Bush vs. Bangkok

(Steven W. Mosher is President of the Population Research Institute, and author of Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World.)

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has just released a report claiming that “reproductive health services” are the principal means of alleviating poverty in developing nations, is livid. But the Bush Administration is right. The evidence shows that birth rates are down everywhere, and population control only exacerbates poverty and hurts women.

The UN Population Fund’s conferences are generally carefully choreographed. But the run-up to this week’s Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok has been unusually ragged.

The UNFPA received its first shock even before the conference began. The Bush Administration, acting on the principle that we should call things by their proper names, declared the phrase “reproductive health services” to be nothing more than code language for abortion. Which it is, of course. Back in 1994, when the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) deadlocked over the issue of abortion, “reproductive health services” was adopted with a wink and a nod by the global abortion movement, which understood this as a cover for abortion. There is no doubt that the Cairo document, as it is called, includes abortion as an integral part of reproductive health services. This linguistic sleight-of-hand has been repeated ad nauseum in UN publications and at UN conferences these past eight years.

The UNFPA is also appalled that the US delegation wants the phrase “unsafe abortion” — double speak for legalizing abortion — simplified to merely “abortion.” This much-needed change would expose, among other things, the UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) promotion of manual suction abortions. Under the guise of eliminating “unsafe abortion,” the UNFPA ships manual vacuum aspirators around the world to treat “complications of abortion,” to perform “uterine evacuations” and “menstrual regulation.” If, under pressure from the Bush Administration, the goal becomes “eliminating abortions,” then all this double talk becomes untenable.

Although upstaged at its own event, UNFPA has pressed gamely on. The Bangkok delegates have all received copies of UNFPA’s latest “State of the World Population” report, which claims that the solution to poverty throughout the world is more funding for “reproductive health services.”

In the report, UNFPA claims that developing countries with “lower fertility and slower population growth”…“have registered faster economic growth” than countries with higher fertility and faster growth. Among the reports claims are that: “Family planning programmes” are “social investments” which “attack poverty directly”. Lower fertility at the “micro” (individual or family) level of society “translates within a generation into potential economic growth at the ‘macro’ level” of society, because a greater proportion of “working-age people” will support relatively fewer dependents. “Taking advantage of the demographic window has accounted for a third of the annual economic growth of the East Asian ‘tigers’.” “Slower population growth has encouraged overall economic development in developing nations.”

But these claims are nowhere supported by reliable, comprehensive economic data. Reducing population growth in the developing world through abortion and other “reproductive health services” may in fact have hurt economic development.

Take the example of Bangladesh, where about 25 million fewer people are in the work force today because of the “family planning” programs of the past few decades. UNFPA would claim that this reduction in Bangladesh’s potential population, from 162 million to 137 million, “accounted for a third of the annual economic growth” of the country. But in actual fact, the major component of economic growth and development in Bangladesh since the early 1970’s has been a strong workforce and a steady increase in the rate of production of Bangladesh’s resources, not “reproductive health services.”

In their 2000 economic report on Bangladesh, the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service and the U.S. Department of State note that the way to sustain economic growth in Bangladesh at 7% a year is with increased production and export capacity, foreign investment, privatization, less government intervention and more political stability — not fewer people. Growth in agricultural output continues to accelerate in Bangladesh: from 5% in 1999 to 7% in 2000. Production of other goods — fisheries, livestock and forestry — continues to increase. But more workers are needed to fulfill Bangladesh’s economic potential.

The economic and export potential of Bangladesh is still not fully developed, and can only be unleashed with greater economic freedom combined with a stronger work force. Economic growth and poverty reduction have only been stunted by population reduction programs.

The same holds true for most all other developing nations, where untold numbers of families have suffered not for lack of coercive “family planning” programs but for lack of authentic economic development programs. Poverty has been exacerbated by the population controllers’ war against people.

UNFPA’s report also claims that “family planning” programs “empower individuals, especially women.” Family planning programs “enable choice,” says UNFPA.

Do UNFPA “family planning” programs really “enable choice”? Not according to the U.S. State Department. “UNFPA … facilitates the imposition of social compensation fees and the performance of abortions on… women who are coerced… to undergo abortions that they would otherwise not undergo,” the U.S. State Department recently concluded. “UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.” According to the democratically elected Peruvian Congress, the coercive sterilization campaigns “executed by the Peruvian government [under ex-President Alberto Fujimori] were induced and financed by … the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).”

People are our greatest resource. Reducing the number of people of Bangladesh, and other developing nations, will do nothing to alleviate poverty or promote economic growth. On the contrary, “reproductive health services” abuse women and waste resources which could otherwise be invested in strengthening economies and families.

The bottom line in Bangkok is this: UNFPA wants the developed countries to cough up billions of dollars for population control. UNFPA complains that the $10.9 billion annual expenditure for “reproductive health services” in 2000 was $6.1 billion short. According to the United Nations blueprint, $20.5 billion is needed each year by 2010, and $21.7 billion by 2015.

If the UNFPA gets its way, it will be robbing from the rich to take from the poor.

Steven W. Mosher


Steven W. Mosher is the President of Population Research Institute and an internationally recognized authority on China and population issues, as well as an acclaimed author, speaker. He has worked tirelessly since 1979 to fight coercive population control programs and has helped hundreds of thousands of women and families worldwide over the years.

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