Population Control Needs a Backup Plan

    By Edd Doerr | October / November 2019
    Free Inquiry

    (Image by Phạm Quốc Nguyên from Pixabay)

    Climate change is real and threatens our whole planet. It is anthropogenic, caused by humans. Media coverage of it is spotty and inadequate. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised that we have only a dozen or so years left to get serious about dealing with it. Meanwhile, U.S. President Trump and his followers have been thumbing their noses at the science community that has made the problem abundantly clear and deadly serious.

    Please bear with me as I repeat a partial list of the inadequately discussed components and concomitants of climate change: Antarctic, Greenland and glacier ice melt; permafrost and tundra thaw releasing methane and carbon dioxide; rising sea levels (with 40% of world population living in coastal areas); ocean acidification; coral reef die-off; deforestation; desertification; soil erosion and nutrient loss; clean water shortages; biodiversity shrinkage (a “sixth extinction”); toxic waste accumulation on land and sea; overuse of both renewable and nonrenewable resources; excessive use of agricultural land for beef production; possible disease pandemics; increasing sociopolitical disorder and violence.

    Driving all this is human overpopulation, up from 2 billion or so in 1945 to nearly 8 billion today and as many as an unsustainable 10 billion by 2050. The answer, of course, is universal access to contraception and safe, legal abortion, as scientists have been recommending for over 50 years and as the Republican Ford administration recommended in its 1975 National Security Study Memorandum 200 report.

    Now get this. For years now there have been over 56 million abortions worldwide per year and widespread use of contraceptives. Half of those abortions are unsafe and/or illegal, and over 22,000 women die every year from unsafe, illegal abortions. By comparison, there are about 130 million children born each year worldwide, and about 303 thousand women die giving birth per year, mostly in undeveloped countries. Clearly, continuing a pregnancy until birth is more dangerous for women than having an abortion.

    But world population continues to increase, especially in southern Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, whose messed up and overpopulated societies have been driving refugees to our southern border. Blame for all this falls largely on the shoulders of an array of Religious Right leaders (of many stripes) and the timid politicians they are able to influence. To be blunt, women suffer and die and our planet is becoming uninhabitable because of male religious and political leaders.

    Obviously, We the People of this planet have to reduce the excessive influence of the worst of these religious leaders and politicians and see that all women everywhere have access to contraception and safe abortion. But even then there needs to be a backup plan. And that backup plan is voluntary sterilization. Not tubal ligation (TL), which is expensive, requires a surgeon and a hospital, and is not all that safe for many women. The answer could well be Quinacrine Sterilization (QS), which is cheap, effective, and has been tested.

    Quinacrine has been used for many decades to treat malaria and other diseases, so it is it not something new and untested.

    In quinacrine sterilization (QS) – always voluntary, of course — seven pellets (of 36 mg each) are placed in a woman’s fallopian tubes using a modified IUD inserter in two doses one month apart. This produces scarring and permanent sterilization. QS has been administered by over 1500 trained healthcare professionals, usually nurses or midwives, and has been found safe. QS is cheap, less than $1 per dose, and has been used by a reported 200,000 women in several countries. QS has been the subject of peer reviewed articles attesting to its safety.

    Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to permit a field test of QS in the US, apparently due to pressures from economic and conservative religious interests.

    The bottom line is that QS could decrease the abortion rate, greatly improve overall women’s health, and rein in population growth.

    (For assistance with the QS matter I would like to thank writer Donald Collins Sr. of the International Services Assistance Fund.)

    Finally, it should be painfully obvious that at the root of the problem are the deficits of women’s rights and political power virtually everywhere in the world, not just in Saudi Arabia and Alabama. Much work remains to be done. In July I had an online debate with a woman teacher in Indiana who advocated the diversion of public funds to private schools through vouchers or tax credits. The usual arguments against such did not phase her. But this one finally did. “I find it incomprehensible that any woman would approve of government forcing all women (and men) taxpayers to support private schools the overwhelming majority of which indoctrinate kids with the religion-based view that women should not have rights of conscience with regard to contraception and abortion or to have the same rights and authority as men.” Of course we have the example of the despicable Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary, and those women who blindly and foolishly agree with her.

    Daniel Callahan

    Bioethics pioneer Daniel Callahan died on July 16 at age 88. A leading Catholic intellectual, Callahan served as editor of the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal during the 1960s, but then left the church and adopted a more agnostic lifestance. Callahan was pro-choice on abortion and co-edited the 1970 book, Abortion: Law, Choice, and Morality. It is important to note that Catholics are all over the map on religious liberty and church-state issues. The overwhelming majority of Catholics have no problem with contraception, send their kids to public schools (since the early 1960s, when the Supreme Court did away with the last vestiges of Protestantism in public schools), and most are okay with abortion. The May 2018 referendum approving abortion by two to one in Ireland, where 95% of kids are educated in Catholic schools, shows that it is the Vatican and the bishops who are out of sync with most Catholics on these important issues. Incidentally, if I have not done so before, let me recommend Conscience, the quarterly journal of Catholics for Choice, as one of the best publications on reproductive choice.

    “Project Blitz”

    Trump tweeted earlier this year that “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” He is evidently unfamiliar with the Supreme Court rulings in the early 1960s holding that public schools may teach “about” religion but only from a religiously neutral stance. The problem is that few, if any, public school teachers are trained or qualified or certified to teach about religion, most educators are not keen on the idea, and there is little agreement on what could be taught. But the new “Project Blitz” is pushing Bible teaching in hundreds of public schools in areas where evangelicalism is riding high. While alleviating ignorance about religion may be a good idea in theory, there is little reason to think that this new effort to push evangelical religion in public schools is remotely constitutional. The ACLU, Americans United, and Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim groups are opposing the new movement.

    Reprinted with permission from the author.

    Edd Doerr (1930-2020) was president of the American Humanist Association from 1995 to 2003, serving previously as vice-president and board chair under Isaac Asimov from 1985 to 1991. He had been executive director and then president of Americans for Religious Liberty since 1982. A former teacher of history and Spanish, he was the author, co-author, editor, or translator of twenty books, mostly on religious liberty and reproductive rights. He served on the governing body of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from 1973 until 2004 and on the boards of NARAL, the ACLU of Maryland, and the National Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty. More than 3,000 of his articles, columns, reviews, and letters have been published in The Humanist and many other publications. For over ten years before his death in February 2020 he wrote a column in the journal Free Inquiry from the Council for Secular Humanism.

    Why we’re heading for a ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC Newsnight

    “Whose Choice?” A Pro-Abortion Film

    Sir David Attenborough on Overpopulation

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