World Population Awareness

Religion, Culture

It Shouldn't Be a Sin to Plan Your Family

August 9, 2012, This is Kent

The Christian church's record on teaching sexual morality is patchy.

While Jesus taught the indissolubility and exclusivity of marriage, quite early in Christian history some Church leaders began to show a distaste for sexual intercourse which has had damaging results. They taught that celibacy was a higher way of life than marriage, and that sexual intercourse should be undertaken solely and exclusively for the procreation of children. They excluded the possibility that sexual union might be undertaken simply as an expression of affection and intimacy.

While few people today would argue that celibacy is superior to marriage, but there is still some disagreement over the place of sexual intercourse.

Nearly all Christian denominations teach that sexual union within marriage has a wider function that the production of children, but the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church adds that nothing artificial must be done to prevent conception.

Anything beyond planning a family by "natural" means - such as avoiding intercourse at times when the woman is most fertile - is sinful.

Very few Roman Catholics in western countries feel bound by their church's teaching in this respect; and they use artificial contraceptives, but in the developing world the teaching has what many would see as a damaging effect.

An initiative recently begun by the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide family planning facilities for many millions of women who were previously denied them was intended to prevent unwanted pregnancies which often endanger the mother's health or produce another mouth which it will prove hard to feed.

But official Roman Catholic church strenuously resists initiatives of this kind, both on grounds of doctrine and by arguing that the money involved could be better spent in other ways.

Many Christians take another view, saying that it has been conceded that sexual intercourse has a wider purpose than procreation it is hard to see why artificial contraception within marriage should be forbidden. doclink

Jesus All About Tolerance

Sacremento Bee LTE by Margaret Loehr

Once again, fear and hatred mask themselves as religion and loudly encourages intolerance in the name of Jesus.

Jesus never mentioned homosexuality or abortion.

Nor did he ever suggest that there was a "right" religion or that the purpose of religion was to judge others and get them to do what we want them to do.

Rather, he taught tolerance for the divinity in all.

He railed against hypocrisy. He realized that the reason we condemn others is to distract ourselves from clearly seeing our own improprieties.

If we sincerely want to heal the woes of humanity, we cannot do it through hatred and intolerance. Our hope lies in our ability to move into acceptance of our own humanity and the humanity of others. Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Socrates, Gandhi, Jesus and many others all emphasized this simple message. doclink

New York Times*

Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and most of Judaism and Christianity see responsible parenthood in marriage, including the use of contraception, as a moral good. Highly respected religious leaders, including two Nobel laureates, have opened the door to admit abortion in some circumstances. Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu supported the South African constitutional provision legalizing abortion. And the Dalai Lama, while generally opposed to abortion, said in a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile, "I think abortion should be approved or disapproved according to the circumstances." Indeed, in mainline Christianity, fairly widespread support exists for population stabilization (not a women's-rights issue) and for family planning and even abortion, as necessary, to save the planet. doclink

Desmond Tutu, Former Anglican Archbishop of CapeTown

Planned parenthood is an obligation of those who are Christians. Our church thinks we should use scientific methods that assist in family planning. doclink

Isaiah 5:8 - The Unbound Bible

"Woe unto them that join house to house, lay field to field, till [there be] no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" doclink

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There is scarcely anything more tragic in human life than a child who is not wanted. doclink

"Almost all the influential figures in the world's religions had small families," observed McGill University's Arvind Sharma at the 1999 Hague Forum. "Rama, the popular God of Hinduism, had two sons; the Bud-dha had one son; Mahavira, the last prophet of Jainism, had one daughter (if that); Confucius had one son; Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism, none. Abraham had two sons and two daughters; Moses had two sons; Jesus none. The prophet Mohammed was survived by a daughter." doclink

...The Prophet Muhammad

"The worst problem is to possess
plenty of children with inadequate means." doclink

...Ayatollah Ali Khomenei

"When wisdom dictates that you do not need
more children, a vasectomy is permissible." doclink

"Will our grandchildren praise us for being part of the sustainability transformation? Or will they curse us for clinging to old fashioned habits that used up their heritage?" doclink

Religion and Cairo

In the original Cairo conference, 170+ countries approved the principals, but objections came from nations with extremist religious factions, including Catholic and Islamic fundamentalists: Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Vatican; Algeria, Libya, Malta, and Sudan. Specific objections that have been raised include the Commission on Population and Development's recommendations that (a) reproductive health services should include new methods of emergency contraception, (b) abortion be made safe where it is legal, and (c) that young people have full access to sexual and reproductive health education and services. doclink


We Must Balance Our Population Growth and Resources

May 11, 2014, Saudi Gazette   By: Khaled Almaeena

The population boom in Gulf countries in recent years is alarming. In order to meet the challenge to improve services for citizens, we must have balanced population growth.

We have to ask ourselves: Do we want more children just for the numbers? Do we have the mental, physical and the material capability to raise them? Do we have time for all of them? Are we able to cater to their emotional needs? With the rising number of handicapped children, many due to intermarriage between close relatives, are our educational and health services capable of providing them with the basic services they require?

As Muslims, we do believe that God provides for all. But God also expects us to use our reason and logic. I see in supermarkets, airports and public places the tired faces of women, some in their early 30s, dragging seven or eight screaming children along, snapping at them and occasionally slapping one of them. Last week, I saw a father twist the arm of his seven-year-old son as three younger siblings cowered in fear.

In a region where water scarcity is a major concern, our top priority should be to preserve our resources and balance our population in order to enhance the quality of life and ensure a better future for the younger generation.

History tells us that large numbers don't count. doclink

World Contraception Day: Crossing the Borders of Tradition and Religion

September 19, 2012, Women Deliver   By: Dr. Shibilu Shamsudeen

The topics of contraception and sexual education are largely avoided in many Muslim countries. And many countries in the Middle East have laws against the purchase of oral contraceptive pills.

However, the Holy Quran does permit contraception as long as both partners consent, it's not permanent, and it doesn't cause bodily harm. Education is needed in order to change the perception of policy makers, and this education needs to be respectful of their traditional values while reassuring them of the benefits of making contraception available to young people.

Middle Eastern traditions and Shariah (Islamic) law dictate that pre-marital sex (even between consenting adults above the age of 18) is punishable by law. This often brands all contraceptive methods as instruments for having sex out of marriage. The uses, risks, and contraindications are not discussed and are unknown to adult women. The general view is that these topics promote sexual behavior among unmarried men and women.

Doctors are an exception and can provide contraceptive advice to married couples. Unmarried men and women have no access to contraceptive knowledge and are at risk of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Unmarried pregnant women may even attempt suicide when they feel they have no options.

Also, emergency contraception is not widely available, which has led to an alarming rise in cases of fake and often dangerous pills that are purchased online.

Progress in introducing the topics of contraception and sex education may be slow, but every step forward is significant.The significance of providing contraception and improving overall healthcare must be linked. Experts will impart knowledge and train peer educators, to construct policies and to negotiate with government agencies.

Basic awareness-raising can begin through the Friday Islamic congregational prayer and the sermons, while keeping the Islamic law according to the Quran and Hadith in the forefront.

Peer educators also need to be selected on the basis of sex, nationality, language, and communication skills so they can be specifically tailored for specific groups, particularly with the men and women separately.

Feedback from participants is also important to help educators improve their teaching, answer the relevant questions, and dispel the common myths and misconceptions about contraception. Social media and the internet can also serve this purpose.

Information must be freely available to empower youth about making responsible decisions to avoid unwanted pregnancies. doclink

Family's 20 Kids Highlight Pakistan's Population Explosion

July 6, 2012,

Akbar Laghari of Pakistan's Department of Population Welfare says large families are fueling a population explosion that is fast becoming the country's most dangerous crisis, having grown from around 33 million in 1947 to more than 180 million people in 2012, making it the sixth most populous country in the world.

Only 20% of Pakistani women use modern birth control and the UN estimates the country will become the world's third most populous country after China and India by 2050.

"I consider the population problem the biggest problem of this country," Laghari said. "The future is bleak because of this." He said the government has not done enough to offer effective family planning services and teach people about birth control. The government is not giving it top priority because of the political upheavals in the country and frequent changes in government.

With widespread poverty, an energy crisis, woeful public services, and a bloody, resource-draining insurgency, Pakistan can ill afford to see this rapid growth continue, Laghari warned.

Zeba Sathar, Pakistan country director for the Population Council, a non-profit organization that specializes in public health research in developing countries says many people are unable to make informed decisions because support services such as family planning are lacking. "The poor end up with many children because they don't have access to right kind of information." she said.

"We're doing a lot of research where women say 'we didn't want that many children,' or they wanted to have them later but they just didn't find the services. ... The philosophy is we're not into controlling the number of children. If you can bring up a healthy family with 20 children, kudos to you. It's a question of running out of resources. It's when the 15th one suffers."

In the case of the family with 20 children, the family can only afford to send four of their offspring to school, the rest have to work to support the family.

While Pakistan is a deeply conservative country where many view birth control as un-Islamic and some say "The process of reproduction will go on until God stops it. Why should a Muslim worry about the increase in population when God has taken responsibility for everyone's care?" - and women are deprived of the right to make important decisions such as whether to have a child - one the other hand, other Muslim countries with similar problems to Pakistan, including Bangladesh and Iran, have introduced measures to curb their growing populations. Those countries started with the political will to do something and spent a lot of time and resources on family planning efforts.


Karen Gaia says: There is hope in that birth spacing is often allowed. Apparently the Prophet himself did not want his wife to get pregnant when she was on a long journey.

The Word on Women - Niger Starts to Tackle Soaring Population - with Help of Imams


Until recently the subject of family planning in Niger was taboo, but commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union's top humanitarian-aid official, was pleasantly surprised this time to see a project teaching women about contraception and the importance of spacing births.

The local Imam where she visited "was quoting the Koran saying there's a verse that says there has to be time between the birth of children so the children and mother can recover and be strong."

The support of the local religious leaders at the health centre she visited in Bambey, in western Niger, was crucial for bringing down the high rate of population growth, she said. The growth was putting a strain on a country that is among the poorest in the world, that struggles with a harsh climate and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Since independence in 1960, Niger's population has risen from less than 2 million to 15 million plus.

Now there is "remarkable openness to address family planning". "At the level of the president, prime minister, ministers and cabinet there's an openness to discussing family planning. There's an openness that 3.3-percent population growth is not sustainable," she added.

"There are already activities on the ground (for) family planning in a very community-based and respectful manner ... The topic is not taboo anymore."

Mothers need to space their children to avoid back-to-back pregnancies which contribute to malnutrition and keep mothers weak. "That's where there is potential to work hand in hand with community leaders and religious leaders. It has to be culturally acceptable to work."

The annual hungry season in Africa's Sahel countries is expected to begin in late February or early March - several months earlier than usual. Aid agencies say between five and nine million people are at risk.

Talking about population growth in relation to food shortages is a sensitive issue, partly because large families are considered important in many cultures, particularly where people rely on their children to help on the land and to support them in old age.

Many argue that the real causes of food shortages are political and economic. Georgieva says a food crisis is looming in the Sahel due to poor rains, bad harvests, food-price hikes and the return of migrants from Libya, among other factors.

But she also argues more generally that it is time for the world to pay more attention to managing population growth in fragile environments. When she visited Kenya last year she realised that in 1963 it had more or less the same population as her own country Bulgaria - well below 10 million. Today Bulgaria is at 7.5 million whereas Kenya's has soared to 40 million.

The populations of other affected countries had also grown five times and this meant that when there were droughts the impact was all the more severe.

For a very readable look at some of the arguments on why population growth is not the cause of famine, take a look at this article published by Al Jazeera: Famine in the Horn of Africa: Malthus beware. doclink

Karen Gaia said: I looked at the Al Jazeera article and it kept comparing the Horn of Africa to the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma, as most Americans recall, in the 1930s had huge desertification and a resulting 'dust bowl' that drove farmers out of the state. This was a time when Oklahoma's population was far less than today, and it lost 7% of its population due to the Dust Bowl.

Other comments following the Al Jazeera article:

Of course population growth is not the sole aspect of famine - bureaucratic and political incompetence and venality is there too. Factor in useless and ineffective donor-driven projects and lack of market infrastructure. But the comparison with Oklahoma is invidious - simply nonsensical unless one suggest that Okies are demographically youthful, illiterate, chronically sick, underfed (if not starving), corrupt and lack access to all the resources that those in the HoA clearly do. Technical change does indeed keep the developed world ahead of popu

Islam and Family Planning

November 25, 2011, Population Media Center

by Asghar Ali Engineer of Mumbai, Islamic scholar

Many people ask if family planning is permissible in Islam, saying the imams and ulama say Qur'an prohibits family planning and quoting a verse which says, "And kill not your children for fear of poverty - We provide for them and for you. Surely the killing of them is a great wrong." (17:31). .... This does not refer to family planning because you can only kill one who exists.

Some people suggest that it refers to the practice of burying the girl child alive when they cannot provide for them, but as Imam Razi suggests, it refers to both male and female children being kept ignorant. Not killing the body but killing the mind which is as bad as killing the body. The word used here is 'awlad' i.e. children which include both male as well as female and not only female.

In fact a large family means children cannot be properly educated by poor parents and hence parents kill them mentally by keeping them ignorant. They cannot even clothe them properly. In such circumstances one cannot have good quality Muslims and better quality is more desirable than mere quantity.

In early days the problem of family planning did not exist. It is a modern problem. Most of the nation states in third world do not have economic means to support a large population, including feeding them, educating them and also providing proper health services. These are basic duties of modern nation states.

The paucity of resources require the adoption of family planning. When Qur'an was being revealed there was neither any properly organized state nor education or health services being provided by any state agency. It is important to note that Qur'an which shows eight ways to spend zakat, does not include education or health which is so essential for the state to provide today. Thus what Imam Razi suggests is not only very correct and also enhances importance of family planning in the modern times as small family can support better education and health services.

Verse 4:3 is usually interpreted: do not marry more than one so that you may not do injustice. But Imam Shafi'I renders it as 'so that you do not have large family'.

In understanding the Qur'an, even very eminent imams and great scholars differed from each other. One should not impose one single meaning of a verse on all Muslims. It could be interpreted differently by different people in their own context and circumstances. Family planning being a modern need one should not reject it out of hand and quote Qur'anic verses out of context.

The Qur'an also suggests that a child be suckled at least for two years and it is well known that as long as mother suckles she would not conceive. Thus indirectly the Qur'an also suggests spacing of a child.

Even in hadith literature we find that the Prophet (PBUH) permitted prevention of conceiving in certain circumstances. When a person asked Prophet for permission for 'azl (coitus interrupts) as he was going for a long journey along with his wife and he did not want his wife to conceive while travelling the Messenger of Allah allowed him. In those days 'azl was the only known method for planning of birth of a child. Today there are several methods available like use of condoms.

Imam Ghazzali, a very eminent theologian and philosopher allows termination of pregnancy if mother's life is in danger and shows several methods for termination. He even allows termination of pregnancy on health grounds or if mother's beauty is in danger provided it is in consultation with her husband.. Some scholars say that verse 23:14 concludes that one can terminate pregnancy up to three months as this verse describes stages of development of sperm planted in mother's womb and it takes three months for life to begin.

However, many ulama oppose termination of pregnancy. Whatever the case one cannot declare family planning as prohibited in Islam as it in no way amounts to killing a child already born. doclink

In Pakistan, Birth Control and Religion Clash

August 10, 2011, NPR

Nearly 4 million babies are born in Pakistan every year, and most are born into poverty. The World Bank says 60% of Pakistanis live on less than $2 a day, according to a new government survey,

Yet clerics in religiously conservative Pakistan tell the Muslim majority that the Quran instructs women to keep bearing as many babies as possible and say that modern family planning is a Western convention that offends Islam.

But a woman can temporarily put off becoming pregnant. The mufti says the Quran encourages mothers to space their pregnancies and to breast-feed their babies for prolonged periods. During that time the man may also use condoms and the rhythm method.

The mufti Zakaria says being poor should in no way limit having babies. Referencing the Quran, he says, "God will provide the resources and no one will starve." The Quran also instructs that children must not be deprived of a proper upbringing. However, in Pakistan 38% of all children under 5 are underweight, and according to government data, malnutrition is widespread among mothers.

The mufti answers: "Every society has its own value system. You should not judge us by yours. Children in the West lead a luxurious life. Earth is their heaven. Our children should not be compared with them," the mufti says. "Muslims don't pay much heed to the mundane pleasures of this world. Our reward will come in the next life."

The mufti adds that the West has taken modern contraception too far by removing the fear of getting pregnant and therefore removing women's sexual inhibitions. In Pakistan, "if a woman's fear is removed," says the mufti, she will stray into bad behavior "and offend God."

70% of married women use no birth control method at all. While the government is ineffectual in promoting family planning, Dr. Yasmin Raashid, a leader in obstetrics and gynecology in Pakistan says if properly followed, the Quran's teachings about spacing pregnancies would automatically mean smaller families. She says more than anything else illiteracy undermines family planning in Pakistan.

"Educated mothers limit their families," she says. "The tragedy in our country has been that the majority of women in Pakistan are not educated." She says educating young girls is the single best policy for reducing the country's high fertility rate and for achieving smaller, healthier families.

In Sri Lanka the literacy rate is 91%. and the fertility rate is 2.3, compared with Pakistan, where it is 3.9. In Pakistan, infant mortality is nearly six times as high as in Sri Lanka - a smaller, poorer country.

"And the only thing that you see different there is that women are educated there," Raashid says. "They know about their rights. They know what has to be done where their children are concerned. They know what to do where their own health is concerned.

In Pakistan, less than 1% of GDP is spent on health care. 12,000 mothers die in childbirth in Pakistan each year. Pakistan must invest in more midwives. Only 25% of women being delivered by skilled birth attendants.

Islamic law prevalent in Pakistan says the soul is deemed to come into the fetus at four months, and so up to four months, abortion may be induced for "good cause." But abortion has become a dangerous form of birth control as women submit themselves to unskilled practitioners. It's the fifth-leading cause of maternal death in Pakistan because of the infections related to incomplete abortions and septic abortions.

On woman the interviewer met said she was already ill and overburdened with seven children. But she's pregnant again. She wants to stop having babies, and told her husband so. But her husband wanted a second daughter. doclink

School's Out for Egypt's Sex Education

October 7, 2010, Guardian (London)

In a surprising move, the Egyptian government has decided to scrap all content in the secondary school curriculum relating to sex education, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases.

There will be "activities in which the teacher will lead a class discussion on the subject" - a suggestion that is difficult to take seriously since anything remotely related to sex, really - is usually met in Egyptian classrooms with giggles. And teachers were too shy to teach it.

"The coming generation will be lacking basic knowledge in sex, STDs, birth control, hygiene - all thanks to the minister of education." An increasingly religiously conservative society is also to blame.

Even the country's leading medical school at Cairo University does not teach sex education. Ain Shams University medical school students have a "sexology" class - the "anatomical and biological aspects of sex ed, not the social and psychological ones.

While Iran and Tunisia have taken pioneering steps in reaching out to young people to address their needs, the region as a whole lacks the political commitment and institutional capacity to do so. Only Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Bahrain include a reproductive health module in their national school curricula.

In Saudi Arabia, a recent study found that there is a severe need for sex education in the country and that 80% of parents surveyed approved of it. But an Emirati bestselling book on sex education, which has already earned the approval of the Mufti of Dubai, was banned in Saudi Arabia and its author has received death threats from conservatives who accuse her of blasphemy.

In Syria, the United Nations Population Fund feels compelled to reassure people on its website that sex education does not actually encourage sexual activity. Lebanon, often viewed as the most liberal country in the Middle East, had decided in 1997 to teach reproductive health to the 12-14 age group, only to have a presidential decree scrap those chapters from the school curriculum three years later.

A study reported that only 7% of adolescents had learned about sex from their fathers (while 42% of fathers said they discussed the matter with their kids); a 2006 survey by the Pan Arab Project for Family Health reported that, in Algeria, 95% of male respondents and 73% of female respondents had learned about puberty on their own, without professional or family assistance.

Television is potentially a useful source of information. With the airwaves awash with shows featuring clerics of various levels of religious knowledge and taking live telephone questions from the audience, sex and relationship questions have become a staple of the discussions - though unfortunately it is religious clerics and not sexologists who are dispensing advice.

One cable television show, presented by sexologist Dr Heba Kotb, represents the first groundbreaking effort on Arab television to respond to such queries ranging from the simplest to the more complex. A Syrian radio show - Today's Discussion - has reportedly begun to address questions of sex education.

All these programmes preach abstinence and fidelity and premarital sex is not covered by the mainstream educational media The international basic ABC programme - advocating Abstinence, Being Faithful, and using Condoms - finds its effectiveness curtailed when it stops at the first or second letter.

With local campaigns across the region planned to mark World Aids Day on 1 December, it is important to recall that, despite having some of the lowest incidence rates in the world, HIV/Aids is rapidly on the rise, with a 300% increase between 2004 and 2007, compared with 20% globally. This is a terrifying statistic whose only silver lining might be to remind that prevention is better than treatment - and that prevention starts with proper and accurate knowledge. If we want to address this, sex education in schools is the unavoidable first step. doclink

U.S.: Top Ways 9/11 Broke Islamic Law

September 11, 2010, Juan Cole website

Al-Qaeda was a tiny fringe terrorist movement, not a globe-straddling threat to Western societies. The organization has been decisively disrupted and now lacks command and control. Its leader, Usama Bin Laden, has not been seen in a video since 2004, and is either dead or horribly disfigured. Its number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dangerous only in the way that any other terrorist crank is, firing off crackpot messages to his dwindling band of followers from time to time. With the startling rise of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States, it is worthwhile underlining the ways in which September 11 contravened Islamic values and Islamic law.

1. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur'an says, "There is no compulsion in religion. The right way has become distinct from error." Islam's holy book forbids coercing people into adopting any religion. They have to willingly choose it.

2. Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare. The Quran says, "But if the enemies incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace. And trust in God! For He is the one who hears and knows all things."

3. In Islamic war, not just any civil engineer can declare or launch a war. It is the prerogative of the duly constituted leader of the Muslim community. Nowadays that would be the president or prime minister of the state.

4. The killing of innocent non-combatants is forbidden. The first Caliph gave these instructions to his armies: "I instruct you in ten matters: Do not kill women, children, the old, or the infirm; do not cut down fruit-bearing trees; do not destroy any town . . .

5. Muslim commanders must give the enemy fair warning that war is imminent. The Prophet Muhammad at one point gave 4 months notice. Sneak attacks are forbidden.

The World Trade Center had a mosque in it, which Bin Laden destroyed, and he killed dozens of innocent Muslims in the attack along with thousands of others. All of this is an abomination in Islamic law.

By the laws of classical Islam and the instructions of the Quran, then, the September 11 act of terrorism was illegal. It is not an affirmation of Islam but a departure from its laws of war. That is why, contrary to popular belief, Muslim authorities have roundly condemned al-Qaeda's actions in no uncertain terms. See also the Amman statement, to which large numbers of prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders subscribed.

Al-Qaeda can legitimately be seen as not a Muslim group at all. Usama Bin Laden openly said of the hijackers that they were lawless secret operatives rather than proper Muslims. Many of these operatives simply were not fundamentalists but rather an odd sort of Muslim nationalist. Bin Laden did not target the US because of its way of life, but because he said it imposed a boycott on Iraq in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, because it encouraged the Saudi regime to pump more oil than it should so as to keep the price low, because it stationed troops in the kingdom. Even if Bin Laden hadn't been a crackpot with conspiracy theories, these points are not civilizational or religious issues. They are just politics.

Bin Laden wanted a big fight between the Muslim world and the United States. He wanted the US mired in Afghanistan. He is a nobody, leading a tiny group of cells now mostly disrupted. But the US has sunk itself into a quagmire of wars in a vast over-reaction to a terrorist attack. Without the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, al-Qaeda might well have just disappeared even further into insignificance than it did. And now, instigated by the Republican Party, US society is moving toward an Islamophobia that could well set it at odds with 1.5 billion Muslims.

Bin Laden is not a proper Muslim, and his actions contravened Islamic law. Americans need to stop blaming Islam, and to recognize that most Muslims in the world are their friends, and that American Muslims are patriots and contributors to our well-being.

Every time Americans tear down Islam, Bin Laden gets a little bit of what he wanted. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we need to follow the example of Greg Mortenson who is building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His efforts will build peace, promote gender equality, and help stabilize population. When conservative Republicans understand this, we can wage less war and spend our money on helpful things, like education, development, and sustainable practices.

Niger: Small Steps Towards a Sustainable Future

August 27, 2010, UN Integrated Regional Information Network

The population of Niger is growing at an unsustainable rate. If current growth rates of 3.3% per year remain unchanged, by 2050 Niger's 15.2 million will have reached 50 million. Even today there is widespread malnourishment.

25 years ago Niger identified population control as a priority in its fight against poverty. But convincing people to have fewer children by marrying later and using contraception is not an easy task.

The government is unable to feed and educate its population.

Nearly 60% of the population survives on less than a dollar a day. A woman dies every two hours while giving birth. Nearly one child in five dies before the age of five. Almost one in three does not attend primary school. There is no land for farming.

The economy would have to grow at a rate of 7% a year to meet people's basic needs, but average annual growth in the last decade has been just 3.1%.

By 2015, at the current rate of population growth, thousands more classrooms, teachers, and health personnel will be required. On average, each active member of society will have to look after at least two inactive ones. And the already deficient food production will be even less adequate.

The average number of births per woman is 7. Women are learning that it is good to put some time between children.

The average age at birth is 15-16. By 2015, the country aims to reduce the proportion of early marriages from 60% to 40% and the number of children per women to five. Some 18% of its sexually active population should be using contraception by then.

The contraception message seems to have had more resonance in the cities.

When a man has several wives, wives will often compete to have the most children, because this will reflect on their status in the family and on their inheritance share.

Without the sanction of men and religion, change is unlikely. A representative of the UNFPA says: "It is men who decide when it comes to contraception, or delivering at the health centre. This is related to the problem of women's status in the society."

Now the UNFPA has started started engaging men in family planning. Married men were invited to meet twice a month to discuss reproductive health, which helped them to become more involved with health and family matters.

The father of 12 children under 21 describes it as a heavy burden but also explains: "We think that if you have five children who can fetch wood, well, that will help the family." But the UNFPA is trying to fight against that idea by stressing that children are expensive to raise.

It is no longer necessary to have five children to ensure two survive, with many more children surviving now that there is better access to health care and vaccination.

Islam is not against family planning. Muslim countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Iran have successful family planning programs.

The size of the family needs to be on a par with resources. The Koran never said you should make children regardless of your ability to look after them.

The use of contraception has increasedfrom 5% in 2006 to over 13%. Contraception was a taboo subject in 1990. "This is no longer the case. Condoms are being shown on TV and people are not shocked." doclink

Mullahs Help Promote Birth Control in Afghanistan

Margie Mason Associated Press

Afghanistan has the world's second highest fertility rate, topped by Sierra Leone, and averaging more than six babies per woman despite years of war and a severe lack of medical care. UNICEF estimates only 10% of women use some form of birth control.

But now some mullahs in Afghanistan are distributing condoms. Others are quoting the Quran to encourage longer breaks between births by breast-feeding for two years. Use of the pill, condoms and injected forms of birth control rose to 27% over eight months in three rural areas - up to half the woman in one area - once the benefits were explained one-on-one by health workers, according to UNICEF.

It is important to women, who do not want to be pregnant now, to prevent death from an unwanted pregnancy - "especially when we could have helped her," said lead author Dr. Douglas Huber, who conducted the study for U.S.-based nonprofit Management Sciences for Health. "The fastest, cheapest, easiest way to reduce maternal deaths in Afghanistan is with contraception."

37 mullahs endorsed using contraceptives as a way to increase the time between births, some delivering the message during Friday prayers. "All the mullahs at the community level knew of these things that the Prophet Muhammad himself advised his followers." ... "This was not a hard sell."

Islam does not fundamentally oppose birth control. Everything from vasectomies to abortions are supported in various parts of the Muslim world.

Marie Stopes International has trained 3,500 religious leaders nationwide on the issue since 2003. It distributed more than 2 million condoms last year, some of them distributed by mullahs, at hours after clinics were closed.

The Health Ministry collaborated with nonprofit organizations to spread the word to both Sunni and Shia Muslims that using birth control was 300 times safer than giving birth in Afghanistan. They also involved husbands in the project and sought to dispel beliefs that contraceptives have negative side effects, such as infertility.

The Health Ministry plans to expand the program nationally and will invlove USAID, the European Union and the World Bank in the scale-up. doclink

Afghanistan: Imams to the Rescue in Curbing Maternal Mortality

January 12, 2009, IRIN News (UN)

Islam does not allow the killing of the foetus but it oes not want mothers to face health risks because of constant pregnancies. Islam does not oppose delayed pregnancies if this helps the health and well-being of mothers. Religions wield strong influence among people in rural communities where high rates of illiteracy contribute to the deaths of thousands of mothers and children every year.

Every year 17,000 women die due to pregnancy-related complications and one child in four does not reach his/her fifth birthday. Food insecurity and lack of access to health services are weakening the health and nutritional status of women, and multiple and short-spaced pregnancies often cause early deaths. Child marriage is also a major factor. Child marriage and forced marriage are in contradiction with Islam.

The ministries of women's and religious affairs have been working to involve religious leaders to reduce maternal mortality.

Dozens of imams participated in workshops in Kabul at which gender experts tried to convince them to spread the word on birth gaps and legal-age marriage.

In the province of Badakhshan, which reportedly has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country, such efforts have borne fruit.

However, in the volatile southern and eastern provinces, where Taliban insurgents have assassinated dozens of pro-government religious leaders, preaching about family planning is a risky and unattractive job. doclink

Pakistan: 800 Religious Scholars to Educate People on Family Planning

July 17, 2007, Daily Times

The Population Welfare Department has trained 800 religious scholors and khateebs for family planning education. Committees had been set up to raise family planning awareness and about 3,000 male mobilisers had been registered for the purpose. Due to the lack of education people had been considering family planning a taboo, but they were now being activated in this regard. The support of religious leaders, media, poets, and philosophers is needed to overcome the increasing population. People mistreated the family planning workers in the past but this trend is now changing. Doctors have lured to rural areas with Rs 30,000 salary package. The ministry would set up free medical camps in flood-stricken areas. The population in Punjab had exceeded 80 million while the annual birth rate was 1.89%.

Rs 6,062 million has been granted for the Family Planning Programme, supported by the UNFPA.

