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From the Countries

Shave, haircut condom, vasectomy …?

The Dominican Republic Family Planning Association (Adoplafam), in cooperation with the U.N. Population Fund, began a project in 1991 to increase men’s awareness of responsible fatherhood and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Adoplafam trained 140 barbers to serve as resource persons. The barbers received specially prepared materials on family planning. vasectomy, STDs and AIDS, and their barbershops have become condom distribution and information centers for their customers. The barbershops also serve as referral points to health centers.

Local physicians in the barbers’ districts received refresher courses in family planning and STDs/AIDS to prepare them for the requests for information and services. Members of 100 different community organizations were also trained to act as resource persons.

According to Adoplafam, one measure of the project’s impact has been “a significant increase in the demand for condoms.”

(Popline, Population Institute, July-August, p. 3.)

Infertility in Bangladesh:

More than 3 million couples in Bangladesh, about 15 percent of the country’s couples, are unable to conceive and bear a child, according to statements made by physicians at a “population ceremony” reported by the United News of Bangladesh. The ceremony was organized by the Bangladesh Fertility Society, which publishes the Bangladesh Journal of Infertility and Sterility .

Among the reasons cited to account for the infertility were a sharp rise in sexually transmitted diseases, indiscriminate use of family planning methods, septic abortion and septic delivery. Childlessness was said to be the prime cause of familial unrest, such as polygamy, divorce and suicide.

(“15 pc couple infertile,” The Morning Sun, Dhaka, 29 March, p.3.)

Vietnam wars against births:

A recent article in The Sun (Baltimore, MD), claims that Vietnam’s government is learning that the country’s future prosperity depends upon “family planning.”

The article states that Vietnamese women “have an average of 3.8 children each — the highest fertility rate in the region.” For Thailand the figure is 2.9 children, while in China, “which has gone so far as to monitor women’s menstrual cycles and to insist on abortions,” the fertility rate is 2 [Ed. note: actually 1.8]. The high fertility rate in Vietnam “ensures that even if new family planning programs prove successful, the population will continue to grow for at least another 50 years.”

(Ian Johnson, “Vietnam’s new war is against birth rate,” The Sun, Baltimore, MD USA, 6 September, p. A5.)

Vietnam’s two-child policy:

‘“China’s rigorous laws on birth control look surprisingly tame compared with some of Vietnam ‘s regulations which deny the third child a birth certificate and offer a reward of $20 to women who have a hysterectomy.”

“Punishment for having a third child exists across Vietnam, but it appears the policy, in its 10th year, is most strict among the poorer echelons of society where families are denied land to grow rice and fined 10 months’ income — $80?

“The most popular form of contraception in the villages is hysterectomies, which approximately half of all women undergo after their second child.”

(“Two-child policy hits Vietnam’s peasants,” The Weekend Australian, 2-3 September, p. 14.)

The Pill fells Irish women:

Ireland’s Drug Advisory Board (NDAB) has launched an investigation into the safety of the new low-dose contraceptive Pills following reports of young healthy women in Britain and Germany who died while using them.

A Grenada Television World in Action report aired in July cited studies that claimed women on Femodene and other pills containing the hormone “gestodene” were up to six times more likely to suffer fatal blood clots in the lung.

The most recent death, according to an inquest in England, was that of a 16-year-old who was fit and healthy until she died of a blood clot a month after going on the Pill. At least 24 clot victims and their parents are planning legal action against Schering, the maker of Femodene. Dr. Mary Deeling of the NDAB stated that the “board is aware of S6 voluntarily reported cases of thrombo-embolic events, including clots, in Irish women on the Pill.”

(“Eighty-six Irish women have reported serious effects from Pill,” The Irish Family News, 4 August.)

India’s fertility declines sharply:

“A dramatic decline in birth rates — largely unheralded — is taking place in India, the world’s second most populous country. Women in India are now averaging below four children [per reproductive lifetime], down from over five children in l970. The total fertility rate (TFR, or average lifetime births per woman) has been falling for two decades, from more than 5.3 children per woman in l970 to 3.6 children in 1992, according to national statistics.

“Recently released estimates from India’s National Fertility and Health Survey suggest that even deeper declines — to 3.4 children per woman — may have occurred.”

(“India’s fertility declines, but it still leads world in population growth,” Population Today, Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC, October, p. l.)

Mexican “family planning” by force:

While Mexico has been lauded internationally for halving its annual population growth over the past two decades, the methods utilized to achieve that “success” are often little better than those visited upon the women of China or Vietnam. Consider these facts:

  • A woman, “in labor with her fifth child,” was turned away at a “government clinic in her village in Oaxaca state because she refused to be sterilized.” When she returned to have her sixth baby she was anesthetized and awoke to discover that “the doctors had performed a sterilization procedure [tubal ligation]” upon her.

