Rejecting the Inundation of Contraception Money
In the past year I have travelled to Zimbabwe and Uganda. In both African countries, I was stunned by the pervasiveness of pro-contraception propaganda. I traveled over 1200 miles across Uganda. Everywhere I went I encountered huge billboards stoking fear about the consequences of unintended pregnancy and pushing all manner of contraceptive devices, injectables, and pills. As I wrote earlier this year, the streets surrounding the Ugandan parliament are filled with advertisements supporting population control and pushing contraceptives, while even the remotest villages are not free from these propaganda billboards.
And it’s not just billboards: the population controllers also fill the radio and television airwaves with contraception ads. These ads are so pervasive it’s impossible to avoid them. Such aggressive population control propaganda would be disturbing enough if it was funded by the country’s own government. After all, this saturation of the public space with ads is clearly less about offering citizens the freedom to use contraception if they wish, than it is about psychological coercion in pursuit of someone else’s agenda.
In many cases that “someone else” turns out not to be the country’s own government or local health care agencies or non-profits, but an array of uber-wealthy international governmental agencies and NGOs. But what makes it even worse is that not only are these campaigns funded by foreign powers, but these same powers often offer other forms of legitimate aid on condition that developing countries push contraception on their populace.
In his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, St. Pope John Paul II strongly condemned such practices. He wrote:
… it is very alarming to see governments in many countries launching systematic campaigns against birth, contrary not only to the cultural and religious identity of the countries themselves but also contrary to the nature of true development. It often happens that these campaigns are the result of pressure and financing coming from abroad, and in some cases they are made a condition for the granting of financial and economic aid and assistance. In any event, there is an absolute lack of respect for the freedom of choice of the parties involved, men and women often subjected to intolerable pressures, including economic ones, in order to force them to submit to this new form of oppression. It is the poorest populations which suffer such mistreatment, and this sometimes leads to a tendency towards a form of racism, or the promotion of certain equally racist forms of eugenics.
This fact too, which deserves the most forceful condemnation, is a sign of an erroneous and perverse idea of true human development [¶25].
President John Magufuli: “Enough Is Enough!”
Unfortunately, one of the worst culprits in this modern form of racist eugenics is the United States government, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars on population control every year through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Many of the billboards that I saw in Uganda, for instance, were funded by USAID.
USAID does not hide the fact that it uses financial pressure to convince developing countries to push population control. In a 2010 document, for instance, the aid agency detailed at length its performance based incentive (PBI) program. As Lisa Correnti of C-Fam (Center for Family and Human Rights) summarized at the time: “USAID’s PBI for family planning offers cash incentives for new and continued use of modern contraceptives and establishes targets.” Or, in USAID’s own Orwellian words, in some cases, “funding from donors to countries is partly conditioned on FP [family planning] results…”
Think about that for a second: USAID is openly stating that it will only help developing countries if they implement population control measures. “We’ll help you, but only if you make sure there’s less of you to help.” How insidious!
In many cases leaders of developing countries are so desperate (or, alas, corrupt), that they will agree to anything in exchange for access to Western wealth. Recently, however, the president of one African nation seems to have had enough of USAID’s paternalistic “aid.”
In early September, Tanzania’s Catholic President, John Magufuli, made remarks encouraging women to have more children, and disputed the claim that wealth is simply a consequence of reducing fertility. Indeed, he observed, there is a risk that by embracing contraception Tanzania might follow the path of aging Western nations. “I have travelled to Europe and elsewhere and have seen the harmful effects of birth control,” he said. “Some countries are now facing declining population growth.”
Then, shortly thereafter, at the end of September, the Tanzanian government ordered a U.S.-based group which receives enormous amounts of funding from USAID to cease their family planning advertisements. In a September 19 letter issued by the Tanzanian Minister of Gender and Health to FHI360 (Family Health International), the ministry said that it “intends to revise the contents of all your ongoing radio and TV spots for family planning, thus I request you to stop with immediate effect airing and publishing any family planning contents in any media channels until further notice.”
President Magufuli is to be commended for his courage in standing up to the international population control juggernaut.
Emil Hagamu, HLI’s Regional Director for English-speaking Africa, who lives in Tanzania, tells me that not only is Magufuli – who was himself born into a large Catholic family – courageously resisting coercive population control, but that he is actively targeting the true causes of poverty in his country. In particular, he noted, he is proactively curtailing wasteful government pending and combating corruption.