About 25,000 vasectomies were registered last year, which is encouraging. Most of the family planning centres have been set up in the rural areas. Efforts are being made to improve the infrastructure and equipment. doclink

Indonesia: Muslim Ulemas to Help Govt Steer Family Planning

Jakarta Post

The National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) is drafting a handbook for Muslims to guide them in disseminating the government's family planning program. The handbook is the result of an international conference of Muslim leaders. The board's guidance is intended to invigorate family planning among Indonesian families and includes healthy timing for pregnancy and intervals between pregnancies, through Islamic teachings and values.

In a society dominated by Muslims, ulemas are considered prominent figures whose views and actions are watched and followed.

The handbook will cover: Islam and family planning; health for mothers and babies; adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS-free families.

It is expected the ulemas can create a conducive environment among Indonesians to implement the family planning program.

After the guidance handbook for Muslim ulemas was completed, BKKBN would also take similar steps with leaders from other religious denominations. doclink

The Muslim World's Changing Views Toward Family Planning and Contraception

August 15, 2007, Bruce Sandquist's home page

The Muslim world has the world's highest rate of population growth and is involved in more armed conflicts than any other region of the world. Changes are taking place in the Muslim world in the status of women, and there are other evidence of slower rates of population growth in the decades to come. The extremely high population growth rates are the results of the shortage of financial capital and the degraded state of Middle East lands which causes people to use children as a social security system. The low status of women in fundamentalist-oriented Muslim societies prevent women from obtaining educations and good jobs, increasing their desired family sizes. Many Muslim Mullahs take a dim view of tubal ligation and vasectomy if not other forms of contraception. The total fertility rate in India is 3.6 for Muslims, 2.8 for Hindus, and 2.4 for Christians. The growth of Islamic fundamentalism would suggest that it is not possible. But the Muslim religion is a faith with no central doctrinal authority to serve as the "bridge" between Muslim principles and modern life that are supposed to be issued by religious scholars. In Egypt alone, thousands of fatwas are issued every month. Religious and political leaders in the Muslim world are saying there is a crisis in Islam because too many fatwas are being issued, and many of them reflect ideology more than learning. There has been an explosion of places offering fatwas, from web sites, to satellite television shows that take phone calls, to radical and terrorist organizations. The relationship between the Koran and fatwas is increasingly a matter of dispute. Some Muslim scholars view the Koran's word and ideas as fixed, others see their job as reconciling modern life with the text by bending the text to fit new circumstances. This explains the broad range of views on family planning and contraception coming from Islam's Mullahs. As public opinion shifts fatwas tend to shift accordingly. Muslims can just find a Mullah whose fatwas are more to their liking and achieve the same effect. doclink

Family Planning Key to Afghan Maternal Deaths: U.N.

April 30, 2007, Reuters

Afghanistan's maternal mortality rate of one dead mother for every 60 births would be brought down if mothers spaced their pregnancies. Afghan women have among the highest deaths from pregnancy and complications.

Bringing the toll down means trained birth attendants, emergency hospital care available and family planning. Family planning is not against the rules of Islam.

The principle of family planning is enshrined in the Koran which says women should nurse for two years, it was a form of family planning.

Spacing allows a mother to regain her health before becoming pregnant again. The right to health, education, income and life, can be achieved by family planning.

Maternal mortality rates were improving in Kabul, where some health services are available. People had to understand that violence against women, which is pervasive in Afghanistan, was not proper under Islam where women have a special position.

A proper Muslim does not beat his wife. doclink

Jamaat Opposes Sex Education in Schools

March 19, 2007, Daily News and Analysis

In Mumbai, Sex education in schools is under attack. The Jamaat will seek the help of PTAs to plug any move to introduce sex education. The JIH will take the help of city-based anti-obscenity crusader Pratibha Naitthani and is in touch with 22 other organisations. Jamaat representatives demanded that the state government reconsider its decision to make sex education compulsory. The organisation plans to intensify protests by mobilising Muslims organisations.

Arjun Singh, indicated that sex education will be crucial to prevent AIDS. A spokesman for the Jamaat, said that his organisation will not let the HRD ministry carry on with its plans. "Uncontrolled sexual anarchy is the reason for AIDS, why should our children be taught about sex?"

According to Ghazi, sex education will leave children confused and curious. Schools will teach children everything about sex but will caution them against indulging in sex. We will not allow such moral corruption. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The Jamaat should read the article on Sweden, published on this website just a few days earlier.

Pakistan: Family Planning Key to Better Life, Says Aziz

January 23, 2007, Associated Press of Pakistan

Prime Minister Aziz contended that economic growth could only make a difference in the quality of life if society adopts promotes reproductive health and small families. "The gains of economic growth are wiped out if population continues to grow unabated."

He said that sustainable economic growth was to increase per capita income. The government was accelerating the pace of development with an emphasis on rural areas, where 60% of the population lives. He said the government wanted to empower people, particularly women. If Pakistan's population continues to grow at the current rate of 1.86%, it will double in 38 years, reaching 312 million. With dwindling natural resources and scarce housing, health and education facilities would come under severe pressure from the increase in population.

The government envisaged a mutually beneficial partnership between public and private organisations to educate people about reproductive health and family planning, hoping that rising investment in human capital together with a higher rate of literacy will lead us to an even lower rate of population growth.

The rate of population increase has slowed but is still too fast. The latest attempt to defuse the population explosion is focused on towns and cities where industries are concentrated, and will involve not the provision of contraceptives and sex education and the appointment of trained medical staff at factories.

The aim is to encourage the predominantly male workforce to adopt small family norms. The ministry has also begun educating 12,000 Muslim clerics to use their pulpits to spread the message on the benefits of having smaller families. Pakistan introduced a family planning programme soon after its independence in 1947 but social taboos and opposition from strict Muslim groups limited its success, but now things have changed and the clerics are on board. doclink

Pakistan Ruling Party Eyes Ban on Forced Marriage

February 13, 2007, Reuters

Pakistan's ruling party has introduced a bill outlawing forced marriage and practices which prevent women from inheriting property.

President Musharraf has vowed to empower women as part of his vision of enlightened moderation for the Muslim country. The Bill is expected to be debated and voted upon later in the year.

The bill seeks to end a centuries-old tradition of marrying women off to settle disputes between families, and marrying women to the Koran, which deprives them of a share of family property.

Musharraf promised to push ahead to empower women after parliament adopted a bill curbing the scope of Islamic laws that had made it virtually impossible for women to accuse men of rape. It was passed despite fierce opposition from hardline Islamist groups.

Human rights groups said the Islamic laws, introduced by a military dictator in 1979, should have been scrapped all together.

Some activists and opposition politicians have accused Musharraf of indirectly promoting conservative religious parties when it has suited him. doclink

Pakistan: Now, Contraceptives in Mosque!

December 19, 2006, Hindustan Times

Pakistan has decided to distribute contraceptives at mosques and involve clerics in spreading family planning awareness. Pakistan Population Planning Minister said that currently Pakistan's birth rate was 1.86%, which his ministry wanted to bring down to 1.3% by 2020. doclink

Islam Thrives as Russia's Population Falls

December 5, 2006, The Star Russia

The Sobornaya Mosque is one of only four in Moscow serving a Muslim population of 2.5 million. It was the only Islamic house of worship during the Soviet period, usually empty due to religious repression.

Today, it overflows with worshippers on Fridays and holy days. In the Soviet period, people were forbidden from practising their religions. Now, they are embracing their faith again.

Russia is in the midst of transformation. Islamic faith is thriving and if current trends continue, more than half of Russia's population will be Muslim by mid-century.

Tensions are already high between the country's ethnic Russian population and the diverse group of nationalities that make up the Muslim community. Attacks on mosques are not uncommon and angry mobs have chased Chechens and other migrants from the Caucasus out of the northwestern town of Kondopoga.

Spurring on the mob was Alexander Belov, head of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, an increasingly powerful lobby group. "Russia is historically a Slavic, Orthodox Christian land and we need to make sure it stays that way," he said. "Muslims, no matter what their citizenship, should be restricted from living in "traditional Russian lands."

Many Russians associate Islam with religious extremists from Chechnya. Some are newly arrived immigrants from the former Soviet states of Central Asia; others are from Muslim-majority regions that remained part of Russia. Russia's Muslim communities boast higher birth rates than those of the country's Christian Orthodox, ethnic Slavs with some communities averaging as many as 10 children per woman. Since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40% to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims could make up a majority of Russia's conscript army and one-fifth of the country's population by 2020.

If trends continue people of Muslim descent will outnumber ethnic Russians. The country's Muslim leaders look on the population spurt, and media coverage, with apprehension.

The image of Muslims presented in the media is very distorted and sensing the nationalist mood, Russian authorities have begun to crack down.

Four regions introduced mandatory classes in Orthodox Christianity in all schools. A new law will ban foreigners from working in retails stalls and markets next year. The growing anti-Islamic sentiment threatens to push Russian Muslims further into the arms of radicals.

People who know they are Muslims but don't know what that means could be radicalized, especially if they feel excluded from Russian society. At the Sobornaya Mosque, one bearded young man, who refuses to give even his first name, anticipates a day when large chunks of Russia can be broken off into Islamic states. doclink

A Bid to Bring the Female Voice to Islamic Law

November 21, 2006, Christian Science Monitor

Meeting in New York, Muslim women from 25 countries began laying groundwork for the first international all-female council formed to issue fatwas, to ensure that women's perspectives on Islamic law become part of religious deliberation. The number of women sanctioned to issue fatwas is tiny. The emergence of such women, known as muftias, usually makes headlines. Governments and schools try to license who can issue fatwas, but Islam stipulates only certain prerequisites, such as knowledge of the Koran and Arabic. As a result, the ranks of unofficial authorities are deeper and the barriers to women surmountable.

Advancing the idea of reinterpreting the texts has to be done, but it will be portrayed as part of "a Western cultural invasion,".

The group is up against tradition. Throughout history, few Muslim women were jurists, though scholars are uncovering more, including, the prophet Muhammad's wife. Some question whether much is open to reform. Others note that fatwas are nonbinding.

In Malaysia, Sisters in Islam used the Koran to rebuff efforts to exclude Muslims from a domestic-abuse law.

In Saudi Arabia, an effort to push women further back at a crowded holy site was thwarted with the help of a female Islamic scholar's arguments.

In the US the English translation of the Koran by a woman, finds an alternate meaning in a verse widely interpreted to give husbands authority to beat their wives.

The New York gathering plans to seat the new council within a year. Drawn from diverse schools within Islam, the members will be versed in Islamic law. Islam is a religion of law, and it is important to express the principles of social justice. Today's global communications are challenging, as more Muslims seek religious opinions far and wide through the Internet. There is a sense among many Muslims that Islamic jurists are out of touch, that their guidance is not adequate to the modern world.

The council has a credibility problem. Women should stand up and give their own opinions on women's issues, but American efforts to force change in the Muslim world mean reformers now must avoid links to the US.

Conference attendees say a muftia council could prompt wider support for women's struggles. It's empowering for them to know that their desire to not be beaten by their husband can actually be justified in the name of Islam. doclink

Pakistan: Kashmir is Important, but So is Family Planning; Clerics' Role in Family Stressed at Seminar

March 28, 2006, Daily Times

Federal Population Welfare Minister encouraged women and clerics to educate people about family planning and said that since women were unaware of family planning and the hazards of early age pregnancy, the NGOs were exploiting a volatile situation on the pretext of women"s rights.

Stressing the support of religious parties, the minister said that they were an integral part of the quest to control the country's population. Although a major effort was still required, the country was now on the right track. People are more open to the issue and it has become a more approachable subject. The country's population needs to be controlled to improve the standard of living.

Practical steps include training school teachers, labour leaders and religious scholars about our aims. The minister said more than 3,000 clerics had been trained by the ministry and were working in various districts.

The ministry aims to reduce the population growth from 1.9% to 1.3% by 2020 and the fact that the population growth was 3.3% in the 1980's indicates that the effort is fruitful.

It was important for clerics to spread Islam in its proper context. People using religion to counter our efforts are only causing problems. A Hadith stating that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) wished for a large Muslim community on judgement day, is foolish, and scholars should help correct such misrepresentations. Seminars on population planning will be arranged in all provinces and a final conference will be held in Islamabad. doclink

Syria: Women's Group to Provide Assistance to Female Divorcees

March 20, 2006, Push Journal

A Syrian NGO has launched a programme to find shelter and jobs for divorced women. The project aims to educate them, teach them skills and provide them with shelter, in order to make them independent. There were 17,000 cases of divorce in 2004. The majority of these women couldn't return to their parents' house. The divorce rate is almost 25% higher in Damascus than in rural areas, because urban women tend to be more progressive. Through the traditional perspective, women should be confined to raising children and housekeeping. Divorced women are often left with no financial means to support themselves and often without a place to live. Divorced women suffer from stigmas associated with marital separation. Divorced women aren't socially accepted. Although the government gives the mother the right to keep children until they reach 14, they are often obliged to surrender them to the father due to lack of money to care for them. A study by UNICEF showed that 85.5% of child labourers in Syria had divorced parents. doclink

Women's Reproductive and Sexual Rights and the Offence of Zina in Muslim Laws in Nigeria

March 9, 2006, Pambazuka News

With the recent "Sharianization" of parts of Nigeria, new offences mostly surrounding sexuality, which has had a negative effect on women's rights have been formed. While Muslim laws are not God given, conservative and liberal jurisprudence has prevented scholars and activists from establishing Muslim laws that protect the rights of women. In the wake of a new Sharia Penal Code in Katsina State, religious vigilantes instigated a case against a woman for having a child after divorce without remarrying. The father swore that he had not had sexual relations and was released. NGOs provided her with lawyers, safe houses, medical care, and emotional support. She also became the object of protest campaigns, which excoriated "Islamic law" as brutal and called on Nigeria's president repeal the Sharia Acts. She won her appeal in the state Sharia Court of Appeal and was acquitted. Sharia Penal Codes were introduced in several Nigerian states in 2000. Zina, or unlawful sexual intercourse, includes adultery, punished by stoning to death, and fornication, penalized by whipping. The tensions between conservative religious politics and crude antiterrorism policies must be considered and involves local cultures containing a complicated mixture of ideologies and social practices. Human rights guarantee people their rights in their day to day lives and requires that they are respected by local cultures. But it is possible to accept the universality of the notion of rights, which are reconstructed by those whose lives are impacted by them. Many of these groups are challenging not the communities themselves, but the current definitions of culture. The introduction of Sharia in Nigeria has had more to do with political appeal, rather than religious sentiment. Both Muslim and non-Muslim women's rights activists were concerned that Sharia would be used as a rationale to discriminate against women. The Muslim Brothers opposed Sharianization on the grounds that implementing harsh punishments without first ensuring just socioeconomic relations was not Islamic. The Sharia Penal Codes have created new offences and they recognise stoning, retributive punishments and blood fines. Nigeria is party to several international human rights covenants. The interplay between domestic Nigerian parallel legal systems of secular, Muslim and customary laws is problematic as they give differential rights on different issues. Sharia is neither God given, nor uniform through Muslim history or different communities. Muslim laws always have been subject to controversy. Muslims were not obliged to follow them if they did not believe that their reasoning from the Qu'ran and the sunnah were right. The stereotype of a single, uniform or divinely revealed Islamic law is false. However, this myth has been useful for Muslim conservatives and can by seen in Nigeria regarding reproductive and sexual rights. Most Muslim jurists agree that fertility management is permissible, and that pleasure in sexual intercourse is a right for both men and women. Despite this, the religious right in Nigeria have described fertility management as promoting immorality and have attempted to prevent it. Many groups are organising in Nigeria to establish protection for women's rights under this new Sharianization by defending those convicted by focusing on appeals, thus buying time as well as getting closer to the higher courts, which have been historically more fair to women. These same women's and rights groups have also sought to demystify Sharia, through seminars, workshops, training, radio and television shows. The poor have been the most subjected to harsh punishments and there have been fewer convictions of men than women for adultery or fornication. Women have clearly been discriminated against. Many Nigerians wonder why people in the West are so concerned about the life of one Muslim woman in Nigeria. The international media and protests have ignored the existence of dissent among Muslims, and have downplayed the protests and campaigns within Nigeria. Local groups must find ways to interact with and influence mass international media, to make it more accurate and nuanced. Campaigning for governments and media to support international policies that sustain economic justice and rights would give hope worldwide so that poverty and uncertainty do not continue to be conditions in which religious right sentiments find support for laws that violate rights. doclink

Tanzania: Muslims Clerics Decry Aids Without Condoms

March 10, 2006, IRIN News (UN)

Officials leading the fight against HIV on the island of Zanzibar are looking at ways of engaging Muslim leaders, who are against the promotion of condom use. A local Islamic scholar said advocating the use of condoms was tantamount to encouraging pre-marital sex, and although Islam shared the burden of the pandemic, it could not support any "immoral action". Halima Ali Mohammed, an official with the Zanzibar AIDS Commission, said seeking a balanced solution was a delicate issue. "It requires a willingness ... to recognise that HIV is a threat to our society," she noted. In 2003, HIV prevalence in the general population was 0.6%. doclink

Women in Iraq Increasingly Attacked for Not Wearing Headscarves Death Toll Rises

March 13, 2006, Feminist Daily News Wire

Acts of violence against Iraqi women who do not wear headscarves have more than tripled since the US invasion. Many of the attacks are carried out by family members to protect the family's "honour." "A life is being taken because of a simple piece of cloth, and someone should prevent more women from being killed by these ignorant people who believe that honour depends on what you're wearing." Eighty attacks and four "honour killings" by family members were reported in the past three years. Iraqi women who feel endangered rarely seek help because tradition prevents public authorities from getting involved in private matters. The UN has been called on to address the killings in Iraq and to include gender education in the training of police, health workers, and members of the judiciary. doclink

Bangladesh: Advocating An Islamic Perspective on Family Planning

March 11, 2006, EngenderHealth website

While imams have tacitly accepted family planning, they have never advocated long-term family planning. EngenderHealth sees discussion as crucial to its efforts to reinvigorate the use of these methods. Imams have a strong influence on people. Imams are always consulted on any kind of social or personal issue. If a political leader directs people to some issue, they treat it as political. But if an imam delivers it, they say that it is right. Dr. Maroof explains that his studies of the texts have bestowed on him an understanding of modern health and child care, gender issues, and HIV/AIDS, among others issues. According to Dr. Maroof, the roots of misunderstanding about family planning and Islam are outdated. "Most of our imams are not enlightened with modern conceptions or deep knowledge in our religion. They say, Almighty Allah will give you a child and he will be responsible for the sustenance of this child. Control of birth is in the hand of the Almighty Allah. EngenderHealth has created interactive community forums, where the imams, along with teachers, businessmen, local politicians and others, are invited to attend meetings with local providers of family planning services. The meetings are largely held in the rural areas of Bangladesh. Since their inception more than 18,000 community leaders have attended the meetings. Moulana Abdullah Al Maroof, Ph.D., has what he calls a "missionary zeal" for family planning. The esteemed Islamic scholar and deputy director of the Bangladesh Islamic Foundation is one of three authors whom EngenderHealth enlisted to co-write Family Planning in the Eyes of Islam, a book demonstrating the acceptance of family planning in the holy Qur'an. doclink

Another School Torched in Afghanistan

February 21, 2006, Agence France-Presse

Suspected Taliban rebels set ablaze a school in southern Afghanistan. Armed men stormed into the school and set fire to classrooms, burning chairs, desks and studying materials. Three of the classrooms were totally destroyed. The attack was blamed on remnants of the Taliban regime. At about the same time suspected militants blew up a primary school in a Pakistani tribal area just across the border. More than a dozen schools have been torched in the past two months in southern provinces of Afghanistan. Several teachers and education workers have also been killed. Most of the attacks have been blamed on the ultraconservative Islamic Taliban, who barred girls from going to school or working outside of the home. The rebuilding of the education sector is a key priority for the new government, where more than 70% of people aged over 15 are illiterate. About six million children are estimated to have enrolled in schools since the Taliban fell. About 60% of primary school age are still not attending lessons. doclink

Iraq: Women's Groups Blast

January 23, 2006, Irin News

A rise in "temporary" marriages among Shi'ite Muslims is causing concern among women's rights activists. According to women's NGOs more than 300 temporary marriages occur daily in Kerbala, Najaf and Basra, Iraq's three main Shi'ite cities. The poverty, especially for women who have lost their husbands, is the main reason. According to Shi'ite religious law, unmarried women may enter into temporary marriages for hours to an entire lifetime. A payment is made around US $1,000 or the equivalent in gold. The practice, known as Muta'a, was banned during the Saddam Hussein regime. Rules governing temporary marriages differ in that only men are permitted to dissolve them. Men may also marry more than once and can have several Muta'a arrangements simultaneously. Marriage ceremonies are officiated by a sheikh and must have a witness, but do not require the presence of family. A Shi'ite cleric in Najaf, who presides over at least five temporary marriages a day, defended the practice. "We require sexual activity, but religion prohibits this before marriage," he said. "So you can have a woman for this prospect without affecting her honour because normally she is a widow; she is not a virgin anymore." "We're helping these windows support their families." The new Iraqi constitution, which guarantees freedom of marriage according to religious beliefs, has been criticized by women's activists who want equal treatment for men and women independent of religion, ethnicity or origin. doclink

Philippines: Local Fatwah on Family Planning Endorsed

January 3, 2006, Minda News (Philippines)

Drama and music marked the launch of the fatwah endorsing family planning at Lanao del Sur. A fatwah is a decree issued by Muslim religious leaders to shed light on behavior in the Islamic way of life. Community health workers dramatized how access to health facilities, particularly on family planning were difficult in far-flung and poor areas. Officials acknowledged the funding of USAID and Helen Keller International. The fatwah provides support for family planning based on principles such as informed choice and responsible parenthood. It defines family planning to be a systematic and consistent planning of the family wherein members are happy because they worship Allah of good health, better education and stable income. It also pointed out that birth control and prevention of pregnancy are really prohibited in Islam except when, the pregnancy of the mother places her in great danger because her delivery requires operation or her pregnancy will cause illness which will affect her life. doclink

MiddleEast: Women's Rights - Call for Citizenship and Justice

December 17, 2005, Yemen Observer

International organizations called on the government to protect the legal rights of women in Yemen. The workshop brought women from across the Arab world to participate. The seminar discussed the rights women should have and the role of government to implement them. The meeting followed a comprehensive study on the status of women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa that covers developments through to the end of 2003. Amat Al-Aleem Al-Soswa , Minister of Human Rights, said that countries in the Middle East and North Africa are undergoing different stages of development and women's role is vital within those societies. It is the only guarantee to realize democracy, human development, and social justice and to develop society. It aimed to create strategies for national and regional advocacy efforts, and to continue advocacy efforts, including urgent action appeals, website, coordination, and using links with existing initiatives. While women in the region have made substantial gains in education, none of the countries meet internationally recognized standards for women's rights. Women are at a disadvantage in practically every institution of society. The study notes that gender inequality is compounded by illiteracy, apathetic governments, and patriarchal traditions. The objective is to empower Arab women in the MENA region. While 16 of the 17 Arab countries enshrine the concept of equal rights, all except Saudi Arabia, women face discrimination in every aspect of life. In most countries, women cannot confer her citizenship to her children. No country in the region has laws that outlaw all forms of domestic violence. Women are largely unaware of their rights, due in part to educational weaknesses and failure by governments to engage in public education campaigns. In almost all MENA countries, women face gender-based discrimination in family codes, except in Morocco and Tunisia, family laws relegate women to inferior status within marriage and family life. With the exception of Egypt, MENA governments do not provide gender-specific mechanisms for women in the country to file complaints against gender discrimination. Several key recommendations were: women should enjoy equal status under the law in all aspects of life; family laws should ensure equal rights within marriage and family; domestic violence should be a serious crime in all instances; and legal and traditional barriers to women's participation in politics, government, and the private sector should be removed. doclink

Book: Guide to Equality in the Family in the Maghreb

Women's Learning Partnership

The Guide to Equality in the Family in the Maghreb is an advocacy tool for reform of the family law in Muslim socities. It outlines a social change to women's ability to make deliberate choices. Family law in Muslim societies governs every aspect of a woman's life: age and conditions of marriage, divorce, child custody, and the right to work, travel, or decide on a place of residence. Reform is crucial to women's ability to participate on equal terms in both family and public life. The Guide presents the current state of the law and proposes religious, human rights, sociological, and domestic legal arguments for reform, supported by relevant data. doclink

Indonesia: Promoting Reproductive Health Through Religion

November 20, 2005, Jakarta Post

Obaid, the first Saudi Arabian to chair the UN body, stressed the importance of religious leaders taking part in the effort to improve reproductive health in Muslim countries. In a Muslim society a very important principle of Islam is preserving your health, which supports your thinking, analytical abilities and knowledge. The whole society has to be knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS so that people know how to act in a responsible way. All religious leaders are responsible for showing mercy, compassion and understanding. They have to speak out at every opportunity. They have to speak about HIV/AIDS and how young people should protect themselves. They have to overcome the stigma to people with HIV/AIDS as they are sick. How can the authorities and the people convince religious leaders to adopt this approach? The authorities and NGOs and the mullahs have to get together and discuss the issue openly. We have to say to them, 'Look, so many women die, and they leave the children orphaned and often children die after their mother's death. When the authorities talk to the mullahs and present real facts and evidence, they will be willing to speak out. Some mullahs refuse to talk about reproductive health issues, arguing that they have a different understanding. It is their right not to speak, but as leaders of the people, they have a moral responsibility to point out the issue that women, whom God created, are dying because of giving birth and that's not a controversial issue. Maybe, we don't give the correct messages and that's why the dialogue between the government, NGOs and mullahs should be based on information about what is happening in Indonesia. We have to respect that there are areas where religious leaders feel free to speak and some issues which they do not feel comfortable talking about. UNFPA has many conversations, with mullahs to present the facts. We try to create an environment for dialogue and discussion with the mullahs so that they receive the necessary knowledge. There is a Koranic verse saying it is not the number that matters, it's the quality of the people. And there are many examples of the Koran saying that what are wanted are good and healthy people. What good would it serve to have mosques everywhere but you let people with HIV/AIDS die? When the Prophet Muhammad was asked who is the closest person to a man, the Prophet said your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father. Mothers have a very special place in Islam. And if you let mothers die, then you are not giving them the honor that Islam demands. doclink

Islam Feminists Urge Gender Jihad

October 28, 2005, BBC News

Organizers of the first congress on Islamic feminism are calling for a "gender jihad." Organizer Abdennur Prado Pavon, says the struggle for gender equality involves refuting chauvinist interpretations of Muslim teachings. Prado, of the Catalan Islamic board, believes a common misconception is that women's liberation is not possible in Muslim societies. Activists are in Barcelona to discuss ways of achieving female equality. Among the delegates is the Pakistani feminist Riffat Hassan, one of the pioneers of Islamic feminist theology. Islamic Feminism argues that the inferior status of women in Muslim countries is a result of misogynistic distortions of the teachings in the Koran. Organizers want more collaboration with western feminists but non-Muslim feminists need to challenge their anti-Islamic stereotypes. doclink

High Mortality and Malnutrition Affect Muslim Children Most Says UN Children's Agency

September 28, 2005, UN News Center

In Islam states more than 60% of children will not make it to their first birthday due to disease and malnutrition. And an alarming number of over 4.3 Muslim children worldwide under the age of five die every year. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) States, and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) are joining together to "mobilize Islamic countries to accelerate progress for children." The OIC states account for a quarter of the 2.3 billion children worldwide and also have the highest mortality rates of children worldwide. "Director-General of ISESCO, Abdulaziz Othman Altwaljri says 'Investing in children and putting them at the centre of development strategies are the most effective ways to eliminate poverty and meet global development targets.' doclink

The Bravest Women in the World

August 6, 2005, The Age (Australia)

Women are dying for the feminist cause: in northern Afghanistan, three women workers at a microcredit organisation were stoned to death by warlords; in India, a woman social worker had her hands chopped off by a man furious because she was counselling villagers against child marriage. In Pakistan, the head of the Human Rights Commission was stripped and beaten in public after she organised a series of marathons in which women could compete. President Musharraf has since reversed his policy of allowing mixed-gender sporting activities in public. In Iraq, attacks on women have been carried out by the insurgent groups. Said a 23-year-old student: "They dropped acid on my face and my legs and cut my hair off while hitting me in the face and telling me it's for not obeying God's wish in using the veil. The leadership of al-Qaeda has said its aim is to set up a global Islamic state ruled according to sharia law; a world in which women must conceal their faces, may not work or be educated, may not go in public without a male relative; and are under the total control of men. 32% of British Muslims believed the western society is decadent and immoral and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end. But men were more likely than women to say this. The proportion of Muslim men who said they felt no loyalty to Britain (18%) was three times higher than the proportion of women who said the same. In Western countries, Muslim women tend to do better in education than Muslim men. Muslim women are more likely than men to appreciate Western democracy. Men are more likely to resent it, because our laws prevent them from controlling women. An Iraqi-Australian woman thought it funny that a friend of hers can threaten her husband she will go to the police if he attacks her. There are many reasons for the hatred Islamic extremists have for the West, but high among them is the freedom of women. The Islamists fear that Western influences will trigger an Islamic feminist revolution. The revolution has begun. Across the Middle East women are demanding their rights, challenging the interpretations of religion. At great risk women in Afghanistan and Pakistan have recently held protests against the violence towards women that exists in their cultures. Women in Iraq were holding protests against the proposed constitution which assigns laws on marriage, custody and inheritance to religious authorities. In Canada women immigrants from Muslim countries protested most about proposals to set up an Islamic court there. doclink

Draft Iraqi Constitution Jeopardizes Women's Human Rights

July 20, 2005,

A current draft of Iraq's new constitution subordinates guarantees of women's human rights to religious Sharia law. International human rights groups, MADRE launched a campaign for the repeal of Resolution 137 which was the first attempt to legislate violations of women's human rights. As a result the resolution was defeated. However, if the draft constitution is agreed upon, it could give religious clerics the authority to inflict human rights violations on Iraqi women, including denial of the rights to freedom of movement, property inheritance, and custody of their children. In the worst instance, forced early marriage, polygamy, compulsory religious dress, wife beating, execution by stoning as punishment for female adultery, and public flogging of women for disobeying religious rules could all be sanctioned. The constitution's drafting committee may also repeal a measure that requires one-quarter of parliamentary seats to be held by women. doclink

Religious Groups Oppose Family Planning Policy; Call Modern Family Planning 'un-islamic'; Pakistan's Population to Reach 357 Million by 2050, Says UN Report

July 27, 2005, Daily Times

Religious organisations are against the provincial government's population planning policy, saying it is "un-Islamic". Religious parties are campaigning for larger families so that more people can join jihad. Last year the Punjab government spent Rs 25 million on advertisements on buses to raise awareness about the benefits of family planning and sent text messages to 4 million mobile phone subscribers. Religious parties have rickshaws displaying a slogan that has also been used in sermons by clergy. A spokesman for Jammatud Dawa, however, denied any link but they don't support family planning. The Holy Quran, he said, has all the answers and it is a couple's prerogative to have a big or small family. Promoting the use of condoms to avoid AIDS is encouraging people to fornicate. A leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-Islam-Faz, said that according to Islam, if a woman feeds her child for two years and keeps on doing it with her children to come, family planning will automatically follow. He asked, "If both children of a family die, what will happen to the parents?" Pakistan had a population of 40 million people in 1950 but it has tripled to nearly 150 million. The country has a very young population and a high fertility rate. These children and young adults will soon come into reproductive age and will produce a large number of offspring. Pakistan's population is estimated to reach 357 million by 2050. doclink

Nigeria: Islam is No Hindrance to Women's Child's Rights

August 30, 2005, This Day (Lagos)

The Governor of Borno State said there was nothing in Islamic religion that prohibited the exercise of women and childrens rights following the recent position taken by the an apex Islamic body that some provisions of the Child's Rights Act should not be adopted by Muslim states as it conflicts with certain aspects of the religion. The Governer said no section in the Koran precluded the development of women and children. Borno is 80% Muslim, and people take advantage to manipulate and inculcate the wrong values in our people. We believe that if you educate a woman, she will educate a family and the society. We are working on a bill to redirect preachments that are geared towards creating confusion. He said women constituted 40% contributions in every election. He promised to appoint more women into political positions and initiate the bill on child's rights. Earlier, the governor was urged to identify with the Federal Government in protecting the rights of women and children, noting that negative reactions from a section of Muslims greeted the campaign. One of the provisions which has generated negative reactions is that which prohibits marriage of girls below 18. It is erroneously believed that if a girl does not marry earlier than 18, she will not be able to produce two or three children. Those who hold this belief say it is a ploy to reduce the muslim population. The inclusion of this provision in the act was linked to early marriage/teenage pregnancy and the incidence of fistula. The Speaker, assured the minister that the House would work towards the passage of such a bill as long as it does not conflict with the practice of Islam. There are no laws that we cannot pass in the house and laws guiding Christianity and Islam are from God and cannot be changed but laws made by man can be changed. He stressed that should the assembly receive such a bill it would be passed. doclink

Pakistan: The 11-Year-Old Wife

June 21, 2005, New York Times*

Every two hours, a woman is raped in Pakistan. And every day, two women die in honor killings in a country which continues to receive military assistance and political support from the US government.

