Birth Control: A Plot or a Beneficence

September 25, 2007

A full-page advertisement in a recent New York Times suggests that the answer to crime in the streets is birth control. A shock photograph of a hairy youth attacking a middle-class, middle-aged man at knife point tops the ad, which says "the quality of life in this great country of ours is deteriorating before our eyes.... Is there an answer? Yes- birth control is one." The sponsor of the ad, the Campaign to Check the Population Explosion, is only the latest in an array of powerful institutions that are adopting population control as an important weapon in social engineering. Included among the sponsors of the are are Eugene Black, ex-head of the World Bank, Dixi Cup executive Hugh Moore, long a bankroller of birth-control activity; Frank Abrams, ex-head of Standard Oil of New Jersey; and John Cowles of the magazine and newspaper family.

Population is political. Lyndon Johnson says that every five dollars spent on population control in poor countries is equal to a hundred dollars spent on economic development. Israeli leaders call on their Jewish citizens to have more babies as "internal immigration" to match the rapid growth of the Arab populations in the newly occupied regions. Southern states in the United States have relatively liberal laws on birth control, sterilization, and now abortion - the Georgia legislature is the fourth in the United States to pass a law widening grounds for legal abortion. The reason: to check the rapid growth of the black population. Brazilian bishops joined leftist students in protesting the sterilization of women in the underpopulated Amazon region where U.S. speculators are buying seemingly poor land and holding it for possible rich mineral deposits.

The use of birth control devices is not immoral in itself. Control of their own bodies is a pre-condition for the liberation of women. But like any other technological innovation, birth control devices can be used for many purposes. And in the last decade the Eastern Establishment seems to have come to a consensus that birth control should be a major focus of U.S. policy in the "developing" neo-colonial countries. Ford, Rockefeller, and now U.S. government money is going on an increasing scale to basic research and action programs aimed at cutting population growth rates in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Egypt. Black people in the United States are another target.

The basic instrument in the overseas campaign is a small plastic device called the coil, the Lippes loop or the I.U.D. ("intra-uterine device"). When inserted into the opening of the womb, this device, a foreign object, somehow - the precise mechanism is not known - causes sterility, supposedly reversible if the coil is removed. Unlike condoms and the diaphragm, the I.U.D. does not depend upon foresight in the heat of passion, nor does it require literacy skills like counting or reading a calendar as do the rhythm method and the pill. Using the I.U.D., a mobile team can enter a village and indefinitely sterilize as many women as can be pressured into permitting insertion of the inexpensive device by class deference to white-coated medical personnel, petty rewards, propaganda or coercion. Sixteen per cent of South Korean women of child bearing age have been sterilized by this method. Though Brazilian advocates of the I.U.D. allege that a woman wanting to have a baby can remove the device by herself, Planned Parenthood clinics in New York instruct patients to have it removed by clinic MD's. According to one clinic patient, insertion is so painful "it's like having a baby all over again."

Unauthorized experiments with the I.U.D. caused a row in Brazil last year. Medical students from the University of Goias discovered Presbyterian medical missionaries inserting the devices in women in small settlements near the strategic Belem-Brasilia highway. This area is very much underpopulated -about one person to the square kilometer, the largest well-watered world region as yet unsettled. A parliamentary inquiry revealed that U.S. buyers, including Texas ranchers and Indianapolis investor Stanley Amos Sellig were buying land in the region, often through forged titles and bribery of deed registrars. In the same region, a group of Americans had been arrested while using a converted B-26 bomber to smuggle radioactive minerals out of Brazil. Part of this group later escaped in a Presbyterian mission plane which picked them up on a highway near a red-light district outside of Brasilia and took them to the United States utilizing a network of clandestine airfileds in the frontier region. Brazilian nationalists charged U.S. groups with using birth control to keep the region depopulated and ready for future exploitation and settlement.

A later proposal by think-tank Hudson Institute to create a series of inland lakes on the Amazon added fuel to the flames. One of the proposed lakes would flood Manaus, the Amazon valleys second city and capital of Amazonas state. Brazilian senator Mario Martins says Americans plan to use the area either for resettling U.S. blacks or as a refuge for use after a nuclear war. Birth control would prevent the growth of a local population whose displacement might lead to long-term bitterness like that of Palestine Arabs displaced by Israel's expansion.

A less bizarre critique of population control observes that in peasant societies large families are one of the main sources of self-esteem and prestige people have. In the absence of social security systems, children also provide the only hope for support in old age. On the other hand, large families are encouraged by landlords because they tend to keep labor costs at rock bottom, while early marriage binds people to the soil.

In contrast to agriculture and other high-labor industries, U.S. extractive and consumer goods producers might stand to gain from population control. They hire small numbers of people at relatively high wages, and in the case of consumer goods, they concentrate on luxury items protected by high tariffs that were formerly imported. These items are not accessible to most people, but with smaller families people might have more money to spend on them, while less population growth means less discontent which breeds the "instability" so feared by investors.

