked that “parents should be the primary educators of their own children. Risk avoidance or ‘abstinence’ address primary prevention, which is what any good public health message should do. ‘Risk reduction’ programs have never been acceptable for drugs, tobacco or violence and should not be acceptable for sexual health.”
Yet “comprehensive” sexual education programs and contraception are pushed by donor nations and non-governmental organizations in much of the developing world, from Trinidad to the Philippines. Aid to developing countries is often bundled with or conditioned upon these countries adopting the Latex Left’s cultural agenda.
Political leaders in the developing world initially find such aid packages attractive, as such ready funds allow them to distribute patronage. They are a poisoned chalice, however. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which dispensed $10.4 billion in 2008 for such programs, developing nations in turn were forced to expend roughly $23.2 billion – money that might have been better allocated addressing other needs.
This elevation of first-world concerns – population control masked as concern over environmental “sustainability,” a libertine sexual agenda masquerading as AIDS prevention – over real developing world needs also can be seen in the funneling of foundation money. In recent weeks, Gates Foundation’s Melinda Gates has become a poster child for such self-absorption, trumpeting her adoption of the Latex Left agenda as a pet project and announcing her defiance of the Catholic Church.
This social agenda is not universally shared even on the political Left, however. In recent years, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo have become ardent critics of an abortion agenda as a form of cultural imperialism while drawing closer to their baptismal Faith. In a 2008 speech denouncing “junk feminism,” Murillo decried those in rich nations “who prefer to raise pets instead of children, and depopulate … the Earth.”
Sandinista Nicaragua is an example of a country which has gone its way on social policy matters, defying demands from United Nations agencies and donors that they liberalize abortion laws. In fact, Nicaragua has tightened restrictions on abortion while lowering maternal mortality rates – something that defies conventional wisdom at the UN, which appears to prefer policies that don’t work over policies that do.
This article has been edited for content.