While the Pakistani leader General Musharraf visits the US and receives the backing of Presdient Bush, thousands of women are routinely raped and then imprisoned under Pakistan's religious laws for reporting those rapes. According to these laws, if a woman who claims to have been raped cannot produce four male witnesses to the crime, she is beaten and whipped for having had "illicit sex". Girls as young as two are given in marriage and women are routinely beaten and tortured by their husbands' families.

The mistreatment of women in Pakistan transcends all class and status boundaries. Peasant women have no rights, and middle class city residents, who recently took to the streets in Lahore to demonstrate for equal rights, have been beaten and stripped by the police under direct orders from Musharraf's government.

It is time for Pakistanis to openly discuss these matters without fear of being shamed or humiliated in the West, so that the work of those courageous Pakistani women who are speaking out will not be in vain. doclink

UN Women's Conference Questions Link between Islam and Violence Against Women

March 1, 2005, Voice of America

Are Islamic societies prone to violence against women? A Conference at the U.N. was partly a critique of the failures of Islamic societies in the treatment of women, and partly a celebration of the progress Muslim women have made. Several speakers questioned whether violence against women is worse in Islamic societies. The U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, says violations of women's rights shows that religion is used as a tool whether in Muslim or Christian or Jewish societies. It is not any other religion but conservative forces who speak on behalf of these religions that is obstacle to women's rights. But women in Islamic countries are lagging behind in the quest for equality because Muslim countries tend to be less democratic. Across the Muslim world you find less democratic institutions. Participants stressed that the key to gender equality is education. Several women explained how important it is that women know their rights in order to stand up for them. It is not Islam, but those who interpret its teachings, that are responsible for many misunderstandings as with other religions. In all societies, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. doclink

Pakistan: Debating Islam and Family Planning

May 20, 2005, IRIN News (UN)

In a bid to win the support of religious groups, Pakistan convened a conference of key religious leaders and scholars from Islamic communities in 22 countries. The conference discussed reducing high population growth within the framework of Islamic principles. Around 90 delegates participated in the Conference held in Islamabad. Under the perspectives of population growth and development, mother and child health, and gender equity, the idea is to have experts' views on Islamic teachings and family planning. UNFPA said the meeting had been useful in having the religious from across different cultures to discuss the issue. Religion does not forbid the use of contraceptives. doclink

Nigeria: Clerics Fight Measles Vaccinations

March 27, 2005, Associated Press

Accusations that vaccines are part of an American anti-Islamic plot are threatening efforts to combat a measles epidemic. Government officials play down the sentiment, but all the measles deaths have been in Nigeria's north, where authorities had to suspend polio immunizations after hard-line clerics fanned similar fears. Nigeria has recorded 20,859 measles cases this year and 589 victims have died, most of them children younger than five. Southern Nigeria, which is mainly Christian, had only 253 cases, and no deaths. The anti-vaccination sentiment seems to be a factor. In 2003, Islamic clerics claimed the U.S. was using polio vaccine to sterilize Muslims or contaminate them with AIDS and ordered a boycott in messages from mosques, in radio broadcasts and door-to-door campaigning. Three state governors in the north joined the boycott that dragged on 11 months before authorities persuaded the governors to accept vaccine from Indonesia. By then the number of polio cases had risen fivefold, and the disease spread to nine other African countries and the anti-vaccine sentiment could affect the measles outbreak. Last year, there were 24,363 Nigerian measles cases from January to September. A big surge would be a blow to WHO, which had hoped to bring measles under control this year. Across Africa, measles deaths fell from 873,000 in 1999 to just more than 500,000 in 2003. Some clerics have added the measles vaccine to their campaign against immunizations. Kano's second-largest mosque said Americans "can't be killing my brothers and children in Iraq and at the same time claim to want to save my children from polio and other diseases." "We suspect a sinister motive." The State Department's spokesman, said such allegations are "crazy, outlandish, unfounded." A senior practitioner at Kano's main hospital, believes people's reservations are being overcome. A Ministry of Health official in Kano, said his office had received no reports of resistance to measles immunizations. doclink

Women Are Forging a Democratic Middle East

April 4, 2005, Financial Times (London)

Politicians, scholars and non-governmental organisations agree that social reform and democratisation will improve the status of women in the Middle East. Women are driving forward democracy as they fight for their individual rights in societies in which collective rights are traditionally more important. They are demanding change in divorce, the custody of children and economic rights, also "honour killings" and female genital mutilation. The UN development programme will outline that democracy is essential for economic and social development. If nations exclude women they will forgo the economic growth that women can generate. Political discourse is weaker in societies where women are silent citizens. In Kuwait and Saudi Arabia women are fighting for the right to vote. In Saudi Arabia some women are ready to stand as political candidates in municipal elections. Half of the registered electorate who voted in the presidential elections in Gaza and the West Bank were women. In Yemen and Egypt there are demands to include women in the political process. In Morocco women have rights in family law, while in Egypt, a woman won the right to use DNA to prove her ex-husband was the father of her son. Women in Saudi Arabia will be able to apply for driving licences. In practice, impunity for "honour killing" continues in Syria and Jordan. An initiative by the US state department to create a women's network in the Middle East so that women can learn from each other is a positive move. Female leaders in business and politics from Arab nations will meet to discuss economic rights. Where women are being denied their rights, the international community must provide support, resources and ways of integrating and linking these different campaigns. doclink

Use of Condoms Un-Islamic: Pak Leader

February 16, 2005, Press Trust of India

Pakistan's hardline cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman is opposed to the use of condoms in the name of safe sex and controlling population as he considers it "un-Islamic" and says it has encouraged unmarried young people to have sex. Rehman, the leader of the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA), made the comments during a meeting with Commonwealth Medical Trust (CMT). He welcomed the measures taken in promoting a reproductive health system but expressed reservations about its policies, which, he said, were "not in line with the Islamic religion and culture." doclink

Pakistan: Clerics Express Reservations on Use of Contraceptives

June 1, 2005, Daily Times

Clerics have expressed reservation on the use of contraceptives as they restrict reproduction and conflict with Islamic injunctions. Some clerics have called for separating married HIV patients from their spouses although NACP officials said it would be a social boycott of infected people. Sources said the clerics were not impressed by the NACP standpoint. Clerics said if a person committed 'adultery' and was infected with the virus, he/she did not have the right to deceive his/her family and there were no guarantees that using contraceptives would avoid transmitting the disease. NACP observed that it was difficult to determine whether an individual was infected through sexual intercourse, a contaminated syringe or unscreened blood. The NACP prepared an information kit for the clerics, which covered HIV among young people, the diseases transfer from mother to child and HIV reduction measures. The text was revised to suit Islamic ideologies and by taking into consideration Pakistan's unique characteristics. doclink

Iranian Artist Portrays Inner Strength of Female Muslims

December 28, 2004, Kansas City Star

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered after his film about violence against women in Islamic societies aired on Dutch television. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the ex-Muslim and liberal Dutch politician who wrote the film script, has received death threats. The U.S. frequently invokes the repression of women as a reason for its fight against radical Islamic fundamentalism. Many Islamic regimes associate women's rights with Western imperialism. Some scholars argue that Islam is no more repressive of women than other religion. Their critics accuse them of hiding behind cultural relativism when it comes to the abuse of Muslim women, from rape and incest to "honor killings" as punishment for adultery. There is the emerging idea of a Qur'an-based Islamic feminism, seen as a dead end by those who believe that the only way to guarantee women's rights in Islamic society is to get religion out of government. Over the past decade, Italian born artist Neshat has earned acclaim for her photographs and videos that show how strong these women are. "Fervor," which was made in 2000, is the third part of a trilogy of video installations by Neshat that began in 1998. One of the lessons of 9-11 is the need for American understanding of Islam. Neshat, a product of both cultures, was born in Iran in 1957, moved to the United States in 1973 to attend the University of California. When she returned to her native country the Islamic Revolution of 1979 had ushered in sweeping changes. "During the Shah 's regime, we had a very open, free environment," the artist explained. "When I went back, there seemed little color. All the women (were) wearing the black chadors that are to protect men and women from sexual temptation. "Fervor" establishes the film's theme of desire. The two become part of a crowd filing into a meeting hall, where men and women are seated on separate sides of a curtain. The scene was inspired, Neshat said "by public Friday prayers in Iran, where masses of men and women come together, but sit separately." In Iran, Neshat said, "you're not supposed to make eye contact with the opposite sex. On a daily basis, the resistance you sense from the women is higher than that of the men. The women are the ones who are repressed, and, therefore, they more likely to resist and ultimately to break free. doclink

A Ramadan Recipe for World Health

November 23, 2004, World Watch

According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature people are consuming 20% more resources than the earth can produce. The "ecological footprint", a measure of environmental sustainability, of the North American is seven times that of an Asian or African. We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate and this indicates a 35% decline in ecological health since 1970 - including widespread water and air pollution, land degradation and habitat destruction. From 1970 terrestrial land and sea species have plummeted by 30% and freshwater populations by 50%. This has led to social and health costs that are plaguing consumers. While Americans are richer and fatter, they are not much happier. Financial debt, the stress associated with working and the ways consumption replaces time with family and friends indicate that more is not always better. The key health costs are smoking, obesity and time pressures. Medical expenses related to smoking cost the US more than $150 billion in 1999 and contributes to 5 million deaths across the world. Several Muslim scholars are declaring smoking to be unlawful. A second cost tied to rising consumption is obesity and an estimated 65% are overweight in the US and is associated with consumption and sedentary lifestyles across the world. There is a trend among South African Muslims to cook healthier. A resurgence of interest has also led to the rediscovery of the benefit in the Ramadan diet of ending the fast with water and dates. The third cost is the time pressures of modern living while time spent with family and friends is decreasing. Ramadan proves that, with effort, one can stop smoking, eat less and spend more time with one's family. It is inconceivable that money be poured into sport and entertainment while people are dying of hunger and thirst. It is unjust that millions should face starvation, when their countries are exporting cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, pineapples and timber to satisfy consumer appetites. Ramadan offers Muslims the opportunity to control their appetites, share with the needy and spend time with their families. One of the key aims of Ramadan is to build consciousness and self-control and this recipe must be put to the test in individual lifestyles as well as the broader society. doclink

Ayad Al-Qazzaz

CSU Sacramento: Muslims are now at 1 billion and will double to 2 billion in 30 years. Muslims have varied cultures. Family planning is permitted and often encouraged. 4/98 doclink

Uganda: Family Planning Cause of Fewer Baganda Kids

New Vision (Uganda)

People in Buganda region registered the lowest population growth for 10 years. N. Uganda produced the most babies. Population in the north is growing at 4.6%, the eastern region 3.5% the western region 2.9% and Buganda 2.7%. Buganda's population grew by 1,781,645, an increase of 36%. Mubajje said Government and development agencies should not agitate for fewer children but devise means to enable people to create more income to lead better lives. The Government should address the fears on reproduction as Islamic scriptures support procreation and believers should produce more children. doclink

Note: Islam does not necessarily support mindless procreation. See WOA!!s section on Religion.

In the original Cairo conference, 170+ countries approved the principals, but objections came from nations with extremist religious factions, including Catholic and Islamic fundamentalists: Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Vatican; Algeria, Libya, Malta, and Sudan.

Specific objections that have been raised include the Commission on Population and Development's recommendations that (a) reproductive health services should include new methods of emergency contraception, (b) abortion be made safe where it is legal, and (c) that young people have full access to sexual and reproductive health education and services. doclink

Muslim Heads Back Family Planning

September 11, 2004, The Freeman

Muslim leaders in Mindanao have issued an edict, or fatwah, in support of the government's reproductive health campaign. The edict will be distributed and adopted in the Visayas. It encourages Muslims to practice family planning as one way of improving their way of life. This edict is an offshoot of ICPD's advocacy on family planning which includes birth spacing and use of contraceptives, as a solution to mitigate poverty. doclink

Pakistan: Debate Heats Up Over Controversial Ordinance On Islamic Law

May 19, 2004

Islamic conservatives in Pakistan's parliament are criticizing President Musharraf for a debate on a series of Islamic laws, which are based on an interpretation of the Koran and was introduced in 1979 by Pakistan's former dictator. Human-rights groups have been complaining about inequalities that came into effect under the Hudood Ordinance. One example is that a woman rape victim in Pakistan must obtain court testimony from four "pious" male Muslim witnesses to prove her case and if she fails to do so, she is liable to prosecution for adultery. The punishments include a public whipping or death by stoning and has led to an increase of rape cases. Another law concerns blasphemy against Islam and calls for the death penalty. The secretary-general of the Islamic alliance said that Musharraf is under pressure from the West and they will block any effort to alter the 25-year-old Hudood Ordinance, everything will be done to resist the ideology of secularism. doclink

Philippines: Muslim Religious Leaders Support Family Planning

March 12, 2004, Philippine Daily Inquirer

200 Muslim clerics met at the Marco Polo Hotel in the Philippines and agreed that family planning was important. They issued a fatwah to Muslim communities where about 55% of women wanted to practice family planning but were afraid that Islam would not allow it. No vasectomy or ligation but the fatwah allows the use of legal contraception approved by a Muslim physician. The country's Muslim clerics have a more liberal view of population control than the Catholic Church. While Muslim leaders agree on family planning, they have been divided on the methods to be adopted. In the latter part of 2003 a massive research, using the Koran, arrived at a common stand on birth control. The Grand Mufti of Egypt said he too was for population control. It is hoped the fatwah would help in reducing the mortality rate of infants and women in the region. 200 to 300 women die each year in Northern Mindanao from pregnancy-related illnesses. Some 55 babies born every year die at birth. With one of the highest birth rates in Asia, the Philippines will add 1.6 to 2 million people this year, raising it to 84 million. The country's population could explode to 170 million in less than 30 years, that will trap millions of Filipinos in poverty. 40% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. Population control has taken a back seat in the election, with the front-runners, President Macapagal-Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr., campaigning mainly on pledges to fight corruption and enforce law and order. doclink

Osama Bin Laden's Got a Point

November 24, 2002, Guardian (London)

This article is the full text of Osama bin Laden's online "letter to the American people" that appeared on the internet in Arabic and has since been translated and circulated by Islamists in Britain. Among his perhaps more legitimate claims are: We are fighting and opposing you because: "You attack Muslims in Palestine; you attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon .. You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats .. Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; You corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures .. You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down." Bin Laden claims "Islam is the religion of Unification of God, sincerity, the best of manners, righteousness, mercy, honour, purity, and piety. It is the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed and the persecuted. It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. And it is the religion of unity and agreement on the obedience to Allah, and total equality between all people, without regarding their colour, sex, or language." Bin Laden calls upon Americans to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest. He says: "Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy. ... You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools calling upon customers to purchase them. You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women. .. You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and*industries. .. Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. .. Your policy on prohibiting and forcibly removing weapons of mass destruction to ensure world peace: it only applies to those countries which you do not permit to possess such weapons. As for the countries you consent to, such as Israel, then they are allowed to keep and use such weapons to defend their security. Anyone else who you suspect might be manufacturing or keeping these kinds of weapons, you call them criminals and you take military action against them. .. You are the last ones to respect the resolutions and policies of International Law, yet you claim to want to selectively punish anyone else who does the same. Israel has for more than 50 years been pushing UN resolutions and rules against the wall with the full support of America. .. In America, you captured thousands the Muslims and Arabs, took them into custody with neither reason, court trial, nor even disclosing their names. .. We call upon you to end your support of the corrupt leaders in our countries." doclink

Aftermath of War: Iraqi Women Worry About Losing Liberty

May 17, 2003, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Saddam Hussein's secular Baath Party afforded women freedoms not known in Muslim countries. Women make up 55% of Iraq's population and for years held level ground with men and made up a large percentage of the professional class. Iraqi women could vote, be free to choose whom, or whether, to marry, retain custody of their children after divorce, inherit property equally with their brothers and drive. In the mid-1990s, Saddam began catering to Islamic fundamentalists. Some women say growing poverty prompted them to turn to religion. Others say peer pressure led them to wear a hijab. Now even in Baghdad, women who leave their hair uncovered are in the minority. Most are wearing the hijab. Among Iraq's liberated women, there is concern that a power vacuum could give rise to fundamentalism. In Shiite strongholds calls are increasing for Iraq to become an Islamic state that would mean the establishment of Muslim law. Even women with a conservative religious outlook said they would not support a government that made them second-class citizens. doclink

Iran Plan to Remove Inequalities Blocked

August 13, 2003, Financial Times (London)

Iran's hardliners blocked a move to remove legal and social inequalities against women. The conservative Guardian Council rejected a bill binding Iran to the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The council ruled the measure was against Islamic law and oblige Iran to accept un-Islamic laws. The bill won overwhelming support in parliament. Iran's legal system enshrines unequal rights in divorce, custody, inheritance and blood money. Senior clerics criticised reformists for endorsing the campaign. A hardline cleric addressed a letter, calling the motion "illegitimate" for "imposing cultural and social patterns" of the west. Women claimed the bill could allow opposite sexes to mingle in public baths and swimming pools. Under the present law, men and women are segregated for activities that require loose covering of hair and body. The embattled reformists, face declining popularity for failing to meet demands for reform, had expected the bill to be blocked. But the main intention was to challenge conservatives and demonstrate the obstacles they presented to reforms. doclink

The Vatican

Humanae Vitae

The Story Behind the Ban on Contraception
April 29, 2018, The Story Behind the Ban on Contraception

In 1968, Pope Paul VI went against the findings of his own Papal Birth Control Commission and rejected an opportunity to create a modern and compassionate doctrine on birth control which would appeal to its faithful.

Instead, he launched the church backwards toward staunch orthodoxy with his encyclical titled Humanae Vitae. "The urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life." For the past 50 years these words have come to influence the church's stance on public health challenges that relate to sex, and have affected the way Catholics around the world view birth control.

How did the church come to reject modern contraception, and why does it continue to make it a central part of its theology? Five years before Humanae Vitae, the papal commission was examining its view on marriage and looking to update its teachings. At this time it was feared that the more liberal members of the commission would push to revisit the church's ban an "artificial" birth control that was established in the 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii. The birth control pill had been introduced and, because it used naturally occurring hormones, many conservative members were concerned that its use would be approved for Catholic couples. Instead of considering the issue, the Papal Birth Control Commission was established as a concession.

After much study, it was the commission's opinion that the prohibition of contraception was faulty and outdated. It found that in many cases it strained marriages instead of making them stronger. Contrary to the assertion of the hierarchy that natural family planning brought couples closer together, it was found that it drove them apart. Couples became obsessed with sex because of the unnatural restrictions placed upon spontaneous demonstrations of affection. Women spoke of the many roles they played as wives and of the importance of the non-procreative sexual bond to marriage.

Even though the commission overwhelmingly agreed to advise the church to change its stance on the matter, many within the church rejected the change because it would be an admission that the church had been wrong.

The church demoted the commission members and appointed 15 bishops to make a final report on the matter. The bishops were also convinced by the case for modern contraception. They argued that the interpretation of the biblical story of Onan and his spilled seed was fallible, birth control is necessary for responsible parenting, and marriage should be based on "mutual love within the totality of marriage." There was a report issued by the dissenting bishops, but its only basis for opposition was that if the church changed its view, it would have to admit that it was wrong. And if it was wrong, it would lead to questioning on all "moral matters."

Although the commission and bishops overwhelmingly advised the hierarchy to change its stance, Pope Paul ignored the recommendations. He declared that the findings were not unanimous, and that the the recommendation disagreed with previous teaching and could not be changed.

Reaction to Humanae Vitae was not favorable. Many Catholics had expected Pope Paul to rescind the ban and had already made up their minds about birth control. There was also dissent from inside the church and by the world's theologians, most of it asserting that Catholics were free to make their own decisions on the issue. The reaction was as described by Father Curran. "All the hope and enthusiasm, all the sense that things had changed and that birth control teaching could change were crushed by the document. In a sense, there was one positive outcome from the encyclical in that Catholics realized that they could disagree with the pope on non-fallible issues and still remain a good Catholic. However, the negative outcome was that it created a lot of tension regarding credibility of the church.”

In the face of much dissent and disobedience, the church refused to alter its stance, and many Catholics have made their own decisions on contraceptives, especially in developed countries. Of the sexually active Catholic women in the US, 99% have used a method of birth control other than natural family planning.

In developing countries Humanae Vitae still has an impact on health policies and foreign assistance for such. This has led to an unmet need for family planning, increased abortion, death and disability for women denied the ability to limit pregnancies, and has hurt efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Catholic hierarchy continues to oppose modern contraception in Africa, which has the world's lowest rate of contraceptive use. Bishops regularly mislead those in developing countries by telling them that contraception is harmful to women's health, it leads to higher levels of abortion, and that international family planning programs are western plots to destroy their society.

Some developing countries have had some success in overcoming the Catholic church. Despite its large Catholic population, Kenya has successfully promoted contraceptive use. By 2015 52% of married women were using contraceptives and it is on target to get to 60% by 2018.

In the Philippines, according to a 2014 poll, 68% of Catholics support contraceptive use, but have unmet need due to the rate of poverty. In 2017, however, the president of the Philippines issued an executive order calling for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law. The Catholic church responded by blocking the distribution of condoms in schools.

Over the last 50 years, the impact of Humanae Vitae has been immeasurable. Despite its existence, Catholics continue to use contraceptives, dismissing a central tenet of the church, and the divide between its doctrine and reality continues to widen. The ideology has also hampered women's health and family planning causes around the world. The need for a more modern sexual ethic is long overdue, and, in order for the church to move forward, a reexamination of Humanae Vitae is imperative. doclink

Are We on Track to Create a Sustainable World by 2050?

April 4, 2018, Eco-Business   By: Robin Hicks

Five years ago, Jonathan Porritt, co-founder and director of Forum for the Future, published "The World We Made", a book in which he speculated that it was possible to achieve a sustainable world by 2050 "if humanity made the right choices." Porritt predicted that by that time damaging the environment would be a crime, malaria would be wiped out, and the world would drop its consumption of oil from 96 barrels a day to 4 million.

Porritt was recently interviewed to review progress made so far.

While there have been some favorable changes in the past five years, Porritt is calling the progress a "mixed picture." The shift to a circular economy, more wide-spread use of electric vehicles, and the Pope becoming a supporter of sustainability have pushed things in the right direction, according to Porritt. There are, however, many unaddressed areas of concern.

Porritt is first to blame the United States. President Trump's advocacy for coal, the uptick in oil production, a stall in the push for regenerative agriculture, and American diets that are heavy in processed foods are things that are currently running counter to Porritts prediction.

Among Porritt's biggest worries is excessive meat consumption by all. Staggering amounts of land are being used to grow the food needed to feed the livestock that are slaughtered for human consumption. The livestock and dairy industries are contributing to climate change more than energy production.

Another area of concern is the widespread use of plastics. Research in the past five years has found a negative impact of microbeads and microplastic. Companies involved in plastic packaging are looking for alternatives or ways to use less plastic.

Porritt also touches upon the coal consumption in Indonesia and Vietnam. He believes that is unfair to expect these countries to remain poor and they should not be judged or blamed for using fossil fuels on their way to industrialization. However he believes that these countries are short sighted, as solar energy is more affordable than ever.

Much of the interview centered around Porritt's position as an advisor to the palm oil company Sime Darby, and their efforts to get to 100% sustainable palm oil. Porritt would like to see more value placed on sustainable products in the Western markets. While many (especially in Europe) want to demonise palm oil and even ban it, Porritt believes that they should instead focus on the sustainability of a product.

When asked about the role of religions in the sustainability cause, Porritt opined that a valuable opportunity exists in a faith-based approach. Many religions preach sustainability through personal responsibility and a commitment to protect the environment, a creation of God.

According the Porritt, the main difficulty that still exists between sustainability and religious tenets are views on family planning and abortion. For example the Catholic church's views on family planning. Porrit had visited a refuge for women who have had illegal abortions in the Philippines. It was shocking to see the impact that the Catholic church's opposition to contraception and abortion has had on tens of thousands of women, who visit backstreet clinics for operations.

Even though many challenges still exist, Porritt is hopeful that sustainability can still be accomplished. doclink

What Did Pope Francis Actually Say About Contraception?

February 18, 2016, Catholic News Agency

During a press conference on the way back from Mexico, a reporter asked Pope Francis about proposals involving abortion or avoiding pregnancy in areas where Zika virus is prevalent. The Pope responded by emphatically stating that abortion is "a crime" and "absolute evil" that cannot be justified. On avoiding pregnancy he said, "Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape." Seven sentences later he added, "Avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.

While many news outlets suggested that the Pope was introducing a change - or at least a softening the church's position, Dr. Melissa Moschella, a philosophy professor at The Catholic University of America, says those statements do not necessarily reflect any change or softening in the Church's stance on contraception. The Pope may have referred to Natural Family Planning rather than contraceptive use. Natural Family Planning involves abstaining from sexual activity during a woman's fertile periods. Moschella also explained that the African case Pope Francis referenced was "not really an exception if you understand the rule." The Vatican had granted a dispensation for religious sisters in the Belgian Congo who were in danger of rape to use oral contraceptives. From the moral perspective - a victim does not consent to a sexual act.

To understand the distinction, the professor continued, one must first understand the purpose of human sexuality and why the church opposes contraception. From the Catholic perspective, sex is a relationship that is fulfilled by having and bearing children together; so birth control is immoral because it violates the very nature of sex - trying to engage in sex without the natural possibility of pregnancy. "But that doesn't happen in the case of rape,” Moschella stressed. "In the case of rape, there has been no voluntary sex act on the part of the woman.” Thus, the use of spermicide or attempts to delay ovulation may be acceptable after a rape, so long as there is no risk of killing a human embryo. But since the Zika virus case does not involve involuntary sex, couples can just stop having sex. doclink

Karen Gaia says: In an article summarized a few days age, "Catholic Scholars' Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives", The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological "capacity" for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their "finality” or "significance.” and As agents of reason, human beings have a unique capacity to intentionally alter the schedule of probabilities inherent in the physical, chemical and biological laws of nature. This is a reality of daily life: for instance, any sort of medical intervention, from something as insignificant as taking pain-killers to something as consequential as performing cardiovascular surgery, affects probabilities - of healing, survival, death, etc.

Scholars' Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives

August 1, 2016, Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

The Wijngaards Institute Institute for Catholic Research recently gathered an interdisciplinary task force of experts to re-assess the official papal teaching banning the use of "artificial" contraceptives for family planning.

The Catholic Church's ban on using "artificial" contraceptives for the purpose of family planning is based on the arguments advanced in the 1968 encyclical letter Humanae Vitae - On the Regulation of Birth (HV) by Pope Paul VI.

Summing the main argument of Humanae Vitae:

A. The biological "laws of conception” regulating human reproduction show that sexual intercourse has a "capacity to transmit life”. For that reason, each and every act of sexual intercourse has a procreative "significance”, "meaning and purpose” , "finality” , and an "intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life”.

B. The above mentioned "laws of conception” have been established by God. Therefore, intentionally thwarting the procreative capacity, significance and finality that said laws have endowed each and every act of sexual intercourse with "frustrates His design and contradicts the will of the Author of life”.

C. Consequently, "sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive is intrinsically wrong” and so is "any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation-whether as an end or as a means”.

D. Using "artificial” contraceptives to avoid conception is absolutely banned. The reason is that they "obstruct the natural development of the generative process”.

E. Using Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods with the same intention of avoiding conception is morally legitimate. The reason is that in so doing a couple stand "within the limits of the order of reality established by God” and "use a faculty provided them by nature”.


The biological evidence is that the causal relationship between insemination and, on the other hand, fertilization, implantation, and finally procreation, is statistical, not necessary. The vast majority of acts of sexual intercourse do not have the biological "capacity” for procreation, and therefore they cannot have procreation as their "finality” or "significance.”

