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From the Countries

Family life threatened in Singapore

Singapore’s Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, speaking at a women’s meeting, the PAP Women’s Wing Event, expressed concern with “trends” which “could weaken the family.” These trends, he said, “were growing worse and could have serious implications for the country if left unchecked.”

The prime minister is concerned about the rise in the number of single women aged 35 and older as well as the growing number of single men. Complicating the problem is the disparate education of the two groups. While most single women had secondary or post secondary education, the single men lacked secondary schooling. “There is a serious mismatch in educational qualification,” he noted.

Also, more marriages are ending in divorce, especially among Muslims. The average number of children among married women has dropped from an average of four in 1970 to 2.8 last year. It is a “deeper and more fundamental problem” particularly because women with little or no education have more children than better-educated women (Warren Fernandez, “Worrying trends threaten family life,” Straits Times, 14 June 1993).

U.S. AIDS deaths proliferate

AIDS killed more men between the ages of 25-44 than accidents, homicide, heart disease or cancer in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. In San Francisco 61% of male deaths were caused by AIDS. Women in urban areas have also been affected; AIDs related mortality for women in Newark is 43%.

Dr. Sten Vermund of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warns, “Death rates continue to rise inexorably.” He expects that transmission by teens and young adults “guarantees the continuation” of the epidemic.

A June issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that AIDS has killed 182,275 since 1981. It has caused 17% of U.S. deaths in one year, topped only by accidental death which is rated as 21%. Dr. Richard Selik et al in the CDC report say, “Such premature deaths result in loss of many productive years of life and deprive young children of their parents” (Mike Snider, “AIDS top killer of young adults in 64 cities,” USA Today, 16 June 1993).

Condoms gratis from Flavier

Philippine Health Secretary Juan Flavier is reported to have given out condoms to press people who were traveling to Thailand to cover a state visit by President Ramos. Philippine Senator Francisco Tatad described Flavier’s giveaway as the promotion of “promiscuity and adultery” and called for Flavier’s resignation.

Flavier claimed that he gave the condoms out to cabinet secretaries during a Cabinet meeting shortly after World AIDS Day, not to reporters. Thailand’s Health Minister, Mechai Viravaidya, known as Thailand’s “Condom Man” for his aggressive condom promotion in that country, reacted as obsessively as usual. He sent Flavier a bouquet of flowers made of multi-colored condoms (“Flavier’s Condom War,” Remedios Newsletter, January 1993).

Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin issued a press release in which he claimed, “while the Church exercises compassion towards the AIDs victim, the Church remains firm and uncompromising in her moral teaching, proposing what we believe is objectively correct, whether this is popularly received or not.” Therefore, it is of great importance to uphold the “ideal of chaste love within a stable lasting relationship between man and woman.” Sin considers homosexual activity as immoral “due to the inherent impossibility to procreation.” He also shuns promiscuous sexual activity as unacceptable Christian behavior (Ibid ., “Safe sex program irresponsible and immature says Sin”).

Sayonara Japan!

The Population Problems Research Council of the Mainichi Newspapers have conducted a national survey on Family Planning every other year since 1950. According to the latest survey, 45.7% of the couples interviewed described three children as the ideal number. The total fertility rate was 1.54 in 1990 and 1.53 in 1991. In 1992 it dropped to 1.49.

Japan’s contraceptive rate increased from 52.6% in 1971 to 64.0% in 1992. The condom is reported as the contraceptive used by the majority (75.3%). An increase in the tolerance for induced abortion has accompanied the increase in contraceptive usage. Respondents to the Mainichi questionnaire approved of economic reasons for abortion (72.1 %) as well as for contraceptive failure (49.6%) (Michio Ozaki, “Japanese Couples Opinions,” Integration, June 1993, no. 35).

Nobody knows! …says IPPF

According to the 1993 International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Report many of the world’s 500 million 15-19 year olds are sexually active. Because adults aren’t able to cope with this, family planning program are usually biased toward married couples.

IPPF continues to present young people as lacking information about sex. Further, they maintain that many adults believe giving young people information about sex will promote promiscuity. “But withholding information merely promotes ignorance, with predictable consequences,” the organization insists. In fact, the IPPF annual report said that teen-agers need more information about sex and contraception to halt the distress of unplanned pregnancy and adolescent abortion. Dr. Halfdan Mahler, secretary-general of IPPF said, “Society as a whole has not been very sensitive or responsive to young people.” (“World’s young need more sex information,” Reuter, London, 28 June 1993).

