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An annotated response to Too Many People—Wall Street Journal


The Dangers of a Crowded Earth

An annotated response to Too Many People

Wall Street Journal
February 25, 1997

Contrary to Steven Mosher's argument ("Too Many People? Not By a Long Shot," editorial page, Feb. 10), burgeoning population is a significant obstacle in establishing economic and political stability in developing countries. World population is currently 5.7 billion, more than double the number since 1957. And it continues to increase by 81 million per year. This is hardly a "birth dearth."

Leaving aside for a moment the entirely unproven assertion that population growth is, in and of itself, an obstacle to political stability in the developing world, Mr. Sanger's declaration that there is no "birth dearth" can only be the result of the most ideologically blinded analysis. Any evaluation of current population control policies must include not only what takes place today but what will likely take place tomorrow, and under our most reliable projections children will only become more rare as time moves on.

So let's not go along with Mr. Mosher's lip service to "improving health and saving the lives of Third World women and children."

Doctor Stephen Karanja, an obstetrician and gynecologist and Secretary of the Kenyan Medical Association, has documented with care and passion the destructive impact population control programs have had on primary health care in his nation. Basic drugs are difficult to obtain while contraceptives flood the country. Women and children die right now from this lack. Further, the US Agency for International Development's own budget reflects an appalling lack of regard for women's health outside their pelvis. Of the $17.8 million USAID has budgeted for Mexico in 1997 – just to take one example – a paltry $500,000 is budgeted for maternal health.

Decreasing women's reproductive health services can be deadly-about 585,000 women die of pregnancy-related causes every year. That's 1,600 women a day, the majority of whom are dying in childbirth. Nearly all these deaths could be prevented if these women had access to a full range of family planning services, including contraceptives, and pre- and postnatal care.

The number of women who are alleged to "die in childbirth" is among the most fraudulent numbers invented by the population control movement. The methodology used to arrive at this figure is akin to taking all every case of severe infection in the United States, including those from which people recover, lumping them all together and claiming they represent an accurate picture of American health. But even if the number were not in dispute, the answer would still not be the "modern" contraception methods favored by the population controllers. Across the developing world women have been promised "protection" from pregnancy by a range of poisonous and dangerous drugs and devices. Some, like the Dalkon Shield, were shipped into the developing world only after it became clear they were killing women in the US.

Mr. Mosher falsely equates family planning with "population control" and concludes that a worldwide decrease in fertility can succeed only through forced sterilization. But independent research shows that the most effective programs are purely voluntary.

If voluntary programs are really so effective one has to wonder why the international population control movement has been so reluctant to use them. The history of the effort to control population is one long pattern of coercion and abuse in which instances of truly voluntary programs have been rare exceptions, not the rule.

Internationally funded family planning addresses an urgent need: the desire by couples to control their fertility. Even with current levels of family planning aid, women in underdeveloped countries experience more than 52 million abortions a year.

The notion that millions of couples in the developing world anxiously desire contraceptives from the developed world is as big a falsehood as the number of women who allegedly die in childbirth mentioned earlier. In fact, the United States and other developed nations spend vast sums marketing these to the developing world. If the desire for such things is these things is so great, why do we have to spend so much convincing people to use them?

Because of growing overpopulation in developing countries-which already suffer from extreme poverty, civil unrest, and crippling debt-nearly one billion new jobs must be created over the next 10 years just to maintain current employment levels. Before worrying about "too few couples buying homes and second cars," perhaps Mr. Mosher could outline a plan to provide these millions of people with clean water and food.

The agenda of the population control programs is clearly not cleaner water and food. If USAID were to devote a greater proportion of its budget to helping develop these things, rather than simply controlling population, some real advances might be made. Instead, USAID focuses an enormous percentage of its spending in developing countries on controlling their populations. Any plan to help developing nations provide their people with clean water and food would first redirect the money spent on population control into more genuinely useful pursuits.

ALEXANDER C. SANGER · President
Planned Parenthood of New York City
and the Margaret Sanger Center International
New York

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