Atrocities in the name of population control

Breakpoint commentary from last year noted that Western aid agencies fund sterilizations under awful conditions in Third World countries in the name of population control. One of the resources that the commentary linked to was Robert Zubrin’s article “The Population Control Holocaust” in The New Atlantis. It’s a long and deeply disturbing article, giving many examples of state power used in massive sterilization campaigns. I’ll post two excerpts here.

Efforts in the US:

Until the mid-1960s, American population control programs, both at home and abroad, were largely funded and implemented by private organizations such as the Population Council and Planned Parenthood — groups with deep roots in the eugenics movement. While disposing of millions of dollars provided to them by the Rockefeller, Ford, and Milbank Foundations, among others, the resources available to support their work were meager in comparison with their vast ambitions. This situation changed radically in the mid-1960s, when the U.S. Congress, responding to the agitation of overpopulation  ideologues, finally appropriated federal funds to underwrite first domestic and then foreign population control programs. Suddenly, instead of mere millions, there were hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars available to fund global campaigns of mass abortion and forced sterilization. The result would be human catastrophe on a worldwide scale.

Among the first to be targeted were America’s own Third World population at home — the native American Indians. Starting in 1966, Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall began to make use of newly available Medicaid money to set up sterilization programs at federally funded Indian Health Services (IHS) hospitals. As reported by Angela Franks in her 2005 book Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy:

These sterilizations were frequently performed without adequate informed consent….  Native American physician Constance Redbird Uri estimated that up to one-quarter of Indian women of childbearing age had been sterilized by 1977; in one hospital in Oklahoma, one-fourth of the women admitted (for any reason) left sterilized…. She also gathered evidence that all the pureblood women of the Kaw tribe in Oklahoma were sterilized in the 1970s….

Unfortunately, and amazingly, problems with the Indian Health Service seem to persist … recently [in the early 1990s], in South Dakota, IHS was again accused of not following informed-consent procedures, this time for Norplant, and apparently promoted the long-acting contraceptive to Native American women who should not use it due to contraindicating, preexisting medical conditions. The Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center reports that one woman was recently told by her doctors that they would remove the implant only if she would agree to a tubal ligation. The genocidal dreams of bureaucrats still cast their shadow on American soil.

Programs of a comparable character were also set up in clinics funded by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity in low-income (predominantly black) neighborhoods in the United States. Meanwhile, on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, a mass sterilization program was instigated by the Draper Fund/Population Crisis Committee and implemented with federal funds from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare through the island’s major hospitals as well as a host of smaller clinics. According to the report of a medical fact-finding mission conducted in 1975, the effort was successful in sterilizing close to one-third of Puerto Rican women of child-bearing age.

The general characteristics of global programs often funded by richer countries and international organizations:

First, they are top-down dictatorial. In selling the effort to Americans, USAID and its beneficiaries claim that they are providing Third World women with “choice” regarding childbirth. There is no truth to this claim. As Betsy Hartmann, a liberal feminist critic of these programs, trenchantly pointed out in her 1995 book Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, “a woman’s right to choose” must necessarily include the option of having children — precisely what the population control campaigns deny her. Rather than providing “choice” to individuals, the purpose of the campaigns is to strip entire populations of their ability to reproduce. This is done by national governments, themselves under USAID or World Bank pressure, setting quotas for sterilizations, IUD insertions, or similar procedures to be imposed by their own civil service upon the subject population. Those government employees who meet or exceed their quotas of “acceptors” are rewarded; those who fail to do so are disciplined.

Second, the programs are dishonest. It is a regular practice for government civil servants employed in population control programs to lie to their prospective targets for quota-meeting about the consequences of the operations that will be performed upon them. For example, Third World peasants are frequently told by government population control personnel that sterilization operations are reversible, when in fact they are not.

Third, the programs are coercive. As a regular practice, population control programs provide “incentives” and/or “disincentives” to compel “acceptors” into accepting their “assistance.” Among the “incentives” frequently employed is the provision or denial of cash or food aid to starving people or their children. Among the “disincentives” employed are personal harassment, dismissal from employment, destruction of homes, and denial of schooling, public housing, or medical assistance to the recalcitrant.