Human ‘vegetative state’ not permanent

“Some patients can regain awareness after more than four months in a vegetative state,” according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal . Within the study, “a retrospective review” was made of the case notes of 43 consecutive patients. The patients had been admitted to a special unit for the “rehabilitation of people in the persistent vegetative state.” Eleven of the patients regained awareness four months or more after suffering brain damage. The elapsed time to the “’first reported incidence of eye tracking was between four months and three years.” The time to the “first response to command was between four and 12 months.” “Only one patient was eventually unable to communicate? Six patients could use “non-verbal methods of indicating at least a yes or no response, and four were able to speak” While six patients remained “totally dependent,” two “became independent in daily activities? “Four patients became independent in feeding, three required help, and four remained on gastrostomy feeding.”

“Although few patients reach full independence, most can achieve an improved quality of life within the limitations of their disabilities. The recovery period is prolonged and may continue for several years. Even patients with profound brain damage should be offered the opportunity of a specialist rehabilitation program” (Keith Andrews, “Recovery of patients after four months or more in a persistent vegetative state,” British Medical Journal 1993 ; vol. 306, 1597-600).

General practitioners as genetic counselors

Cystic fibrosis carrier screening was used at the booking appointment as an integral part of routine antenatal care and as a paradigm for the wider participation of general practitioners in medical genetics. The purpose was to assess the feasibility of genetic counseling in general practice.

Couple testing for cystic fibrosis carrier status was used for the same purpose in the antenatal population attending one general practice and, later, in a further six (outreach) practices also. The setting of the test was a two partner urban training practice (pilot practice) in south Manchester, and six northwest practices (two inner city, three urban, one rural dispensing). The subjects were the “Total practice population of 50,000 (pilot practice plus six outreach practices) with an estimated 500-800 pregnancies per year.

The “outcome measures” were the proportion of carriers of cystic fibrosis “identified, counseled, and appropriately managed” within the first trimester of pregnancy; and “questionnaire and interview measures patient satisfaction and stress.” Eleven carriers of cystic fibrosis were detected including one carrier couple. “The carrier couple, after extensive counseling, elected to have prenatal diagnosis by chorionic villus biopsy. The fetus was homozygous normal.”

It was concluded therefore that “general practitioners can successfully integrate genetic counseling and cystic fibrosis carrier screening into the first antenatal booking appointment.” Once a “carrier couple is identified” by the general practitioner, “clinical geneticists” can be used for the “discussion of reproductive options, and prenatal diagnosis by chorionic villus biopsy can be completed within the first trimester” (Hilary Harris, et al ., “Cystic Fibrosis carrier testing in early pregnancy by general practitioners,” British Medical Journal 1993, vol. 306, 1580-3).

Population aging as a problem

“Aging of the human species” is occurring at an unprecedented rate according a recent report in Scientific American . The report predicts that “by 2050 the number of people 65 years or older will expand to at least 2.5 billion people” about one fifth of the world’s projected population. This age group made up less than 1% of the population in 1900. While some analysts continue to worry about worldwide population growth, “population aging will soon replace growth as the most important phenomenon from a policy standpoint.”

This phenomenon poses “socia1 prob1ems” in the U.S. regarding “the financial integrity of age-based entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, and the funding of health programs.” Such programs assume a “pyramidal age structure,” with the oldest Americans at the narrow top of the pyramid. That structure is becoming “very nearly rectangular” in some industrialized nations, because older citizens are more numerous than some other groups (due to declining fertility) and will spend a longer time in old age (due to medical advances). “Only now,” say the authors, “is society beginning to comprehend what it has set in motion by modifying the natural selection forces that have shaped the evolution of human aging” (“Health in an aging society,” Life at Risk, vol. 3, no. 5. June 1993). [Source: Olshansky, Carnes and Cassel, Scientific American, April 1993, 46-52]

China becomes a threat to Japan

Takeo Fukuda, JOICFP president and former prime minister of Japan addressed a recent joint meeting of the Japanese Organization for Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP). Fukuda referred to a report released by the World Bank in April that foresees a dramatic increase in the gross domestic product of China over the next decade and the emergence of the country as a major economic power. With a large population and a strong economy, China, he said, will have to take a more active role in world affairs and its action will have a large impact on the future of the earth and its people. Commenting on his experiences in China, Fukuda said that he met with Chinese leaders including Jiang Zemin, general secretary, Communist Party Central committee. During discussions with Jiang, Fukuda expressed a hope that China would not follow the pattern of other economic superpowers and become a military giant. He also encouraged Jiang to continue his successful efforts in the population field (“China in the spotlight,” JOICFP News, JULY 1993, 8).

