Global Population Control: Not Dead Yet

April 2010By Anne Barbeau Gardiner

Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the 17th century.

Fatal Misconception: The Strug­gle to Control World Population.  By Matthew Connelly. Harvard University Press (Bel­knap). 2521 pages. $35.



The defenders of "choice" often shoot themselves in the foot. In Fatal Misconception, Matthew Con­nelly does just that. He assembles a mountain of evidence in this "first global history of population control," which, rightly interpreted, sup­ports not the Culture of Death but the Culture of Life.

Connelly begins by showing how nineteenth-century Malthusians assessed the children of the poor as a "net liability." Their cold "calculus of human worth" was the first ingredient of population control. The second was eugenics. Given that only upper-class women used birth control, scientists wanted "artificial selection" to compensate for their interference with "natural selection." This led to the exclusion of whole categories of immigrants to the U.S. after 1880, because scientists claimed that social and economic inequality revealed "biological differences." The American Eugenics Society (AES) fretted over growing Catholic communities; according to MIT President Francis Walker, immigrants were "beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence." As such, they were an impediment to "evolutionary progress."

Connelly writes next on compulsory sterilization laws enacted by American states in the 1920s and upheld by the Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell. At a eugenics conference in 1921, Raymond Pearl, of Johns Hopkins University and the National Academy of Sciences, urged scientists to guide "the course of human evolution" by sterilizing the unfit and reducing "the birth rate of the poor." Although the birth-control movement seemed initially to threaten the "survival of the fittest," Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, persuaded the AES in 1927 that she would target "the poor and ethnic minorities" or "biologically worse-endowed stocks."

Soon, birth control for the "unfit" became the basis of eugenics and the third deadly ingredient of population control. Their "common enemy" was the Catholic Church, for Pope Pius XI declared in Casti Connubii (1930) that the family was more sacred than the state and that no government had the right to restrict procreation. American Catholics stood united behind him.

When Sanger visited India in 1936, Mahatma Gandhi warned her that contraception made "sensual pleasure" an "end in itself," that the spiritual life required the control of "animal passions," and that the way to smaller families was through abstinence. Sanger replied fatuously that sex was the "most spiritual" experience and that birth control was the "moral instrument of self-development." After the Nazi atrocities, one would think eugenics was finished; but no, it was promoted at the United Nations more boldly than ever. With sublime illogic, Sanger pointed to the Nazi death camps as proof of the "devaluation of human lives" and the need to sterilize the unfit!

The year 1948 was a crucial one for population control. In Road to Survival, William Vogt urged, on ecological grounds, that cash be offered for sterilizations. He soon became director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Thus, environmentalism became the fourth ingredient of population control. Also in 1948 Sanger organized a conference on "eugenic degeneration and environmental scarcity," at which "world citizenship" was said to involve population control and limits on "individual freedoms," and to have the "authority" of "biological evolution" behind it. That year, Julian Huxley, director of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of creating a world crisis by reducing mortality.

Another crucial year was 1952. That was the year Pope Pius XII declared marriage's primary aim to be procreation, the Church's ban on contraception to be divinely inspired and unchangeable, and abortion to be forbidden even to save the life of the mother. That same year, Catholic doctors joined their national delegations to the World Health Assembly and defeated the plan to use WHO for population control. But in 1952 there was also a secret meeting in Williams­burg, Virginia, which led to John D. Rockefeller III setting up the Population Council. A series of private sessions followed in which representatives of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the UN, pharmaceutical firms, and the Ford and Rockefeller foundations discussed strategies for population control. That year, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Neh­ru presented India's parliament with "the world's first explicit policy of population limitation," and the Rock­e­feller and Ford foundations offered support.

Soon after, Sanger wrote to women's-rights activist Katherine McCormick that a simple, cheap contraceptive was required for "poverty stricken slums, jungles and among the most ignorant people," and furthermore, "immediately there should be national sterilization for certain dysgenic types of our population." McCormick agreed to fund Gregory Pincus, who developed the Pill, and John Rock, the Catholic obstetrician who tested it. The Pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960. Then, in 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut overturned the 1879 ban on birth control on the basis of "a constitutional right to privacy" — a "right" eventually extended to abortion and sodomy. A flood of immorality now began to shake the ramparts of civilization.

Three U.S. presidents played key roles in giving population controllers access to tax money. Dwight D. Eisenhower had Gen. William Draper prepare a report that made population growth in poor countries a "national security issue." John F. Kennedy endorsed foreign aid for population control in April 1963 in reply to a reporter's question planted by Planned Parenthood. That summer, Arkansas Sen. James Fulbright added an amendment to the foreign-aid bill that turned the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) into an instrument of population control. Tax money could now be funneled through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like IPPF and the Population Council into fertility control abroad.

Third came Lyndon B. John­son, who showed no interest in population issues until he read a 1965 report for USAID that convinced him, through a clever manipulation of statistics, that a $4 vasectomy was equivalent to "$1,000 invested in industry or infrastructure." Thereafter, LBJ's "war on poverty" included using food "as leverage" for fertility control. Alan Gutt­macher, head of IPPF, pushed the intra-uterine device (IUD) because nothing was "cheaper" and "the patient cannot change her mind," though the device often led to pelvic infections. J. Robert Will­son, chairman of obstetrics at Temple University, stated that even if many women were infected from IUDs, "perhaps the individual patient is expendable in the general scheme of things, particularly if the infection she acquires is sterilizing but not lethal." Mary Cal­derone, medical director of PPFA, was "thrilled" to hear Willson frame the problem in terms of "mass distribution."