Fourth, the programs are medically irresponsible and negligent. As a regular practice, the programs use defective, unproven, unsafe, experimental, or unapproved gear, including equipment whose use has been banned outright in the United States. They also employ large numbers of inadequately trained personnel to perform potentially life-endangering operations, or to maintain medical equipment in a supposedly sterile or otherwise safe condition. In consequence, millions of people subjected to the ministrations of such irresponsibly run population control operations have been killed. This is particularly true in Africa, where improper reuse of hypodermic needles without sterilization in population control clinics has contributed to the rapid spread of deadly infectious diseases, including AIDS.

Fifth, the programs are cruel, callous, and abusive of human dignity and human rights. A frequent practice is the sterilization of women without their knowledge or consent, typically while they are weakened in the aftermath of childbirth. This is tantamount to government-organized rape. Forced abortions are also typical. These and other human rights abuses of the population control campaign have been widely documented, with subject populations victimized in Australia, Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosovo, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, the United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Sixth, the programs are racist. Just as the global population control program itself represents an attempt by the (white-led) governments of the United States and the former imperial powers of Europe to cut nonwhite populations in the Third World, so, within each targeted nation, the local ruling group has typically made use of the population control program to attempt to eliminate the people they despise. In India, for example, the ruling upper-caste Hindus have focused the population control effort on getting rid of lower-caste untouchables and Muslims. In Sri Lanka, the ruling Singhalese have targeted the Hindu Tamils for extermination. In Peru, the Spanish-speaking descendants of the conquistadors have directed the country’s population control program toward the goal of stemming the reproduction of the darker non-Hispanic natives. In Kosovo, the Serbs used population control against the Albanians, while in Vietnam the Communist government has targeted the population control effort against the Hmong ethnic minority, America’s former wartime allies. In China, the Tibetan and Uyghur minorities have become special targets of the government’s population control effort, with multitudes of the latter rounded up for forced abortions and sterilizations. In South Africa under apartheid, the purpose of the government-run population control program went without saying. In various black African states, whichever tribe holds the reins of power regularly directs the population campaign towards the elimination of their traditional tribal rivals. There should be nothing surprising in any of this. Malthusianism has always been closely linked to racism, because the desire for population control has as its foundation the hatred of others.

Zubrin gives a lot of heartbreaking detail about the Indian and Chinese programs, and discusses other countries as well.

Against the international abortion rights lobby

A Breakpoint commentary from last year by the late Chuck Colson noted a disconcerting development and an effort to fight it:

There is, as we can see, a culture of death at work in the U.N. and other groups. Their representatives use false claims about abortion to push developing nations into changing their pro-life laws. And they’re not above blackmail, demanding that countries comply or lose development aid. Currently nearly one hundred pro-life countries have been told that treaties demand that they permit abortion.

In order to give these nations the ability to fight back, an international group of “human rights lawyers and advocates, scholars, elected officials, diplomats, and medical and international policy experts” released the San José Articles. Among the signers is my colleague and Manhattan Declaration co-author Robert George.

The Articles begin, “As a matter scientific fact a new human life begins at conception.” It then follows, “From conception each unborn child is by nature a human being.”

You can see the San José  Articles here. I don’t know how much impact they will have, but the goal is to have a document signed by experts that’s available for citation in these kinds of disputes, as well as for other purposes.

Joseph D’Souza on the caste system

Kevin DeYoung posted his friend Jason Carter’s thoughts about the Lausanne Congress here.  Here’s one part that grabbed my attention:

Perhaps the strongest prophetic voice issuing from Cape Town came from Dr. Joseph D’Souza from India when he spoke out against the Indian Caste System as (a form of modern) slavery in its subjugation of 250 million Dalit peoples.  D’Souza made the point that if apartheid was wrong, then so too the Caste System:  “25% of India’s population —  250 million people — has no rights, dehumanized, segregated, and silently enduring an apartheid system in India. We, of course, in India hang our heads in shame…”  D’Souza stated that there are more slaves in our world today than when William Wilberforce fought the Transatlantic slave trade and closed his rousing and prophetic message by calling forth the involvement of the global church:   “I am here to say to you here at Cape Town that nothing but the concerted opinion and involvement of the global church will bring down human civilization’s longest lasting slave system.”

I think that D’Souza’s eight minutes on the Lausanne platform, 20 years from now, might be one of the defining hallmarks of Lausanne III if the global church – working with Dalit Christians – manages to prophetically speak out and live out Christ’s transforming power in the midst of this (unbelievably) large-scale injustice, reconstituting Indian society from the bottom-up for the glory of Christ.

The link in the quote goes to D’Souza’s speech.