  • In an attempt to meet government goals to reduce births — Mexico in 1974 became the first Latin American country to pass a national population law — “doctors regularly pressure women — frequently during labor — to accept IUDs or sterilization.”

  • In fact, “doctors routinely insert IUDs and perform unnecessary cesareans and sterilizations without patients’ consent . The poorer and less educated the woman the more likely medical personnel will impose birth control upon her” (emphasis added).

  • Although Mexican officials deny the coercive policies and say cases of abuse are few and isolated, doctors in public clinics have admitted that they are instructed to “convince” women to accept a birth control method. While the doctors claim that they do not place “undue pressure” on their patients, such pressure “has been documented for some time [and] has become particularly intense since a national postpartum program was launched in June 199l.”

  • According to patients and medical personnel, “from the moment a woman in labor enters a government-affiliated facility, she is bombarded with questions about which method she wants — ‘temporary’ (an IUD) or ‘definitive’ (sterilization)? Critics cite a Ministry of Health directive which requires that “Women with two children must leave [the government clinic] with an IUD; those with more should be sterilized.” (The ministry denies that such a directive has ever been issued.)

  • The “reproductive health coordinator” for the state of Oaxaca has admitted that his office “must submit monthly reports showing that at least 70 percent of women who give birth in [government] facilities leave with a contraceptive method.” The doctor in question has stated that “We have the right as medical professionals to try to convince [the woman] to take a [birth control] method.”

  • At a rural government clinic in Oaxaca, a nurse “proudly displayed a recent month’s record for women who came for child-birth: 94.6 percent left ‘covered,’ she said. Of 113 women who gave birth, 80 left with IUDs, and 24 had tubal ligations.” (Note: the correct percentage would appear to be 92 percent.)

The effectiveness of the Mexican government’s birth control “persuasion” is well illustrated by these facts: “Forty-five percent of Mexican women using birth control today are sterilized, and another 20 percent have IUDs. Twenty years ago only 9 percent were sterilized? Alicia Perez-Duarte, a Mexico City magistrate who has investigated the Mexican family planning program, said: “The government says the woman has to ask for [birth control], but instead she has to refuse it, This has been the only way to reach the numerical targets. It is imposed. It is not an agreement with the people.” (“Family planning by force,” San Francisco Chronicle, 3 September pp. 1-2.)

Some people still don’t get the message:

A recent report from the All-China Women’s Federation, based on 1990 surveys, disclosed that “more than half the young women in China’s cities want two children.” (The official Chinese policy calls for single-child families and it is enforced via abortion and sterilization.)

According to the Women’s Federation, in l990 “60.2 percent of women aged 25 to 29 wanted two children …” (Reuter, Beijing, 5 September, 1995.)

Abortion main means of Russian birth control:

Some three million abortions were performed during 1994 in Russia where “termination” remains the main method of birth control, according to academician Vladimir Kulakov. The Itar-Tass news agency quoted Kulakov as telling a national conference on family planning that “Artificial termination of pregnancy remains, as before, the only method of regulating the birth rate in Russia.”

According to Kulakov, the high number of abortions has “led to a decline in women’s reproductive health, high mortality in childbirth, worsening health among new born children, and infertility.” (Reuter, Moscow, 4 October.)

Peru OKs sterilization for birth control:

Despite vehement opposition from Peru’s Roman Catholic Church, Peru’s national Congress voted to legalize male and female sterilization as a birth control method. On 8 September, the lawmakers, after a lengthy debate lasting a day and a half, voted 70 to 23 to change Peru’s laws to allow vasectomies for men and ligatures for women. Previously, Peruvian law had barred sterilization, along with abortion, as a birth control method.

The move had been proposed by President Alberto Fujimori, who has openly sparred with Church leaders since he announced in his 28 July inaugural address that his administration would work to make birth control available to all Peruvians.

A week later in Beijing, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, President Fujimori assailed the Catholic Church for opposing his birth control initiatives. Fujimori, an allegedly “practicing” Catholic, told the closing session of the conference that the Church was “trying to prevent the Peruvian state from carrying out a modern and rational policy of family planning.” (“Peru Congress OKs sterilization as birth control,” Reuter, Lima, 8 September, “Peru’s Fujimori attacks Vatican stand on women,” Reuter, 15 September.)

