The movement of anti-Catholic thinkers and politicians to shove contraception down everyone’s throat got a renewed push this week in Great Britain. The New York Times is thrilled to report that the UK-based Lancet Foundation has published a study saying “unmet contraception demand” is driving up maternal death rates in the developing world. But there are several problems with both what the Times is reporting, and what it reflects on global priorities.
Let’s begin with the fact that if there was any real evidence of the “demand” for contraception, outside of the political fantasies of the population control movement, the Times did not report it. The closest they came was this quote, by Gary Darmadt of the Gates Foundation (founded by Bill & Melinda Gates) that bankrolled the study—““We hear time and again from women out in the field that they want the ability to plan their families.”
But no quotes from these mysterious “women in the field” are provided. I read the article anxiously waiting for the rebuke that would surely be administered to a man, working for an American billionaire, claiming some insight into the views of women in the Third World. Shockingly, the rebuke never came. I guess we’re just supposed to take Darmadt’s word for it that he speaks for “women in the field.”
Of course I have no more authority to speak for Third World women than Darmadt does, but I can identify causes that are more worthy of support than others. And whatever one’s belief on the morality of artificial contraception, I hope anyone would be able to agree that this article reporting hunger in Mauritania, or this report on health care needs in South Africa, both illuminate bigger “unmet demands” than birth control. Particularly given that the only demand being unmet in the latter case is the need of financially secure Westerners anxious to impose themselves on the rest of the world.
The population control movement has a sordid history—from the denigration of Irish Catholic neighborhoods in late 19th century Boston to the racist past of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, to align oneself to this movement is to be aligned with a heritage of racial and ethnic bigotry. And contrary to what some may think, this does not need to cross party lines in the United States. Within our own body politic, the debate naturally sets wealthy Democrats and Republicans against the poorer ilk within their own parties and then abroad. Watch your step if you take their help.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com.