By Van Liew, Roland
Free Inquiry , Vol. 14, No. 2
For decades overpopulation has had a negative effect on the ability of developing countries to improve the welfare of their citizenry. That effect is accelerating; tens of millions of people are now starving in Africa (according to United Nations and Central Intelligence Agency figures), and the economies of Latin America are staggering under the weight of desperate multitudes. During the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, it became fashionable to declare that population levels have little or no impact on economic prosperity, physical health, or environmental quality. Such an assertion is utterly preposterous, yet was rarely rebutted. The Vatican, irrevocably opposed to birth control, has through intimidation and covert deals manipulated the political process in the United States and internationally to obstruct reproductive rights by suppressing contraceptive technology and substantive public dialogue. It has been difficult to trace the behind-the-scenes maneuvering; those who have broken the code of silence have often been summarily fired and their careers in the area of public family planning services ended. However, recent revelations by top officials inside the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N., and the U.S. Congress (many now retired and relatively safe from retribution) reveal the strategy and methods used by the Vatican to crush attempts to address family planning within WHO and, wherever possible, within local government as well.
Vatican Strategy for Dominating WHO
It has long been known that the Vatican uses its political muscle in countries with close ties to Rome, and more recently evidence has shown surprising influence within the U.S. government. |See the articles by R. T. Ravenholt and Stephen D. Mumford in this issue of FREE INQUIRY, and Roland Van Liew's essay in the Spring 1992 issue.--Ed.~ Still, it is shocking to learn that the Vatican has dominated WHO since its inception over forty years ago, and through strong-arm political pressure has kept family planning off the agenda of women's health issues. The story is both sad and frightening.
WHO began to form in 1946. Its leaders recognized that population control was vital to prevent mass starvation and the spread of disease such as have come to pass in Ethiopia, Somalia, and other parts of the world. The executive director of the WHO Interim Commission in 1946, and subsequently the first director general of WHO, was Dr. Brock Chisholm from Canada. "Chisholm firmly believed that overpopulation was a threat, a security threat if you will, to all the nations of the world. And that steps must be taken, that it should be considered part of the health function to do something about population control. . . . He considered it absolutely essential," according to Milton P. Siegel, assistant director general of WHO for twenty-four years. Why then did WHO not act? Siegel, who attended every meeting of the World Health Assembly and every session of the Executive Board for twenty-four years, has detailed the astounding success the Vatican had from the very outset in stifling family planning programs within WHO.
Upon his appointment, Siegel was immediately visited by the Vatican's representative in Geneva, but he refused to reveal his personal position on birth control. He subsequently observed that several countries, such as Ireland, Italy, and Belgium, had delegations dominated by the Vatican. Their representatives, particularly those from Ireland, strongly and successfully opposed even a discussion of family planning at WHO assemblies. Irish delegate Hourihane overtly acknowledged this while forcefully denouncing an early effort by Ceylon to add family planning to the agenda. Siegel recalls Hourihane's "strong, forceful statement . . . saying there were two major religions, and his country was one of them--that is, the major part of their population was one of the religions--which absolutely refused to permit their delegation to participate in any meeting where the problem of family planning was being discussed. …