Let's Hear It for Population Growth!

By Weber, James A. | The Human Life Review, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Let's Hear It for Population Growth!


Weber, James A., The Human Life Review


Many goodhearted people agree with pro-lifers on the principle that abortion is wrong-but are still on the fence when it comes to abortion politics. I call them the "Yes, but..." people. If you ask them if they think abortion is wrong and should be illegal worldwide, they will respond: "Yes, but. . ." And if you ask them, "Yes, but what?" many of them will respond, "Yes, but aren't there too many people?"

Where did this idea come from-the idea that the world is overpopulated, and that further population growth would be a bad thing? It certainly didn't come from world history. Throughout 99 percent of human history, population growth was so slow that it was the equivalent of zero-and human development or progress was just as slow. Since the 17th century, world population has grown tremendously, from 500 million to more than 6 billion-and this rapid population growth has been accompanied by a period of human development that has enabled the vast majority of the world's people to enjoy an ever-improving standard of living.

And the negative view of population growth sure didn't arise naturally from the history of the United States. Population growth in the U.S. has resulted in economic progress that is without parallel in world history. Two centuries ago, the U.S. had 4 million people and was a "developing nation." Today, it has nearly 300 million people and is the major military and economic power in the world. Indeed, since the founding of our country, we Americans have been proud of our growth in population: Not too many years ago, cities, towns, and villages eagerly updated roadside signs to proclaim their growing populations, and the U.S. Department of Commerce had a big clock that ticked off every new person added to the country's population.

So what happened to create a negative view of population growth in America, a land and a people for whom growth is as natural and healthy as breathing? What happened was an elitist propaganda onslaught to convince the American people, contrary to all available evidence and experience, that population growth is bad. This propaganda campaign was launched in the 1920s by Margaret Sanger, who initiated, organized, and funded the first World Population Conference in Geneva. The campaign went on hold during the Great Depression when depopulation became a concern but picked up steam again when the United Nations established a Population Commission in 1946. In the early 1950s, John D. Rockefeller III organized the Population Council to "study the problems presented by the increasing population of the world." There followed a mushrooming of individuals and organizations concerned with the so-called "population problem," culminating eventually in the first overt reference to population growth by a U.S. governmental body. This was the 1959 Draper Commission report, which recommended that the U.S. help nations "in the formulation of their plans designed to deal with the problem of rapid population growth" and "increase its assistance to local programs relating to maternal and child welfare in recognition of the immediate problem created by rapid population growth." The reference here to "maternal and child welfare," a euphemism, of course, for birth control, was the beginning of the twisting and distorting of words that has become the hallmark of the population-control and pro-abortion movement.

President Eisenhower was asked, at a press conference, about this recommendation for government-sponsored birth control. Here is what he said: "I cannot imagine anything more emphatically a subject that is not a proper political or governmental activity or function or responsibility... This government will not, as long as I am here, have a positive political doctrine in its program that has to do with the problem of birth control. That's not our business." But in 1962, after he had left office, Eisenhower wrote in the Saturday Evening Post: "When I was president, I opposed the use of Federal funds to provide birth control information to countries we were aiding . …

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