That same year, 1965, Pope Paul VI enlarged his Pontifical Commission on Population, Family and Birth to include a majority of laymen, among whom were members of the "population establishment" who accepted "brutal measures." In 1966 the Pope rejected the Commission's report approved by "an overwhelming majority," and then, with the help of the future Pope John Paul II, wrote his brilliant encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968), for which he'd endure flagrant dissent from hundreds of theologians. Prophetically, Pope Paul VI asked, "Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious?"

The year 1968 was also crucial for population control. The Sierra Club commissioned Paul Ehrlich to write a book on ecology and population growth. The result was the bestselling Population Bomb, in which he predicted that hundreds of millions would soon starve to death unless measures were taken to control the human population — if necessary by "compulsion." Garrett Hardin also defended compulsion that year in his essay "Tragedy of the Commons." Bernard Berelson of the Population Council went further, demanding research on a "mass involuntary method" of sterilization through water or air, reversible for individuals, while the director of Zero Population Growth (ZPG) proposed "compulsory sterilization" for parents of five or more. Many U.S. state assemblies had bills introduced for the "mandatory sterilization" of recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Richard Nixon, elected president in 1968, agreed that population growth made some freedoms "untenable" and that population control was a top priority in welfare and foreign-aid programs.

Thus, by the end of the 1960s, the U.S. was so deeply immersed in the Culture of Death that "establishment figures" could debate whether "compulsion or broader social changes," like "gender equality" and homosexuality, would best curb population growth. The Population Council then commissioned Disney to create a film in twenty-four languages called Family Planning to make viewers ashamed of having large families, and Judith Blake demanded sexual "indoctrination" in schools and the repeal of laws against homosexuality. And look at all the fakery: Population controllers pretended concern for women's health in public, but privately admitted that "improving the health of the mothers" was a means, not an end. In 1973 Robert McNamara, head of the World Bank, expressed reluctance to finance health care not "strictly" tied to population control, and Reimert Ravenholt, head of USAID's Office of Population, stopped funding the Pan American Health Organization because of its "unduly large emphasis" on health in family-planning programs.

Abortion — the "silent partner" of the IUD and the Pill — now became another lethal ingredient of population control. After 1967 it spread so fast that by 1978 only twenty percent of the world's people lived in places where there were laws against it. PPFA soon demanded public money to fund abortion because aborting poor children saved millions of dollars in welfare. Ravenholt argued that abortion for the poor was fitting because "they lacked the foresight to use birth control," and the head of research at PPFA hailed sex-determination by ultrasound because now even the "poorest" would pay for sex-selective abortions. Meanwhile, Catholics were divided: Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York campaigned to make abortion illegal, while Cincinnati Archbishop Joseph Bernardin worked to keep Catholic efforts against abortion "decentralized." Senior bishops wanted to endorse Gerald Ford in 1976, while younger bishops "protested against making abortion their only issue." Instead of spearheading the struggle, the bishops asked the laity "to take the lead" on abortion.

Strange to say, Connelly believes that the population-control movement met its "Waterloo" at the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest. After this, he claims, the Ford foundation and the IPPF changed course and began working to improve the "status of women." Sure, the rhetoric changed, but not the goal. Take the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) — an agency not accountable to member nations, though it acts in their name. UNFPA was created, Connelly says, because there was no desire to reopen "the debate over population control before all the UN governing bodies." This was pure stealth. USAID money could now be funneled through UNFPA to NGOs like IPPF into population-control programs. A tiny club of twenty-four unelected leaders coordinated the strategy in regular private meetings at the Rockefeller estate on Lake Co­mo in Italy. They helped create the horrific 1976 Emergency Period in India, when over eight million were sterilized in one year. Connelly recounts in detail how Prime Minister Indira Gandhi invoked emergency powers and imposed a compulsory program, while foreign donors looked on and "increased their support."

The UNFPA also helped initiate China's one-child program with grants to train and equip those who carried it out. As the UNFPA and IPPF stepped up support, China's program became ever more "coercive," with seven million sterilizations in 1979, and twenty million by 1983.

Connelly concludes by celebrating the "emancipation of women," declaring the alliance of feminists and environmentalists to be "a new, more enlightened consensus," and hailing abortion "rights" as "the last line in women's defense of their bodily autonomy." Incredibly, these statements come from one who is the youngest of eight children of Catholic parents. He does not understand the evidence he himself has assembled in this book. For example, at the 1985 UN World Conference on Women in Nairobi, and at the 1994 UN Population Conference in Cairo, women demanding "reproductive rights" were led by the director of the nefarious UNFPA, an organization deeply engaged in population control.

It is utterly naïve of Connelly to imagine that global population control is dead. Gender equality is its spawn. The regular reports of Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), American Life League (ALL), Stop Planned Parenthood (STOPP), and the other great prolife organizations demonstrate plainly that the demand for the "rights" of women, homosexuals, animals, trees, and what-not is a front for the same goal — regulating human breeding as if we were stockyard animals, without regard for our dignity, free will, and lofty stature as the only creatures here below made in the image of God.



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Thank you for this book review. Barbeau Gardiner's insight is very useful for pro-life activists. I learned a great deal from the history/timeline of population control. Posted by: Debbie
April 27, 2010 01:25 PM EDT
Great article, and full of information that by and large gets buried in modern day press accounts and academia. I studied Demography in graduate school (the study of population growth, movements, etc) and nary a word about the motives behind the rhetoric. Thanks a buddle!!! Posted by: truthseeker
April 26, 2011 02:38 PM EDT
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