In addition, it is mistaken to derive a judgment of value (about what morally ought to be) directly from a judgment of fact (about what is), even if the fact were correct. It is also incorrect to deduce a divine command directly from the existence of a law of nature.

The judgement that human beings may not interfere with the biological laws regulating human reproduction because they have been established by God is in contradiction with observational evidence on how human beings interact with the created order.

Human beings have a unique capacity to intentionally alter the schedule of probabilities inherent in the physical, chemical and biological laws of nature. For example: medical intervention, from something as insignificant as taking pain-killers to something as consequential as performing cardiovascular surgery, affects chances of healing, survival, and death.

The moral question is not whether to alter the schedule of probabilities within natural processes, but rather whether, when, and how doing so is conducive to human flourishing and the flourishing of all creation.

In addition, it is contradictory to say, on one hand, that "sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive intrinsically wrong,” and on the other that it is morally legitimate to practice NFP with the "intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result”.

Pope Paul VI states the reason he rejected the final report of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control was because "certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church”. This implies that the constant teaching tradition by the magisterium of the church on that subject cannot be reformed, and is therefore infallible.

The teaching that using "artificial” contraception is an intrinsic wrong always and everywhere is not revealed, nor has it ever been shown to be essential for the truth of the Christian revelation. Accordingly, it cannot become the object of an infallible definition.

The Bible identifies a variety of morally worthy non-conceptive motives for engaging in sexual intercourse. This is confirmed by evolutionary biology and modern sociological surveys, among other disciplines. Those non-conceptive motives for sexual intercourse include pleasure, love, comfort, celebration and companionship. They are morally worthy even without the concurrent occurrence of either a "procreative significance” of the biological "laws of conception,” or the agents' procreative intention.

The decision to use modern contraceptives can be taken for a variety of morally worthy motives, and so it can be ethical.

The use of modern contraceptives can facilitate one or more of sexual intercourse's non-conceptive meanings, as well as have additional morally worthy purposes - e.g. family planning, following the requirements of responsible parenthood.

The encyclical admits that Natural Family Planning can be used with the same intention as modern contraceptives, namely, to avoid conception for family planning purposes. To that extent, and all other things being equal, the two contraceptive methods are morally equivalent.

Using modern contraceptives has many proven benefits: among other things, it makes it much easier for both men and women to plan a family, it substantially lowers maternal morbidity and mortality, infant and child mortality, and abortion. Conversely, it can increase maternal, infant and child health. It leads to substantial increases in women's education and contribution to the common good. In turn, the resultant greater investment in children improves their cognitive development, health, educational achievements, and future opportunities to contribute to the common good.

The Statement's findings will be made known to Catholic church officials and opinion leaders, as well as ordinary Catholics, and made available to all UN departments and development agencies who are trying to navigate the relationship between religious belief and women's health as they work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Catholic-run health care centers and schools constitute approximately 25% of the total worldwide. Most of them do not provide contraception.

The Pope's Climate-change Blind Spot: Women's Rights

When women are empowered to make decisions about their lives, it's a win-win for people and the planet
September 1, 2016, Sierra magazine   By: Cally Carswell

In May Pope Francis published Laudato Si', the first encyclical exclusively dedicated to an environmental issue. Its core message a plea for equity, making an strong case not only for climate action but also for climate justice -- solutions that reduce emissions and vast global imbalances in wealth, power, and consumption.

He also argued that people could continue to multiply and their lives could improve if the rich stopped consuming so much. Any suggestion that reducing the birthrate is the solution to the climate crisis, he wrote, is an attempt by developed countries to evade responsibility for their excessive consumption.

While it is true that rich nations need to kick their fossil-fueled habits, birthrates do matter. UN projections say that by 2050, population could reach 8.7 to 10.8 billion. Where we end up on that spectrum will affect the global rate of emissions - and, may influence our ability to adapt to the effects of the carbon already baked into the system.

Carmen Barroso, former director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Western Hemisphere Region, says Pope Francis' argument is partly from the Catholic Church's stance on contraception and abortion, but it's also a leftover reaction to the dark history of the population-control movement.

In the 1960s and '70s, many people feared that runaway population growth would lead to famine and ecological ruin. Calls for controlling growth were primarily directed at poor countries and resulted, in some cases, in horrific violations of women's bodies and basic dignity. For example, there were forced sterilizations of both men and women in India in the 1960s. Even today women in India are still paid by the state to be sterilized, and about a dozen women recently died in mass sterilization camps.

If you say, 'women cannot have more than one or two children,' there is a problem. But "if you respect women's rights, give them the resources access to the means of controlling their own fertility as they wish, we also have the indirect effect of having fewer people on the planet. And that will be good for the environment," said Barroso.

The population paradigm shift started during the 1980s and -- at the 1994 United Nations' International Conference on Population and Development at Cairo -- activists and 179 governments came together. Instead of setting goals for reducing fertility rates through improved family planning, the unlikely alliance of women's-rights and population-stabilization advocates successfully promoted an agenda that put the status of women front and center.

The radical idea that came from the conference was: "If you invest in women's empowerment in a broad sense-access to education, economic opportunity, health care, and reproductive choice-slower population growth will follow," said Barroso.

"The answer to sustainability was not to restrict and abuse human rights," says the UN Population Fund's Daniel Schensul. It was to put women first, and trust that many indirect social and environmental benefits would accrue.

Something else came from Cairo: the idea that marginalized women don't just need the ability to choose whether or not to have children, but they also need better health care during pregnancies, education and jobs to help support their families, and freedom from genital mutilation and child marriage. Promoting gender equality is crucial on its own, Schensul says, but it has also proved more effective than draconian policies at curbing growth.

Internationally, funding for family planning halved from 1995 to 2007. The reasons: The apocalyptic famines never came to pass. There was strong opposition to funding for family planning from the Vatican and Republican administrations. The coercive and abusive policies of the past had given the field a bad rap.

Today, an estimated 225 million women in developing countries worldwide would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using modern contraception. On the other hand, between 1990 and 2010, the enrollment gap between boys and girls in primary school was essentially eliminated in many countries, and maternal mortality fell by nearly half. The global fertility rate, meanwhile, declined by 23%. Population growth dropped from 1.52% 20 years ago to 1.15% between 2010 and 2015.

The connections between population and climate change are less linear than one might think. Niger, which has the highest fertility rate in the world at 6.79 children per woman, also produces very few per capita carbon emissions. The US has only 1.87 children per woman but far more carbon emissions. So slowing population growth in Niger won't do a lot to help deflate the global carbon bubble.

"Whatever the population trajectory, you've got to deal with the energy base and consumption patterns of the population," Schensul says. There are only about 2.03 billion people in the world who make enough money to really be considered as contributing to climate change.

But Pope Francis casts this as an either-or issue. Brian O'Neill, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, published a study in 2010 demonstrating how low, medium, and high rates of population growth might affect emissions this century, taking into account differences in consumption as well as demographic factors other than growth, such as urbanization. He found that if the population grew at a moderate pace as opposed to a rapid one between now and 2050, we'd prevent about 1.7 gigatons of carbon emissions annually by that year. This would amount to about one-fifth of the reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

By 2100, a population that had grown to around 9 billion people -- rather than nearly 14 billion -- would emit seven gigatons less carbon a year. In industrialized countries like the United States, smaller reductions in growth resulted in bigger emissions benefits. But slower growth in developing countries mattered, too, particularly in India and China.

Unfortunately, those least responsible for creating the problem -- poor people in developing countries -- are likely to suffer the most from its fallout. And in these places, rapid population growth and poverty could make dealing with environmental disruption more difficult.

In the Sahel -- the southern edge of the Sahara Desert -- population could triple by 2050, from around 100 million to 300 million. At the same time the area will also be hotter, by 7° - 10°F, making farming more difficult. 12 - 18 million people are already chronically underfed.

Alisha Graves, cofounder of an initiative on the Sahel at the University of California at Berkeley says that child marriage is common in the Sahel, and women who marry young often drop out of school, which limits their future economic opportunities and increases their risk of dying during or soon after childbirth. About 25% of women in the region would like to have fewer children or space their children farther apart, but they have scarce access to the information, resources, and social support needed to do so. A leading cause of maternal mortality is unsafe abortion.

The threats that climate change poses underscore the urgent need to invest in the well-being of girls and women, says Malcolm Potts, also with the Berkeley initiative. Add infrastructure for agricultural adaptation, such as water storage, and you've got a start. Change can occur, but right now "we don't have the will, and we don't have the money," Potts laments.

Climate change may intensify hardships that women already experience, according to Nalini Singh, a program manager with the organization ARROW, in Nepal and Laos, women are walking farther to fetch clean water for their families. In the Philippines, a Catholic country where there is little or no access to contraception, women reported that waters had warmed and fish had migrated elsewhere. In some cases, men leave the village in search of other work, so their wives are bearing more responsibility for day-to-day family life. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, more frequent floods and cyclones have left pregnant women with poor or nonexistent health care and delivery services. Women are also more vulnerable to sexual violence during and after disasters.

Jade Sasser, assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California at Riverside cautions that, to support justice for women means supporting their right to have children, as well as to not have them, while offering an array of health services. "Given their full choice, not all women would choose to have two children or fewer."

Francis issued new papal proclamations on the family in April, speaking in favor of gender equality and choice in family size, and he didn't expressly forbid the use of contraception -- but neither did he condone it. However, the Vatican has continued to lobby against expanded access to contraception and abortion.

While population advocates came around to recognizing the centrality of women's rights, and it looks like environmental activists are coming to recognize it, too, will the Vatican? The church's willingness to do so will be one important test of how truly radical Francis's reign turns out to be. doclink

Karen Gaia says: while this a great article, and wonderful that the Sierra Club published this in their magazine, there is no mention of resource depletion. Water, arable land, energy sources, are all being depleted at an alarming rate.

Don't Get Pregnant

February 27, 2016, Durango Herald

"The Zika virus provides a glimpse into a future we should do everything possible to avoid, a terrifying reminder why the fight for a stable physical planet is the fight of our time." ... Bill McKibben

"Don't get pregnant until 2018" is the advice given women in El Salvador. Yet only two thirds of married women there are using modern contraception.

The Zika virus, declared "public health emergency of international concern", is the cause of the Salvadorian government's warning against pregnancy. "We'd like to suggest to all the women of fertile age that they take steps to plan their pregnancies, and avoid getting pregnant between this year and next...." This quote from Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza is frightening.

Although it hasn't caused an epidemic in Africa where it was first identified, it is raising havoc in the Americas. Zika virus symptoms are usually mild: eye inflammation, fever, rash and joint irritation-but the majority of infected people have no symptoms at all. There is no treatment for Zika disease. Mosquitoes of the Aedes genus spread Zika, dengue and other diseases, and it may also be spread by sex.

The best way to avoid getting Zika is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes-insect repellant, dress appropriately and avoid areas where mosquitoes live. So far Colorado is safe from Aedes. Climate change has recently increased the range of Aedes mosquitoes. Air travel has allowed the virus to spread like lightning. Humans have destabilized the planet, as McKibben states.

The Zika story in the Americas is still being written, but began last year. Brazilian doctors noticed a huge increase in the incidence of babies born with small heads-microcephaly. They found an association with the mothers having had Zika virus infection early in pregnancy.

I am terrified that brain scans of affected babies show other serious abnormalities usually associated with profoundly impairment. There are dozens of causes of microcephaly, but most of them are associated with cognitive and other problems.

The CDC recommends avoiding Zika when a woman is, or could become, pregnant. If the mother could have been exposed to the virus during pregnancy, it recommends ultrasounds to monitor fetal head growth.

What is so concerning is that where Zika is found, family planning services may be spotty. Fortunately El Salvador, where women are supposed to abstain from pregnancy for the next 2 years, has had a pretty successful reproductive health program. It is regrettable, however, that El Salvador is one of only 6 countries worldwide that outlaw abortion for any reason.

Beloved Pope Francis recently gave Catholic women who are at risk of Zika virus permission to use "artificial" contraception. This is great news for the millions of women where Zika is a threat, and will hopefully encourage governments in those areas to make contraception easily available.

One of the reasons that the U.S.A. liberalized of our abortion laws was that we had a viral epidemic that caused severe fetal damage. Fortunately, immunization has made rubella a disease of the past.

What happens if a woman is infected with Zika in pregnancy and ultrasound shows that her fetus has microcephaly? The Salvadorian punishment for having an abortion is 2 to 8 years in prison for the woman and up to 12 years for the doctor. Nevertheless hundreds of women risk having an illegal abortion. Often they cause their own abortions by thrusting a knitting needle or piece of wood into their uterus. Tragically, suicide is not uncommon among pregnant women in El Salvador.

Here is a hypothetical situation. Luisa, a Salvadoran campesina, has two healthy children. She was taking birth control pills, but her clinic ran out. Shortly after conceiving her third pregnancy she had what she thought was a cold with a mild red rash. During a routine ultrasound at 5 months the doctor said everything was ok except the fetus's head seemed small, and she could see calcifications in the brain. What can Luisa do? If this baby's brain was severely damaged she couldn't afford to take care of it, and her other two children would suffer because of the family's very limited resources.

What is wrong with a society that puts women in such a difficult bind? Rape is common in El Salvador, yet a woman who has been raped or is carrying a terribly compromised fetus has no legal recourse. Climate change and international travel make it more important that women everywhere have access to family planning and safe abortion services.

Originally published in the Durango Herald doclink

Pope Suggests Contraception Can Be Condoned in Zika Crisis

In a departure from Catholic teaching, Pope Francis suggests women exposed to the Zika virus could use artificial contraception
February 18, 2016, Guardian   By: Harriet Sherwood

Women in South America are frantically try to terminate pregnancies for fear of giving birth to babies with microcephaly, which gives them unusually small heads.

Speaking to reporters on the papal plane as he returned to Rome after a visit to Mexico, Francis said that, unlike abortion, "avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil" and in certain circumstances it may be "the lesser evil". He referred to the exception issued by Pope Paul VI, who permitted Catholic nuns in Africa to take birth control pills in the face of the risk of being raped.

Abortion, on the other hand, was a crime and "absolute evil," Francis said. "Not only is increased access to abortion and abortifacients [abortion-inducing drugs] an illegitimate response to this crisis, but since it terminates the life of a child it is fundamentally not preventative," the Vatican said.

An estimated 4,000 babies have been born with microcephaly, which has been linked to their mothers becoming infected with the Zika virus by mosquito bites. Governments in several countries have advised women to delay getting pregnant for up to two years, while international bodies have urged a relaxation of abortion bans in the face of the crisis.

"It must be emphasised that a diagnosis of microcephaly in a child should not warrant a death sentence," said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See's permanent observer to the UN.

The group Women on Web said it had received more than 1,000 emails begging for abortion-inducing medication such as mifepristone and misoprostol from women in countries where the drugs are banned. "Our worry is that these women will turn to unsafe abortion methods, while we can help them with a safe, medical abortion," Rebecca Gomperts, the group's founder said. doclink

The Spanish "Civil War" Lesson for Population Growth Control

December 28, 2015, Church and State   By: Stephen D. Mumford

Note: Few people know about 'National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests' (NSSM200) commissioned by President Nixon and completed on December 10, 1974 by the United States National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger on behalf of President Nixon. It was adopted as official U.S. policy by President Gerald Ford in November 1975. It was originally classified, but was later declassified and obtained by researchers in the early 1990s. Preceding this memorandum, in 1961, Congress authorized research on family planning and population issues, including the provision of family planning information to couples who requested it. In 1965 Congress adopted a plan to reduce birth rates in developing countries through its War on Hunger and Investments in family planning programs. USAID has since been a leading donor to family planning and reproductive health programs.

In this lengthy article, Stephen D. Mumford laments: "Over the past 25 years, American political will to deal with the overpopulation problem has been destroyed. NSSM 200 lived and died. The story of the creation and demise of NSSM 200, and of how the government was thwarted in its effort to resolve the overpopulation problem, received no mention in the news media or any other information source. Few Americans are aware of what is perhaps the most important story of the 20th Century. How could it have been suppressed and for what reason?"

Then Mumford proceeds to compare an extensive study of the Spanish Civil War and the related control of the American press by the Catholic hierarchy to possible suppression of important information about 'population growth control.' "The hierarchy has a history of manipulating the press to insure that Papal interests are served even at the expense of American interests" he says.

In the 1970s and 1980s, George Seldes told us how and why in seven articles that appeared in The Churchman magazine, an Episcopal journal, which has always been committed to the truth. After an intensive study, in an August 1978 article, Seldes concludes: "The New York Times is still in fear of reprisals from the Roman Church in America, as it was during the entire Spanish War when under managing editor Edward L. James and the notorious 'Fascist phalanx in the bull-pen.'

"The New Republic" magazine, "to its credit, in 'Who Lied About Spain?' when the war was over 1939 listed the [New York] Times man with Franco as the number one falsifier." Seldes concluded that all of America's 1,750 daily papers were similarly terrified by "the Catholic Church propaganda campaign." This "terror" is still pervasive and has led to the disappearance of a free press in America in matters of concern to the Vatican, such as the recognition of overpopulation as a national security threat, Mumford claims.

In 1931, Spain became the Republic of Spain, a liberal democracy that separated church and state, ended State monetary support for the church and adopted the principles of Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of the Press. The Vatican feared for the Church's very survival in Spain. There had been four insurrections since 1835, and it was the Spanish people, the poor workers and poor peasants, who burned the churches because they blamed the hierarchy for having persistently backed the upper class. The latest uprising against the Catholic Church took place throughout the country in July, 1936. One historian described it as "the work of masses of common people, a spontaneous uprising." The Vatican feared that the liberal democracy with its freedoms would spell the end of the Church in Spain.

The Spanish War of 1936-39 was not a civil war but an invasion by Hitler, Mussolini and Salazar fascists in league with the Vatican. Confessions of the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials confirm the plot. It was a "Christian crusade against atheistic communism."

President Franklin Roosevelt participated in this undertaking, convinced by Cardinal Pacelli, who three years later became Pope Pius XII. A treasonable officer's rebellion had been converted into the 'Crusade Against Godless Communism.'"

President Roosevelt prevented guns, food and medicine from being shipped to the Republic of Spain. The world press either falsified the news of the arrival of German and Italian troops, or confused enough people to prevent effective protest." The blockade was responsible for the Republic's defeat.

Spain's Bishops themselves openly admitted the role of the Church. "In Madrid, September 15, 1971, at a Congress of the entire Roman Catholic Hierarchy, the majority confessed it had sinned in supporting the wrong side (the fascist side) in Spain and asked to be forgiven. 'We humbly recognize,' said the resolution, 'and ask pardon for it, that we failed at the proper time to be ministers of reconciliation in the midst of our people divided by a war between brothers.'"

The news of these votes was almost completely suppressed in the world press. Only three minor reports on this story appeared in the United States.

FDR admitted his error in 1939 -- but it could not be published in his lifetime. President Harry Truman wrote in his Memoirs: 'I believe it was a mistake for me to support the Neutrality Action in the first place.'

In the Spanish War of 1936-1939 an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 of Spain's population of 25,000,000 were killed. By 1939, an estimated 100,000 prisoners of war had been murdered by Franco -- news of which was supressed in American newspapers These Spaniards were murdered for only one reason - they believed in liberal democracy, just as we Americans do here in this country.

Franco repaid the Roman Catholic Church by abolishing divorce, making religious marriages obligatory and restoring taxes for the benefit of the Church-all previously banned by the Republic, and turned the schools over to the Catholic Church. Here children learned to despise liberalism. Liberalism is mortal sin and anti-Christian. The Liberal system is the weapon with which the accursed Jewish race makes war on our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Church, and on the Christian people. Liberals defend freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, freedom of the press, or any of the other liberal errors.

Mumford continues: "We have witnessed in America since the mid-1970s the application of this same technique for control of the press on the issue of overpopulation. Although the entire press consistently genuflect to the Catholic hierarchy, they are under continuous attack for being too 'liberal' and 'anti-Catholic'. The charge of 'liberal press' is always used to attack the anti-Vatican position on every issue.

This very same technique is being used in America today by a press manipulated by the Vatican to misinform Americans, minimizing the threat of overpopulation and, in particular, the threat of the greenhouse effect. The Vatican demand is that both sides of the issues be given equal press. An article of falsehoods is published alongside an article of facts. For example, the United Nation's task force on the greenhouse effect includes 2500 scientists. There are perhaps a half dozen people with credentials who dismiss this theory. The Vatican has successfully insisted that both groups be given equal press or, better yet, none at all.

To this day The New York Times has not published the truth about its falsehoods and pro-fascism of the Spanish war years. We must assume that the Times does not want known the influence of the Catholic hierarchy at the Times during that era. We must also assume that the Times has not acted because the Catholic influence prevails in its editorial offices today. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it is certainly true that there is a 'taboo' about attempts to reach a sustainable population, but I feel the taboo is more easily explained by abuses by 'population controllers', pressure on families to stop having children, and suggestions of penalties. Preventing unintended pregnancies is a better, more workable answer.

And even the Pope has come around to a degree. He now acknowledges climate change and even overpopulation. But he still will not condone modern contraception and abortion. Fertility timing is the only method he will allow.

COP21: Cardinal Says Birth Control May Offer Climate 'Solution'

December 9, 2015, BBC News   By: Matt Mcgrath

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope's leading adviser on climate issues, said that birth control could "offer a solution" to the impacts of climate change, , particularly the lack of food in a warmer world, saying that the Church had never been against natural family planning.

Speaking in Paris, the cardinal called for a strong agreement that would protect the most vulnerable nations.

"This has been talked about, and the Holy Father on his trip back from the Philippines also invited people to some form of birth control, because the church has never been against birth control and people spacing out births and all of that. So yes, it can offer a solution," he said.

"So yes it engages us in food security management, so we ensure that everybody is fed and all of that. The amount of population that is critical for the realisation of this is still something we need to discover, yet the Holy Father has also called for a certain amount of control of birth."

However, Cardinal Turkson stressed that artificial birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill were evil. "You don't deal with one good with another evil: the Church wants people to be fed, so let's do what the Church feels is not right? That is a kind of sophistry that the church would not go for," he said.

Even though the global population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion by the middle of the century, efforts to limit family size in developing countries have been criticized as a form of imperialism.

"For us, one thing must dominate. We need to look at the front line states and what they are going through now, and in the light of concern for what they are feeling now, to simply adopt a measure that can ensure the existence of all of us. doclink

COP21: Cardinal Says Birth Control May Offer Climate 'Solution'

One of the Catholic Church's most senior prelates has said that birth may offer climate 'solution'
December 7, 2015, BBC News   By: Matt Mcgrath

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope's leading adviser on climate issues, suggested that birth control could help alleviate some of the impacts of climate change, particularly the lack of food in a warmer world. However, only natural methods of birth control are allowed by the Church.

Cardinal Turkson is believed to have played a significant role in the drafting of "Laudato Si", the Pope's encyclical on climate change.

"This has been talked about, and the Holy Father on his trip back from the Philippines also invited people to some form of birth control, because the church has never been against birth control and people spacing out births and all of that. So yes, it can offer a solution," he said.

"Having more mouths to feed is a challenge for us to be productive also, which is one of the key issues being treated over here, the cultivation and production of food, and its distribution.

"So yes it engages us in food security management, so we ensure that everybody is fed and all of that. The amount of population that is critical for the realisation of this is still something we need to discover, yet the Holy Father has also called for a certain amount of control of birth."

Cardinal Turkson stressed that artificial birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill were evil and still beyond what the Church would accept for birth control.

Even though the global population of 7 billion people is expected to grow to 9.7bn by 2050, efforts to limit family size in developing countries have been criticised as a form of imperialism. doclink

Karen Gaia says: why is natural family planning good while the pill, condoms, and even sterilization are considered evil? Sex is a natural human function practiced by normal human adults roughly 100-300 times a year (ages 19-29), on average, regardless of when a women is fertile. To ask couples who want to delay or stop having children to abstain when a women is fertile is like playing Russian roulette. If a couple truly does not want children, they must practice half-time abstinence to be safe under Catholic policy. Half-time abstinence is not very satisfying, rarely practiced and -- when practiced -- is less successful in keeping couples together. In earlier times the human sex drive kept humanity going in the face of high mortality rates from poor sanitation, lack of medical treatments for disease and low agricultural production. Although humans have artificially increased their life span and lowered their infant mortality rate, their sex drive has not changed. The Catholic answer

LTE: the Pope and Birth Control

NYC Sierra Club   By: Margaret Perkins, Audrey Bernstein; Cochairs NYC Sierra Club

To the Editor, New York Times: Your editorial "The Pope and the Birth Control Ban" (September 21) clearly listed all the health benefits to women worldwide that would be facilitated by the Catholic church lifting it's aggressive ban on contraceptives. Another beneficiary would be the health of our Mother Earth; our planet is nearing resource exhaustion from supporting 7.3 billion people. Our population will increase to 9.3 billion by 2050 unless universal (global and U.S.) family planning is in effect. In 'Laudato si', Pope Francis wrote eloquently about our Mother Earth, "our common home who sustains and governs us." Allowing all women to plan for smaller families would give Mother Earth a much welcome respite. doclink

If Pope Francis Really Wanted to Fight Climate Change, He'd Be a Feminist

The world will never be healed of its ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility.
September 9, 2015, Nation (US)   By: Katha Pollitt

Although he is against inequality, racism, poverty, bigotry, rampant capitalism and "self-centred culture of instant gratification" -- including excessive meat eating -- that fuel climate change and may well destroy the planet -- and, even though he has just announced a special year in which any priest may absolve a woman for having an abortion, as long as she is "contrite" -- Pope Francis still has nothing to say about the gender inequality that shores up and promotes our onrushing disaster.

The world, unlike Vatican City, is half women. It will never be healed of its economic, social, and ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility or the timing of their children; are married off in childhood or early adolescence; are barred from education and decent jobs; have very little socioeconomic or political power or human rights; and are basically under the control -- often the violent control­­ -- of men.

Because of the association of population growth with coercion, racism, and doomsday predictions that failed to materialize, it's hard for progressives to talk about overpopulation. But since 2000 we've added around 1.2 billion, roughly equivalent to the entire population of North America and Europe, which is expected to bring us to around 9.6 billion people by around 2050.

How can we take the pope seriously if he refuses to see overpopulation and how it affects everything: climate change, species loss, pollution, deforestation, the struggle for clean water, housing, work, and sufficient food. How can we take the pope seriously if he refuses to face these facts?

He blames only excess consumption by the privileged and says that international campaigns for reproductive health are really all about population control and the imposition of foreign values on the developing world -- as if the church itself was not a foreign power using its might to restrict reproductive rights in those same places. There are billions of people who want to rise above the backbreaking farm labor in a poor village with no electricity or running water -- and those desires can only be satisfied if people have fewer children, which happens to be what they want anyway.

True, Pope Francis did say that Catholics needn't breed "like rabbits," but only if they used natural family planning. The Philippines -- where he made that comment, and where the powerful church hierarchy has fought against realistic sex education and government funding of contraception -- has the highest fertility rate among the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Pope Francis is all for fighting climate change, but a recent report from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health says that providing family planning to the 225 million women around the world who want it but can't get it could meet 16 to 29% of the necessary decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Wouldn't meeting a desire that women already have be more likely to succeed than turning the world vegetarian or keeping the new middle classes in China and India from buying cars and taking vacations?

Educating girls, keeping women in the workforce, and providing good healthcare for women and children are also important human-rights goals that would reduce the number of children a woman has.

As climate change heats up, it's women who will bear the brunt of it, because they are the majority of the world's poor. In the developing world, they'll be contending with drought, food shortages, flooding, and forced migration, along with increases in the usual brutalities like rape, violence, trafficking, and war. To deny them the ability to control how many kids they bring into the world under such circumstances, is to condemn millions of women to the desperation that the pope says he wants to prevent. doclink

Invented Traditions: No, Christianity Doesn't Forbid Abortion

September 8, 2015, Juan Cole   By: Larry Badendyck

The "Pro-life" argument notes that the life history of every human starts with the fertilization of an egg, and every healthy fertilized egg has the potential to turn into a person. Therefore, it is argued, every healthy fertilized egg is a person. Furthermore, the pro-life position argues, there is the sanctity of every individual human being, an assertion at the center of the Christian message and supported by both scripture and accepted Christian doctrine.

However, voluntary abortion is not mentioned in either the Old or the New Testament. Yes, God forbids murder. But if abortion is murder, why does God not mention it? Not once. Induced abortions must have occurred or been attempted; abortion is hardly a modern invention.

The anti-abortion argues that this passage asserts the personhood of the fetus, and, therefore, by implication, supports the case against abortion: Psalm 139: "Thine eyes did see my substance, and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." But the subject of the psalm is divine omniscience, God's ability to survey past, present and future. To extend a thought in the mind of God to the personhood of a fetus is a sign of intellectual and moral desperation.

The belief that anti-abortion doctrine has always been firmly and centrally located in the main sources and articulations of Christian doctrine is unfounded. The primary canonical interpreters of the Christian tradition show as little interest in the question of abortion as scripture does.

It wasn't until the latter part of the nineteenth century, more than 1800 years of effective silence on the subject, that Pope Leo XIII declared the simultaneity of conception and personhood.

Murder is, after all, the unjustifiable killing of an innocent human being. Unless it can be shown that the blastocyst is not a person, the pro-choice position surrenders its philosophical and moral credibility.

According to Christian doctrine supported by scripture, personhood is the miraculous union of a mortal body, brought into existence through natural processes, and an immortal soul, created by God.

St. Augustine of Hippo said: "It is not the act of mating, or the insemination that matters, it is God who gives the form. It is not the mother, who conceives, carries, bears, and feeds that matters, it is God who effects the miraculous combination of an immaterial with a material substance, with the former in command, the latter in subjugation. God unites them to make a living soul." ... (City of God XXII, 24)

A viable body must precede the soul. In practice the Catholic Church agrees: the Church has never authorized the baptism of fetuses or zygotes. It certainly has never baptized embryos, not before Leo's pronouncement, not after.

The question 'when does ensoulment occur?' figures in every legislative attempt to limit abortion. And anti-abortionists argue: 'if we do not know, we cannot take a chance'. The fetus, the embryo, even the zygote just might be a person, so we must treat it as if it were.