He says that the Dalits (Untouchables) have four pleas for the church:

  1. Free our children from socialization into inferiority and vulnerable to abuse and discrimination.
  2. Free our women from sexual predation.
  3. Be a voice.
  4. Bring the alternative community that Jesus promised, the church in which there is no discrimination.

Notice that in the first two points he gives examples of Dalits who saw redemption in their lives.

The BBC story that he referred to, about the Catholic graveyard with a wall between Dalit and non-Dalit graves, is here.  That’s the kind of stark image that can really symbolize injustice, like the separate Bibles for swearing in witnesses in the Jim Crow South.  Wikipedia’s article on caste and Christianity has more information.

Lord, move in the hearts and lives of your people everywhere to build your church into the community that you desire.

Compassion fatigue

Krista Tippett recently interviewed Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  Kristof has become well-known for his writing about humanitarian crises around the world, and has praised the concern of evangelicals for some of these crises.

Tippett and Kristof discussed compassion fatigue and how Kristof tries to work around it by describing an individual who illustrates the larger issue:

Ms. Tippett: But there’s some way you put that and somewhere you said that the emotional response becomes a portal and then rational arguments like numbers can play a supporting role.

Mr. Kristof: Exactly.

Ms. Tippett: It’s really interesting.

Mr. Kristof: That opening, that connection, that empathy, is really an emotional one. It’s done based on individual stories. And we all know that there is this compassion fatigue as the number of victims increases, but what the research has shown that is kind of devastating is that the number at which we begin to show fatigue is when the number of victims reaches two.

Ms. Tippett: Right. Would you tell the story about Rokia and Moussa, the photograph that they used to illustrate this?

Mr. Kristof: Yeah. This is from the work of a psychologist called Paul Slovic. There were experiences where people were shown a photo of a starving girl from Mali called Rokia, a seven-year-old girl, and asked to contribute in various different scenarios. And then also a boy named Moussa. And essentially people would donate a lot of money. If they saw that Rokia was hungry, they wanted to help her. Likewise, when they saw a picture of Moussa, they wanted to help him. But the moment you put the two of them together and asked people to help both Rokia and Moussa, then at point donations dropped. And by the time you ask them to donate to 21 million hungry people in West Africa, you know, nobody wanted to contribute at all.

Ms. Tippett: Because they’re overwhelmed by that, or it doesn’t spark the same reaction that actually enables people to act. Is that…

Mr. Kristof: Yeah. I think it’s not real. I mean, I think that my job as a journalist is to find these larger issues that I want to address, but then find some microcosm of it, some Rokia who can open those portals and hopefully get people to care. And once that portal is open, then you can indeed begin to put in some of the background, some of the context, some of the larger issues, and hopefully get people to engage with that issue.

The blog for Tippett’s NPR show, On Being (it used to be Speaking of Faith), had a bit more on this phenomenon:

In the non-profit world, some organizations have found success by creating a model around this idea — child sponsorship organizations or Kiva, for example. Microfinance organizations weren’t new, but a model in which one could seemingly loan directly to an individual was. As a result, Kiva exploded onto the American donor scene. Even though in both of these cases donations aren’t going directly into the hands of the recipient, Kiva capitalized on the human instinct to take action to help one person in need. Organizations like have used this same model to fund education projects within the United States.

It is not altogether shocking that we feel more compassion when we have relatable stories. But what stands out in Slovic’s paper is a study in which groups were either given the story of Rokia, a list of statistics, or the story of Rokia combined with more general statistics.

“Donations in response to the identified individual, Rokia, were far greater than donations in response to the statistical portrayal of the food crisis. Most important, however, and most discouraging, was the fact that coupling the statistical realities with Rokia’s story significantly reduced the contributions to Rokia. Alternatively, one could say that using Rokia’s story to ‘put a face behind the statistical problem’ did not do much to increase donations.”

My point here isn’t that more people just need to “do something” and “make a difference” as if all well-motivated actions are equally valuable.  I have some more to write about intelligent, biblical compassion, which I hope to do soon.  But compassion fatigue seems to be a reality that we need to think about too, as well as something in human nature that cries out for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in all of us.

A good reminder for when we serve

From Tim Stafford’s article about Haitian Christians trying to recover from the earthquake:

As for help from the U.S., a visit to the chaotic Port-au-Prince airport makes it clear that American Christians are already involved, jamming every available flight with eager volunteers. Missionary Aviation Fellowship has flown in more than 2,000 people.

