Poor women around the world are being pushed into sterilization and gruesome fertility experiments--and you're paying for it.
What are you going to do so you don't become pregnant again?"
Nothing, replied Bonita when her doctor first posed the question. I want more children.
For the next seven months, Bonita knew no peace. Throughout her pregnancy, the doctor, nurses and even a social worker pushed her to submit to sterilization.
Even when Bonita went into labor, the hospital staff never let up. She wasn't allowed to see her husband--only the doctor and the nurses, harassing her, insisting that she give in. Even then she refused--two, then three times. Why can't they just let me have my baby?!
Finally, when she couldn't fight them any longer, she surrendered to their badgering and "agreed" to be sterilized.
"Bonita" is fictional, but the story isn't. It's just one of many horrors that occur around the world in a massive international populationcontrol campaign that coerces women from lessdeveloped countries into abortions, sterilizations and fertility experiments. Many of the women develop serious complications. Some don't survive.
And it's all paid for with good old American tax dollars.
Sterilize or Starve
In February 1998, reports of a U.S.funded campaign of forced sterilization in Peru found their way to the U.S. House International Operations and Human Rights subcommittee and into major media outlets including The New York Times.
Buttressed by Peruvian witnesses and a report from congressional staffer Joseph Grover Rees, who had recently visited Peru, subcommittee chairman Chris Smith (RN.J.), presented evidence of numerous abuses. Among them: Doctors who are given sterilization quotas and rewards for sterilizing larger numbers of women, and mostly poor women who are required to undergo tubal ligations as a condition of receiving food.
"To need food for yourself or a family member but be told you must get sterilized to get it--that's an inhuman trap they're putting these women in," said David Morrison, director of the Population Research Institute (PRI) and a member of the same factfinding group as Rees.
The subcommittee hearings featured an onthe-spot disavowal from Mark Schneider of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), who insisted that American dollars were not directly involved in the program and claimed that justannounced reforms by the Peruvian government amounted to "discontinu[ing] their campaign of tubal ligations and vasectomies."
Within days, however, Peru's minister of health contradicted that claim, issuing a statement which made no mention of reforms and declared that the program--which led to the sterilization of 110,000 Peruvians in 1997--would actually be expanded.
Critics, meanwhile, argued that U.S. funds were indeed involved, at least indirectly.
"The sterilization campaign is an outgrowth of the larger USAID [population control] program," Morrison told Citizen. "They use the same materials, the same personnel. They are entirely a U.S. creation."
The Rees report found that while USAID made some efforts to distance itself from the campaign, it continued to fund groups--both governmental and nongovernmental--that conducted the campaign. In some instances, Smith noted, "the same government worker may be charged with distributing U.S. food and running the sterilization campaigns."
U.S. involvement is obvious even to a casual observer. For example, the USAID logo is displayed on billboards promoting the government's "family planning" program, and on food bins at clinics run by PRISMA, a Peruvian nongovernmental agency charged with eliciting sterilizations in return for food.
"There's no doubt USAID has tried to distance itself from the sterilization program, but the primary reason is because this is such an obvious violation of human rights," said Laurel MacLeod, legislative and public policy director for Concerned Women for America.
"USAID has a history of funding horrific populationcontrol programs around the world," MacLeod told Citizen. "Even if they back down a little on this one, it doesn't lessen their culpability in hurting and maiming women around the world."
Patterns of Abuse
In fact, a review of U.S.backed population programs shows that the abuses now coming to light in Peru are strikingly similar to those reported in other countries.
At the February hearings, Smith noted that in 1996 he had inquired about forced sterilizations in Mexico.
"Our [US]AID representative assured us loudly and clearly that 'that doesn't happen here,'" Smith recalled. Yet in light of a 1997 State Department report on Mexico, he said, "it now appears...she may have been mistaken."
That may be putting it mildly.
A 1997 PRI press conference presented numerous witnesses--and victims--who testified to widespread abuses in Mexico, as well as other countries.
One witness, Cecilia Brain Anguiano, told of having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted against her will when her answer to the standard question doctors ask of pregnant women--"what are you going to do in order to stop having children?"--was deemed unsatisfactory.
Anguiano had suggested that "maybe" her husband would get a vasectomy. But after Anguiano gave birth to another child, she discovered that "maybe" wasn't good enough.
"Since you are not sure," the doctor reportedly told her, "I have already inserted you with an IUD."
Another witness, a medical professional testifying under the pseudonym "Maria Garcia" for fear of reprisal, reported that coerced IUD insertion was common, often continuing even through labor. Women in labor are often separated from their husbands when they enter the hospital and not allowed to see them until six hours after delivery.
"I have seen women refuse to accept an IUD or sterilization four or five times during early stages of labor, only to give in when the pain and the pressure becomes too intense," Garcia said.
No other options besides the IUD or sterilization are offered to women, Garcia said, "because these are onceanddone procedures. They do not require the continuing voluntary participation of the women in question."
Then there's the quota system, which also shows up in countries such as the Philippines--where it was introduced by none other than the U.S. government itself.
"In conjunction with the Philippine Department of Health, USAID identifies certain local governments whose family-planning activities are to be 'accelerated,'" said Bernadette Ocampo, a Filipino nurse. "Yearly performance benchmarks for familyplanning acceptors [i.e., the number of people who accept contraception] are then set for those areas. If local governments meet those quotas, USAID releases funds to them."