Even St. Augustine admits he does not know: "As for abortions which have been alive in the mother's womb but have died there, I cannot bring myself either to affirm or deny that they will share in the resurrection." ... (XXII, 13)

However, in the Bible, Genesis says God created man in his own image. Augustine takes the a citation from St Paul: "This can be taken as referring to the inner man," and concludes that Genesis was referring to "a kind of mind" (XXII, 20). Therefore, what God does when he creates a person by that miraculous combination of an immaterial with a material substance is thus to install "a kind of mind."

And a prerequisite for a mind, therefore, a person, is an adequately developed brain and central nervous system. Ensoulment, then, cannot occur until at the sixth month of pregnancy at the earliest.

Augustine does not make explicit the mind/brain implication, but a thousand years later, Dante does -- in the Purgatorio: "...once the brain's articulation in the embryo arrives at its perfection the First Mover turns to it, rejoicing in such handiwork of nature, and breathes into it a spirit, new and full of power, which then draws into its substance all it there finds active and becomes a single soul that lives, and feels, and reflects upon itself." ... trans. Sinclair Purgatorio XXV (69-75)

Dante was not addressing abortion; his purpose was to explain the unique human individual and that individual's eternal fate, distinguishing Christian teaching from all of those other religions that see the end of life as the absorption of the individual into some vast cosmic wholeness. Nevertheless, Dante presents a potent, preemptive refutation of Leo XIII's assertion of the biological fallacy, in essence the biological heresy.

In his Divine Comedy Dante is defending "a doctrine essential to a Christian view of things -- the direct and independent creation of the individual soul, as against the heresy that the soul comes into being like the body, by mere natural descent." ... trans. Sinclair Purgatorio 1334

This central Christian doctrine was sustained and refined for over 1800 years of teaching until repudiated by Leo XIII.

Augustine is consistent with modern neuroscientists: in the words of Michael S. Gassaniga, one of the best: "The fertilized egg is a clump of cells with no brain; the processes that begin to generate a nervous system do not begin until after the 14th day. No sustainable or complex nervous system is in place until approximately six months of gestation. In judging a 'fetus' and granting it the moral and legal rights of a human being I put the age much later [than 14 weeks] at 23 weeks when life is sustainable and the fetus could, with a little help from a neonatal unit, survive and develop into a thinking human being with a normal brain." ... "The Thoughtful Distinction between Embryo and Human," Chronicle of Higher Education 4/8/2006

As St. Paul says: "the spiritual does not come first, the physical body comes first, and then the spiritual." ... 1 Corinthians 15:35

Thus attributing personhood to the zygote is guilty of what has been called the "biological fallacy," the equation of "person" with the physical body. doclink

Chris Christie, Pope Francis and Contraception

September 7, 2015,   By: Tom Deignan

Has Francis brought fresh air to the 21st century American Catholic Church?

Last month Gov. Chris Christie came out with this statement to a New Hampshire crowd: "I'm a Catholic, but I've used birth control. And not just the rhythm method." According to surveys, four out of five Catholics support contraceptives.

The unremitting horror of the sex abuse scandals and the fresh, forgiving air of Francis' papacy have temporarily taken several contested issues off the table when it comes to Catholic doctrine. The Pope continued to emphasize forgiveness over punishment last week when he announced that for a "Year of Mercy" beginning in December, priests may absolve contrite women who have had abortions.

It is unlikely Francis could substantively budge on an issue as gut-wrenching as abortion. But a re-evaluation of the church's stance on contraception is not far-fetched. When a prominent Catholic Republican presidential candidate flouts church rules on birth control, and pundits and the electorate greet him with a collective yawn, it illustrates just how out of touch church leaders are with the folks in the pews.

Author Alice McDermott who writes stories of Catholic life said: "The entrenched male hierarchy of the Church often requires the women who work within it to find their own, quiet ways of getting around rules and traditions that subvert both compassion and common sense." Many parishioners these days know that these man-made rules (emphasis on "man") are actually being reinterpreted constantly. (A special year for abortion forgiveness? Really?)

Dr. John Rock, a devout American Catholic, spent years in the 1960s trying to convince the Vatican that the pill's benefits - greater freedom and equality for women, fewer financial burdens on families, less physical suffering from multiple pregnancies.

At the same time, Pope John XXIII, formed a commission on birth control. The commission later "overwhelmingly voted" to lift the ban on contraceptives. But his successor, Paul VI, ultimately disagreed in the controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that in the past seven years, the number of Americans identifying themselves as Catholic dropped to around 20%, after decades hovering around 25%. In time, American priests may find themselves preaching to empty pews. doclink

Ghana: Stop Using Contraceptives

August 9, 2015, Ghana Home Page

The Catholic Bishops Conference in Accra has condemned the use of artificial contraceptives and cautioned the public to desist from using them.They only allowed natural means or abstinence as the best mode of planning a family.

Most Rev. Anthony Adanuti, Bishop of Keta, Akatsi and Vice President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops conference said "In Ghana as elsewhere, heavy pressure is being brought upon our government by these external donor agencies, currently present and working in our country to back pro-choice and the agenda of the sexual revolution.

Archbishop Emeritus of the Cape Coast Arch Diocese, Cardinal Appiah Turkson said "Contraception is to stop pregnancy or conception either because the couple is not desiring a baby to be born or for economic reason... So what we recommend to people is, when you do not want a child, then avoid the fertilization period. "When you avoid the fertilization period, you can have all the sex you want with your wife and there would be no pregnancy. This only requires a certain amount of discipline." doclink

Speaker at Vatican Climate Change Rollout Said Earth Was Overpopulated at 6 Billion

June 14, 2015, Newsmax

Hans Schellnhuber, a climate scientist who spoke when Pope Francis unveiled his climate change encyclical on June 18, once said the world is overpopulated by 6 billion people.

Schellnhuber is the Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Chairman of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. He once called for an Earth Constitution that would transcend the U.N. Charter and a "Global Council ... elected by all the people on Earth" and a "Planetary Court ... with respect to violations of the Earth Constitution."

At the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, Schellnhuber said: "In a very cynical way, it's a triumph for science because at last we have stabilized something - namely the estimates for the carrying capacity of the planet, namely below 1 billion people." He also said that if greenhouse gas buildup caused a rise of 9° F of global temperatures, six billion people would die and much life on earth would be threatened.

Skeptics of man-made climate change have critical concern about the encyclical, in part due to Schellnhuber's role. But many on the left hoped Pope Francis' encyclical would link the global warming fight to religious obligation, notes. With Schellnhuber, one of the world's most aggressive climate change scientists, the left may be getting what it hopes for. doclink

Art says: Other population writers (e.g., Ehrlich and Weisman) have estimated the Earth's sustainable carrying capacity in the range of 2-3 billion people.

A Natural Argument for the Birth Control Pill

February 2, 2015, Los Angeles Times   By: Malcolm Potts

Pope Francis talked about "responsible parenthood" after his trip to the Philippines, saying Catholics do not need to breed "like rabbits."

With rabbits intercourse occurs only when the female is ovulating. In humans ovulation is concealed and not associated with any physical or behavioral changes. It is ironic that the Catholic Church's approved "rhythm method" of contraception, requires precise timing of ovulation cycles. It is ideal for rabbits but not for humans.

After St. Augustine equated sex with Original Sin, the rule was to either abstain or to have intercourse only to procreate. In the 20th century, Protestant and Catholic teaching began to recognize that most human intercourse is an expression of love, not just the urge to procreate.

When reproductive scientists discovered in the late 19th century that ovulation occurs about two weeks before a woman's menstrual period, Catholic teaching approved periodic abstinence as a "natural contraceptive," but "artificial" birth control was still a no-no.

A Catholic obstetrician, John Rock, discovered how hormones control ovulation - which lead to the development of the birth control pill. His 1963 landmark book, "The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control" pointed out that the pill's hormones imitate the natural suppression of ovulation that occurs during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Many observers expected that such reasoning would cause the Vatican to reverse its course on birth control.

However in 1968 Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical, "Humanae Vitae" condemning any method of contraception "intended to prevent procreation," contradicting the advice of the special commission that the previous pope had launched to discuss birth control. It was as if the church had decided that because it had "sent all those souls to hell for using contraception, it must keep maintaining that is where they are." doclink

Karen Gaia: today about 98% of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraception

Pope Francis Addresses Population Control as Millions Attend Manila Mass

Pope Francis Says Children Should Be 'Welcomed, Cherished and Protected'
January 18, 2015, Wall Street Journal   By: Deborah Ball

During the Pope's recent week-long trip to Asia, those looking for a statement changing the church's policies on birth control instead had to settle for subtle hints that Pope Francis may view the issue a little differently than his predecessors.

While family-planning programs in Asian nations such as South Korea and Thailand have helped to rein in population growth, U.N statistics show Filipino women having, on average, 3.1 children, higher than many other developing countries. Only about a third of women of childbearing age use modern methods of birth control, and fertility rates among the poorest quartile -- many of whom cannot afford birth control -- are three times higher than for rich Filipinos. A 2012 law expanded the availability of birth control. Family-planning advocates viewed the law as an important step in helping poor women to control the size of their families, but the Filipino church has continued to preach against artificial birth control.

The Pope offered a mass in Manila which drew an estimated six million people despite steady rain. In Manila, Pope Francis touched upon population control and seemed to support the local Clergy's stand. On the final full day of his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis said "the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred. ... We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected, and we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets."

However, during his Asian tour the Pope highlighted themes that he and developing world bishops consider top priority: social justice, the stress that migration places on families, poverty and income inequality.

While visiting Tacloban, which was hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the Pope said again that climate change is disproportionately affecting the developing world. He is preparing an encyclical on the environment for this summer and has hinted lately that he may throw his weight behind those who say human activity is a major cause of global warming change - a stance not welcomed by climate change skeptics. "This country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change." doclink

Art says: While the Pope did not endorse birth control on this trip, he did recently state that Catholics do not have to breed like rabbits. His statements against artificial birth control implies that he, or the church, prefers more 'natural' restraints. Hopefully, he will clarify this matter in the near future.

Pope Francis Says Catholics Don't Need to Breed 'Like Rabbits'

January 20, 2015, NPG Negative Population Growth   By: Jasmine Garsd

After visiting the Philippines, Pope Francis made strong statements supporting the church's ban on artificial means of birth control. He also said Catholics should practice "responsible parenthood" and don't have to breed "like rabbits."

Speaking with reporters on a flight Monday from the Philippines to Rome, Francis encouraged the use of church-approved contraception.

The National Catholic Reporter described the pope's remarks this way:

"Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via cesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: 'Does she want to leave the seven orphans?' ... " 'This is to tempt God,' he said, adding later: 'That is an irresponsibility.' Catholics, the pope said, should speak of 'responsible parenthood.' "

" 'God gives you methods to be responsible,' the Pope said.

Pope Francis also has aimed to reassure members of the flock that he is still in line with traditional Catholic values. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the Pope is probably referring to Fertility Awareness, a method that is one of the least effective, having a chance of pregnancy in the 94% range after a 10 year use. It is often referred to as 'Vatican Roulette'.

The Catholic Church and Contraception: Revolution...or Evolution?

October 14, 2014, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

A statement recently issued by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome is being described as an "earthquake" by Church liberals and a "betrayal" by Church conservatives. The statement does not appear very radical with respect to the treatment of gays or divorcees, and the same applies to the nuanced position taken by the Bishops on contraception. It all seems highly tentative, but after decades of rigid orthodoxy, equivocation can sometimes presage a revolution. So is the Catholic Church about to change its position on birth control... or not?

The report emphasized "the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control."

While some members of the Catholic faith may believe that husbands and wives should make no effort to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, that view is not typical. The Church itself has long approved "natural" family planning, otherwise known as the rhythm method. In doing so, the Church appears to endorse the idea that a woman should be able to space or limit her pregnancies. If so, why shouldn't a woman be able to use a more reliable method to achieve the same result?

Polls suggest that the vast majority of Catholic women in the U.S. rely upon a modern method of birth control at some point in their reproductive years.

Yet, despite these poll findings, large numbers of politicians in this country -- whether reliant on Church teachings or not -- are expending an awful lot of moral and political energy on making it harder for women to access a modern method of contraception.

Some of this may be driven by a misdirected anti-abortion zeal, rather than strict opposition to modern methods of birth control, but the practical result is to boost the number of unplanned pregnancies and, by implication, the number of abortions.

If the Vatican does reverse its position on birth control, it may have very little impact on the percentage women in this country who elect to use a modern method of contraception. And the same is true in Europe and in many parts of Latin America. But in a few places, like the Philippines, the Church's opposition to birth control has proven to be a real deterrent, and a reversal could ultimately lead to a substantial increase in contraceptive usage.

If the Church shifts its position on birth control, it will be interesting to see how it would affect the ongoing legal challenges to federally mandated coverage of contraception by employers. In the heavily nuanced words of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, would the employer "need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of birth control"? doclink

LA Times - Vatican to Debate Teachings on Divorce, Birth Control, Gay Unions

May 21, 2014, Los Angeles Times   By: Henry Chu

Soon after his election last year, Pope Francis directed every diocese to survey local attitudes on family and relationships. The survey asked 39 questions -- including whether unmarried couples were living together, whether same-sex unions were legal, how many children were being raised in non-traditional families, and what programs conveyed Catholic teaching on such matters. Vatican expert John Thavis says that this survey will tell the Vatican what it already knows, but has not wanted to acknowledge.

The Vatican will tally and analyze the results, and this fall the Pope will meet with senior clerics to review and debate church teachings that affect the most intimate aspects of people's lives, including contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage, and same-sex unions. Billed as an "extraordinary" assembly of bishops, the gathering could result in new approaches to some of those sensitive topics.

Some analysts say the Pope's Jesuit training has taught him to diversify his information sources and form less centralized decision-making process. Thavis says that instead of bishops just preaching the rules and doctrine down to the faithful, Francis wants more dialogue. "Francis already knows that many Catholics disobey the church's ban on premarital sex and birth control and that some are in gay partnerships. Documenting these changes could strengthen his bid to soften the church's official line and put pressure on bishops inclined to resist. While Western countries show large-scale rejection of Catholic dogma on sex and marriage, little is known of the response in Asia and Africa, where the church has been growing and conservative views are more likely. That could complicate reforms by Francis, who also wants to broaden the input and influence of those growing regions.

At October's synod, Bishops will discuss the survey and proposals to deal with the findings. They will then settle on new guidelines at an "ordinary" synod next year. Thus, few expect major changes to Catholic doctrine at the synod this October. The two-step process should give prelates time to reflect and adjust to reforms proposed by Francis, Thavis said. The pope must reconcile the views of ordinary Catholics who desperately want change and those among their leaders who spurn it. "The Pope is the Pope, and I think we can expect that even conservative bishops will listen to what he says," Thavis hopes for a policy that will not cause people to leave the church or reject the synod.

Francis has spoken unequivocally on heterosexual marriage as God's will. Still, reformers find hope in the Pope's new tone. For example, regarding gays he said, "Who am I to judge?" He has also advised against obsessing over "small-minded rules" and contentious subjects such as abortion. Francis has hinted that same-sex and unmarried unions could serve a practical purpose by legally protecting the children. This month an Argentine cathedral baptized the infant daughter of a lesbian couple with Francis' apparent consent. Catherine Pepinster, editor of the Tablet, a Catholic weekly in Britain agrees. "When he was cardinal in Buenos Aires, he really had a go at priests who wouldn't baptize the children of single mothers." So, although Francis almost certainly will seek an end to denying communion to Catholics who have divorced and remarried, his emphasis on pastoral care and compassion could offer local priests a work-around, with greater flexibility to address individual circumstances. The church could "triage" people's spiritual wounds rather than aggravate them.

Francis' global popularity could inflate expectations of the changes he can, or wills to deliver. Disgruntled underlings can ignore or oppose his injunctions. Massimo Faggioli of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota believes conservative U.S. bishops, appointed mostly by Francis' predecessors, oppose relaxing traditional strictures on marriage and family. "The Catholic Church is not a military dictatorship where, if they don't obey, you can send the army. It's very difficult for a pope to force bishops to do what you want them to do," Faggioli said.

Although the Vatican told bishops to distribute the questionnaire as widely as possible, apparently not all complied. In the U.S., the National Catholic Reporter found that many dioceses posted the survey online for parishioners to fill in, but others did not seem to notify lay people at all. The German bishops reported that many of their parishioners view the church's teaching on sex as "unrealistic," its prohibition on artificial contraception as "incomprehensible;" and its treatment of remarried divorcees as pitiless. Some critics also demand more participation by women in the discussion, so that crucial decisions on marriage, sex and family life are not made exclusively by a group of single, celibate, childless men. doclink

Art says: This does not address the church's cover-up of clergy child abuse, which The PBS documentary program Frontline recently investigated. Those interviewed by Frontline found little improvement by the church on coverup matters since Pope Francis took office, suggesting that expectations of reform under Francis may lead to disappointment.

Most Catholics Reject Teachings on Birth Control Sex Says Vatican

The Vatican blamed its own priests for much of the problem
June 26, 2014, Toronto Star   By: Nicole Winfield

In June this year, the Vatican conceded that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant. This October a debate will be opened on the topic of marriage, sexuality, abortion, and divorce, but core church doctrine isn't expected to change.

The Vatican sent out a 39-point questionnaire seeking input from ordinary Catholics around the world about their understanding of, and adherence to, the church's teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, contraception, marriage and divorce. Thousands of ordinary Catholics, clergy and academics responded.

A working document for the October synod discussions said "A vast majority" of responses stressed that "the moral evaluation of the different methods of birth control is commonly perceived today as an intrusion in the intimate life of the couple and an encroachment on the autonomy of conscience."

"Many responses recommend that for many Catholics the concept of 'responsible parenthood' encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control."

Pope Francis is seeking to redirect his ministers to offer families, and even gays in civil unions, a "new language" that is welcoming and responds to their needs.

The document laments that the media and its own priests have failed to communicate the "positive" aspects of the Vatican's key document banning artificial contraception, the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. And it stresses that what is needed is better pastoral outreach and a "new language" to communicate the complete vision of marriage and family life that the church espouses.

"Some observations inferred that the clergy sometimes feel so unsuited and ill-prepared to treat issues regarding sexuality, fertility and procreation that they often choose to remain silent," the document said.

The document also acknowledged that the church had a credibility problem. "Responses from almost every part of the world frequently refer to the sexual scandals within the church (pedophilia in particular)," it said. "Sex scandals significantly weaken the church's moral credibility." doclink

Hefty Global Goals From a Vatican Meeting: Stabilizing the Climate, Energy for All and An Inclusive Economy

May 15, 2014, New York Times   By: Andrew C. Revkin

A group statement from the Vatican meeting of scientists, economists, theologians and others divides humanity's task into the technical and scientific enterprise of nurturing human societies with sustainable sources of clean energy and food -- which the participants deemed "available or within reach," and the much greater challenge of building the moral commitment and governmental and financial structures that can reduce inequity, profiteering and other social ills.

Human action which is not respectful of nature becomes a boomerang for human beings that creates inequality and extends what Pope Francis has termed "the globalization of indifference" and the "economy of exclusion" (Evangelii Gaudium), which themselves endanger solidarity with present and future generations.

Extreme poverty can be ended through targeted investments in sustainable energy access, education, health, housing, social infrastructure and livelihoods for the poor. Social inequalities can be reduced through the defense of human rights, the rule of law, participatory democracy, universal access to public services, the recognition of personal dignity, a significant improvement in the effectiveness of fiscal and social policies, an ethical finance reform, large scale decent work creation policies, integration of the informal and popular economic sectors, and national and international collaboration to eradicate the new forms of slavery such as forced labor and sexual exploitation. Energy systems can be made much more efficient and much less dependent on coal, petrol and natural gas to avoid climate change, protect the oceans, and clean the air of coal-based pollutants. Food production can be made far more fruitful and less wasteful of land and water, more respectful of peasants and indigenous people and less polluting. Food wastage can be cut significantly, with both social and ecological benefits.

Our economies, our democracies, our societies and our cultures pay a high price for the growing gap between the rich and the poor within and between nations. And perhaps the most deleterious aspect of the widening income and wealth gap in so many countries is that it is deepening inequality of opportunity. Most importantly, inequality, global injustice, and corruption are undermining our ethical values, personal dignity and human rights.

A line about "redistribution of wealth" will surely raise hackles in some circles. And there was no mention of the words population or fertility, even though there were long discussions of demographics at the meeting demonstrating that both population and consumption growth matter. doclink

Thank Heaven for Pope Francis

Francis is like a breath of fresh air in the Vatican. I hope that he continues to shake up the status quo, including the doctrines affecting women's access to contraception and abortion.
April 26, 2014, Durango Herald   By: Richard Grossman

Originally posted in the Durango Herald

Roman Catholic nuns and priests were a substantial proportion of the populace in past centuries. Their celibacy acted to slow population growth.

Starting in the 12th century priests and nuns had to take vows of chastity in order to be considered pure. For some, however, abstinence is a goal that is difficult to achieve.

Today there are far fewer nuns and priests. Many places have imported clergy from other countries, and some churches have shut their doors due to lack of a priest. This decrease in clergy has increased population growth, although probably only slightly. There is a more important factor. In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae ("Human Life"), which reemphasized the Church's constant teaching that it is intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence. In many parts of the world this is largely ignored. Catholic women in the USA and most western European countries use artificial birth control about as often as Protestant women.

In poorer parts of the world, where most Catholics live, people are more obedient to Church doctrine; as a consequence their birth rate is much higher. Since Roman Catholicism is one of the most numerous world religions (numbering about 1.2 billion adherents), avoidance of the most effective family planning methods leads to many unwanted pregnancies and high growth rates.

The Philippines provides a good example. Women there bear an average of more than 3 children, while the average for all of Southeast Asia is just 2.4. The country boasts that it is the only Christian country in Asia, and over 80% Filipinos are Catholic. The Church has a strong hold on politics: abortion is essentially totally outlawed-but common, nonetheless. The Church opposes the Filipino Reproductive Health Law because it would increase the availability of contraception, even though it stands to prevent hundreds of pregnancy-related deaths. Fortunately the Filipino Supreme Court just approved the Law earlier this month despite strong pressure from the Church. Although currently fewer than 40% of Filipino women use a reliable, modern method of contraception, the Law will make birth control available to all.

The following appeared last month in the British "Catholic Herald": 'Responding to the question of whether the Church should revisit the issue of birth control, Pope Francis replied: "It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.

"His genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a 'brake' on the culture, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral take into account people's situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do."'

(I do not agree with the comment about neo-Malthusianism, but will not debate that here.)

Francis did something that no other Pope has done before-survey his flock. The Global Survey of Roman Catholics asked 12,000 people in 12 countries throughout the world a variety of questions. It is not surprising that his ratings were extremely high-Catholics and non-Catholics alike appreciate him.

There is discontent among his flock, however. Quoting the first point under the heading "Findings" in the executive summary:

"n Alarming Trend for the Vatican"

The majority of Catholics worldwide disagree with Catholic doctrine on divorce, abortion, and contraceptives. Additionally, the majority of Catholics in Europe, Latin America and the United States disagree with established doctrine on the marriage of priests as well as on women entering the priesthood. Taken together, these findings suggest an extraordinary disconnect between the church's basic teachings on the fundamental issues of family and pastoral responsibilities and the viewpoints currently held by many of the world's more than 1 Billion Catholics. Perhaps more alarming, are the generational divides found in the analysis of the data which show that younger Catholics are even more likely to hold views contrary to church teachings than Catholics as a whole."

Pope Francis' openness, modesty and integrity are a breath of fresh air. He is following in the footsteps of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi-the patron saint of ecology. Let us hope that Francis will recognize that the press of the growing human population not only harms humans but also damages Creation, and that Pope Francis will allow more of his flock to use effective contraception. doclink

National Coalition of American Nuns Announces Support for Contraception Access Via Obamacare

March 20, 2014, Cosmopolitan   By: Eliza Thompson

In a petition addressed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Coalition of American Nuns recently came out in support of the Affordable Care Act's provision for contraception coverage. The Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, next week. Both involve for-profit companies refusing to provide their employees with mandated coverage because the companies' owners do not believe in birth control. In the petition, which has nearly reached its goal of 5,000 signatures, the nuns wrote, "We want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families."

Sister Donna Quinn, the head of NCAN, told that "it isn't faith and freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business." The petition also says: "We know that religious freedom means that each person has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs." It "cannot mean that an individual or a corporation gets to impose their religious beliefs on their employees." doclink

Health Experts Condemn Bishops' Anti-Contraception Stance

Opposition to Philippines' RH law may add to HIV cases, they claim
February 7, 2014,   By: Joe Torre

Philippine Catholic bishops have been stalling implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, which the Congress passed in December 2012 after more than 13 years of heated debate. One provision of the RH Law allows state funding for contraception. It passed despite pressure from religious groups and other sectors. Church leaders say that provisions promoting artificial contraceptives make the law "anti-life."

Last week, leaders of the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives called on the Supreme Court to uphold the law's constitutionality, saying that an adverse ruling would veto the will of the majority. But, to date, various groups opposed to the law have filed 15 petitions before the court. The bishops say the Supreme Court should go slow on making its decision. Bishop Leonardo Medroso of Tagbilaran advised the court not to be pressured by Congress. He said, the decision "cannot be hurried up."

The Philippines has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia. According to government figures, about 5,300 mothers die from child birth every year. Stalling the law will also worsen the growing number of HIV cases. The Philippines remains one of three Asian countries where HIV is worsening, with an increase of 820% from 2001 to 2010. Congresswomen Luzviminda Ilagan, of the women's party Gabriela, attributes this rise to an "utter lack of education about its nature and modes of transmission. This ignorance begets irresponsible sexual behavior. The unequal relationship between men and women prevents women from demanding the use of condoms." She believes the RH Law can help a lot.

Some legislators from the House of Representatives expect the court to declare the law unconstitutional. "I hope [the judges] are really weighing and studying this issue because the moment they declare [the law] constitutional or unconstitutional will be a defining moment for our Supreme Court," said Fr Melvin Castro, Executive Secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

Dr. Ruben Siapno, Assistant Regional Director of the health department in Manila, said family planning services can still be provided even if the law is declared unconstitutional. "We will still provide maternal health care and other services and also the parents how to care for their children, parenting and all these things," he said, adding that funding for contraceptives and instruction of young people on sexual health is a necessary requirement. doclink

Art says: The Philippines fertility rate is 3.1 children born per woman (CIA World Factbook 2013 est.)

Pope Francis Faces Church Divided Over Doctrine, Global Poll of Catholics Finds

February 9, 2014, Washington Post   By: Michelle Boortein and Peyton M. Craighill

Reveallng a church dramatically divided, a poll showed that most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests. The poll of 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries was commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision.

Countries in the developing world - mostly in Africa and Asia - keep close to Church doctrine on these issues, while Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.

The widespread disagreement with Catholic doctrine on abortion and contraception and the hemispheric chasm lay bare the challenge for Pope Francis's year-old papacy and the unity it has engendered.

* 19% of Catholics in the European countries and 30% in the Latin American countries surveyed agree with church teaching that divorcees who remarry outside the church should not receive Communion, compared with 75% in the most Catholic African countries.

* 30% of Catholics in the European countries and 36% in the U.S. agree with the church ban on female priests, compared with 80% in Africa and 76% in the Philippines, the country with the largest Catholic population in Asia.

The poll focused on 12 countries across the continents with some of the world's largest Catholic populations. The countries are home to more than 60% of Catholics globally.

Ronald Inglehart, founding president of the World Values Survey, said: "Right now, the less-developed world is staying true to the old world values, but it's gradually eroding even there." Pope Francis "doesn't want to lose the legitimacy of the more educated people."

Pope Francis has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up "in small-minded rules." He appears particularly eager to engage with divisions around sex, marriage and gender and has called a synod this fall on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family." For that, he has asked bishops to survey Catholics about their views of cohabitation, same-sex parenting and contraception, among other things.

Of the seven questions pollsters asked about hot-button issues, there appeared to be the greatest global agreement on contraception (opposing church teachings) and gay marriage (supporting the church's stance).

Seventy-eight percent of Catholics across all countries surveyed support the use of contraceptives, which violate the church's teaching that sex should always be had with an openness toward procreation. The church teaches natural family planning, which Catholics can use to plan sex and attempt to avoid getting pregnant.

More than 90% of Catholics in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and France support the use of contraception. Those less inclined to support it were in the Philippines (68%), Congo (44%) and Uganda (43%). In the United States, 79% of Catholics support using contraception.

Jose Casanova, a leading sociologist of religion at Georgetown University. noted that a papal commission in the 1960s recommended approving the use of birth control pills (it was later rejected) and said dramatic recent medical advances have challenged theologians.

Disagreements around sex and pregnancy have built to "a crisis in the church with women," Casanova said. The church can neither accept the idea that sex has nothing to do with religion - nor can it continue insisting on practices that are being completely ignored. "Unless they face it, the church will be in trouble."

The poll suggests that in his first year, Pope Francis has proved apt at navigating this diverse flock. Eighty-seven percent of Catholics around the world said the Argentine pastor is doing an excellent or good job. Catholics in Mexico were least likely to approve of his performance, at 70%.

Overall, 65% of Catholics said abortions should be allowed: 8% in all cases and 57% in some, such as when the mother's life is in danger. The highest support for abortion rights is in European countries, then in Brazil and Argentina, then in the United States, where 76% of Catholics said it should be allowed in some or all cases. In the Philippines 27% of Catholics said abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances. In Uganda, 35% said so. doclink

At Any Cost: How Catholic Bishops Pushed for a Shutdown - and Even a Default - Over Birth Control

RH Reality Check   By: Adele M. Stan

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) consider themselves champions of health care for the masses, food for the hungry, and shelter for the homeless -- things the government, when operational, helps to provide. But they also want to block women of all faiths, on the whim of an employer, from receiving prescription birth control as part of the preventive care benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Apparently they wouldn't mind seeing the global economy brought to its knees for the sake of making the most effective forms of contraception more difficult for women to obtain.

In a letter dated September 26, Archbishop Seán Cardinal O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore prevailed upon members of Congress to attach to the next version of the continuing resolution measures that would allow private employers, as well as large church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities, to be exempted from a part of the Affordable Care Act that requires that all insurance plans cover prescription contraception without a co-pay. (Houses of worship are exempt from this regulation, but church-affiliated institutions that serve a secular purpose are not.) A continuing resolution (CR) is a means of funding the government in the absence of a budget.

"As Congress considers a Continuing Resolution and a debt ceiling bill in the days to come, we reaffirm the vital importance of incorporating the policy of this bill into such "must-pass" legislation," wrote Lori and O'Malley.