“He has built a strong reputation internationally – as a strong person against corruption and a crusader for people-centered development,” he noted. Furthermore, “He is a defender of Tanzanian moral and cultural values, especially in areas of human sexuality and human relationships.” “He hates seeing women suffering from contraception and he hates the conspiracy that lies behind promotion of contraception and abortion,” noted Emil. “He has discovered that contraception does not make people rich, rather it makes them even poorer.”
As I noted after visiting Zimbabwe, despite decades of aggressive population control measures in that country, poverty is still endemic: large poor families have simply become small poor families. The reason, in large part, is the pervasive government corruption. What Zimbabwe and other developing nations need are not more contraception, but authentic economic development through education, economic investment, and political reform. Rather than investing in these, agencies such as USAID continue to pour billions of dollars into population control measures that the recipient countries never asked for.
We hope that other African leaders will follow Magufuli’s lead. There is a need for the leaders of developing countries to band together to resist coercive aid programs, raising awareness about the way such programs violate their values and attack the dignity of their people, while failing to do anything to address the root causes of poverty.
USAID: A National Embarrassment
On the other hand, it should not be left entirely up to developing nations to fight coercive population control. After all, it is we who are funding these programs with our tax dollars and electing the politicians who develop and support these programs.
As C-Fam reports, in 2017, FHI360 – the organization running the contraception ads in Tanzania – received over $700 million in funding from the U.S. government. USAID, however, is only one of the many agencies and NGOs pushing population control that receive enormous sums of money from the U.S. government.
Stopping this injustice is one issue that I hope U.S. voters will keep in mind when they go to the polls for the mid-term elections on Tuesday. We sometimes forget that elections have consequences that extend far beyond our borders. One of the first things that President Trump did after he was in office, for instance, was to reinstitute the Mexico City Policy, which bans U.S. funding of organizations that push or perform abortions overseas. The Trump administration also reinstated a ban on funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one of the world’s most extreme population control organizations, which has been implicated in supporting forced abortion and sterilization in China and India.
This is a good start. But it’s not enough. For starters, it doesn’t address the vast structures of soft coercion built into so much of USAIDs so-called “family planning efforts.” Just because so-called “family planning” programs don’t directly kill foreign children through abortion scarcely means that they are worthy of our support. Various forms of soft coercion based upon faulty models of human development, outdated population hysteria, and an often barely-concealed racism, are built into the very structures of U.S. foreign aid.
If you have any doubts about what I just said, I urge you to spend a few minutes researching the so-called NSSM200 memo – a top-secret (but since-declassified) memo issued in the Nixon administration at the direction of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I guarantee that it will open your eyes. That memo described the reasons the U.S. government should support population control overseas. One of the most revealing paragraphs reads: “The US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. That fact gives the US enhanced interest in the political, economic and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to economic interests of the United States.”
That memo has never been abrogated, and its spirit haunts our government’s foreign aid programs to this day. We Americans should be ashamed that billions of dollars of our taxes have gone, not to providing the necessities of life or promoting authentic economic development, but to curtailing foreign populations out of a concern for our own interests, and without regard for the desires and values of the people in the nations we are supposedly helping.
As I mentioned last week, while population control supporters frequently cite statistics showing a vast “unmet need” for contraception in developing nations, they ignore data showing that many of those women classified as having an unmet need do not want to use contraception. African values differ from our own. It is not our job to tell African women that they should want what we want, particularly when what they want is so good and beautiful – i.e. large, vibrant families.
Meanwhile, critics of President Magufuli have responded by pointing to the prevalence of poverty in Tanzania, arguing that his remarks condemn women with large families to deeper poverty. This argument, however, is based upon the false dichotomy I noted above: one need not choose either fertility or a healthy economy. Indeed, as Western nations are quickly realizing, fertility is necessary for economic well-being, given that people are the single most valuable resource of any successful economy.
What we should be asking ourselves is, firstly, whether the vast resources poured into contraception propaganda is at all proportionate to the demand in the developing nations where our agencies operate, and secondly, whether those billions of dollars couldn’t be better spent on things like providing clean water, safe roads, better security, better agricultural equipment, and education. If population control proponents did manage to put aside their blind ideological convictions for just a moment, they might see that ending poverty and having children are not in opposition, but rather are two sides of the same coin. Furthermore, they might awaken to the racist mentality involved in affluent Western countries dictating how many children couples in developing countries should have.
Magufuli’s actions have shown us that resistance is possible. Let’s do our part to support Magufuli and other leaders of developing nations by quizzing our political candidates on where they stand on coercive population control, and only vote for those leaders who are willing to begin reforming our broken foreign aid system.