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Of sterilization, quotas and the loss of good friends

This issue marks an important and sad milestone for the Population Research Institute. Two of the Institute’s greatest friends and resources over the years, James Arthur Miller and Julian Simon, died this spring. Please be sure to read our reflections and appreciation for each of their lives and contributions. You will find Jim’s on the back page of the issue where he famously labeled so much of the pop control movement’s information as ‘popcorn.’ Institute President Steve Mosher’s comments on the death of his old friend Julian Simon can be found on page 12. This issue is dedicated to the memories of both men, in particular, Jim.

We also offer this issue for the good of Peruvian women, particularly poor mothers. Few understood what a Pandora’s box the Peruvian Congress would open when it decided to legalize sterilization as a means of “family planning” in 1995. Now, as is the ease with everything eventually, the truth is coming to light, and the cost has indeed been high. Coerced sterilization in unsanitary conditions by medical professionals whose primary field is not obstetrics or gynecology has left many women maimed and sick and some families without their mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.

To its credit, the US Agency for International Development withdrew funding from the Peruvian program when, the Agency claims, they understood that the Peruvian government was using a quota system to make its sterilization goals.

But as the picture above indicates and the Review documents on page 10, USAID offers Peruvians little more than crocodile tears. The Agency itself still evaluates family planning programs by the numbers of women using them — essentially adopting a quota approach — and teaches family planning program managers in the developing world to do so as well. The essential attitude behind such programs remains the same. The choice of how many children a couple may bring into the world, or what method they may use to space those births, is still not seen as a primarily private and health-related decision but as a topic in which outsiders, like the US government, have an essential interest. This opens the door to coercion, for as long as program-masters evaluate their charges not on the basis of whether a woman is healthier and happier, but on the basis of whether she has “accepted” a “modern” contraceptive method, pressure, bribes and “incentives” will appeal as a means to the end.

Finally, this issue also marks the decision by the United Nations Population Fund to abandon its tacit support of the horrific one-child policy in China in favor of supporting it openly. The Fund’s claim that their program will moderate the policy — whose severity they have heretofore denied or minimized — can only be compared to the actions of it hypothetical organization which might have offered mattresses to make the box ears to Auschwitz more comfortable. The US government really has no choice but to withdraw in every way from an organization so deeply corrupt as is UNFPA.

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