The lobbyists of the USCCB knew that such a maneuver would likely bring about a government shutdown. If poor babies went hungry because the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) closed down, so be it. If poor children were locked out of their Head Start classrooms, that was apparently deemed a small price to pay to make a stand against allowing people to plan their families.

As the Affordable Care Act took shape in March 2010, the government planned to grant subsidies to lower-income people who sought insurance through government exchanges, the anti-choice forces contended that any policies that covered abortion -- even if women chose to pay extra for such coverage out of their own pockets -- amounted to a violation of the Hyde amendment. But states were granted the right to opt out of offering abortion coverage on their ACA exchanges, and so far, 25 have placed severe restrictions on (or banned all) abortion coverage. So insurance coverage for abortion -- once a fairly standard insurance provision -- is becoming more rare.

As the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began crafting the regulations for implementing the Affordable Care Act in 2011, the USCCB adopted a counter-initiative. No longer was the emphasis on the alleged moral evil of contraception; it was now on an ostensible threat the bishops claimed was being made to the religious liberty of Catholics by the Obama administration -- even though this campaign was a dud among regular Catholics. The USCCB injected the bishops' anti-Obama message into the 2012 election. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made an ad showing Pope John Paul II accusing Obama of "waging war on religion."

More than 70 lawsuits, launched by religious institutions and private businesses, have been filed challenging the contraception mandate under much the same logic as that employed by the bishops.

In 2012 and early 2013, the Obama administration made an accommodation in the regulations for Catholic-affiliated institutions, and similar institutions affiliated with other religions, that mandates insurance companies to pay for the contraception benefit, which is not subject to a deductible or a patient co-payment, rather than the employer offering the plan. When the regulations were finalized earlier this year, the bishops were livid.

In September the House attached to a revised continuing resolution an amendment that would have delayed by a year the implementation of the contraception mandate -- as well as a number of other preventative care benefits for women, such as screenings for human papillomavirus (HPV), counseling for domestic violence victims, and breastfeeding supplies.

Two days later, the bishops' lobby sent members of Congress another letter calling on Congress to pass a just budget and an immigration bill. They expressed concern for the future of health care. Then they added: "s Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Lori explain in their September 26 letter, access to health care may also be compromised by recent threats to conscience rights in health care."

In essence: Drop the contraception benefit mandate, and nobody gets hurt. But if you don't, don't blame us for what happens next.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stripped out the amendment, sent the bill back to the House, and, with the deadline having passed for the enactment of a continuing resolution by both chambers, the government shut down, which took effect on October 1, 2013. doclink

The Pope Who Promoted Birth Control

March 22, 2013, Huffington Post   By: Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. Founder, the Clergy Letter Project

Virtually every discussion of the Roman Catholic Church's position on contraception stresses that the position has remained unchanged throughout history.

One story that was revealed in the recent transition of popes to Pope Francis: in 1276 Pedro Julião, the Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati, was elected pope following the death of Pope Adrian V, and became John XXI. He was a well-respected physician and he served as Pope Gregory X's personal doctor. No other pope has had such medical expertise. While serving Gregory X, he wrote popular handbook entitled Thesaurus Pauperum ("Treasure of the Poor") which listed herbal remedies for people who could not afford formal medical attention. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the book "gives a remedy for the diseases of every part of the body" and mentions that the "book was widely used."

In his book, Pedro Julião offered numerous recipes for both pre- and post-coital contraception. For women he offered numerous recipes to induce menstruation, a long-term euphemism for abortion. For men, among other things, he suggested applying a plaster of hemlock to the testicles before coitus.

Despite the work of John XXI, this is written in Catholic Answers: "The Church has always maintained the historic Christian teaching that deliberate acts of contraception are always gravely sinful, which means that it is mortally sinful if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857). This teaching cannot be changed and has been taught by the Church infallibly."

A recent Gallup poll in the U.S found that 82% of Catholics felt that birth control was morally acceptable.

There is plenty of research that shows that living conditions improve dramatically when women are able to take control of their reproductive decisions. With the world's population already exceeding 7 billion and expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we are experiencing catastrophic levels of environmental pollution and frightening levels of starvation; estimates indicate that currently 15 million children die from starvation each year. We also know that condom use will significantly slow the spread of AIDS.

Sadly, I'm not optimistic that Pope Francis will encourage his followers to care for the living and to plan for the future rather than worry about the spilling of seed. doclink

Cardinal O'brien Has Exposed Vatican Dishonesty on Celibacy

March 4, 2013, Mail and Guardian   By: Andrew Brown

The fall of Keith O'Brien is more than just the humiliation of a proud and lonely man - a humiliation certain to be prolonged by the apparent dishonesty of his partial confession. It is also a further suggestion that the discipline of celibacy can't much longer be maintained for the vast majority of the Catholic priesthood.

The only major religion that places no value on celibacy at all is Judaism - and there are plenty of sex scandals involving rabbis, too. Marriage on its own solves no more problems than celibacy does.

Celibacy seems to be widely ignored in the places where the church is growing today - in Africa, in Latin America and perhaps in Asia too.

The traditional model of Catholic priesthood in the west - where men lived together in large groups, admired by their parishioners but existentially remote from them, and in any case brought up in a seminary throughout their adolescence - provided an interior world where celibacy seemed normal and attainable. That model collapsed in the latter half of the 20th century. More than 100,000 men left the priesthood to marry before Pope John Paul II made it almost impossible; the average age of priests in the US rose from 34 to 64.

There are no official statistics - obviously - on the extent to which this gap has been filled by gay men, nor on how many of those are celibate. But informed Catholic observers agree that the number is high, and that there is a profoundly unhealthy culture of pretence within the priesthood. When the HIV/Aids epidemic first hit the US in the 1980s, the death rate among the Catholic priesthood was three times the national average. doclink

Karen Gaia says: It is hard to see how celibate men can justify coming up with policies governing the sexual behavior of couples, and, particularly, women's reproduction rights.

Sex Only for Procreation?

August 25, 2010, Catholic PRwire

An article in the May 2010 Time magazine, "The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom, and Paradox," claims that religions opposed contraception because "sex, even within marriage, was immoral unless aimed at having a baby."

The Catholic Church does believe that the procreation is an essential element of the marital act. By studying the language of the body, we can clearly see what Humanae Vitae calls "biological laws that apply to the human person" and conclude that the marital act is intrinsically connected with procreation.

Yet the Church accords equal value to the unitive aspect of sexual activity. In fact, in their recent document "Marriage: Life and Love in the Divine Plan," the U.S. bishops explain that these two purposes are inseparably connected. In other words, altering or eliminating one distorts the other. The unitive meaning is distorted if the procreative meaning is rejected because love, by its nature, is life-giving. Thus, contraception actually diminishes conjugal love. Likewise, the procreative meaning is tainted if the unitive is not fully present (i.e., if someone were to view his or her spouse as simply a way to produce offspring, such as with artificial reproduction techniques).

As fertility is an inherent part of the human person, the church opposes contraception because by thus devaluing fertility, contraception devalues the human person and the marital union. One cannot give oneself totally and completely while withholding one's fertility.

The early Church Fathers of the Patristic Age did indeed teach that the marital act was solely for procreation and that spouses should intend children when they engaged in intercourse. However, Church teaching and theology have developed over time. St. Alphonsus Liguori in the 18th century united the two purposes of the marital act and taught that both should exist in the intentional order at least implicitly. This teaching has been upheld ever since. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Note: there is no mention in this article that contraception is thought by the Catholic Church to be murder. And, judging by the contraceptive prevalance and fertility rate of Catholic women, it appears they do not think it is a very bad sin. It is terribly unjust there are attempts to enforce this policy on those of us who are not Catholic and use contraception to improve our health and our family's welfare.

U.S.: For it Before They Were Against It: Catholic Universities and Birth Control

February 13, 2013, RH Reality Check   By: Bridgette Dunlap

At Notre Dame in 1966 faculty members formed a group to advocate for government funding of family planning programs, advertised a statement of support in Catholic publications, and received over 500 signatures from Catholic clergy, nuns, lawyers, doctors, and faculty members at Catholic universities, including the deans of Notre Dame and Santa Clara's law schools. The Notre Dame professor chairing the committee said "in a pluralistic society, some legislation may be desirable even though it may not be in accord with the moral principles of a minority of the society's members."

He said the impetus for the group's formation had been an address by Father Hanley, a law professor at Georgetown University, to the American Bar Association arguing for government family planning programs. Father Hanley also testified before a congressional subcommittee in support of access to contraception. Georgetown is the same university that trained a lawyer named Sandra Fluke. So she was following in the footsteps of a revered Georgetown professor and priest who had inspired Catholics across the country to take action.

While most people think that Fluke was demanding government funding for contraception, what she actually testified about was the sub-par plan available to Georgetown students (who are required to have health insurance). Typically, student health plans involve students paying money to a third-party health insurance company; neither government nor university funds are involved in these transactions.

Father Hanley testified that he could firmly maintain his moral positions as a Catholic while supporting a government program that "permits each citizen a fully free moral choice in matters of family planning, and aids him in implementing this choice."

Today Georgetown has taken advantage of the safe harbor from the contraceptive coverage requirements, claiming it has a religious belief that bars providing insurance that covers contraception, even though faculty members' health plans have included contraceptive coverage for years. Or even though Georgetown hosted an excellent conference on the HHS regulation where most scholars rejected the claim that providing coverage violated Catholic doctrine or that requiring it violated the law.

From 1963 to 1967 Notre Dame held an annual "Conference on Population," in partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, from 1963 to 1967. In 1965, thirty-seven scholars who attended the conference sent a statement to the Pope that declared "here is dependable evidence that contraception is not intrinsically immoral, and that therefore there are certain circumstances in which it may be permitted or indeed even recommended."

Now Notre Dame, in its lawsuit, claims it has a sincere religious belief that the Church's "centuries' old teachings" prohibit coverage. Yet Kathleen Kaveny, a professor of both law and theology at Notre Dame, has argued the legality of the mandate in detail.

Turning to Fordham University, also Catholic-affiliated. It had an off-campus birth control clinic organized by Fordham law students. In 1967 it had a sexual education program which would "include frank discussions of methods of conception and contraception" and was permissible because "the morality of contraceptives does not enter into the discussion." Today Fordham health center policies prohibit medical professionals from condoning contraception. However Fordham students have had contraceptive coverage for years and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they can now go see a real gynecologist off-campus without paying a co-payment.

Moving on to the Catholic University of America, Father Charles Curran, a theology professor in 1965, argued for a change in the Church's doctrine on contraception, resulting in efforts to dismiss him. After. CUA's theology faculty went on strike; theology faculties across the country joined them, leading the trustees to reconsider.

In 1968, the Pope rejected the recommendations of his papal commission on contraception and released Humanae Vitae to the surprise and dismay of the many Catholics who had expected a reform of the prohibition. Humanae Vitae was met with unprecedented, widespread, vocal dissent. The theology faculties of Fordham, Marquette, Boston College and other schools made public statements opposing it. Father Curran authored a statement criticizing it that 600 theologians signed and continued to publicly dissent from Church teachings on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality until he was dismissed.

We employees and students did not waive the benefit of being protected by generally applicable laws and we weren't asked to. We entered into contracts with our particular institutions, we didn't consent to being governed by whoever is on top in the Catholic hierarchy at any given time.

Professors who joined universities decades ago to students who just matriculated said they received assurances that allowed them to enter these vibrant academic communities that don't resemble the current orthodoxy machines being portrayed at all. The assertions in so many of the cookie-cutter birth control lawsuits show a disdain for individual conscience, basic contract principles of notice and consent, academic freedom, and institutional autonomy from the Church. doclink

U.S.: The Kids Are All Right - but Disagree with Bishops on Sex and Birth Control

February 8, 2013, Washington Post   By: Lisa Miller

Recently the Obama administration, trying to be sensitive to the bishops' claims to conscience, unveiled adjustments to its health-care plan that would allow religious organizations to abstain from offering their employees contraceptive coverage under their group plans while, at the same time, requiring insurers to offer the coverage separately. The woman gets the coverage. and the insurer doesn't have to pay the higher costs associated with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies.

But three American bishops said they'd sooner go to jail than submit to the contraceptive mandate. The archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, called the administration's concessions "minimalist" and used the phrase "immoral services" as a euphemism for birth control.

It seems what they want is for American women to be thrust back to a time when legal birth control was scarce, expensive and difficult to procure.

In the meantime, the National Catholic Reporter ran an article entitled "Vatican admits it doesn't fully understand youth culture." The hierarchy held a closed-door conference in Rome from Wednesday through Saturday at which bishops listened to experts on youth in an effort to improve their messaging to the young and recapture some of the generation who are falling away.

In preparation the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, said he'd been listening to Amy Winehouse. Maybe he will figure it out: young people care about sex. And they care about how religious leaders talk about sex. In America they don't like religions that preach negative messages about sex. They don't like to be told that sex is bad or that premarital sex is a paving stone on the road to hell or that homosexuals are in any way, as the catechism says, "intrinsically disordered." The conservative insistence on birth control as "immoral," is, for young Catholics, a turnoff.

Donna Freitas, a Catholic and a scholar of religion and also of college students' attitudes toward sex, wrote: "Catholic students especially spoke with great sarcasm about the 'don'ts' with regard to sex in the Catholic tradition, which make them feel alienated, and which make them think that Catholicism is utterly out of touch." 98% of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to the Guttmacher Institute. doclink

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics

December 29, 2012, RH Reality Check   By: Jon O'Brien

The organization Catholics for Choice has made a movie called "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics." Jon O'Brien, who was the one who decided to make the movie, explained that he was talking to a stranger who felt uncomfortable with many of the positions taken by Catholics for Choice, and O'brian told the gentleman that his work in support of reproductive rights was not despite his Catholic faith, but because of it.

The Catholic "social justice tradition wouldn't let me turn my back on people in need; nor would it allow me to ignore the importance of conscience in moral decision-making. Both issues relate directly to reproductive health: women are in the best place to make the decisions that affect their health, and deserve all the support necessary when life's challenges threaten their well-being, their health, or even their very lives. Those who are rich will always have the means to bypass the obstacles in their way, legal or otherwise, whereas the poor and needy are always the ones who suffer."

O'Brian asked the gentleman "Why do you deny the truth about all the affirming messages in Catholic theology about women, choice, and sexuality in general?" and was told: "Those issues are too hot to handle." He would have been denied mainstream acceptance and positions if he'd tackled issues like reproductive rights. Rather than pick that fight, he had chosen, as many others do, to keep his head down Apparently those whose understanding and interpretation of core Catholic teachings is a little different the standard teaching are slighted and attacked for raising legitimate points of view about church teaching.

There is a reason why people like Bishop Kevin Dowling, who tells the truth about Catholics and condoms in the shanty towns of South Africa, do not attain the trappings of power, position, and influence that have been lavished upon so many ultra-conservative American clergymen of late.

"Telling the truth about Catholic theology really matters. It matters for reasons of self-respect, and it matters for so many who think they have to choose between their faith and how they live their lives. For me, working with theologians and so many marvelous thinkers in the church who are not afraid to stand up and speak out has been an amazing experience. It is truly liberating when you see that it is possible to be both true to yourself and authentically Catholic at the same time."

And so, after talking to a filmmaker, the "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics" was born.

The "secret" is that there is more than one magisterium -- in addition to the hierarchy, there is also the magisterium of the theologians and that of the people. This means that any of us can be called to teach, and for many this can mean doing what the theologians and thinkers in the film have done: bravely speak out. Their paths often lead straight into confrontation with established authority.

The first day we released the movie, thousands of people worldwide -- from the Philippines to South Africa, from the US to Eastern Europe -- watched the film online. There is clearly a genuine hunger for this message.

Non-Catholics have learned from the film what the majority of Catholics actually believe. And the story told by "The Secret History" isn't just for Catholics. It gets to the heart of how we all make moral decisions and seek compassionate answers. doclink

Karen Gaia says: population activists often get accused of being racist. Why do so many people think that family planning is evil? Why can't they see family planning benefits the family primarily, the community secondarily, and the world is behind family and community in importance.

Philippines Only a Signature Away From Passing Reproductive Health Bill Into Law

December 21, 2012, Mail and Guardian

The Philippines' landmark reproductive health bill has been ratified; the final version of the legislation passed by a margin of 11 votes to five, after a decade-long struggle to give Filipina women the freedom to make informed family planning choices. The new legislation now only requires the signature of President Benigno Aquino who has supported the bill.

The bill will make free contraception and family planning advice available through government health centres and reproductive health classes will be incorporated into the national education curriculum. Women who have had abortions or suffered miscarriages will receive proper medical care - a crucial breakthrough in a country where, according to the UN Population Fund, 11 women die daily as a result of complications arising from pregnancy.

Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch said "This law will be very important in improving the lives of millions of Filipina women and mothers who are presently receiving scant reproductive healthcare services from the government," said "At the end of the day, those who opposed the bill just ran out of arguments, because you can see the stark reality in the Philippines: women need to be given a choice as to how they create and run their families."

The Roman Catholic church, which counts about 80% of the population among its followers and wields considerable political sway, has delayed its adoption for a decade.

Ramon San Pascual, former executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development never doubted this bill would be passed. "You see the need for change every day, staring you in the eyes: poor young urban girls carry their malnourished babies while the religious leaders pontificate on the evil of reproductive health education."

Aquino's election as president in 2010 was a crucial stepping stone in the process, said Conde. "It took a lot of political courage from President Aquino to go up against the church. It was fortunate that the bill was passed in the middle of Aquino's term. "If they had waited for the next president I don't think it would have happened, because the Catholic church can create a lot of political damage to candidates. And they're not going to be silent over this, they're going to fight: bring the bill to the Supreme Court, rally the faithful."

"This government is out to really destroy the traditional Filipino values of family and life," said Father Melvin Castro on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippine (CBCP) website. "This government has revealed its true face. It has never been for the welfare of the family, women and children."

The Supreme Court has the power to overturn the bill, but that outcome is seen as unlikely - not least because several of the court's judges were appointed by Aquino. Surveys conducted in the Philippines suggest the majority of the public are firmly behind the bill's adoption. doclink

Philippines: Manila Hospital, No Stranger to Stork, Awaits Reproductive Health Bill's Fate

November 9, 2012, New York Times   By: FLOYD WHALEY

After years of discussion in the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives finally decided in August to end debate on a reproductive health bill that would subsidize contraception and require sex education in the Philippines, a country with one of the highest birthrates in Asia. If it passes, the bill will also need to be approved by the Senate.

President Benigno S. Aquino III says the measure will give poor women a chance to have fewer children and rise out of poverty. Opponents, backed principally by the Roman Catholic Church, say the bill is out of step with the moral tenets of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines and argue that a high birthrate lessens poverty.

A doctor at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital says "These women will use birth control pills, they will use condoms, but they can't afford them." ,,, "We need to advocate reproductive health in the community at the grass roots. The church is already there spreading their message through services every Sunday." The hospital does offer family planning information, but budget constraints prevent it from giving patients contraceptives.

"Family planning in the Philippines is not about population control," Dr. Ilem said. "It is a health intervention. We are focusing on women who are too young, too old, too poor or too sick to have babies but their situation does not allow them to stop." doclink

Religious Extremism Cloaked in Diplomacy

  By: Kim Puchir

For 20 years the Holy See has claimed statehood at the UN, which grants it special status. Its dogmatic views on the provision of reproductive healthcare services and the family place it squarely in the way of policymakers who wish to guarantee rights and provide services to people around the world.

The Holy See's impact has used its prestige and resources to stymie attempts at the United Nations, state and local levels to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare services. Though cloaked in language that seems to respect women's needs, without access to abortion, contraception and other basic services people die, and value systems that undermine women's well-being are fostered. Other legislative bodies have been affected as well. In 2002 that the EU adopted language about reproductive health that made no reference to abortion because of the UN Programme of Action the Holy See helped shape in 1994.

The dual nature of the papacy started with Pope Leo IX in 1054 when it was perceived that the Emperor Constantine I transferred the western part of the Roman Empire to the pope. In 1095, Pope Urban II used his influence to enlist most of Western Europe in a war to capture the Holy Land that would bring bloodshed to every region that stood in the way.

In 1859 French writer Edmond About described a pope who presided over a territory where the educational system was poor; the force of law practically dysfunctional; the tax system in disarray; and whose inhabitants were "all crying out loudly against him." About said this was an odd social structure where "the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are united, confounded and jumbled together in one and agreement established the Holy See within the area of Vatican City, the size of which has been described as "about the size of an 18-hole golf course".

The Holy See began participating in international organizations such as the World Health Organization and in 1964 joined the UN as a Nonmember State Permanent Observer, a designation it once shared only with Switzerland, which became a full member in 2002. This elevated status grants the Holy See much more direct access to UN proceedings than other religions participating as nongovernmental organizations. Since 2004, the Holy See has had some of the privileges of a member state at the UN, such as being able to speak, reply and circulate documents in the General Assembly.

The 108.7-acre Vatican City has a small population where many residents never obtain citizenship, and those that do have their citizenship revoked upon termination of their employment. All member states have a definite population, but when the Holy See decides to speak as a religion, its numbers jump from 1,000 Vatican City residents to 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.

In 1964 UN Secretary-General U Thant based his decision to allow the Holy See's entrance as a permanent observer on the fact that it enjoyed diplomatic recognition by most UN member states. As powerful as it is, diplomatic recognition can be revoked in certain situations: many countries withdrew recognition from South Africa towards the end of the apartheid era.

One of the United Nations' foundational principles, the Rule of Law, which is embedded in the UN Charter, demands that all states are accountable to the same laws and human rights norms. In other words, states around the world should all follow the same rules when dealing with each other and at the UN, because they are all basically the same.

At the United Nations, however, the Holy See signs treaties as a state, but does not bind itself to those treaties. The Holy See signed on to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but did not submit a mandatory progress report due on the Rights of the Child in 1997, and although it was supposed to be released last year, the document is now 15 years late.

The Holy See has a ready exit if it is called to account: it can face its critics as a religion which lets the Holy See claim almost anything to be true.

Where the 1995 Beijing Declaration pledged to ensure the rights of women and girls as "inalienable," the Holy See rejected this very premise, saying, "Surely this international gathering could have done more for women and girls than to leave them alone with their rights!"

In 1994 the Vatican sent special envoys to Tehran and Tripoli to drum up support for the Holy See's planned anti-reproductive rights stance at the forthcoming International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. Pope John Paul II also sent letters to every head of state worldwide warning that the wrong policy decisions at the conference could bring about an impending "moral decline resulting in a serious setback for humanity."

The Holy See's many objections at Cairo delayed the conference for a full week in order to exclude abortion from the definition of "reproductive health." Instead of a commitment to safe abortion access for all women, the resulting Programme of Action merely stated, "In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe."

The Holy See declared in 1989 that it "interprets the phrase 'Family planning education and services' ... to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning."

When the Holy See objected in 1999 to the UN's provision of emergency contraception to rape victims in Kosovo, there was an international outcry. Reflecting in 2008 on the early years of the UN aids response, Adrienne Germain, former president of the International Women's Health Coalition, said, "I remember when people literally gasped when the Holy See said no condoms for AIDS."

Holy See has made claims that a rights-based reproductive health model turns women into victims, or that abortion has been documented to harm a woman's mental health. Faced with allegations like these, other UN actors must choose between refuting each and every claim or moving forward. As a result, falsehoods like "as a matter of scientific fact, a new human life begins at conception," were entered in the minutes of a 2011 General Assembly session.

Many people think the Catholic faith can be defended even better at the UN as an NGO. it would be a powerful gesture for the Holy See to voluntarily join the ranks of the other religions as an NGO, and concentrate on partnering with other religious leaders to bring solace to a troubled world. Such a move would probably do wonders for the Holy See's public image, so badly in need of repair after the sexual abuse crisis and the recent clampdown on dissent.

It's hard to justify Pope Paul VI's eloquence before the General Assembly in 1965-when he said that as representative of the Holy See he was at the United Nations as an "expert in humanity." doclink

Nigeria: Family Planning, Birth Control and the Raging Controversy

September 22, 2012   By: Paul Obi

Nigeria's population has gone from 55 million in the 1950s to 88 million in the 1990s, to 167 million today, and is expected to reach nearly 200 million people in 2015, a growth rate that has raised alarm among experts. This has prompted the Federal Government to subtly suggest birth control for its citizens with serious backlash and dichotomy between proponents and opponents.

In the 1990s, the Ibrahim Babaginda military government even attempted compulsory family planning for Nigerians. A policy that was greeted by strong opposition and criticisms.

An increased population for Nigeria will over stretch services and infrastructure. In all the challenges that come with high population density, poor healthcare remains the biggest headache. In the long run, it may lead to total collapsed of the social system. These are the fears being expressed by the government, prompting government officials to conceived the idea of family planning again. Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammed Pate at the London Summit on reproductive health and family planning last June said: "we are committed to achieving the goal of a contraceptive prevalence rate of 36 per cent by 2018. Achieving this goal will mean averting at least 31,000 maternal deaths. Over 700,000 mothers will be prevented from injuries or long-term complications due to childbirth."

The minister also said Nigeria has committed an additional $8,350,000 of reproductive health commodities annually over the next four years, in addition $3 million already allocated, making a total of $33,400,000 over the next four years. This additional amount will be programmed within the existing projection for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme funds for Maternal and Child Health.

"In the case of family planning in Nigeria, women are more than 10 times likely to have access to family planning services (35 versus 3.2 per cent) regardless of geography, ethnicity or religion. We are committed to increasing the awareness and demand for family planning and reproductive health services by women regardless of their socio-economic status. In our quest to save one million lives in Nigeria by 2015, we consider all lives have equal value," Pate said.

The Summit underscored the importance of access to contraceptives as both a right and a transformational health and development priority.

Obviously, selling the programme to the population of Nigerian conservatives is a hard nut to crack. Chief among the opponents of family planning is the Christian community and the Islamic society. The Catholic Church leads the Christian group and is vehemently opposed to birth control. The church itself sees contraceptives as a mismatch to what it considers a presumptive problem in child bearing. Couple with the African belief system, contraceptives and birth control are alien to many Africans, a situation that will hamper the implementation of family planning.

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. Jonathan Onaiyekan said the Christian community is not completely against family planning, what it is against is a deliberate and destructive form of family planning and birth control. The Catholic Church is not in anyway promoting irresponsible procreation without reasonable concern in taking care of children. Of course, there ought to be some caution and calculation, but most of these people supporting birth control do not rely on the positive aspect, on this issue of family planning, they should not only calculate on the basis of economics," Onaiyekan said.

"We are not against birth control, what we are against is the wrong way of doing it," the former President of Christian Association of Nigeria said. "We do not believe our country is over populated," ... "The use of condoms, abortion and contraceptive pills by married couples that is what we are against. The billions of dollars they are investing can be use to liberate people from poverty. Why are they not spending these billions to develop our economy," he asked. "Of course, many government officials at the Ministry of Health and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are hungry to access these funds, they don't care about what it all means, they don't care about killing unborn babies so long as they get millions of dollars as funding," he added.

Government officials reason that an untamed population growth like that of Nigeria is just another social emergency that needs to be addressed squarely through birth control. And with bogus dollars funding across the Atlantic, it is tempting to abstain from doing nothing about birth control. But Nigeria is a tough terrain to market family planning ideology. doclink

Karen Gaia says: this is an excellent example of the harm that Population Control has inflicted.

U.S.: Jon O'brien on Speaking Up for Pro-Choice Catholics

August 24, 2012, Washington Times

Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, shares his thoughts.

The bishops say Catholics must reject any attempt by the government to require contraception coverage, but their perspective leaves out the 98% of sexually active Catholic women who have used a form of modern contraception, as well as the workers of other faiths or no faiths at Catholic institutions. All of these individuals deserve the chance to follow their consciences on whether or not to use birth control. No-cost coverage for contraception is especially important for lower- income workers-exactly the people our Catholic social justice commitment enjoins us to help. Polling data has shown that nearly two-thirds of Catholics believe insurance plans, both private and government-run, should cover contraception.

Religious liberty is the freedom to believe as one chooses and the freedom from living according to others' beliefs. It would be a shame to throw away the very American ideal of true religious liberty just to appease a few disgruntled clerics who think the rules shouldn't apply to them.

Since 1972, the presidential candidate that won the most Catholic votes has also won the most votes nationwide. The economy, jobs and immigration trumped abortion and same-sex marriage in a 2010 Pew Research Center poll of Catholic voters.

Catholics support a woman's right to choose because fundamentally we recognize the importance of social justice. Social justice is especially relevant to those who find themselves in difficult times and facing difficult choices. Freedom of conscience tells us that you can make this difficult choice about abortion and remain a Catholic in good standing.

When we see a woman in need of an abortion, we know that she is worthy of our support and respect. There is no debate about whether a woman is a person, a moral agent. Women must be allowed and encouraged to make the decision that is right for them, whether that is to become pregnant or to remain pregnant. They are the only ones who can make the right decision for themselves. This is the very essence of what it means to be prochoice. And no government or church should make that choice for you.

In the United States, 86% of Catholics approve of abortion when a woman's health is seriously endangered, and 78% think it should be possible for a woman to obtain an abortion when a pregnancy is the result of rape. A poll of almost 1,000 Catholics found that only 14% agree with the Vatican's position that abortion should be illegal.

Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as do other women: 28% of women who had an abortion self-identified as Catholic, while 27% of all women of reproductive age identified as such.

A February 2012 survey from the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland found that 75% of Irish Catholics believe the Catholic church's teachings on sexuality are not relevant to them or their families.

In Spain, where approximately 75% of the population identifies as Catholic, a 2012 poll revealed that 77.2% of the women questioned had used contraception in the four weeks prior to the poll.

In 2011, Catholics for Choice commissioned a survey in Argentina, which found that Catholics are more supportive of legal abortion than non-Catholics. In cases of rape, 84% of Catholics believe that abortion should be legally available, compared to 69% of non-Catholics. doclink

Vatican Investigating Girl Scouts for Links to Safe-Sex Education Groups

May 15, 2012, Daily Beast

Should there be any doubt left about how the Vatican views women after clamping down on American nuns late last month, the leaders of the billion-strong Catholic Church are targeting the Girl Scouts for associating with "questionable" groups that the church believes do not strictly adhere to their tenets. These groups include Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam, both of which cater to the poor but also advocate safe sex and condom use to stop the spread of AIDS, might be a bad influence on the impressionable young women.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a stern letter this spring to the Girl Scout leadership advising them of the official Vatican inquiry, which is being conducted by the Bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, under the direction of Kevin Rhoades, a bishop from Fort Wayne, Ind. A complaint from Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris sparked the investigation. Morris complained to the Republican Caucus that the Girl Scouts and their sister-group World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, known as WAGGGS had forged a secret bond with Planned Parenthood and should be stopped.

"Abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood, " he said, even though the WAGGGS website denied funding Planned Parenthood.

Morris was particularly troubled by some Girl Scout troops' use of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's pamphlet "Happy, Healthy, Hot" for young women afflicted with HIV. Morris wrote, "The pamphlet instructs young girls not to think of sex as 'just about vaginal or anal intercourse. There is no right or wrong way to have sex. Just have fun, explore and be yourself!'"

If the Catholic Church determines that membership in the Girl Scouts does not jibe with Catholic teachings, they could either demand that the Girl Scouts change their practices or recommend that young Catholic girls drop out of the Girl Scouts. About one quarter of the Girl Scouts' 2.3 million membership is Roman Catholic.

Bob McCarty of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry said "I don't think any of this material was intentionally mean-spirited," NFCYM executive director Bob McCarty told the Associated Press about the Vatican accusations. "It's easier to step back and throw verbal bombs. It takes a lot more energy to work for change."

Michelle Obama is the national honorary president of the Girl Scouts, and her husband's support of reproductive rights and his recent endorsement of gay marriage has caused some Girl Scout heavies to worry that Mrs. Obama will somehow influence the young women.

The Girl Scout leadership maintains that they do not have an official relationship with Planned Parenthood, and that each individual chapter is free to choose resource materials that are suitable to their members' base communities, meaning the Catholic troops don't have to use the "Healthy, Happy and Hot" booklet or any materials that contradict the local leadership bylaws. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I know this was distorted when I read this. Here is the real story from the Planned Parenthood website Healthy, Happy and Hot "A guide written for young people living with HIV to help them understand their rights, and live healthy, happy and sexually fulfilling lives. Young people living with HIV may feel that sex is just not an option, but this need not be the case. This guide is designed to support young people living with HIV to increase sexual pleasure, improve health, and develop strong intimate relationships." It explores how human rights and sexual well-being are related and suggests strategies to help them make decisions about dating, relationships, sex and parenthood. "

U.S.: A Political History of Contraception: When the Catholic Church Nearly Approved the Pill

February 26, 2012, Washington Post

The battle over birth control was fought and won half a century ago. At that time, the vast majority of Americans, nearly all mainstream religious organizations and leaders in both political parties accepted contraception as beneficial to families, society and the world.

The move toward acceptance of contraception began in the early 20th century and accelerated in the 1940s. When the Birth Control Federation of America changed its name to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Abraham Stone, medical director of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau, explained at the time that "planned parenthood" signaled "the need for individual couples to plan their families and for nations to plan their populations."

In 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower declare: "The government will not, so 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 the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy - the first Catholic US president - supported family-planning programs as part of foreign aid. Then Eisenhower came around, saying "Governments must act. . . . Failure would limit the expectations of future generations to abject poverty and suffering and bring down upon us history's condemnation."

Thereafter, for two decades, every American president promoted contraception as an essential part of domestic and foreign policy. Even the Catholic Church considered lifting its prohibition on contraception - and almost did.

Prior to the 1930s, the church had no official position on contraception. But on Dec. 31, 1930, Pope Pius XI issued a papal encyclical which for the first time explicitly prohibited Catholics from using contraception.

Margaret Sanger, a daughter of Irish Catholic immigrants, protested the pope's decree; her passionate commitment to promoting birth control stemmed from watching her mother weaken and die at age 50, having given birth to 11 children. She blamed her mother's premature death on constant childbearing and lack of access to contraceptives.

John Rock, a devout Catholic doctor - who taught at Harvard Medical School and who would become one of the leading clinical researchers responsible for developing the pill - also opposed the ban. Besides being medically necessary at times, he said it was personally desirable for maintaining happy marriages and well-planned families and essential for those who could not afford many children. In the 1940s, Rock promoted diaphragms - even though birth control was illegal in Massachusetts.

Rock believed church would accept the pill was a means of birth control because it simply repressed ovulation and replicated the body's hormonal condition in early pregnancy. He even wrote a book on it: "The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control."

In 1962 Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which resulted in a number of reforms that modernized church practices. But he died as he was putting together a committee to consider the matter of the pill. In 1964, Pope Paul appointed a commission to advise him on birth control. Many journalists, clergy and lay Catholics expected the church to lift the ban. A significant majority of its members including 60 of 64 theologians and nine of the 15 cardinals favored lifting the ban. But Pope Paul issued a formal encyclical, Humanae Vitae ("Of Human Life") in 1968, siding with the minority and reaffirming the church's prohibition of any form of artificial birth control.

Many Catholic leaders criticized the decision. Two years after the decree, two-thirds of Catholic women were using contraception. Now, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Catholic women use birth control at the same rate as non-Catholic women.

In 1984, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the United States sent two opponents of abortion rights to a United Nations conference on population in Mexico City. These delegates established the Mexico City Policy, a global gag rule that refused U.S. government support to any agency, American or foreign, that used its own funds to support abortion services. Such facilities were prohibited from receiving any U.S. funds for family planning, even if the money would not be used for abortion-related services.

It was after this that bipartisan support for contraception began to crumble.

The Mexico City Policy was rescinded by Democratic President Bill Clinton, reinstated by Republican George W. Bush, and rescinded by Democratic President Barack Obama.

Now, even though more than 99% of sexually experienced women report having used contraception, we are once again debating whether women should have access to birth control. doclink

U.S.: Obama Scores a Victory with New Birth Control Solution

February 2, 2012, Coalition to Protect Womens Health

Rank-and-file Catholic voters show strong support for the solution to the birth control policy the White House announced on Friday according to a new Public Policy Polling survey conducted on behalf of the Coalition to Protect Women's Health Care. The poll would indicate that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Congressional Republicans who oppose the requirement for birth control coverage are significantly out of step with Catholic voters.

According to the poll, 57% of Catholic voters and 59% of Catholic women support the new policy President Obama allowing women who work for religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities to receive coverage for prescription birth control without requiring Catholic institutions to pay for the coverage directly.

29% opposed the policy because it still goes too far in requiring birth control coverage.

5% oppose it because they think Catholic hospitals and universities should be required to pay for this coverage.

Catholic Democrats (80% - 17%) favor the policy by virtually the same margin that Catholic Republicans (16% - 79%) oppose it.

51% say they side with Barack Obama on this issue, while only 38% prefer Mitt Romney's position. 59% of Hispanic Catholic go with Obama.

Congressional Republicans risk losing their majority in the House and squandering any opportunities in the Senate by continuing attacks on the popular birth control benefit. doclink

U.S.: I'm Pro-life. So Why Do I Support Planned Parenthood?

I'm pro-life because I value all human life. This includes the lives of every person living in my country, the lives of children living in poverty, and victims of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the third world, the lives of criminals on death row, the homeless living in the streets, and soldiers serving our country abroad.

I also value the nascent human life of the unborn.

So why aren't I trying to defund Planned Parenthood, calling abortion doctors "murderers," and petitioning the federal government to overturn Roe vs. Wade?

In fact, why haven't I spent all my money - and demanded that the government do the same - to send meals and vaccines to every person on the planet and provid rooms for all the homeless, and demand our country surrender every war?

Because these actions would substitute ideologies for solutions, and favor short-term irrational emotion rather than long-term pragmatic decisions.

I want the abortion rate in this country - and every country - to plummet. Almost everyone feels that way.

But overturning Roe vs. Wade, or cutting funding for healthcare to low-income women and families is not going to make it happen. It's going to happen by expanding healthcare access, contraceptive use, and sex education.

Russia has had one of the highest abortion rates in the world. But in the late 1980s and 1990s the expansion of contraceptive access in Russia was found to curb the practice. (

In Uganda, where abortion is illegal and sex education focuses exclusively on abstinence: the abortion rate there is more than double what it is in the United States. (

In the U.S. a 46% decline in the odds of an abortion was seen when low-income women had access to healthcare that provided contraception in year-long supplies, according to researchers at University of California (

In the Netherlands, where abortion (and prostitution) are completely legal, the abortion rate is the lowest in the world, credited to very comprehensive sex education and easy access to contraceptives, according to the Guttmacher Institute. (

An ideological war on abortion that ignores the data and sets its sights on low-income women who lack proper education and resources must stop. The Pro-Life movement must make reducing the rate of abortion the goal, and seek rational methods and solutions that will serve this purpose. If they continue with this righteous ideology without concern for results, then we want the term "pro-life" back. They're using it wrong. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Indeed, why are the Catholic hospitals and institutions hypocritically hiring women they know must be using "baby-killer" contraception and abortion, and then turn around and complain about freedom of religion being attacked when they have to pay for contraception and abortion for these employees? And why don't they excommunicate the 97% of Catholic women who use contraception?

U.S.: Health, Abortion Issues Split Obama Administration and Catholic Groups

November 1, 2011, Washington Post

The new health-care law and ongoing divisions over access to abortion and birth control have resulted in a contentious battle between Catholic groups and the Obama administration.

In late September the Department of Health and Human Services decided to end funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. Three other groups received the funding because the bishops organization refused to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion.

The bishops conference is threatening legal action and accusing the administration of anti-Catholic bias, which HHS officials deny.

On another matter, the bishops fiercely oppose the administration's decision in February to no longer defend the federal law barring the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Also Catholic groups also have objected in recent weeks to a proposed HHS mandate - issued under the health-care law - that would require private insurers to provide women with contraceptives without charge.

Regarding the human trafficking funding, the ACLU, in the lawsuit it filed in U.S. District Court in Boston in 2009, argued that many women are raped by their traffickers and don't speak English, making it hard for them to find reproductive services without help.

While the bishops' organization would not refer women directly, it allowed subcontractors to arrange for the services, but it refused to reimburse the subcontractors with federal dollars.

"The principle of church teaching is that all sexual encounters be open to life,' said Walsh, of the bishops conference. "It's not a minor matter; this is intrinsic to our Catholic beliefs.'

The ACLU lawsuit argued that HHS allowed the Catholic group to impose its beliefs. But in defending the contract on behalf of HHS, Justice Department lawyers argued that the contract was constitutional and that the bishops had been "resoundingly successful in increasing assistance to victims of human trafficking.'

However, this spring, as the contract approached its expiration, HHS political appointees became involved in reshaping the request for proposals, adding a "strong preference" for applicants offering referrals for family planning and the "full range" of "gynecological and obstetric care.' That would include abortions and birth control; federal funds cannot be used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

The "strong preference" language now lies at the heart of the dispute. doclink

Birth Control Fits the Bill in the Philippines

New Straits Times (Malaysia)

In the case of the Philippines population growth is out of control.

You can argue from superstition, from authority or from fact (science). Where religion is involved many folks in the Philippines are going to appeal to No 2: authority, which winds up being the Pope.

But the Pope doesn't have the right to speak for the Philippines as a whole. Catholics predominate, but there are lots of Muslims, breakaway Christians and mainstream Christians who happen not to be Catholic.

Father Joaquin Bernas, priest and former president of Ateneo de Manila University is supporting the Reproductive Health Bill, despite vituperative denunciations.

The bill, RH4244 or "An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and For Other Purposes", establishes means of educating school kids on sex and their choices ahead and provide non-abortive methods of birth control. Governments would ensure the availability of reproductive healthcare services, including family planning and prenatal care.

Most countries would have no problem with this bill. And Catholics almost nowhere else give a hoot what the Pope or church say on birth control.

Now that the president, the most authoritative ex-president and numerous writers and teachers are on board in support of RH4244, things are changing.

But, meantime, one reads arguments attempting to show that more mouths to feed doesn't mean more mouths to feed, but more people to farm the (almost disappearing) soil. Or that the overflow people should move to uninhabited areas in the archipelago, even uninhabited islands. Are there roads into these places? Schools? Hospitals?

Supporters of the bill are being threatened with excommunication. Some proclaim a condom is a "murder weapon".

In 1970, the Philippines and Thailand were about equal in numbers and wealth. Thailand introduced family planning; the Philippines maintained its voodoo attitude. Thailand stabilized not much above the 1970s level and doubled its income relative to the Philippines.

It is funny that Malta just voted to permit divorce while only the Philippines remains. Most of my younger friends grew up not knowing their fathers, who just drifted off to start a new family somewhere else. So much for the status quo protecting the family.

The fact that the president who has proposed this bill is the son of late president Cory Aquino, protégée of Cardinal Sin and dead set against family planning, may be good news enough.

The overall majority popular support for the bill may finally just be enough to give the Congress enough teeth to withstand the clawing of the church and its advocates. doclink

Philippines: Church Leaders Return to Talks, Agree to Sex Ed

March 31, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

At a high-level palace meeting withwith President Aquino, Church officials led by the Manila Archbishop acknowledged that sex education was necessary for teenagers and even for children who are on the eve of puberty aged 11 or 12.

The meeting was part of the continuing dialog with the administration on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill that the Church strongly opposes.

Church officials suggested that the sex education being proposed by the RH bill should be accompanied by values formation, and that these should be taught in a graduated manner so as not to overwhelm young children. In typical modules the scientific techniques on reproduction were presented but nothing about values, nothing about discipline, and self-control.

Focus group discussions also need to be conducted on the so-called responsible parenthood bill, which is different from the RH bill that is already in the final stages of approval at the House of Representatives. Mr. Aquino told the priests that there would likely still be disagreements between the government and the Catholic leaders on the responsible parenthood bill.

For instance, the use of condoms, artificial contraceptives. It is the role of the state to provide all means of family planning to citizens, especially to the disadvantaged.

There was agreement at the meeting that condoms aren't abortifacients but the Church leaders still had concerns about them being distributed as contraceptives. doclink

Priest Likens Church Pressure Vs RH Bill to the Inquisition

March 16, 2011, GMA News

In the Phillipines, where Catholic bishops strongly oppose the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, one of the clergy's leading intellectuals says that attempts of some members of the Church to dissuade the public from supporting the bill is "reminiscent of the Inquisition."

Jesuit priest Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., said a sector of the Church is giving Catholic religion a bad name by trying to impose Catholic beliefs on everyone. One ordinance, for example, requires a doctor's prescription when buying artificial contraception like condoms.

Bernas is a Dean Emeritus of the Ateneo Law School, a law degree holder and a prominent constitutionalist. "When it comes to contraception, the nation divides mainly along religious lines," he said. "The official Catholic teaching is that artificial contraception is immoral. Other religions believe in good faith otherwise." ... "Seeking to impose Catholic belief and practices on non-Catholics and others violates freedom of religion," he said. doclink

Philippines: As RH (Reproductive Health) Moves to Plenary, Women Tell Bishops: 'Respect Our Right to Life'

March 2, 2011, Age

The Philippines House of Representatives session when the much awaited plenary debate for the highly debated reproductive health bill was set to be delivered was suspended, disappointing a group of women advocates pushing for the passage of House Bill 4244 or the "Responsible Parenthood (RP), Reproductive Health (RH) and Population Development Act of 2011" have appealed to Catholic bishops to respect women's right to life.

The NGO Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) has expressed concern that Catholic bishops have been issuing statements on many issues but never a thing on addressing maternal deaths.

The Bishops are never concerned about "arresting maternal deaths. They say they are against the re-imposition of the death penalty, but seem not to care about the on-going massacre of poor Filipino women," a representative said. The deprivation of life-saving reproductive health services is like a death sentence hanging over the head of poor women.

"Even from a purely utilitarian point of view, this means: less human resource for the nation and more financial assistance needed for the orphaned family. The nation loses if we do nothing and allow the death of 11 mothers every day, due to pregnancy and pregnancy-related complications."

According to the DSWP, an effective Family Planning (FP) program can dramatically reduce maternal deaths by 32%. "This is because FP prevents mistimed, too early, too frequent, and too late pregnancies, and high risk pregnancies that have high probability of having complications."

A Guttmacher Institute study has shown that for every peso spent on FP, the state can save from three to one hundred pesos in addressing pregnancy and childbirth-related problems.

"If bishops are truly against the death penalty, they should be with us in working for the immediate passage of the RH bill into law". doclink

Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Religion and Women's Rights: An Interview with Thoraya Obaid

Huffington Post

Thoraya Obaid, a proud Muslim and Saudi Arabian citizen, just completed ten years as Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In her reflections, she said:

"My father was a devout Muslim who took very seriously the first principle in the Quran which is about learning. He insisted that his daughters get a good education and he never interfered with my life choices.

"It was clear from the day I started at UNFPA that it was the most controversial of the UN agencies. The attacks were strongest during the Bush 43 administration years, but we have been attacked all the time, including by feminist groups that fear that UNFPA has 'sold out'".

The attacks come only from the United States. Recent Republican administrations have withdrawn United States funding from UNFPA, citing the "Kemp Kasten Amendment" which was enacted to ensure that no US money goes to any organizations that participates in the management of coercive population policies.

"The issue is that UNFPA works in China, and China is considered by some in Congress and the US administration (when there is a Republican President), to be subject to the Kemp Kasten Amendment. UNFPA's work in China has been reviewed many times, and always with the conclusion that UNFPA has a positive influence on China's policies. The Bush administration sent a team to China that reached the same conclusion, but that made no difference. Throughout President Bush's tenure, Congress appropriated funds for UNFPA but Bush would not release them. It all was the result of the influence of the religious right.

"Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama) release the funding, after deducting the small amounts that would be spent on UNFPA's China program; we are asked to put the funds in a separate account and be held accountable for it."

Thoraya Obaid met several times with the Holy See's representative to the United Nations. They agreed to disagree. It was significant that they opened a channel that would allow them to communicate if times got tough. On the ground, in many parts of the world, we work all the time with the Catholic Church on common agendas such as ending violence against women.

"We are working to build relationships and partnerships with a wide range of groups, including but also going beyond the traditional feminist/reproductive health groups. It is important to broaden the base of understanding and support and find ways to support each other. Some groups still have doubts about UNFPA's commitment and approach and some are uneasy specifically about our effort to work with faith groups, fearing that it signals an erosion in our commitment to human rights. It absolutely does not. Today, over 400 faith based groups form the Global Network of Faith-based Organizations for Population and Development.

"By dealing with cultural values and religious beliefs, we aim to promote human rights, never to accept the status quo or harmful practices but rather to expand the reach of the human rights agenda."

"There are some things that we, UNFPA, cannot address and discuss, while some things women's groups can address less effectively.

"Abortion is the most controversial topic. We, UNFPA, are mandated to consider abortion within the context of public health, but never as a right, as some NGOs do. That is a clear parameter from the ICPD Programme of Action, the famous and much contested clause 8.25 which set out the position towards abortion. It states that abortion should never be a form of family planning and that when family planning services are available and accessible that lowers abortions. Abortion is a national issue to be decided by national laws and legislations. Where it is legal, it should be done under good medical conditions. Some women's groups approach the issue differently, viewing abortion in the context of a woman's right to choose. So, though we have many common interests, we deal with them differently.

"Thus there are areas where we can work together with a wide range of religious leaders and women's groups - violence against women, child marriage, and female genital cutting are among them. On the more controversial issues, we need to give some more space and time and show mutual respect for our differences. doclink

Leaked Cable Notes Church's Opposition to 'Aggressive' Population Control

December 21, 2010

A leaked State Department cable shows that the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is reading Catholic statements on the environment through the lens of population control policy.

The cable is one of hundreds of thousands of unauthenticated U.S. State Department documents being released through the WikiLeaks website.

The 2009 cable, titled "Pope Turns up the Heat on Environmental Protection," was apparently signed by U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

It explained that Pope Benedict XVI's proposed rejection of "excessive materialism and consumerism in order to curb environmental degradation.

"Unsustainable lifestyles in developed countries - and not population growth worldwide - is to blame for global warming. Vatican officials claim that the planet has the capacity to feed and sustain its expanding population, provided resources are properly distributed and waste controlled."

Vatican officials claim that the world's most populous countries were not the ones that released the most greenhouse gas.

The cable went on to say that, as China and India industrialize and release more greenhouse gases, the Vatican may find it more difficult to blame climate change on lifestyles only. Even as this happens, however, the Vatican will continue to oppose aggressive population control measures to fight hunger or global warming.

The U.S. government has long advocated population control internationally. In the 1970s the U.S. National Security Council's National Security Study Memorandum 200 backed population control to prevent developing nations from becoming politically powerful, to protect U.S. access to other countries' natural resources, and to limit the number of young people who are more likely to challenge existing social and political norms and cause instability. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the U.S. no longer recognizes the value of 'population control'. It subscribes to the principles of the Cairo Convention set down in 1994, and signed by 180 countries. The main tenant is that families should be free to choose the size of their families.

Pope Says Male Prostitutes Using Condoms Justifiable to Halt Spread of HIV

November 20, 2010, Washington Post

Church teaching has long opposed condoms as a form of artificial contraception, although it has never released an explicit policy about condoms and HIV.

Benedict said that condoms are not a moral solution but that in some cases they could be justified "with the intent of reducing the risk of infection."

He used as an example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not an issue, as opposed to married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican has come under pressure from even some church officials in Africa to condone condom use for monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from getting infected.

He told reporters en route to Africa in 2009 that the AIDS problem on the continent could not be resolved by distributing condoms.

"On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then.

Journalist Peter Seewald, who interviewed Benedict over six days this summer, raised the Africa condom comments and asked Benedict if it wasn't "madness" for the Vatican to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

"There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," Benedict said.

But he stressed that it wasn't the way to deal with the evil of HIV, and elsewhere in the book reaffirmed church teaching on contraception and abortion, saying: "How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?"

He reiterated the church's position that abstinence and marital fidelity is the only sure way to prevent HIV. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Unbelievable! A condom prevents pregnancy; it does not kill children. To the Pope, women are just baby machines, nothing more. If a man wastes his sperm having sex with a male prostitute, it's ok, but if a woman uses a condom, it's not. An unconceived 'child' is given a higher priority than a woman's life.

Philippines Women's Groups Call for Legalised Abortions

August 17, 2010, Channel NewsAsia

More and more women would die from complications arising from unsafe abortions in the Philippines, warned the country's women's groups, as they called for abortions to be legalised.

According to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, more than half a million Filipino women undergo illegal abortions every year. Of these, an estimated 90,000 women suffer complications, with about 1,000 dying eventually. The women's groups said it is time for the predominantly Roman Catholic country to allow for safe and legal abortion, to save thousands of women from undergoing crude and unsafe procedures. They said that criminalisation of abortion has not prevented the procedure, but made it unsafe. In the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, Mmore than half of the women who seek treatment are for complications arising from illegal and unsafe abortions. Most abortion cases were due to unwanted pregnancy.

It's either they don't want the pregnancy, or they have reasons like they want to go abroad so they induced it. They take some medications to remove the pregnancy," he said. Women's rights groups are hoping that the new Congress would be able to pass a controversial Reproductive Health bill, which would uphold the use of artificial contraceptives and institutionalise sex education in schools.

That would hopefully help prevent more cases of unsafe abortion in the country. doclink

Philippines: WHO Lauds Pope on Condom Stand

November 26, 2010,

The World Health Organization welcomed the relaxation of the Vatican's stance against condom use.

Pope Benedict XVI said the use of condoms is acceptable to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.

If used correctly and consistently, the male condom is the most efficient protection against the sexual transmission of transmitted infections, according to WHO

The papal statement would help ease the reluctance of several sectors to use condoms. The prevalence of HIV in Asia Pacific had reached 20% among sex workers and up to 30% among men having sex with men.

It was estimated that some 75 million men in Asia patronize sex from 10 million sex workers and, at the same time, have sex with 50 million regular or casual partners.

130,000 to 150,000 new infections related to high-risk lifestyle occur every year in the Western Pacific region.

It is estimated that some 1.4 million people in Western Pacific were diagnosed with the AIDS virus. Ten years ago, the number of cases was 680,000.

"While condom use remains the core strategy for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among sex workers, essential and affordable sexual and reproductive health services should also be made available to sex workers to address a host of other issues," WHO said.

Worldwide, some 33.4 million people are living with HIV.

Phillipine House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman welcomed the new papal statement on condom use, saying it signals the liberalization of the stand of the Catholic Church when it comes to condom use to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The moderation of the Church's position on condoms to prevent the spread of a deadly disease may ultimately evolve to include the use of condoms and other contraceptives to prevent high risk pregnancies," he added.

Lagman said "Family planning and contraception save lives by helping women avoid high risk pregnancies which often end in maternal and infant death or morbidity." Maternal deaths in the Philippines account for one out of every seven deaths of women of reproductive age. One in three deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be prevented if women who want to use contraception are given access to it."

Helping women plan their families can prevent one million infant and child deaths every year worldwide because closely spaced pregnancies threaten infant survival.

A pregnancy that is planned and wanted will not be aborted. More women can avoid unintended and mistimed pregnancies through effective family planning, the less the incidence of abortion will be, he said. Despite the endorsement from the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines vows to continue opposing the RH bill "because that is our moral duty," said Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles. doclink

Philippines: Catholic Bishops Warn of 'Civil Disobedience' Over Contraceptives

BusinessWorld (Philippines)

Roman Catholic bishops yesterday warned of "civil disobedience" against the administration should President Benigno C. Aquino III fulfill a promise to hand out artificial birth control methods.

Monsignor Juanito S. Figura, CBCP secretary-general said while Church principles state civil allegiance to state laws, "... if a law or a state policy is against Christian teachings, persons, Christians, Catholics are not bound by conscience to obey that."

He identified the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill and the distribution of artificial contraceptives to justify civil disobedience.

Msgr. Pedro C. Quitorio III, CBCP media director, was also quoted in the statement as saying that the CBCP had only invoked civil disobedience once in its 65-year history.

Pablo Virgilio S. David, San Fernando de Pampanga auxiliary bishop, said: "Does President Aquino know that many of the artificial methods are aborti-facients which means they were designed not only to prevent conception but terminate a conceived child because once you already have a fertilized embryo you already have a human being."

He also criticized what he claimed was state preference to follow the path of highly developed countries on the issue.

"These countries have already taken a new approach to population management because they have already experienced a demographic winter," the 51-year-old prelate said, noting that developed countries may become totally dependent on migrant workers due to an ageing population.

Lingayen-Dagupan Auxiliary Bishop Renato P. Mayugba, said bishops anchor their statements based on the Constitution which calls for the protection of the unborn child from the time of conception.

The CBCP statement further said that Lipa Archbishop Ramon V. Arguelles called on the faithful in his ecclesial province "to prepare to mobilize the laity for mass actions against the movement of the Aquino government to push for the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill and all population control measures."

In a text message from Italy, the archbishop said he supports the Catholic laity in Cebu against the planned introduction of artificial methods to families.

Mr. Aquino has said in a small town-like meeting during his working visit to the United States two weeks ago that he may consider contraceptive methods to address population growth.

Abigail D. Valte, deputy presidential spokesman, said over state-owned radio: "The President's stand is for responsible parenthood. The administration is not advocating one method over the other. We will support all family planning methods based on the parents' free choice. It is incorrect to label the President as pro-life or anti-life."

The House of Representatives in the 14th Congress had passed the RH bill on third and final reading, but its counterpart in the Senate remained pending at the committee level.

"What should be done is to wait for the bill to be discussed then at the committee level the Church can participate and put forth their arguments," Mr. Arroyo said.

Senator Edgardo J. Angara said in the same radio interview, that threats of excommunication against Mr. Aquino "is the worst sign of intolerance." "Excommunication threats are something said by people who have nothing to say so they just intimidate," Mr. Angara said.

"The question also is if whether we are willing to spend to manage our population or to spend to develop a productive work force. This is not just a simple question of condom or no condom," Mr. Honasan said. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the country should be spending money to plan how to best employee the large numbers of young adults that will result from lack of birth control. In many countries, failure to plan has resulted in unemployment or under employment.

Philippines Women's Groups Call for Legalised Abortions

August 17, 2010, Channel NewsAsia

More and more women would die from unsafe abortions in the Philippines, warned the country's women's groups. According to the Centre for Reproductive Rights, more than half a million Filipino women undergo illegal abortions every year. Of these, an estimated 90,000 women suffer complications with about 1,000 dying eventually.

The women's groups said it is time for the predominantly Roman Catholic country to allow for safe and legal abortion, to save thousands of women from undergoing crude and unsafe procedures. "The criminalisation of abortion has not prevented the procedure, but made it unsafe. In all cases, the ban leads to one frightening direction - that of painful risky and potentially fatal methods of pregnancy termination," Centre for Reproductive Rights Melissa Upreti said. Although abortion is illegal in the Philippines, government hospitals are mandated to provide post-abortion care treatment to women.

In the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital for instance, more than half of the women who seek treatment are for complications arising from illegal and unsafe abortions.

Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital Dr Emmanel Ganal said most abortion cases were due to unwanted pregnancy.

"Those that are induced are usually unwanted pregnancies. It's either they don't want the pregnancy, or they have reasons like they want to go abroad so they induced it. They take some medications to remove the pregnancy," he said. For now, women's rights groups are hoping that the new Congress would be able to pass a controversial Reproductive Health bill, that the influential Catholic Church opposed last year.

That piece of legislation would uphold the use of artificial contraceptives and institutionalise sex education in schools.

That would hopefully help prevent more cases of unsafe abortion in the country. doclink

The Holy See is a Church, Not a Country

says the the Catholics for a Free Choice. The Holy See has had the status of a country in the U.N. and has been abusing it. A coalition of more than 100 international women's, religious, and reproductive rights groups launched the See Change Campaign to challenge the Vatican's power at the U.N.-and to downgrade its status from a nonmember state to a traditional NGO. It is the only only religious body to enjoy "nonmember state permanent observer" status. The Vatican has fought the morning-after pill for rape victims; opposed any mention of female condoms; advocated replacing "rights" with "status"-as in "respect for women's status" instead of "respect for women's rights," and is against confidential sex counseling for adolescents and for a reconfirmation of parental rights. One its most extreme positions is the prohibition on the use of condoms for protection against sexually transmitted diseases, even for married couples in which one partner has HIV. doclink

Anti-abortion Bill Imperils Italy's Governing Coalition

January 5, 2008, New York Times*

The Vatican is backing an Italian opposition proposal to make it harder to end pregnancies, threatening to open new divisions in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's coalition.

The proposal was welcomed by the current and previous heads of the Italian bishops' conference and Mr. Bondi has called to ban abortion after the 90th day of pregnancy.

