Selective collaboration and gateways to population control

April 2, 2014 09:00 AM

By Rob Gasper

To consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view. – Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate

One of the world’s newest countries, Timor-Leste, has a major problem, at least according to the UN and ivory tower professionals. In 1999, after a brutal war and genocide, Timor-Leste emerged from conflict with Indonesia as a new nation. In the period of instability that followed, Timor-Leste’s citizens experienced a massive boom in population growth, with a total fertility rate approaching 7.8 children per mother. Not only that, but Timor-Leste’s mothers want large families, despite the poverty facing the nation. This study investigating Timor-Leste’s “pro-natalist” inclinations reported:

The [Demographic and Health] survey of 2003 also reveals Timor-Leste women’s preference for large family sizes as indicated by the desire of the majority of the women, even in the higher reproductive age groups, to have additional children in spite of the fact that they have already had given birth to 6 or more children. The DHS 2003 survey further reveals that the intention to use contraception at some time in the future among currently-married women is very low regardless of the number of children these women have.

According to the United Nations, a high fertility rate is a huge no-no. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states: “The countries in which poverty levels are the highest are generally those that have the most rapid increases in population and the highest fertility levels. Countries that have reduced fertility and mortality by investing in universal health care, including reproductive health, as well as education and gender equality, have made economic gains.” So, in order to reduce poverty, the UNFPA floods countries with contraceptives and behavior-modifying propaganda to induce citizens to adopt contraceptive usage. The organization measures increases in “contraceptive prevalence rate” as a milestone for success and key for driving down total fertility rates. This is exemplified in an article where UNFPA representative Arthur Erken heaps praise on Bangladesh for becoming a “low-fertility country.” 

Population controllers face a major obstacle when trying to reduce fertility rates in countries like Timor-Leste, Rwanda, or the Philippines. That obstacle is the cultural acceptance of religious teachings which forbid artificial contraception and laud the generosity of parents who have larger families. The UNFPA has learned over time that “selective collaboration” with elements within Catholic and Muslim circles could pay huge dividends in gaining access to those engaging in high-fertility practices. In 1999, the UNFPA partnered with a local Catholic NGO to spread the message of family planning on its radio show in Brazil. Following the pope’s visit to Brazil, this activity ceased. However, the UNFPA learned important lessons: “Among them was the understanding that even the most powerful religious institutions are not monolithic. Within the Catholic Church, certain progressive branches exist, including the Communidades Eclesiais de Base, whose Catholic clergy understand the harsh realities of the country's poor and are ardent advocates on their behalf. Finding areas in which the interests and goals of the Catholic Church and UNFPA coincide, and building from this base, is a way to bridge the differences between the two institutions.” 

A more recent form of collaboration is the adoption of the Standard Days Method (a form of natural family planning) as a “modern” form of contraception. The Catholic Church has consistently recognized natural family planning as a morally legitimate means of fertility awareness useful for either having more children or spacing their births for grave reasons. Therefore, by adopting the Standard Days Method as a modern form of contraception, avenues of funding, collaboration, and, most importantly, access are being opened up for population controllers to lower fertility rates in Catholic countries.

Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) is spearheading the effort and marketing the Standard Days Method to population controlling agencies as a great way to improve “contraceptive prevalence” and “addressing unmet need, particularly among hard-to-reach and under-served populations.” Furthermore, the IRH states that the Standard Days Method “brings new users to family planning and is also a gateway to other modern method options. . . . Since FAMs [Fertility Awareness Methods] are accepted by most religions, adding FAM services to faith-based programs creates linkages between these programs and the public health system, often creating public-private partnerships that had never existed before.” 

This raises some interesting questions, some beyond the scope of this article. Natural family planning is a morally acceptable practice under certain conditions. However, it is a major concern that forces such as the UNFPA are using NFP as a gateway to introducing a contraceptive mentality and as a means of population control. As a case in point, IRH is currently working on a project in conjunction with Catholic agencies introducing the Standard Days Method to Timor-Leste. Are these Catholic agencies being used by the population controllers as a means to finally reduce the fertility-rates in Timor-Leste? Given the stated goals of the UNFPA and the troubling marketing by the IRH, this seems a not too remote possibility.  

Rob Gasper is a senior research analyst for American Life League and is the editor of ALL News.

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