Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
The banner in the Peruvian town of Las Leguas announced a new kind of festival: a “Tubal Ligation Festival.” It was part of a notorious population control program paid for, in part-you guessed it-with your tax dollars.
As part of the “festival,” the Peruvian government sent what it called “health promoters,” who went door-to-door pressuring women to be sterilized. They told women that it was “easy” and “safe,” and they would not take “no” for an answer. If a woman refused, they came back as many times as needed to wear her down.
One woman who was worn down was Celia Durand. After “multiple visits,” Durand agreed just to end the harassment. She was the 15th sterilization performed that day. Something went wrong; she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. By the time she died, the “festival” had moved to another town.
Durand’s story is told in Stephen Mosher’s new book, Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits. Mosher tells us that where “browbeating” poor Peruvians did not work, “health promoters” resorted to bribery and extortion: The receipt of government benefits was conditioned on undergoing sterilization.
Maria Elena Mulatillo enrolled her sick daughter in a food supplement program. Months later, officials told her to undergo sterilization or her daughter would be dropped from the program. When she refused, they made good on their threat.
Stories like Durand’s and Mulatillo’s were not isolated aberrations: They were emblematic of the abuses of the Peruvian program, where quotas and bonuses gave “promoters” incentive to ignore niceties such as human dignity and freedom.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say our program. According to a report issued by a Peruvian governmental commission that investigated these and other abuses, the policies were “induced and financed by international organizations.” Specifically, it named the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Commission said that USAID not only helped plan, fund, and indirectly manage the program, it even provided the surgical instruments! UNFPA played an equally important role in the effort which, not coincidentally, targeted Peru’s indigenous population.
While both agencies denied the wrongdoing, the documentation of these and similar abuses around the world led Congress to pass the Tiahrt Amendment in 1998. It prohibits USAID from funding programs that use coercion, including giving bonuses and setting quotas, in family planning.
Then, in response to continuing abuses by the United Nations programs in Peru and elsewhere, the White House cut off all funding to UNFPA in 2003.
Unfortunately, the issue is far from settled. As Chuck has told you these past few days, the population-controllers are a zealous bunch. They are also patient: They know re-funding of the United Nations program is just as easy as de-funding it. All it takes is an amenable White House and popular indifference.
Making sure this does not happen must be one of our priorities. We must become knowledgeable about these kinds of issues, and we must let both parties know that we will hold them accountable. Or else we will find ourselves funding the wrong of kind of “festival.”