ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Global population control was roundly criticized by a panel of experts at the 19th annual convention of the Concerned Women for America (CWA) Sept. 25. The conservative grass-roots group, the largest women's public policy organization in the nation, supports pro-life and pro-family initiatives.
The 600 participants who met outside of Washington, D.C., heard Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), a physician and long-time opponent of foreign aid; Steven Mosher, president of the Falls Church, Va.-based Population Research Institute; and Robert Sassone, a physicist and population specialist for the American Life League.
Paul, who also received CWA's Champion for Life Award for his pro-life efforts, has been a leading critic of overseas population-control initiatives. He is the author of an amendment which would prohibit any U.S. funds being used to support population planning, abortions, abortifacients, or contraceptive distribution.
He considers foreign aid unconstitutional. He said, “I don't see the authority in the Constitution to give away your money to foreign governments.” Further, Paul added, it's “too hard to pick out who the good guys are.”
The congressman added, “If they [any government] get your money, they're going to do whatever they want with it.” He said that even if foreign aid money is earmarked for programs other than population, other funds are freed up for abortion, sterilization, and contraception.
“It's wrong for American taxpayers to be forced into [supporting] some program that is morally offensive to us,” Paul said. It is for that reason that he continues to offer his amendment. The amendment received 149 votes in the House last year — 69 short of passage. His press secretary, Michael Sullivan, told the Register the proposal will be back in the 106th Congress, and “from now on until we stop this nonsense.”
Mosher, a social scientist who lived in rural China in the 1970s, has been a long-time observer of errant population control programs around the world. His Population Research Institute (PRI) has been deeply involved in attacking the Peruvian government's forced sterilization program, the one-child policy in China, and in other issues such as the use of quinacrine pills to promote sterilization in 18 developing countries.
“There's a war on people,” Mosher said. “It's being carried out by our country and other nations around the world.”
“If we continue our war on population,” he added, “we're going to have to pay a heavy price.”
Mosher argued that contrary to popular media reports, there is no population crisis. In fact, “fertility rates are going down,” he said. Some countries, such as Japan and those in Europe, are actually experiencing a decline in population.
“Population control programs are always rife with human rights abuses,” he said. He noted the work that the PRI and the CWA did to call attention to the coercive measures employed by the Fujimori government in Peru.
Peru initiated its program soon after then U.S. Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth visited Lima in June 1996 and encouraged a more vigorous population control effort. Wirth is quoted as having said, “Abortion is a fundamental human right.”
Since the 1960s the U.S. Agency for International Development has implemented 30 different population programs in Peru. But nothing had approached the vigorous effort undertaken in 1997, whereby the government established a quota of 100,000 sterilizations and anticipated another 200,000 this year.
Aggressive work by PRI and CWA as well as by the Peruvian Catholic bishops helped galvanize the Peruvian media, despite the threat of government retaliation. The sterilization program, which relied on bonuses and punishments to workers in the field, was derailed by the efforts of these organizations as well as the intervention of pro-life U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).
Mosher noted that human rights abuses exist in population control initiatives in 37 countries, including Indonesia, Mexico, and Bangladesh. He also said such efforts undermine primary health care services, where doctors are encouraged to concentrate on abortions, sterilization, and contraception, rather than on providing basic medical care.
Each year, although the number of women of childbearing age increases by about 15 million, nearly a million fewer babies are being born in the world.
Mosher also mentioned the Tiahrt amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and adopted by the House of Representatives by a voice vote Sept. 17. The legislation, if enacted, will prevent coercion in any U.S.-funded population control program.
This amendment would be the first effort in law to define what is meant by the term “voluntary” in population programs. It rejects quotas, bonuses, or bribes. It also requires programs to spell out options to and the dangers of population control.
Referring to the situation in Peru, Tiahrt has said, “Forced sterilization of some of the most vulnerable class of women in foreign countries should not be occurring in U.S.-funded family planning programs.” The amendment, which now goes to a House-Senate conference committee for review, would stop these and other abuses.
Mosher, a convert to Catholicism and father of eight children ("and two more in heaven waiting for us"), concluded his talk by saying, “The Bible tells us that children are a blessing from God. We don't have an overpopulation problem on earth or in heaven, where 'there are many mansions in my father's house.’”
The final speaker was Sassone, the author of Handbook on Population, which addresses 1,204 pro-life issues. He said, “The definition of foreign aid is a system of taking the money from poor people of rich countries and giving it to the rich people in poor countries.”
He also drew the group's attention to several surprising facts. For example, there is no increase in the number of babies being born each year. In a fact sheet he distributed, Sassone noted, “Each year, although the number of women of childbearing age increases by about 15 million, nearly a million fewer babies are being born in the world.”
Sassone, like Mosher, talked about the population decline in Japan and Europe, especially in heavily Catholic Spain and Italy. This has important social and economic implications. In an interview with the Register, Sassone said, “Europe and Japan show us what the rest of the world will be like in 30, 40 years with present trends.”
The panel was joined in the question-and-answer session by CWA's director of legislation, Laurel MacLeod. She said that CWA was looking for ways to be involved in the next United Nations population conference, which is scheduled for June in New York.
The conference is entitled “Cairo Plus Five,” referring to the 1994 United Nations meeting in Egypt which promoted abortion and other initiatives repugnant to pro-life and pro-family supporters. One of the agenda items will be to “try to make abortion a fundamental human right,” MacLeod said.
The CWA was founded in 1979 by Beverly LaHaye. In its public policy initiatives, it promotes a traditional Judeo-Christian approach to public policy issues. Among other speakers at the three-day convention were prospective Republican presidential candidates Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, and Sens. John Ashcroft of Missouri and Bob Smith of New Hampshire.
Joseph Esposito is the Register's Washington Bureau Chief.