In Brazil, for instance, Ford sells Gallaxies for $6,000 while industrial workers earn about $35 a month! And the Ford Foundation subsidized BEMFAM, the local planned parenthood group.

Four big institutions man the front lines of this battle against population growth. A Rockefeller-dominated group called the Population Council spends $5 million annually on grants in bio-medical research, demography and action programs. This outfit's board, headed by John D. Rockefeller III, includes such luminaries as Ellsworth Bunker, United States envoy to Saigon and formerly to Santo Domingo; Lewis Strauss, Eisenhower s Atomic energy Commission chief, rejected by the Senate as Secretary of Commerce; columnist James Reston; Mary Bunting of Radcliffe; and James Conant, formerly of Harvard. Interests represented on the Finance Committee include AT&T, General Electric, and Chase Manhattan

The Ford Foundation, with a program similar to that of the Population Council, has spent about $100 million on population control. Nearly $10 million has bee: pent on field programs in South and Southeast Asia, where U.S. bombs now effect a more direct check on population growth. Expenditures are high in such tightly controlled U.S. satellites as South Korea and Taiwan, and in India, "showcase of democracy" where food production per capita is 30 per cent below that of socialist China, due in part to an archaic land tenure system.

Now the U.S. government aid program is budgeting about $35 million on population control. Ford, which sees its programs as "seed money" to promote certain policies and projects, is very pleased.

Granddaddy of the population control agencies is the Planned Parenthood Federation, which operates domestically, and urges a $100 million Federal program to get poor women to have fewer children.

Heavy outlays for research reflect birth-controllers' dissatisfaction with current hardware, unsuitable, except for the I.U.D., for use among people who lack middle-class skills and outlook. Technological breakthroughs hoped for include a 'morning-after" pill, once-a-month pills, and reversible one-shot sterilization injections.

Birth-controllers, it should be emphasized, do not see themselves as Dr. Strangeloves plotting the course of the world toward some macabre future. In best Eastern Establishment style, they are liberals who talk the language of humanitarianism.

In fact their advocacy is never lacking in a touch of missionary zeal. For Foundation Population Program Officer Lenni Kangas, for instance, is a well-dressed, professionally open-minded economist. In his tastefully appointed office in the Foundations East Side New York headquarters he spoke to me of population control as a basic means of combating underdevelopment and poverty. He defended the idea that black grievances in the United States should be redressed, and denied any anti-black intent in birth-control programs. Blacks, like the poor countries in general, don't need more people, says Kangas, but healthy, educated, emotionally secure people - which won't happen unless population growth is limited. George Varky, an East Indian economist who works for Planned Parenthood, insists that 70 per cent of the U.S. poor to whom subsidized birth control should be directed are white. Half of the blacks, however, are in this poor group, so any such program would have a disproportionate effect on black population, whose growth some black radicals think will enable them to control many central cities in the next decade. Condemnation of birth control was a theme of one of the resolutions at the 1967 Black Power conference in Newark.

Birth controllers like Kangas and Varky contend that they favor other programs to combat poverty, but that birth control is an essential element, since cheap death control (vaccines, antibiotics) has cut into the balance between deaths and births. This leads to rates of growth higher than any in history.

Others contend that it is not overpopulation, but exploitation and inefficiency that cause underdevelopment and poverty. Arable land lies fallow or is used for high-profit, low calorie products like meat. Monocrop agriculture for export distorts the rural economy. Education is non-technical, and the upper and middle classes disdain practical tasks. Many underdeveloped countries export capital to the United States even as thousands are unemployed in country and city. Poor countries are denied access to technology, as in the case of the nuclear test-ban treaty, which would subject non-nuclear powers to inspection, even for peaceful projects, but would result in no disarmament or inspection of nuclear powers.

Birth control is thus a cheap way of keeping things from getting bad, avoiding the desperation that leads to action. It would also deprive poor nations of their most formidable weapon: masses of people in movement and rebellion.

A NOTE ON EL CORNO EMPLUMADO In its seventh year, El Corno Emplumado (The Plumed Horn) is an extraordinary expression through poems and drawings of the world in revolution. Put together in Mexico City by Margaret Randall and Sergio Mondragon, this quarterly of poetry and prose communicates a flood of doubts, agonies and celebrations. Currently Margaret Randall is translating the complete works of a Guatemalan poet, Otto Rene Castillo, who was exiled at the age of seventeen. He studied in Europe and returned to Guatemala to fight with the F.A.R., was captured, tortured four days, and killed a year ago. Orders for the translations and subscriptions ($3 a year): E Corno Emplumado, Apartado Postal 13-546, Mexico 13, D.F., Mexico.

Tags: population control, IUD, Brazil

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