Inevitably Controversial: Melinda Gates and Contraception for the Poor
In the age of Wikipedia and viral internet sensations, it is easy for facts to be overshadowed by carefully crafted stories -- the truth eclipsed by popularity. It can take days, months, or even years to correct false information once it has "gone viral."
Often such claims don't involve life-and-death situations. But then there is the case of Melinda Gates and her sophisticated media campaign insisting that there is "No Controversy" in pushing harmful contraceptives onto the women of the developing world. Here we have the potential to negatively impact millions.
"When I travel and talk to women around the world, they tell me that access to contraceptives can often be the difference between life and death," Gates said in a statement following the London Summit on Family Planning on July 11, organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I have traveled around the world some myself, and I agree that contraceptives can be the difference between life and death. But the truth of the matter is that the nations that embrace contraceptives are the ones suffering demographic collapse. It's in such nations that women suffer harmful medical side-effects from drugs that they believed would help them.
Mrs. Gates especially should know this, as the Gates Foundation actually funded a study which found that women using hormonal contraception, especially injectable methods like Depo-Provera (the kind favored by Ms. Gates), were at increased risk of contracting and spreading HIV, which continues to decimate many African nations. In fact, the list of known risks of using hormonal contraception continues to grow.
The stated goal of the obviously not uncontroversial London summit was to raise $4 billion so that 120 million more women in the developing world might have access to contraception by 2020. They surpassed their goal by some $600 million, with a host of governments and NGOs promising to support the campaign. Ms. Gates also plans to give billions to research new contraceptive devices, such as one that is implanted in a woman's body for her entire life and "can be turned on and off."
Interestingly, Mrs. Gates and her partners weren't pressed much by the media on the secrecy surrounding the location of the launch of the "No Controversy" campaign to radically increase contraception use in the developing world. The location was not released to the public in advance, and the summit was by invitation only, even as Mrs. Gates boasted of her foundation's "transparency" in a recent appearance on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
Thus far, Mrs. Gates has yet to face any hard questions surrounding her controversial initiative and the facts about how contraceptives destroy cultures and harm women. For that intrepid reporter who dares to ask some pertinent, if unwelcome, questions, there are many newsworthy angles for exploration.
Even beyond the increasing number of studies showing the danger posed by hormonal contraception, one might ask how Mrs. Gates and her partners, which include the world's two largest abortion providers in Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), how they plan to ensure that such products will not be used coercively by governments who are under increasing pressure from the United Nations to lower their total fertility rates. Forced abortion and sterilization are certainly ongoing in China, India, and Uzbekistan, and these phenomena are likely much more common worldwide than reported.
And coincidentally, or not, it happens to be one hundred years since London's First International Eugenics Conference. This should also be a fruitful line of inquiry for reporters, since the founders of Gates partners Marie Stopes (Ms. Stopes herself) and IPPF (Margaret Sanger) were leaders in the early-20th-century movement to rid the world of those "unfit to live."
Sanger's troubling views on what should be done with the poor and "unfit" are now widely known, if for some reason still declared off-limits by the "reporters" who are busy repeating the Gates Foundation talking points following the summit. And like Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes was a eugenicist who believed in creating a more pure race, writing in 1920's Radiant Motherhood that the "sterilization of those totally unfit for parenthood [must] be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory."
Again, Gates would surely repudiate these views, but they can't be disconnected from the partners she has chosen to work with her in bringing "social justice" to the women of the developing world. Population control and eugenics are in no way just, and as a Catholic, Mrs. Gates should know this. It does no good to simply repackage the Sanger and Stopes missions as "reproductive health" and continue apace. Helping to lifting the poor out of poverty and preventing their existence are two very different things.
Will Mrs. Gates ever be forced to answer the obvious and, yes, controversial questions about concerns related to eugenics and to the ill effects on women from her proposed remedy to poverty? Solving the problem of poverty by reducing the number of poor people is absolutely controversial, as are Gates's partners. Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International both perform abortion, which is opposed to the traditional values of the cultures of many nations. A representative of Marie Stopes International even brazenly admitted at a London conference in 2007, to the obvious embarrassment of his peers, that the organization breaks the law and does illegal abortions all over the world.
It is not too late for Bill and Melinda Gates to use their vast wealth to help the poor in ways that are both uncontroversial and effective. They could make huge investments in infrastructure and in educating the citizenry of poor nations. They could use their clout to organize a coalition to put pressure on corrupt regimes that oppress the poor, and they could encourage more investment in developing nations, which leads to job-creation and increasing wealth and opportunity.
These are longstanding problems with solutions more complicated than can be examined here, but Mrs. Gates, the British government, and their partners will not change course unless they are challenged by reporters outside the conservative/pro-life community. It is a dark day when those charged with breaking through the carefully choreographed message of the wealthy and powerful instead see their vocation as helping these powers to craft their message and deflect criticism.
A true reporter should be offended when reasonable questions are ignored, when informed contrary opinions are dismissed without argument, and when good-faith efforts at fact-finding are condescended to with talking points claiming that there is "No Controversy" in joining with population control organizations to help the developing world emerge from poverty. Those more concerned with truth than with popularity and access to power will challenge Mrs. Gates and her powerful partners on these important questions.
Father Peter West is the vice president for missions at Human Life International, which is challenging Melinda Gates to rethink her approach to helping developing nations.