What About Population Control?

In the seventies, population control was a huge issue, but like many other hot topics this one has fallen by the wayside. For most people, that is. Not apparently for the man who held three people hostage at The Discovery Channel headquarters yesterday. James J. Lee, who was eventually shot and killed by police, was upset with The Discovery Channel because of the lack of environmental policy on its shows, not the least of which was “Kate Plus Eight” which he felt promoted population growth.

Lee took extreme measures (he even had explosives strapped to his body) to register his protest, but I couldn’t help but wonder when I read the news story where all the protestors about population growth have gone. There are millions more people on the earth than when the book The Population Bomb came out in 1968. (India alone has tripled its population since 1960 from 400 million to 1.2 billion today.) The author, Paul R. Erhlich, was mostly concerned with the world’s ability to feed its ever-increasing population, but since most developed countries have risen to that challenge, the furor over his predictions have died down.

Here in the United States, food supply is not a problem so we tend to overlook the billion people world-wide who go hungry every day. These days the problem is not so much production as it is access. In other words, the world’s population could be fed adequately if we could just get the food to the people who need it.

If the food supply is keeping up with the demand, why should we worry about population growth? I can think of two reasons why we should: 1) depletion of energy resources; and 2) global warming. The more people in the world, the more dire these problems will become. It’s hard to keep on providing enough energy when the number of people needing it is constantly increasing. (And it’s not only the number of people, but their changing lifestyles—like more cars when people’s ability to pay for them increases—that add to the problem.) As more energy is expended, the release of more and more carbons into the atmosphere will only continue to add to the collective problems under the umbrella of global warming.

Maybe we need a book like The Population Bomb for the new millenium. Too bad James J. Lee couldn’t have written one instead of trying to reduce the population by his own hand.

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Obama’s Courage: His Repeal of the Global Gag Rule

He may have done it quietly, but Obama did it: he reversed the “global gag rule,” otherwise known as the Mexico City policy (for the city in which it was first introduced in 1984, making it Reagan’s baby–no pun intended). Clinton repealed the gag rule in 1993, right after his inauguration, and Bush reinstated it right after his inauguration in 2001.

In the eight years since then, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) worldwide have been severely hampered in their attempts to educate people about family planning and to disseminate birth control. This is even if they never actually performed abortions, but only educated people about them. And even if they used their own funds, not federal funds from the U.S.; if they so much as uttered the word “abortion,” the U.S. withdrew its funding from them. Those organizations that continued to receive U.S. funds did so only by curtailing their services.

This has been going on for the past eight years! In that time, thousands of women and/or their babies have died in childbirth, and HIV has been on the rise (even the dissemination of condoms has been affected). The number of unwanted children world-wide has escalated. Apparently, it’s okay to bring misery into countless lives in order to prevent abortions and abortion counseling from being made widely available.

What gets me is that Reagan had the gall to announce the Mexico City policy at the United Nations International Conference on Population! As if to say: we need more people in this world, more infant and maternal mortality and more sexually transmitted diseases. Somehow I don’t think that was the conference’s intention. The United States’ position was a slap in the face for the United Nations, saying, in effect, we refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world in controlling world population growth, death and disease. The wealthiest nation in the world (for now anyway), stingily withdrew its support if the rest of the world didn’t measure up to its moral standards. And what really gets me is that those standards are not even held by the majority of the people in the U.S.! (See “Abortion in the United States” on Wikipedia.)

Obama may have done it on the Q.T., but at least he did it. Of course, I realize that this gives pro-lifers all kinds of grist for their mill. But it had to be done, if only to demonstrate the good will that the U.S. holds for the world and for the health and better quality of life of the people in it. The point that the pro-life movement doesn’t seem to get is that withholding assistance to programs that perform and counsel about abortion does not mean that there will be a vast reduction in the number of abortions. Abortions will still be performed, just as they were before Roe v.Wade in this country, but they will not be safe and, indeed, will often lead to the death or sterility of the women undergoing them.

Obama’s action is a first step in his program to make abortion less of an issue, not by sweeping it under the rug as so many liberals seem to do, but by confronting it head-on. If it is clear that the federal government holds abortion to be an inviolable right, then the pro-lifers will have to spend their energies elsewhere. They might even start caring for the women who have to make this decision and for the children who are brought into this world. Imagine that.