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Abortion Doubters at the Washington Post?

October 27, 2005

Volume 7 / Number 40

Steven W. Mosher


Abortion Doubters at Washington Post?

To be precise, Ms. Sauerbrey is under fire for supporting Mr. Bush’s priorities at the United Nations, where the former Maryland legislator and gubernatorial candidate has spent four years as U.S. envoy to the Commission on the Status of Women. Among her alleged sins is that she supports the Administration’s decision to withhold $34 million from the U.N. Population Fund because some of the agency’s contributions go to China’s appalling forced-abortion policy.

The Population Fund is one of the principal cheerleaders of China’s one-child policy, which has been enforced through fines, imprisonment, forced abortion, sterilizations and even, human-rights groups charge, infanticide. Several weeks ago Mr. Bush invoked a 20-year-old policy–known as the Kemp-Kasten Amendment–which prohibits federal funding of "any organization or program which supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization."

One would think that women’s organizations would applaud this decision–and the appointment of an American woman who champions it. Mandatory limitations on family size and involuntary sterilizations hardly represent "reproductive freedom" or "a woman’s right to choose." Instead, groups such as Planned Parenthood have protested that Mr. Bush is denying women access to reproductive health and family planning services. Planned Parenthood is also attacking Ms. Sauerbrey.

China insists that coercion is a thing of the past. But the senior China specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau told Congress in December that, "The evidence is clear that the one-child policy is still basic national policy, that it remains coercive and violative of human rights." Amnesty International continues to document abortions, sterilizations and infanticide inside rural hospitals. China also uses fines and "social compensation" penalties of up to four years of salary to punish one-child violators. There are an estimated 40 million girls demographically missing in China as a result of its one-child policy. The Population Research Institute reports that the sex ratio of 117 boys to 100 girls is so out of balance that the Chinese government has initiated emergency programs to teach parents about the value of girls.

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) has introduced legislation to release taxpayer funds for the Population Fund and give recipients a blank check on how to spend it. But it is Ms. Maloney and her allies who should be forced to defend the Population Fund’s practices, especially its support for China’s birth-control policy. The Fund has publicly praised the one-child policy as "the most successful family planning (sic) policy ever developed," and it once gave the Chinese government an award for the "effectiveness" of its population control.

American elites share the blame for this and other coercive population programs by instructing foreign leaders with the false Malthusian premise that people constrain economic progress. The notion of a "population bomb," so universally accepted in the 1960s and 1970s, has been thoroughly discredited.

The birth rate in developing countries like Mexico and India has plummeted to just over three children per couple today from about six in 1950. The major explanation for smaller family sizes, longer life expectancy, income gains and improved health and nutrition has been economic growth, not condom distribution or lower birth rates. Population stabilization is not a cause, but rather a consequence, of growth and prosperity. The Reagan Administration had it right when it first stopped financing the Population Fund and declared that "capitalism is by far the best contraceptive."

As for Ms. Sauerbrey, her opponents’ claims that she is a "crony" (for having run Mr. Bush’s 2000 election campaign in Maryland) and "unqualified" are a smokescreen for their real gripe about the Bush Administration’s decision to withhold money from the Population Fund. California Democrat Barbara Boxer recently managed to get a vote on Ms. Sauerbrey delayed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where pro-choice Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is being lobbied hard to vote against her. The principle that is most at stake here is personal freedom. We have seen in China the debasement of human dignity on a grand scale when population control is imposed by an authoritarian regime. Mr. Bush deserves credit for refusing to coerce American taxpayers into paying for it, and Ms. Sauerbrey deserves to be confirmed.

Joseph D’Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute

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