This month's issue of Columbia features an article by Stephen Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, on the theory of overpopulation and its alleged impact on economic prosperity. Mosher focuses specifically on the Philippines, where proposed legislation seeks to implement government-funded "family planning services" (including contraception and an encouraged two-child policy), and notes that, despite UN leaders' insistence on the soundness of China's one-child policy, all is not well in nations where abortions or sterilizations are routinely mandated in the name of population control. To make matters worse, often these practices come via the generosity of foreign governments (including the United States):
It would be bad enough if it were just a matter of China denying one-fifth of the world's families the right to have children. But the excessive use of force in the pursuit of a population control agenda extends to numerous developing countries around the world.
To give just a few examples: Women in Indonesia have been apprehended at gunpoint by the military for mandatory sterilizations; hundreds of thousands of Native Americans have been pressured by the Peruvian government to accept tubal ligations; and government-run hospitals in Mexico routinely sterilize women after they give birth — with or without their consent.
This is the sort of thing that happens when, in Pope Benedict's words, "development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures" (28). In other words, when we use foreign aid as a carrot to get governments to act, all too often they turn around and use the stick on their own people. Given the long and dismal catalog of abuses, it is unlikely that a birth control program can be both government-run and non-coercive, especially in the context of a developing country.
-- Elizabeth Hansen