The Institute for Development Training seems to believe women should be sterilized, chemically if necessary, in the name of Christ.
Incorporated in North Carolina in 1981, IDT has become the latest group to push quinacrine hydrochloride as a method of sterilizing women. This controversial procedure uses a uterine device (IUD) applicator to insert quinacrine pellets into a woman’s uterus, as close to her fallopian tubes as possible. The pellets then dissolve into quinacrine hydro- chloride, a strong acid, which chemically burns both the uterus and fallopian tubes, scarring them and, promoters hope, eventually sterilizing the women through tubule occlusion.
Quinacrine’s controversial nature arises from the lack of long-term studies affirming its suitability as a sterilizing agent, difficulties with proving its efficacy (researchers have found that the tubes, particularly of younger women, sometimes partially heal or “grow around” the block- age), and its potential for abuse at the hands population control zealots.1
These concerns in particular, along with the fact that the World Health Organization has condemned its use as a sterilizing agent, have women’s groups in India and Bangladesh strongly objecting to its being used in their countries (See “Quinacrine in India,” From the Countries, page 14 of this issue.)
However, none of these concerns seeing to matter much to the Institute, which has produced pamphlets and even “video training manuals” on quinacrine sterilization aimed at both women and “family planning service providers.” Some of these materials were available for view at a recent annual meeting of the National Conference on international Health. None of them, even those clearly targeting women, discussed the WHO ban, the possibilities of serious. adverse, long-term side effects or the act that women’s groups in India and other nations have strongly protested the use of this drug.
A Christian connection?
Although promoting quinacrine in itself makes IDT an oddball even among the population controllers, it is the Christian mask that the organization chooses to present which makes the group unique.
For example, it is probably unlikely that any other population control group has an ordained minister and missionary as its executive director. (Reverend Charles Ausherman is affiliated with the Reform Church in America). IDT, according to its annual report for 1996, “is the only international health organization in the United States which focuses especially on working ecumenically with Christian health networks.”2
This approach devolves into two strategic objectives. First, to take advantage of its “’strong connections” to a (in all likelihood unwitting) “network of Christian hospitals and health programs throughout the developing world.”3 Second, to develop long-term training materials on all different population control methods which “’local health professionals” can then tailor to their own populations and circumstances. “In most cases,” IDT reports, “Christian health associations are the lead partners” in IDT’s efforts in the developing world. “although other NGO’s and governments have been involved as well.”4
So what has IDT been doing lately? According to the 1995-1996 annual report, the organization has been working to establish something called the “Religious Association tor Health Protection” in the former Soviet Union. This project’s concept, IDT says, came about during a consultation with one Father Ian, a “special envoy for Patriarch Alexis II” on a visit to IDT. In China, IDT has been involved in helping to further and facilitate the regime’s brutal one-child policy by producing training videos promoting a Chinese doctor’s non-surgical vasectomy method, while Spanish language translations of the organization’s quinacrine materials are being prepared for introduction at a conference in Peru this year. If IDT succeeds in its goals, Christian health providers around the world could wake up to find that they no-longer exist to promote their patients holistic health but instead have been co-opted into someone else’s population control agenda.
All this, of course, could be seen in merely a lamentable light if IDT were a bit less willing to obfuscate on certain key points and to allege conspiracy when challenged.
In its pamphlet “Quinacrine Sterilization: non-surgical, permanent birth control for women,” for example, IDT answers the question “are there serious side-effects of QS’?” with “yes, but they are rare,” thus avoiding the body of research which considers quinacrine in the reproductive tissues to cause mutations and, perhaps, cancer.
Under a list of advantages IDT includes the fact that quinacrine sterilization “can be provided by many types of trained health care workers.” While, under the list of disadvantages, IDT admits, “QS is still a new method. There may be risks which are not yet known.”5
Although Charles Ausherman, IDT’s executive director, insists that the brochure is intended only for “health providers” the continual use of the personal “I” and “you” throughout the brochure, such as in the question “when can I have a QS” cast grave doubts upon that assertion.
Further problems arise when one examines the members of IDT’s Board of Directors. Of the 18 listed board members, only three are explicitly associated with Christian organizations, while three others are either current or former executives with the International Planned Parenthood Federation or Planned Parenthood affiliates in the United States.
Ausherman responded warily and defensively when questioned about the way IDT ‘s quinacrine materials present—and do not present — information about the method.
When asked about why IDT did not include information about the WHO ban on the quinacrine method subject to further human research, Ausherman declared that the WHO ban could not be taken seriously since ‘“the Vatican has gotten to the WHO.”
When pressed further Ausherman stated that the Vatican was involved in a conspiracy against the quinacrine method and that the conspiracy had even reached into other population control organizations, like the formerly named Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception (AVSC), which has also condemned the quinacrine method.
Some of the anti-Catholic bigotry may stem from previous relationships. When asked detailed medical questions about promoting the procedure, Ausherman offered telephone numbers for Dr. Elton Kessel, his former employer at Family Health International, and Stephen Mumford, of the Center for Research on Population and Security. Both men were identified in the BBC’s 1995 documentary The Human Laboratory as promoting quinacrine around the world, often providing it from suitcases which they carried from country to country.6 Mumford, in addition, is also associated with a good deal of anti-Catholic bigotry, blaming the “failure” of the notoriously racist National Security Study Memorandum 200 on “Vatican meddling.”7
Authentic Christians silent?
IDT lists three officers of relatively large religious organizations as members of its Board of’ Directors, one each from the United Methodist Church’s Board of World Missions and the United Church of Christ’s Board for World Ministries, and another from Ausherman’s affiliated organization, the Reformed Church in America.
Although none of the board members listed were able to take questions about their participation on IDT’s board, it seems likely that most do not know of LDT’s quinacrine promotion. A spokeswoman for the Methodist Board of World Missions, for example, confirmed that IDT received $19,000 from the Board but that the money was earmarked for assistance on a program confronting violence against women and had “nothing” to do with quinacrine sterilization.
Another example is the group Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH). Although the group’s website lists many good and substantive things the group promotes, it also lists IDT as one of its members and Charles Ausherman as its Treasurer. However, when contacted about the quinacrine sterilization method, Gordon Williams, CCIH’s President, denied that CCIH endorsed quinacrine or would endorse many of the underlying premises of the population control movement.
The same cannot he said, however, of the Reformed Church in America. Wayne Antworth, Director of Stewardship and communications for the Church, affirmed that “Chuck” Ausherman is an RCA Missionary and that another RCA official served on IDT’s Board of Directors. Antworth did take pains to point out that RCA is in no way affiliated with IDT (although RCA does provide IDT with a staff person) and that the RCA executive who served on the IDT Board did so privately, albeit with his affiliation listed in his Board listing. Antworth also went out of his way to affirm that RCA “would in no way be ashamed of any of its members serving on the IDT Board,” even while he refused to take a position on the use of quinacrine hydrochloride to burn women’s wombs.
Throughout the world authentic Christian ministries serve the poorest of the poor in a wide variety of settings and confront a wide variety of problems. Overall they are a source of great good in the world — but authentically Christian organizations must also take care that their missions do not become corrupted by efforts which attempt to put a Christian face on a much darker agenda.
1 For more information about quinacrine generally, the quinacrine controversy and quinacrine promoters see David Morrison, “Burn, baby, burn” PRI Review, September/October, 1996.
2 Institute for Development Training “1995-1996 Annual Report.”
5 IDT “Quinacrine Sterilization: nonsurgical, permanent birth control for women.”
7 See “Stephen Mumford: in his own words,” PRI Review, September/October, 1996.