That's standard procedure around the world for the American government, even though it violates a United Nations agreement--signed by U.S. representatives--forbidding populationcontrol quotas.
"USAID evaluates its programs by the numbers," Morrison said. "If you're somebody whose job depends on the program and the people who fund it want to see results...you're going to do it that way"
Human Lab Rats
In addition to promoting sterilizations, U.S.funded programs routinely dispense contraceptives such as Norplant and DepoProvera--which in some cases act as abortifacients and are known to cause dangerous side effects. PRI reports that in the U.S. alone, 50,000 lawsuits have been filed against Norplant's manufacturer, WyethAyerst.
What's worse, there's evidence that the programs have used Third World women as guinea pigs to test those drugs.
A 1995 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) documentary, The Human Laboratory, reported that in the mid1980s USAID paid a private group, the Population Council, to conduct Norplant tests in Bangladesh. The test subjects: poor women living in slums who were offered the drug for free and told it was proven safe. All they had to do was have six plastic cylinders implanted in their arms and their troubles would be over.
They learned the truth the hard way.
Many of the participants developed severe bleeding and other, oftendebilitating effects. Yet when they sought to have the Norplant cylinders removed, they were rebuffed, told that removal would ruin the trial. And the "free" drug suddenly had a price.
"I went to the clinic as often as twice a week [to have Norplant removed]," one woman said. "But they said, 'This thing we put in you costs 5,000 takas. We'll not remove it unless you pay the money.'"
While USAID disavowed knowledge of such abuses, data collected by a group monitoring the trials for the agency showed that out of I,300 women involved in the trial, more than 100 reportedly sought removal and were refused.
Nor were such stories confined to Bangladesh. The Human Laboratory uncovered similar accounts in Haiti: poor women brought into USAIDsponsored Norplant trials, only to suffer severe side effects and meet resistance when they sought to have Norplant removed.
Although populationcontrol programs are typically justified in terms of "helping" the poor around the world, the reality is that these programs inflict major health problems on countless women.
"Women who have at most one meal a day cannot tolerate the chemical inserts, injections and implants even the wellfed bodies of women from developed countries have a difficult time tolerating," wrote Mercedes Arzu Wilson, president of the natural familyplanning group Family of the Americas, in The Washington Times. "Malnourished women are far more susceptible to side effects from chemical and mechanical devices."
Things may get worse. Abortions in U.N. refugee camps are liable to claim the lives not only of unborn children, but oftentimes of their mothers.
Some abortions will likely be preformed with a device known as a manual-vacuum aspirator, which uses a long plastic syringe with a needle half an inch in diameter that "basically has to be shoved into women--often while they're lying on a dirt floor," MacLeod said.
"There's no way to dilate the cervix, so the cervix will be damaged. And it'd be extremely easy, and really probable, that the uterus would be punctured. So women will most likely bleed to death or die from infection--but it'd never be reported as death from abortion."
Doctors in the affected nations also complain that implementing the populationcontrol programs often take precedence over meeting even the most basic medical needs.
At PRI's 1997 press conference, Kenyan obstetrician/gynecologist Stephen Karanja noted that thousands of his people die of malaria, which can be treated for a few pennies, while U.S.-funded health facilities are "stocked to the roof with millions of dollars worth of pills, IUDS, Norplant [and] DepoProvera."
This emphasis is frustrating to doctors like Karanja.
"A mother brought a child to me with pneumonia, but I had no penicillin to give the child. What I have in the stores are huge cases of contraceptives," he said. "Mothers come to me and I am helpless."
Pull the Plug
After more than 30 years of paying for international population control, some members of Congress have had enough.
Smith has already urged fellow lawmakers to cut off U.S. funds for Peru's familyplanning programs "until it is clear that the sterilization goals and related abuses have stopped and will not resume."
Last year Smith led an unsuccessful effort to restore the Reaganera "Mexico City" policy, struck down by President Clinton in 1993, which forbids U.S. funding of groups that perform surgical abortions or promote them in other nations. This year he supported a measure which, though weakened, would enact some elements of his earlier proposal--including banning all U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund until that body withdraws from China, whose onechild-perfamily program is notorious for forced abortions. (At presstime the measure had passed the House and awaited Senate action.)
Some House members want to go much further. As he did last year, Rep. Ron Paul, RTexas--an obstetrician who has delivered more than 4,000 babies--plans to introduce an amendment to end all U.S. involvement in populationcontrol programs, including contraceptive funding.
MacLeod argues that this approach is necessary in light of the U.S. track record. "Trying to limit these things piecemeal doesn't work," she said. "The only way you're going to stop these kinds of atrocities and abuses is to cut off all U.S. funding for population-control."
No one may be more passionate about ending populationcontrol programs than the people whose countries have suffered through them--or more earnest in hoping that the American people would demand an end to such programs if they knew about them.
"I do not believe that Americans want their taxes used to hurt other people," Karanja said. "We in Kenya are a people like you who are entitled to the same human rights and dignity as yourselves. But our right to live a normal human existence is ignored by globalist decision makers."
Ocampo noted that U.S.backed groups are promoting and performing abortions even though the procedure is widely opposed in her country. Not to mention illegal.
"Please stop violating the national sovereignty of my country," Ocampo said. "Please stop undermining the cultural values of my people."
Citizen magazine, May, 1998, Vol. 12, No. 5, published by Focus on the Family. Copyright © 1998 Focus on the Family. All Rights Reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.