Male preference warps China’s demographics:

A traditional preference for male children is warping demographics in China and has led to “baby girls being dumped in riverbeds and whole villages of bachelors rue[ing] a dearth of eligible women.” Female infanticide, which fell sharply after the communist takeover in 1949, has roared back in legalized abortion. Medical technology makes it easy for women to discover the sex of their unborn babies, and fully “97.5 percent of abortions in China are performed on female fetuses,” according to the official news- paper Books and Newspaper Digest . Another paper, the China Youth Daily, in a report on female infanticide, published dramatic photographs of the corpses of young girls, one still in a cradle, that had washed up on river banks. The phenomenon of female infanticide has returned to China with a vengeance since the late 1970s when the government, with the country’s population headed towards one billion, banned most couples from having more than one child. The introduction of ultrasound machines in China in 1979 also allowed millions to abort fetuses known to be female, thus helping to ensure that many couples’ one child allowed would be a boy. As a result, China’s sex ratio at birth is now 118.5 males for every 100 females, the highest such ratio in the world. The normal ratio, a well-established medical fact, is 106 males born per 100 females. (“Fancy for boys warps China demographics,” Reuter, Beijing, 19 January.)

USAID targets Honduras population:

Honduran church and government leaders are outraged at recent United States suggestions that limits are needed on the size of families in that country.

The idea of limiting couples to just two children came in a document prepared by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and was condemned as “demographic terrorism” by the Roman Catholic Church in Honduras.

The document, entitled “Honduras Today and Tomorrow,” noted that the country’s population had risen from 1.2 to 4.4 mil- lion people between 1945 and 1988, with estimates for 1995 of 5.5 million. According to USAID, if this growth rate continued, Honduras would have a population of some 14.6 million people by 2025, a situation which was termed “dangerous.” USAID concluded that if Honduras could develop an effective birth control program, it would provide a boost for economic development.

The President of the Latin American Episcopal Council, church leader Oscar Andres Rogriguez, accused USAID of “promot[ing] a {form of] imperialism irrespective of the dignity and sovereignty of a people.” Honduran President Carlos Roberto Reina emphatically declared that “The answer to the [alleged] population explosion must not be the suppression of life in the bellies of mothers. It is the family’s decision how many children they want to have.” U.S. diplomats moved to defuse the situation saying it was not the intention of USAID to promote the idea of “drastic birth control.” (“Honduras population: USAID supports family planning,” IPS, Tegucigalpa, 7 September.)

United States: Births down, deaths up:

Births in the United States fell below four million for the first time in the l990’s as more daughters of the “baby boom” generation joined their mothers in reaching ages beyond the prime of childbearing years. At the same time, the nation’s deaths hit a record high.

The 3,949,000 births estimated for 1994,1 a figure 2.2 percent lower than 1993, marked the first time since 1988 that the number of births had been below four million. Births had jumped as the daughters of the post-World War II baby boomers entered their childbearing years and produced an “echo effect.” Now, many of those women have moved into the 30-44 age group, still of childbearing age but a population segment less likely to have babies.

As of January 1995, there were just over 27 million women age 15 to 29, down nearly 1.7 million from the 1990 census. At the same time, women between 30 and 44 had increased by more than 2.4 million to 32.3 million.

Meanwhile 1994 recorded 2,294,000 deaths, the most for any year in U.S. history. The increase in the numbers of deaths was a direct result of the increasing numbers of elderly in the population, a trend which will continue to grow. Accordingly, the numbers of U.S. deaths will also continue to rise annually. Although the United States current excess of births over deaths is slightly over 1.7 million, the spread has narrowed by more than 300,000 in the four years since 1990. This is a stark indication of the nation’s march to zero population growth when the numbers of births and deaths will be equal. (“Decline of births linked to boomers, Aging populace sets death record,” The Washington Times, 1 August, p. A3. The article’s statistics were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1995 Population Profile of the United States.)

“Comply or have your home blown up”:

The isolated village of Tongmuchong (China), located in southern Hunan province, was finally visited in April by several of China’s “family planning” officials.

Although the villagers had heard about China’s “one child per family” policy, they had ignored it and somehow the 10 families, scarcely 60 people in all, who had inhabited the village’s dilapidated cluster of shacks had slipped through the cracks of China’s population control system.

Now that the village had been “found,” the oversight was quickly addressed: the women were “lined up” and the “four who had the most children and who were still of childbearing age” were ordered to “report for sterilization? If they refused to go, they were told their “houses would be blown up.”

According to Mr. Duan, the village chief, “The official in charge of family planning said all women must have the operations or else they would use a bomb to blow up our houses. What choice did we have?”

And thus it was that another four Chinese women “voluntarily” chose to be sterilized. (“China planners catch up with wild people,” International Herald Tribune, 26 June, p.2.)

1 The National Center for Health Statistics (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) estimated that the number of births in 1994 was 3, 979,000 (Monthly Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 43 No. 12, 13 June, p.1.)) The NCHS figure is probably the more accurate of the two.

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