Should Catholics and other Christians be Supporting an Organization Whose Policies, if not its Programs, are Indistinguishable from those of Planned Parenthood?
Today’s CARE has nothing in common to the food relief organization that was set up by Christians in the wake of World War II. People need to know that instead of CARE packages full of canned goods, the organization now devotes its resources to promoting “Sexual and Reproductive Health” (SRH), which in practice means abortion, sterilization and contraception. The best way to “empower” poor women to get an education, advance economically and reduce maternal mortality, CARE believes, is to disable their fertility.
But don’t take my word for it. As CARE itself says, “Effective programming in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a vital component of CARE’s work to reduce poverty and social injustice. Improving SRH and addressing the unmet need for family planning are central to CARE’s commitment to poverty reduction and gender equity. It is clear that improvements in SRH—and health in general—are linked to economic and social development and must be addressed to achieve sustainable reductions in poverty. CARE is committed to improving access to and use of quality SRH information and services by poor and vulnerable people. CARE is equally committed to addressing the underlying causes of poor SRH status.” http://www.care.org/careswork/whatwedo/health/srh/
As I have written in the pages of the Linacre Quarterly, I take issue with all these claims. While it is true that economic development, higher levels of education, and a general reduction in poverty all work to lower birthrates—the developed world is dying, after all—it is not at all clear that forcing birthrates down will itself jumpstart economic development, reduce poverty, etc. In fact, the best way to reduce maternal mortality is not, as CARE supposes, to put women on the pill, but instead to have trained midwives attend births.
CARE, like IPPF, also stridently opposes the Mexico City Policy, which was put in place to protect Americans from having to fund abortion overseas. Immediately after Obama’s election, the organization came out with an editorial entitled “A Request for President Obama.” This screed opened with a sentence that was both inflammatory and false: “It’s time to get rid of a [Mexico City] policy that kills women around the world.”
The CEO of CARE, Helene Gayle, also joined the radical feminists in testifying before Congress against the Mexico City policy: “In the reproductive health field, many of the best local organizations provide comprehensive family planning services, sometimes including counseling on safe abortion. The Mexico City Policy prohibits organizations like CARE from working with such organizations, and in some cases, prevents us from working with the only organizations that are capable of providing the most basic family planning services. Thus, it diminishes not just the availability of these services but also their quality.”
Just so you know, “comprehensive family planning services” is the code phrase for performing abortions, while “safe abortion” is the code phrase for legalizing abortion. The Mexico City policy saves the lives of countless unborn children by preventing U.S. funds from going to organizations that promote, perform, or lobby for the legalization of abortion.
It is true that, in addition to CARE’s SRH projects, the organization continues to carry out a number of “Development” and “Emergency Relief” projects which provide basic needs, such as food, water and sanitation, to remote areas in poor countries. But even these projects generally have a family planning component. In Guatemala, for example, CARE “operates projects in water and sanitation, agriculture, agroforestry, primary health care, population, girl’s education and small economic activity development.” (Italics added) The “primary health care, population, girl’s education” aspects will all doubtless include a family planning component. CARE Honduras has projects that “include maternal and child health and nutrition, small enterprise development, agroforestry, irrigation, micro-watershed protection and environmental education.” Remember here that CARE prefers to guard “maternal health,” ironically enough, by preventing women from becoming mothers.
But CARE’s glamour projects, which is to say its largest and best-funded initiatives, are those that involve chemically or surgically sterilizing large numbers of women. In 2008, CARE launched their Mothers Matter initiative in Bangladesh and Tanzania. As the campaign expanded, CARE requested “$150 million in funding to support the implementation of MOTHERS MATTER in at least 10 countries,” including Nicaragua, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
In describing the project, CARE claims that “if all women could have access to family planning and obstetric care, maternal mortality and morbidity could be significantly reduced.” While it is certainly true that obstetric care—missing in most developing world villages—dramatically reduces the possibility of dying in childbirth, the same cannot be said of “access to family planning.” CARE confounds the two because it believes that poor women simply have too many children.
Then there is Madagascar, for which more projects are listed than in any other country. Many of these are Development Projects that may or may not have a family planning component. But its flagship project in this country of 20 million people is the Extra Mile Initiative (EMI). This is billed as “one of CARE Madagascar’s largest project zones,” and it is intended to “increase awareness and access to family planning services” in rural areas.
CARE is confident that its promotion of abortifacient contraceptives and population control will succeed, according to one summary, because of the way the “program’s strategies have been integrated into local health systems, communities, and local government.” What this means, in plain English, is that any woman of childbearing age who walks into a local health clinic—for whatever reason—will not leave until she has been propagandized about the need to be on birth control.
The involvement of local government officials in enforcing the policy is troubling as well, although CARE doesn’t seem to think so. The organization brags that “the twist…was to embed the EMI not only in the local health system and the communities it serves, but also in local government, forming a solid triad of implementation and oversight.” Since local government officials are powerful figures in poor countries, it is easy to see why CARE wants them to help convince poor women to go on the pill. After all, they are well-positioned to do any arm-twisting that may be required.
If you know anyone who has been donating to CARE, you might ask them to reconsider. No person of conscience should be supporting an organization that is engaging in this sort of contraceptive imperialism around the world.