Where ‘Choice’ Ends

Five years ago, Felipa Cusi, a poor Peruvian woman, went to a free clinic hoping for relief from her flu symptoms. Her "relief" took an unexpected form when she was involuntarily sterilized. Cusi, who lived to tell her story, was lucky. At least six other Peruvian women died after being involuntarily sterilized. These abuses took place under the auspices of Peru's Family Planning Program. As a report to Peru's congress put it, the program employed "explicitly restrictive and controlling" methods to achieve its goal of lowering Peru's birth rate. That's putting it mildly. There were sterilization quotas for hospitals and clinics. Health workers were paid between four- and twelve-dollars-a-head to "persuade" women to be sterilized -- a real incentive in a country where the average person earns less than one hundred dollars a month. This led workers to go beyond mere persuasion. In addition to their involuntary sterilization of women, health workers employed other techniques to meet quotas and collect bonuses. These included threatening women with starvation. Workers made sterilization a requirement for receiving food assistance. And they weren't bluffing. Emilia Mulatillo's hungry two-year-old daughter was denied food assistance after Mulatillo refused to be sterilized. What's almost as outrageous as what was done to these women was that our tax dollars helped pay for it -- twice. We supported Peru's program directly. And American taxpayers helped fund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which worked with Peru to implement the program. UNFPA denies that it knew what was happening. But Peruvian doctors have testified that United Nations "personnel worked in the health ministry" during the period of the worst abuses. In response to a report issued by a House subcommittee, the United States has stopped funding Peru's "family planning program." In addition, this administration is withholding $34 million from UNFPA. Not surprisingly, this has drawn the ire of groups like Planned Parenthood. Apparently, its definition of "reproductive freedom" does not include the right to actually have children -- just destroy them. What's important to understand is that what happened in Peru isn't an aberration. It's the inevitable consequence of the worldview that drives most population-control efforts. These efforts view people as the problem and reducing the number of people as the solution to almost everything: economic development, the environment, social and political stability. With all of this at stake, it's easy to see why some governments employ coercive means. A disregard for human dignity, human freedom, and human life itself is easier when you think that an "excess" of human beings is the problem. Stated bluntly, "family planning," in the sense that it is practiced by the likes of UNFPA and its American supporters, is at war with creation itself. Three cheers for the Bush administration for putting UNFPA in its place. While it's too late for Cusi, it's good to know that our tax dollars are no longer going to support a war against life itself -- a war where poor women are the collateral damage. For further information: Wendy McElroy, "U.N. Complicit in Forced Sterilizations," FOX News, 23 December 2002. Frank Bruni, "Persistent Drop in Fertility Reshapes Europe's Future," New York Times, 26 December 2002 (free registration required). "Peru: UNFPA Supported Fujimori's Forced Sterilization Campaigns," PRI Weekly News Briefing, Population Research Institute, 22 July 2002. Catherina Hurlburt, "It Started in America: How U.S. Tax Dollars Hurt Peruvian Women," Concerned Women for America, 11 May 2000. Even the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Law and Policy has uncovered abuses against Peruvian women in Silence and Complicity: Violence against Women in Peruvian Public Health Facilities (1999). Nicholas Eberstadt, "The New Trend: A Population Bust," Washington Post, 18 March 2001 (as posted on American Enterprise Institute's website). Matt Kaufman, "Too Few People on Earth," Boundless, 24 November 1999. Learn how you can make a difference in the culture with the "BreakPoint Culture of Life Packet." It includes the booklet "Building a Culture of Life: A Call to Respect Human Dignity in American Life" and a "BreakPoint This Week" special broadcast CD that includes an interview with Wilberforce Forum Fellow William Saunders, Human Rights Counsel and Senior Fellow in Human Life Studies for Family Research Council, along with a speech, "Bioethics and the Clash of Orthodoxies," by Dr. Robert George.


Chuck Colson


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