It would be impossible to look back and trace the history of the Reproductive Health Bill currently pending in the Philippine congress without taking a peek into the roots of birth control and population management that began in the late 1800s. In 1793, economist Thomas Malthus fathered the population control movement when he published An Essay on the Principle of Population, effectively frightening British leaders with his claim that food production would never be able to keep up with population increase.1 Contraceptives weren’t unknown at the time, but social norms meant that they weren’t talked about either. It was in this environment that atheists and Malthusians Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh gained notoriety in 1877 by publishing Charles Knowlton’s booklet promoting what they called “sex without pregnancy”. The booklet had already been in quiet circulation for decades but its publication triggered quite the response even from the prosecutors that convicted Besant and Bradlaugh. Although the duo was found guilty of publishing the obscene booklet, the attention that they received did much to encourage a large number of people to employ contraceptive measures. Even before they went to trial they had sold more than 130,000 copies of the booklet. It was also around this time that the birth rate of England began to fall, at first in privileged households, and then eventually in every social class and occupation.2, 3
Two years after Besant and Bradlaugh, Margaret Sanger was born to a poor New York household with eleven kids. Growing up she was exposed to much hardship and suffering and she attributed this to the fact that they had a large family. As a nurse she witnessed the tragic death of a pregnant woman, and it forever changed her. She was convinced that eliminating procreation from the sexual equation was the solution to many social ills. Sanger coined the term “birth control” in 1914.4 She, along with Marie Stopes from the UK, Elise Ottesen-Jensen from Sweden, Baroness Shidzue Ishimoto from Japan and Lady Rama Rau from India, would be the pioneers of the sexual revolution. They not only broke rules, they made new ones: rules that would shape the attitudes of the world about the meaning, purpose and value of human life.5
Events in the early 1900s — war, famine, migration — fueled the efforts of neo-Malthusians, eugenicists, birth controllers, and demographers. Each of these groups had different concerns for which they were seeking solutions. Some believed in preserving and increasing “good stock” to maintain national identity. Others were alarmed with the growing population outside their borders and thought it would be in their nation’s interests to control migration and preserve racial purity. Included in these were world leaders apprehensive about the loss of economic and political power. Yet others were concerned about replacing people lost through war, famine or disease. And still others were afraid that growing populations in places like India would eventually be difficult to sustain and that humanitarian efforts to help these nations would certainly end up in bringing Western civilizations down.
Sanger was a genius in organizing and she was able to bring together well-known and moneyed people from different disciplines to advance her cause. Sanger wanted everyone — the eugenicists, the population controllers, the demographers, the Malthusians — to see that all of their concerns could be solved by one thing: contraception. Though she was marginalized at first by the very men she invited to her conferences, her ideas soon took hold and became promoted as useful for “the common good.” It would take a while before these movements would eventually grow into global coalitions, but Sanger and others like her planted the seeds wherever and whenever they could.6 Today, many who recite the mantras that grew out of this eugenicist and racist movement scarcely realize the beginnings of the causes for which they fight.
In the Philippines early on, President Ferdinand Marcos bought heavily into US and UN agenda of depopulation, signing the 1967 Declaration on Population, a statement made the previous year by representatives of 12 countries.7 Since then, much effort has been expended within and without to increase contraceptive use and promote voluntary sterilization. Marcos, Ramos, Estrada and now Aquino, all had similar views regarding population as it relates to economic development. It was during their watch that depopulation programs made the biggest strides.8
Today, the clamor to pass the bill comes from non-governmental organizations such as Likhaan and coalitions like the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN). Though seemingly concerned with benevolent ends, their motivations remain suspect because of the monies they’ve received and continue to receive from these international organizations. In 2010 the Philippine government received $434M from the Millennium Challenge Corporation of America for a five-year ‘development’ contract. MCC is the new millennium’s version of the old organizations; new name, same goals, same methods.
Let’s take the International Planned Parenthood Federation for instance, whose country programmes are partnered with and get funding from MCC. While founder Margaret Sanger did not have abortion as her goal, the seeds of contraception that Planned Parenthood started from have blossomed since Roe v. Wade into a booming abortion business, currently making hundreds of millions of dollars a year, the majority of these dollars made on abortion alone.9
Since 1973 when abortion became legal, there have been 53,000,000 abortions in the United States.10 What does the IPPF want to achieve in the Philippines?
In the following timeline, we trace how the idea of contraception was born, and how it grew to its status now, a perceived quick fix as commonplace as the air we breathe. Its promotion and use around the world has resulted in an anti-life, contraceptive mentality, widespread acceptance of abortifacients, legalization of abortion and its use as the ultimate contraceptive, coercive family planning policies, divorce, the breakdown of the family, pornography, and an overall tolerance for promiscuity and immoral homosexual behavior, giving rise to more and more sexually-transmitted diseases.11
1 Malthus, Thomas Robert, An Essay on the Principle of Population. 1798. Library of Economics and Liberty. 13 May 2011. <http://www.econlib.org/library/Malthus/malPop2.html>.
2 Connelly, Matthew James. Fatal Misconception: the Struggle to Control World Population. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2008. Print.
3 D’Arcy, F. “The Malthusian League and the Resistance to Birth Control Propaganda in Late Victorian Britain.” Population Studies 31.3 (1977): 429-48. Population Investigation Committee. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173367>.
4 Sanger, Margaret. The Autobiography of Margaret Sanger. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004. Print.
5 Connelly 24.
6 Connelly 55-76.
7 The Population Council, “Declaration on Population: The World Leaders Statement.” Studies in Family Planning, No. 26, January, 1968. Web. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1965194>.
8 Robinson, Warren C., and John A. Ross. The Global Family Planning Revolution Three Decades of Population Policies and Programs. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2007. Print.
9 Simon, Stephanie. “Planned Parenthood Hits Suburbia – WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. 23 June 2008. Web. 12 May 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB121417762585295459-lMyQjAxMDI4MTI0MzEyNzM3Wj.html>.
10 “Factsheet Has New Abortion Totals & Analysis: Over 53 Million Abortions since Roe.”National Right to Life. Web. 12 May 2011. <http://www.nrlc.org/news_and_views/Jan2011/nv012711.html>.
11 Malhotra, Sheetal. “Impact of the Sexual Revolution: Consequences of Risky Sexual Behaviors.” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 13.3 (2008): 88-90. Web. <http://www.jpands.org/vol13no3/malhotra.pdf>.