“Don’t come without guidance,” said Habitat’s Jeudy. Haitian Christians want people who listen and consult, who coordinate and avoid duplication, and who will be involved for the long haul. As [Port-au-Prince seminary president Jean] Dorlus exclaimed out of the blue one day, “Oh, Americans—they would be almost perfect people except for one thing: if they would listen!” [my emphasis]

Short-Term Missions

Last week, the Desiring God Blog posted on short-term missions throughout the week.  This is the wrap-up with links to their different posts.  The major messages that came through were that those going on short-term missions must have a servant’s attitude, take care that their efforts don’t harm the poor and the local Christian efforts that they mean to help, and realize that those who go on the trip often receive more than those they mean to help.

Two articles from the Chalmers Center at Covenant College were particularly interesting.  They sought to differentiate between relief and development, arguing that when the poor can help themselves we must pursue development.  The second article that I linked to provides this suggestion (the DG Blog quoted a shorter section of this):

Despite these words of caution, STM trips can play a positive role in the lives of all those involved, but a different paradigm is needed. Rather than going as “doers,” some powerful dynamics can be unleashed if STM teams go as “learners” from the poor or as “co-learners” with the poor. Consistent with an asset-based model, going as a learner emphasizes the gifts which poor people have to share with others: the spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social resources that God has already placed in their community. Listening to poor people and asking them to share their insights affirms their dignity and reduces the tendencies towards pride on the part of the outsiders. Furthermore, the poor really do have something to teach us, for they have unique insights on what it means to trust in a sovereign God to “give us this day our daily bread.”

This article also had a good discussion of different cultural views of time:

An important dynamic that affects the interaction of STM teams and low-income communities is that there are often core cultural differences with respect to time. Most Americans are from a monochronic culture which believes that time is a very important resource that should not be wasted. Of course, there is some good in that perspective, and it enables Americans to produce a lot. But many other cultures have a polychronic view that says time is primarily an opportunity to invest in relationships. In such cultures, knowing and serving others is more important than pursuing many new projects or activities. Hence, people from polychronic cultures may not feel unduly impatient or burdened if life unfolds a little bit slower than the people from monochromic cultures would like.

STM teams that fail to understand these dynamics can inadvertently undermine long-term development. For example, when Americans gain a reputation for needing to do things very quickly, it can foster an attitude in poor communities that discourages local people from doing things to improve their own situation. Locals start to say, “We don’t need to do anything. Let’s just wait and some outsiders will show up and do it for us!” Again, if the STM teams would focus less on “doing” and more on “being and learning together,” this problem could be mitigated.

The Effects of International Aid

On Wednesday night, I listened to a great episode of public radio’s Speaking of Faith.  Krista Tippett interviewed Kenyan journalist Binyavanga Wainaina about his perspective on international aid to Africa (you can listen to it or read the transcript if you want to).  He said that aid from both government and private sources are is oftentimes more about the giver than the receiver, and he even compared the mindset of those who believe that they can fix Africa to the old colonizers:

“A lot of people arrive in Africa to assume that it’s a blank empty space, and their goodwill and desire and guilt will fix it.  And that to me is not any different from the first people who arrived and colonized us.”

This was Wainaina’s reaction to Krista’s quote from a prominent American religious leader (she didn’t identify him, but her interview notes confirm that it was Rick Warren) who had experienced an awakening about AIDS and poverty in Africa.  It’s a great cautionary statement even if it’s a harsh comparison.

Aid, according to Wainaina often has great intentions (and he really does believe that they’re good intentions, despite his tough words) but often does not last, doesn’t take into account the knowledge of the people it’s supposed to help, or undermines the capacity of the society to build itself.  He’s got a darkly funny parody of the giver-centric attitude here.

That’s the bad news.  But here are two pieces of good news.  First, microlending, which actually puts capital in the hands of people in poorer countries, can do great things and also trusts the people of the country to do good things.  Secondly, although Wainaina is not a religious person, he said that local religious groups (both Christians and Muslims) often do great work because they are intimately connected with the people that they minister to.  I think that this is a reminder that Christian communities around the world, as the body of Christ, have the potential to fulfill God’s commands to care for the most vulnerable in remarkably effective ways. Perhaps this means that Christians hoping to truly help the world’s poorest need to think about supporting local solutions and that we need to make sure that large, global efforts based in the wealthiest countries really care about the perspective of local people and will have real staying power.

I’m no expert in this field, but Wainaina’s perspective makes a lot of sense to me.  Speaking of Faith is going to revisit this topic, so I’m sure my own thought on this will develop.