The Population Control Controversy — Overpopulation Myths Continue

National   Steven Ertelt   Jun 2, 2005   |   9:00AM    WASHINGTON, DC

The Population Control Controversy — Overpopulation Myths Continue

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by Matt C. Abbott
June 2, 2005 Note: Matt C. Abbott is the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee and the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League. He is a Catholic journalist and commentator.

During the last three decades, the issue of overpopulation — or perceived overpopulation –has been discussed in various capacities. The primary instigators of these discussions have been the radical environmentalists, the radical animal rights activists, and certain wealthy elites in our Western society. All of these groups more or less assert that human beings are destroying the planet. There are too many of us, they say. Hence, we must utilize "family planning" (read: abortion, contraception, sterilization), even in a coercive manner, to limit the number of people born into the world.

As a result of this elitist, anti-life mentality, also known as the "contraceptive mentality," several countries, including the U.S., are steeped in what the late Pope John Paul II called a culture of death. In third world countries, abortion, contraception and sterilization seemingly abound; yet the most basic needs of food, clean water and medicine are often lacking. Why is this so? It would seem that international organizations such as the United Nations and Planned Parenthood are more interested in reducing the population of those less fortunate than in working to promote authentic economic development in underdeveloped countries.

The main questions involving this matter, I submit, are these: Is the world indeed overpopulated? What can be done to promote economic development and responsible parenthood in a way that is morally acceptable to virtually everyone?

The assertion that the world is overpopulated is essentially a myth. In a January 29, 2005 address given by Cesare Bonivento, Roman Catholic bishop of Papua New Guinea, at the Family Life International Symposium held in Papua New Guinea, Bishop Bonivento cited a 2003 report issued by the United Nations Population Division warning that "future fertility levels in most developing countries will likely fall below 2.1 children per woman, the level needed to ensure the long-term replacement of the population. By 2050, the UN document says, three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing below-replacement fertility, with all developed countries far below replacement level as well."

Bishop Bonivento continued: "The deeper reductions in fertility will have as a consequence a faster aging of the population of developing countries, and this aging will stress social security systems. Globally, the number of older persons (60 years or over) will nearly triple, increasing from 606 million in 2000 to nearly 1.9 billion by 2050."

Interestingly, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released a report in 2004 predicting "that the world’s population will increase by almost 40% by 2050, to 8.9 billion inhabitants" and that "such a demographic increase is an obstacle for development and for the environment."

Bishop Bonivento gave the following observation for the aforementioned contradictory report: "Why such an evidently contradictory evaluation? Because the warnings of the other UN agencies and of the demographers are jeopardizing UNFPA’s effort to curb the population with any means, including legal abortion. UNFPA is the agency supporting the Chinese one-child policy, which includes forced abortion for women having a second child."

Now, what can be done to foster economic development in third world countries? According to Dr. Brian Clowes, author and researcher for Human Life International (, such a program would: "provide basic health care and prenatal care to women and children, thereby dramatically reducing infant mortality rates; build road systems and bridges to remote areas, thus promoting regional economic self-sufficiency; help break down artificial economic barriers, such as family-run utility monopolies and overly complicated procedures for securing permits in order to start small businesses, thereby stimulating healthy competition; improve agricultural production with rural electrification, mechanization and adequate grain storage, thereby improving nutrition; provide clean running water to villages, reducing endemic diseases; and provide basic education to those who are not receiving it." (The Facts of Life, 1997, p. 311 – 312)

Finally, the widespread promotion of natural family planning, also known as natural fertility regulation, is vital, as it is "morally acceptable to all religions and cultures" (Clowes, p. 97). Information on natural family planning can be found on the following websites:,