Out with Flynn!

Over 30 population control groups, led by Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), unsuccessfully “implor[ed] President Clinton to reconsider his nomination of Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican,” “Flynn does not reflect the abortion rights policies of the administration,” they insisted. In a statement to the White House, CFFC president Frances Kissling said, “For most diplomatic positions, a person’s view on reproductive rights would not be much of an issue.” This case is exceptional because “the Vatican has a history of influencing public policy globally on issues affecting women and reproductive health,” she concluded.

The groups opposing Flynn’s appointment included the Planned Parenthood of America, the National Black Woman’s Health Project, the National Coalition of American Nuns, the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights and Population Action International (formerly Population Crisis Committee). “Surely the views and statements of the ambassador should not be in direct conflict with U.S. policy and law,” Kissling said. “Americans want and deserve an ambassador who represents U.S. policy to the Vatican. We do not want an ambassador who represents Vatican policy to the United States. That would just continue the policy established by past administrations” (“Family planners oppose choice for Vatican ambassador,” Family Planning World, vol. 3, no. 3, 21).

Mama mia, mama mia, where did all the babies go?

According to the World Health Organization Italy is the only nation showing an annual decline of 1% in population. Although children are the “hardest to find” in the towns of northern Italy, they are “disappearing from top to toe of this boot-shaped nation.”

Giorgio Sciotino, a gynecologist and head of a family-planning clinic in Milan, said that in the past “Sexuality and reproduction have always been managed here.” He recalled childbearing campaigns by Mussolini’s fascists and the use of slogans, such as, “strength in numbers.”

Don Cesare Boga is the priest in charge of St. Bartholomew’s Church, a parish of 50,000 of the most affluent Milanese. “If a husband and wife decide not to have children, they can use contraceptives. The church doesn’t want to lose these people,” he said with a shrug. It is this yawning tolerance which has led to the birth dearth in Italy.

While Italy as a whole has just 9.8 live births per 1,000 population, in Milan there are only seven live births per 1,000 population. Europe averages about 12.8 births per 1,000 population, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States the number is about 16 (Peter Gumbel, “Italy’s birthrate, the world’s lowest, is a vexing anomaly; family planning at the center of Catholicism is a surprise,” WSJ, 18 June 1993).

Too many Philippine people

The Philippine Department of Health has been given $310 million worth of foreign grants for health and population management for the next five years by foreign sources, according to Health Secretary Juan Flavier.

Flavier reported population funds received by the Philippines during a recent two-week trip to the United States and Europe. He said the United States Agency on International Development committed $110 million; United Nations Children’s Fund, $60 million; United Nations Population Fund, $50 million; World Health Organization, $50 million; Germany, $20 million and Holland, $20 million.

Flavier said the grants will be used for information and education campaigns, supplies, research and for supporting non-governmental organizations and local government units in their management and delivery of health services (“DOH gets $310M U.S. aid,” Manila Bulletin, 14 May 1993).

Quinicrine pellets used to sterilize Vietnamese women

A “safe” method of non-surgical sterilization is being used on Vietnamese women. In the past, Quinicrine was used against malaria.

Previously used in the authoritarian Indonesian population program, its use is reminiscent of Nazi German experimentation on women prisoners. In those programs German doctors experimented on women with uterine injections of chemicals.

In Vietnam, the drug was administered to 32,000 women with devices normally used to insert intrauterine devices. The doctors carrying out the program reported, “There were 818 pregnancies after the procedure.” They also reported that: “A review of current research on non-surgical methods suggests that the quinacre-pellet method of non-surgical female sterilization is the only one ready for large- scale use (London, Reuter, 23 July 1993).

The Irish know better

The Irish Democrat recently published a review of “The Five Lessons in Population,” by Professor Francois Dumont, Professor of Demography at the Sorbonne.

Professor Dumont proposes that: “Population statistics are estimates and not certainties.” Further, “In many parts of the world, administrative techniques are much less developed and more liable to error.”

The main reason for population growth in the twentieth century is the decline in mortality rates. Costs for population control efforts amount to several billions of dollars which would be better spent on development, he said.

The postulate of continued population growth is only a postulate which is used to provoke fear instead of being seen for what is: “a laudable sign of progress .…” Dr. Dumont warns against a simplistic approach which buries “these complex realities in a simplistic ideology” (Irish Democrat, 4-10 July 1993).

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