The call has gained support among conservative Catholics across party lines, threatening to undermine efforts to unite the nine-way coalition. doclink

Catholic Church Fights Connecticut Law Repealing Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse

April 15, 2010, CNN

Under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change would rescind that statute of limitations.

Ths would put "all Church institutions, at risk," says a letter, was signed by Connecticut's three Roman Catholic bishops.

The letter asks parishioners to contact their legislators in opposition of the bill.

The "legislation would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, threatening our parishes, our schools, and our Catholic Charities," the letter says.

The "mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut" is certainly not to protect victims of abuse and apparently not to take responsibility for the Church's role in child sexual abuse. When similar bills passed in California and Delaware, the result was over 1,250 plaintiffs filing suit against Catholic institutions, two dioceses in bankruptcy, efforts to foreclose on parish and diocesan properties, and the transfer of over $1.3 billion from Catholic institutions and their insurers to claimants and their counsel. doclink

Karen Gaia says: This is the same religion that forbids women to use contraception.

U.S.: Catholic Journal Says Plan B Does Not Cause Abortions

March 31, 2010, National Catholic Reporter

Plan B, the nation's most widely used emergency contraceptive, works only as a contraceptive and does not cause abortions, according to an article in the January-February issue of Health Progress, the official journal of the Catholic Health Association.

Dr Sandra E. Reznik, who teaches reproductive endocrinology and reproductive pharmacology at St. John's University in New York, wrote in Health Progress that - since it takes about a week from an egg's fertilization to its implantation, the scientific evidence that Plan B treatment is completely ineffective after five days is overwhelming: It works only by preventing fertilization, not by preventing implantation.

Otherwise, she said, the drug would also be found effective from five to 12 days after coitus, because that is the time frame between the last chance for a sperm to fertilize an egg and the time a fertilized egg would implant. The declining effectiveness of Plan B between 48 and 120 hours after coitus adds to the argument that preventing a fertilized egg from being implanted is not one of its effects, she said.

Catholic facilities currently may administer emergency contraception to a rape victim, but only to prevent ovulation or fertilization. However, if the procedure causes an already fertilized egg to be destroyed or prevents its implantation in the womb, that is no longer considered contraception but abortion.

The Catholic definition of abortion includes any destruction of a fertilized human egg, while the American Medical Association defines abortion as any destruction of an embryo following its implantation. The difference is about 7 days in the life of a human egg, and it is what fuels the debate over whether Plan B is only contraceptive or also a possible abortifacient.

This question led the Catholic bishops and four Catholic hospitals of Connecticut to oppose that state's 2007 legislation on emergency contraception unless it allowed hospitals to test for pregnancy and ovulation before administering the drug. In its final form, the law permitted hospitals to do a pregnancy test before administering Plan B, but not an ovulation test.

Theologian Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College said that if scientific data show conclusively that Plan B is only contraceptive, any pregnancy or ovulation test before its use as an emergency contraceptive after rape "seems to me an unjustified delay that increases the possibility that the raped woman will become pregnant."

If Plan B never causes abortions, then Catholic hospitals should have no moral problem providing it as an emergency contraceptive to a rape victim.

Plan B apparently "does not affect pregnancies that are already established, so what's really the point in doing a pregnancy test?" she asked. "It doesn't seem to have a scientific validity to it in the way that Plan B, by all accounts, operates." doclink

The Catholic Church and Family Planning

April 14, 2010, WOA website

Statement made by a Catholic when talking about family planning:

"What has definitely not worked is the imposition of western notions on the African people. The population-control efforts by the UN have not failed because of the opposition of the Catholic hierarchy up in Rome; rather, the Catholic Church has observed what's going on and repeatedly pointed out accurately that those programs are failing, and predicts they will continue to fail. In poor countries, the resentment of westerners causes non-cooperation."

Karen Gaia's response:

First of all, women don't want to have so many children. In many countries, childbirth is dangerous, particularly when it is an early marriage. With malnutrition, disease, and no spacing between children, childbirth IS dangerous. And who wants to bring another child into the world when the family already is going hungry?

Maybe the men want to have a lot of children, but they do so without regard for their wives or girlfriends.

Secondly, the U.N., and the USAID family planning programs have not failed. Rather, they have helped bring the world average fertility rate down from about 6 children per woman to about 2.5 - all because of modern contraception, which the USAID is mostly responsible for developing.

I went to Bangladesh to study that country's family planning program. Their birth rate is stuck at 3.0 - a far cry from the 6-7 about 30 years ago. They have trained women to be health care workers and these women give a pregnant woman a birthing kit - which saves lives even though it costs only $5 a kit, because it provides a much more sterile environment for birthing. Then they have the woman come back after the child is born and ask them if they want to space their children. They most certainly do. So the health care worker is ready with IUDs, contraceptive pills, and injections. They also have menstrual regulation (vacuuming out the contents of the uterus).

After I had my first child, the doctor asked my if I would like birth control, and I said yes - same technique, similar desires across cultures.

In addition, in Bangladesh, they have diarrhea and pneumonia clinics, both of which are major killers for infants, as well as vaccination programs. When infants are not dying so easily, then a woman is not compelled to have so many children.

But they are stuck on an average of three children and I think the reason is male preference. When a woman says the ideal number of children to have is 2, but she feels she needs to have a son, that is what you get - 3.

India is stuck on 3 children per family because the women do not trust contraception (mistrust due to the 1970s male sterilization programs foisted on them?) - they have sterilization instead. So they wait until they have a 'safe' number of children, because sterilization is usually permanent.

As far as I am concerned, the Catholic Church is male chauvinist and as long as they foster that culture, they are hampering the cause toward a sustainable population.

Women need to be educated (delays marriage), and respected enough that they can make money outside of the home, or have some sort of empowerment such that it doesn't matter if there are two girls and no son.

Women need to have control over their bodies and their lives, and it is a Catholic value imposed on other cultures that sex exists only to have children. doclink

U.S.: Nuns Have 'Complicated' Role in Abortion-Rights Debate, Slate Opinion Piece States

National Partnership for Women and Families

To "liberal Catholics disenchanted with the church," a letter from nearly 60,000 Catholic nuns supporting the Senate health reform bill's (HR 3590) abortion language "looks like a welcome feminist upswell from within one of the world's most patriarchal organizations." Although some liberals and abortion-rights supporters have praised the nuns, the full picture is also more complicated.

Nuns are a dying breed, and the women's movement has played a role in the declining appeal of the habit. Nowadays, a Catholic woman can do the same work as a layperson she would do as a nun.

The "nuns' health care letter might suggest that the ones who are left are increasingly left-leaning," which is "probably true of the older leadership." However, it is "not as true of the shrinking pool of women who are becoming nuns now. Catholic clergy who work with young nuns say that "the women who now take vows tend to be far more conservative than those who entered a generation or two ago.

For now, the progressives are in power, and they harnessed in favor of the health care bill the mystique, a gravity and accordance of respect that taking the veil still commands. If 60,000 deeply religious Catholic women had signed that same letter in favor of health reform, the act of defiance just wouldn't have resonated the same way. Facing the Vatican's ongoing "broader disapproval with how some nuns have updated their mission for modernity," the nuns who wrote the letter have "been quite careful to note that their disagreement isn't doctrinal; it's about how to interpret the political language of the bill, not a move away from a pro-life stance," according to Malone.

The letter "created a window for lawmakers ... at a key historical moment" and "came to the rescue just in time" for antiabortion-rights Catholic House members, "who reversed themselves and voted for the bill." The health care lesson the sisters taught sets a precedent even if the activists among them become a rare species" doclink


November 12, 2009, Bill Denneen

When I joined the Navy at 18 my best buddy was Catholic. I learned a lot about his church from him and often went to his services. Even writing this article has not been easy as I feel the "taboo" about saying anything negative about the Catholic Church (CC).

What got me started here was an article in the Tribune with a title: "Pope says atheism promotes a "world without hope"". My first question is what is an "atheist"------anyone not believing in the Catholic Church?-------anyone not believing in the Jesus story.

I do not consider myself an atheist as my "god" is Mother Nature-----the natural world is my Church with Point Sal my "Cathedral", an old oak tree and the sun as sacred.

The tree is in a natural area which was once proposed for more houses. I led in the protection of this 15 acres which became "Nipomo Native Garden". I love it & go there often. Each day when the sun shines I stop, feel its warmth and give thanks for its presence. Does the Catholic Church thus call me an atheist??

Another area of conflict between the Pope and I is with the current "population explosion". I feel the Catholic Church is a major cause of this explosion. We have added 5 billion more people to our small crowded planet since I was born. Ignoring this problem will not make it go away.

The Pope has no objection to keeping people alive as long as possible and with our medical advances this has caused the average life expectancy to double in the past century. This is the basic cause of the "population explosion". If everyone died at 40 (on average) like they did in 1900 instead of living to be 80 (on average) there would be no "population explosion".

The Pope is opposed to reducing the birth rate with contraception-----condoms, IUD's, Plan B, the pill, emergency contraception, vasectomies, tubal ligation, diaphram etc..

Europe has a birth rate equal to the death rate. Even Italy which is 97% Catholic has a birth rate so low they are not even replacing themselves and the government will give women a bonus to have a second child. What are Italians doing to achieve such a low birth rate-------abstinence only?------doubt it.

We have now "exploded" to almost 7 billion. The Catholic Church does not object to prolonging life but objects to contraception. An example of this is the group of about 15 that pray across the street from Planned Parenthood in Santa Maria on abortion days -- they are opposed to not only abortion (I am too) but are opposed to contraception & vasectomies as well.

Contraception was against the law prior to the activism of Margaret Sanger starting in 1927. She was arrested innumerable times and was constantly harassed. She did the ground work that established Planned Parenthood Federation with clinics throughout America. This gave women control over their reproduction resulting in equal status to the male. The average age of first intercourse in America is about 17. How old were you?

The goal of Planned Parenthood (and mine) is for every baby to be born wanted, planned and loved. It is tragic that over half the all pregnancies in the US are unintended. My favorite bumper-sticker is: MAKE LOVE NOT BABIES. doclink

U.S.: Who Elected These Bishops?

November 10, 2009, Lynn Woolsey

The author started out a Catholic, but she found it annoying that the church hierarchy, especially after John Paul II's ascension to the papacy in 1978, chose to aggressively espouse conservative social politics as opposed to embracing the more enlightened, even socialistic aspects of the church's teachings. Perhaps because the Catholic church enjoys being close to those with economic and political power. Also it has a long history of inherently anti-woman sentiments, and so on.

At least half of Catholics support allowing a woman to choose an abortion, but their unelected bishops chose instead to mount an all-out attack on a woman's right to an abortion through intensive lobbying for the Stupak Amendment last week.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair and North Bay representative Lynn Woolsey called out the bishops AND their tax exemption: "I expect political hardball on any legislation as important as the health care bill. I just didn't expect it from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Who elected them to Congress?"

Politicians incorrectly think that the bishops represent the views of all 70 million US Catholics. Most Catholics don't even know who their bishop is, not to mention what the bishop says about health care reform.

Woolsey called into question the Catholic Church's tax exemption: "The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections."

If the Catholic church wants to play in politics, then it's time they rendered up to Caesar what is Caesar's. doclink

Bill to Increase Access to Contraception is Dividing Filipinos

October 26, 2009, New York Times*

A story is told of a poor woman in Manila who felt she could not afford more than the three children she had and tried to cause a miscarriage by jumping down the stairs. That failed, and a boy was born. With the next two pregnancies she tried unsuccessfully to terminate them using an herbal concoction with the first and Cytotect, the abortion pill, in the next.

She was barely able to buy vitamins for their youngest child, let alone send more than two of their older children to school.

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. Birth control is available to those who can afford to pay for them through the private medical system, but 70% of the population is too poor and depends on heavily subsidized health care.

In 1991, prime responsibility for delivering public health services shifted from the central government to the local authorities, many of which have made birth control unavailable.

New legislation before the Philippine Congress, called the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services, including condoms, birth control pills, tubal ligations and vasectomies, and would also mandate sex education in all schools, public and private, from fifth grade through high school.

A government survey found that only half of Filipino women of reproductive age used birth control of any kind, and the Guttmacher Institute says that 54% of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2008 were unintended, with 92% resulting from not using birth control and the rest from birth control that failed. Those unintended pregnancies contributed to an estimated half-million abortions that year, despite a ban on the procedure, which often leads to an unsafe abortion.

A Representative in the Philippine Congress says there is a need for a check on population growth, which is growing at more than 2 percent annually, in the interest of national welfare. "Unbridled population growth stunts socioeconomic development and aggravates poverty."

The main opposition is the Roman Catholic church and affiliated lay organizations, which say the proposed law would legalize abortion.

Proponents of the bill are optimistic, and hope it can be passed before the current Congress adjourns in June. doclink

EU Presses for Immediate Passage of RH Bill in Philippines

May 14, 2009, GMA News TV

A European Union top official in the Philippines, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, asked Congress to immediately pass the controversial reproductive health bill, saying that the absence of an effective framework for reproductive health is "anti-poor, anti-women, anti-children, and anti-development."

"The poor are paying the highest price, both individually and collectively."

He said that the EU alls for the effective implementation of a comprehensive national family planning policy, which would promote access to family planning method.

In the Philippine House of Representatives, Bill 5043 - or "An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development" - is currently pending.

The Catholic Church has opposed the measure, saying it would promote abortion. doclink

Thailand: Your Holiness, Meet the Condom King

March 20, 2009, The Dothan Eagle

In Bangkok, Soi 12, is a street off the main drag. Here it's easy to forget Bangkok's reputation as a destination for sex tourism. Then you see the sign for Mechai Viravaidya's restaurant: Cabbages and Condoms.

Mechai, known locally as the Condom King, has been a vocal proponent of condom use for years, later, as HIV infection spread, as a weapon in the war on AIDS.

Mechai was minister of tourism, and instrumental in the promotion of Thailand's 100 Percent Condom Campaign, which has been credited with the country's decline in the rate of HIV infection.

In a visit to Africa the pope took a position against condom use as a tool in AIDS prevention. "You can't resolve it with condoms, it increases the problem."

The pope underscores the position that rejects condoms as artificial contraception, and that marital fidelity and pre-marital abstinence are the key weapons against HIV.

In Third World and developing nations, those are hollow concepts. With 22 million people infected in sub-Saharan Africa, altering the trajectory of the disease will require far more than philosophical suggestions.

The pope is right, distribution of condoms will not resolve the crisis. Perhaps his visit to an area that saw three-quarters of all 2007 AIDS deaths will convince him that fidelity, abstinence and education won't do it, either. Broad-based efforts incorporating the promotion of condom use and education on sexual health offer the best chance to rein in the pandemic. doclink

Vatican Changes Pope's Mind on Condoms and AIDS in Africa; Contraceptives Only 'Risk' Aggravating Epidemic

March 19, 2009, The Times

The Pope told reporters on his trip to Africa that AIDS is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and the distribution of condoms aggravates the problems. Taken aback by outrage worldwide, the Holy See altered the remark to read that condoms "risked" aggravating the problem.

By introducing the word "risks" the message was softened. In addition he had not said that reliance on condoms "risked" aggravating the problem, as the amended version had it, but rather that it "even aggravated it" or, as some media translated it, "increased" it.

The papal spokesman, continued to defend the Pope's remarks saying that he was continuing the line taken by his predecessors. He said the Pope maintained that the distribution of condoms was "not in reality the best way" to tackle AIDS.

The Pope's speeches and homilies as released by the Vatican are normally regarded as sacrosanct. The US-based Catholics for Choice welcomed the change as an admission that the Pope was not infallible on the issue and was willing to acknowledge his mistakes.

The vast majority of Catholics use condoms to protect themselves and their partners against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Two Catholic countries, Spain and Italy, have birth rates of around 1.5. I doubt if they are using abstinence.

Pope Visits Africa, Reaffirms Ban on Condoms


Pope Benedict XVI refused to soften the Vatican's ban on condom use as he arrived in Africa for his first visit as pope.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit harder by AIDS and HIV than any other region of the world. There has been fierce debate between those who advocate the use of condoms to help stop the spread of the epidemic and those who oppose it.

The pontiff reiterated the Vatican's policy on condom use. He intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception, but his remarks were among the first times he stated the policy explicitly since he became pope nearly four years ago.

He has assembled a panel of scientists and theologians to consider the question of whether to allow condoms for married couples, one of whom has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. doclink

Philippines: Church Official Says Bishops Need Not Have to Undergo Sex Education Program

November 20, 2008, Age

A Catholic Church official rebuffed a proposal for prelates to undergo a sex education program, saying bishops have knowledge on the matter.

The Church has long been giving sex education to Catholic schools and these bishops have been presidents or owners of these schools. However, compared to the sex education being pushed by pro-Reproductive Health bill lawmakers, the sex education being given by the Catholic Church focuses on human sexuality.

One of the principal authors of the controversial bill appealed to the bishops to undergo orientation on reproductive health and observe sex education sessions that the program seeks to institutionalize.

What the bills hopes to do is inform young Filipinos about the dangers of irresponsible sex, to give mothers choices on how they wish to manage their families and avoid unwanted pregnancies, and prevent the death of hundreds of Filipino women because of abortion. The CBCP in their statement entitled 'Standing up for the Gospel of Life' said that House Bill 5043 is unacceptable in its present form. doclink

U.S.: Planned Parenthood Responds to O'Malley

November 20, 2008, Boston Globe

Planned Parenthood responded to criticism from the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston who said that Obama "is possibly in the pocket of Planned Parenthood, which was a racist organization to eliminate the blacks, and it's ironic that he's been co-opted by them."

The response alleges that the cardinal is out of step with Catholics and has said that the some of the church's teachings are "countercultural, and the church could do better persuading rank-and-file Catholics of its teachings". Planned Parenthood responded "It diminishes Cardinal O'Malley's credibility when he attacks Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood for views and services his own members overwhelmingly support. If he is going to opine on politics, it would be good for them to understand why their messages didn't stick with their primary audience. doclink

Anti-Choice Religions

Pro-Lifers Change Their Minds When Abortion Gets Personal

May 19, 2015, Cut   By: Alex Ronan

Tennessee representative Scott DesJarlais opposes abortion, has run repeatedly as a pro-life candidate, and routinely votes in favor of restricting reproductive rights. In early May DesJarlais voted in favor of the 20-week abortion ban. Yet in 2012 a tape surfaced of a conversation DesJarlais had recorded between himself and his mistress back in 2000 where he pressured her to get an abortion. This raised a scandal which coincided with his reelection campaign. DesJarlais denied that there was a pregnancy.

A divorce trial transcript from 2001 demonstrated that DesJarlais had also supported his ex-wife's decision to get two abortions before their marriage. The first was a "therapeutic" abortion because she was on medication that could cause birth defects and retardation. The second was because "things were not going well between us" and the abortion was a "mutual decision."

Polls have shown repeatedly the same sort of dynamic, where people who identify as pro-life support abortion when it's discussed as an individual decision rather than an abstract judgment between right and wrong. When Jon Pennington interviewed people while working on his Ph.D. on the pro-life movement: a woman he interviewed said, "Most pro-life women oppose abortion with four exceptions: rape, incest, the life of the mother, and me." doclink

Yes, Half of America Believes That the End Times Are Causing Natural Disasters

November 21, 2014, Washington Post   By: Alexandra Petri

While those who think that climate change is causing the weather are trying to do something about it, there are others who think that end times are causing the weather and are just sitting back, waiting for the Antichrist to show up. They believe that once the Antichrist comes it is only a matter of time before the Rapture, at which point the true believers will be lifted up into the heavens and the hole in the ozone will cease to be anyone's primary concern.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute 49% of Americans think that, if we are dealing with lots of severe natural disasters, it is because we are living in the end times.

The end times is a period of exceptional wickedness. And this climate of exceptional wickedness can only be said to be the product of human activity. As put it, "The list of things people will be in the last days -- lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-2) -- seems to fit our modern age exactly." It's all these high emissions of slander and ungodliness that have put us in this fix! doclink

Karen Gaia says: Could this explain why such a big resistance to contraception because it is one of the signs of 'wickedness', i.e. having sex for pleasure?

Vaginas Are Like "Little Hoover Vacuums," and Other Things Abstinence Lecturers Get Paid to Tell Teens

November 14, 2013, Mother Jones

At least once a year we were shuffled into the gymnasium at high school for lectures from abstinence-only educational speakers on how to make "good choices." Young adult mentors would dance around the auditorium playing Christian rock and trying to convince us that having sex wasn't cool. In between all the jokes and music,

Justin Lookadoo, one such mentor, gave a presentation for teenagers in Texas in which he said: "Girls, the reason it's so hard for you to succeed these days is not because of guys...You're doing it to yourselves," He has an online dating service which advises: "Men of God are wild...They keep women covered up" and "dateable girls know how to shut up."

Jason Evert, another advisor says: "Girls...only lift the veil over your body to the spouse who is worthy to see the glory of that unveiled mystery." In this 2008 YouTube video, he says: "A culture of immodest women will necessarily be a culture of uncommitted men." .. Evert also maintains that birth control pills cause abortions. (In reality, they prevent conception, and if an egg is fertilized, they make the uterine lining inhospitable for implantation. The Code of Federal Regulations and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists define pregnancy as beginning at implantation.)

Pam Stenzel, who claims to make $4000-$6000 for each appearance, says: "If you take birth control, your mother probably hates you." At one public school in Virginia, she allegedly made some female students cry by "slut-shaming" them. Stenzel asserts that the HPV vaccine "only works on virgins," and that chlamydia-even when treated-is likely to make women infertile, with a 25% chance of infertility the first time it's contracted and a 50% chance the second time. . (Of women with chlamydia who go untreated, about 10% will develop pelvic inflammatory disease, which in some cases may cause infertility.)

The speakers claimed that condoms have holes in them and a failure rate of 14% (it's actually less than 3 percent); that first-trimester abortions can cause infertility (the National Abortion Federation says they're one of the "safest" medical procedures); and that the morning-after pill is a "chemical abortion" (nope, it delays and prevents ovulation). They also ssay that " life begins at conception.

For more, follow the link in the headline. doclink

U.S.: Faith, Fear, and Family Planning

October 22, 2012, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

In the past year, the religious right has dominated the political discourse, making it appear that the broader electorate has taken a sharp turn to the right on contraception. But polls shown that most people of faith, like their secular counterparts, believe that women should be able to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. And that is true of practicing Catholics and Protestants alike.

It was refreshing recently to see evangelical leaders at the National Press Club issue a statement warning that the association and the confusion of family planning with abortion has caused intense religious opposition by Christians and others with the result that opposition has extended not just to abortion, but to family planning as a whole.

This confused opposition to family planning is an international phenomenon, and has hindered funding and support of desperately needed family planning services both in the United States and around the world.

The statement also issued a special call to "pro-life" Christians, urging them to back off their opposition to the funding of organizations that provide both contraception and abortion services. Citing the crucial role contraception plays in preventing abortions, the statement called upon pro-life advocates to "consider how a deeply moral commitment, focusing on the flourishing of all human beings made in God's image, actually ought to lead to support for family planning."

Unless more people of faith dare to speak out publicly, the religious right will continue to gain ground in their efforts to shut down family planning clinics. The U.S. House of Representatives wants to cut all funding for Title X, the federal program that helps to provide low-income women with access to birth control. So do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and spurred on by the religious right, several governors and legislatures have slashed state funding for clinics serving low-income women.

When social conservatives win against family planning, women and their families will lose. Maternal health will suffer, and it will lead to more abortions, not fewer. doclink

Tennessee Commission Gives Family Planning Contract to Religious Health Group

October 20, 2011, Care2

The Shelby County commission has voted 9 to 4 to take their Title X funding away from Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and instead give it to Christ Community Health Services, which promises "high-quality health care to the underserved in the context of distinctively Christian service."

At the clinic sermons may accompany health screenings and birth control pickups. One Christ Community patient testified at the commission that,she was told: 'If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.'"

Emergency Contraception will be offered through a "third party," which will delay the amount of time it will take for a woman to get the medication, making it much more likely she will miss the window of the few days that the preventative drug can work. Even though EC is not an abortifacient, it will not be available on site due to "religious objections."

No abortion referrals will be made. Christ Community Health Services' lead physician made it clear that "staffers will not direct patients to abortion clinics or make formal referrals to providers who terminate pregnancies." doclink

The president of American Life League, Ms. Judie Brown concerning the Educate Bill Gates Web Site at, a site that is full of misinformation in an attempt to convince Bill Gates not to spend $17 billion on third world family planning and health. American Life League seems to think that family planning cannot be accomplished without abortions and doesn't realize or denies that family planning prevents abortions. Bill Gates says he does not pay for abortions. doclink

American Life League: USAID Responsible for AIDS Epidemic, AIDS Orphans; Genocide Hidden in AIDS Relief Package

PR Newswire

[Can you believe this?] "For the past few decades, funding for condom distribution abroad has fueled the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus," said the American Life League, attacking Clinton's $54 million HIV/AIDS relief program for Africa-a program titled "Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic," or LIFE.

"AIDS mortality has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half, concomitant with USAID's massive condom distribution campaign. ... by occasioning promiscuity under the false guise of 'safe sex,' condom distribution has created genocide in the name of AIDS relief. .. By USAID's own admission, over one billion condoms have been provided to men, women and adolescents throughout the developing world over the past few decades." doclink

Dear Ms. Brown

Todd Daniel

Great website! You do the pro-life cause a great service by putting babies ahead of the environment. Unfortunately, babies need the environment to live as well. You seem to have all the answers about global warming, species extinction, and population growth. Are you willing to bet your children on the fact that you've got it right? I'm not.

If you don't believe that population growth is a problem, would you like to ride around with me here in Atlanta where urban sprawl reaches 100 miles wide? Or, would you rather go with me to Tanzania where everyone is dirt poor and many kids are starving? Are you going to blame that on bad distribution of resources?

Is it honorable to force women to have unwanted children, just so the babies can starve in the streets? Does that make you a better Christian for supporting such a cruel way to die?

From all your research, you must know that the issue isn't about space or food supply -- it's about carrying capacity. It's about our ability to live on this planet without diminishing the quality of life for the next generation. It's about good stewardship, and it's about responsibility.

In your zeal to push your pro-life cause, I'm afraid you've forgotten about everything else. I'm glad you have Julian Simon featured on your web site, as it immediately removes all credibility to your cause.

I hope you will reconsider what it means to be alive in this world. You have a warm house and plenty to eat, so for you it's easy to judge. For millions of other humans, it's not so easy. So, tell them to keep having lots of children, and we'll see what happens.

Todd Daniel Powder Springs, Ga. doclink

Birth-Control Opponents Greenwash Their Message

May 13, 2010, Grist online magazine

Opponents of birth control are "going green" these days. "Study after study has shown how the chemicals from the pill discharge into our waterways and wreak havoc on the fish," says the campaign site.

What the "Pill Kills" site doesn't make clear is that the American Life League opposes all contraception of any kind. If the group cared about the environment, it would acknowledge that unplanned births lead to more environmental degradation than the Pill.

The League wants you to protest on June 5, to mourn the anniversary of the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right of married couples to use birth control. doclink

Nigeria: State Outlaws Condom Advocacy

April 7, 2008, UN Integrated Regional Information Network

It is now illegal to encourage the use of condoms in Nigeria's Anambra State. The state government has also banned the advocacy and distribution of other forms of contraceptives. "Instead of teaching children how to use condoms they should be taught total abstinence," the state commissioner for health, Amobi Ilika said. Many sociologists, family planning and AIDS support groups disagree. More than 3 million people, 3.9% of the adult population, are living with AIDS in Nigeria. The rate is rising by 300,000 people a year, according to a joint UN program.

Condoms are available throughout Nigeria because the federal government, in partnership with family health organisations, has programmes to distribute and sell them.

Many religious groups back condom use, having recognised that abstinence has failed to yield the desired results.

Anambra State has a history of political instability and violence and is now making "a desperate attempt to uphold morals".

Commissioner Ilika also railed against abortion. He said. "All fetuses must be allowed to live no matter the circumstances that led to the pregnancy, even rape."

He added that medical practitioners in the state will face stiff penalties if they are caught carrying out any 'anti-life' activities. "The state government will withdraw the license of any medical personnel who flouts this directive". doclink

U.S.: The Quiet Campaign Against Birth Control

August 21, 2007, The Baltimore Sun

Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and supports teaching only abstinence.

But Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to scale back access to contraception. He defines life as beginning at conception. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the moment sperm and egg meet. They'd like you to believe that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Romnwy told the crowd he had some practice redefining contraception and had vetoed a bill that gave young girls abortive drugs without prescription or parental consent.

To the anti-abortion movement, contraception is the ultimate corruptor. And so candidates seeking the support of anti-abortion groups must offer proof they are anti-contraception too.

Brownback, Republican of Kansas, co-sponsored a bill to de-fund the largest contraception provider, Planned Parenthood. John McCain has voted against taxpayer-funded contraception programs and reports that his adviser on sexual-health matters is Sen. Tom Coburn, who leads campaigns claiming condoms are unsafe and opposing emergency contraception.

Another candidate, Rep. Tom Tancredo, says emergency contraception uses a woman's body to dispose of the child instead of a doctor.

The new wave of anti-contraception activism makes it much easier for politicians to appease the anti-contraception base. The candidates for the Right to Life endorsement are doing their best to avoid directly answering mainstream voters simple questions on the subject. doclink

Evangelical's Focus on Climate Draws Fire of Christian Right

March 6, 2007, Washington Post

Leaders of Christian groups have sent a letter urging the National Association of Evangelicals to force its director in Washington to stop speaking out on global warming.

They are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. They accuse the director of diverting the evangelical movement from more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.

This underlines a struggle between conservative Christian leaders, whose priority has long been sexual morality, and challengers who are pushing to expand the evangelical agenda to include issues like climate change and human rights.

The letter says, "that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time."

Those issues, are a need to campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and to promote the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.

Mr. Cizik has long served as one of the evangelical movement's agenda-setters. He said last year that he experienced a profound "conversion" on the global warming issue after listening to scientists at a retreat. Evangelicals have recently become a significant voice in the chorus on global warming. In interviews, some signers of this latest letter said they were wary of the global warming issue because they associated it with leftists, limits on free enterprise and population control, which they oppose.

What is being done here, is a concerted effort to shift the focus of evangelical Christians to these issues that draw warm and fuzzies from liberal crusaders. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it's time to stop calling it population control, because there is no 'control' about it. It is all supposed to be voluntary, which works much better than 'control'.

More Than Nine Out of 10 Americans, Men and Women Alike, Have Had Premarital Sex

December 19, 2006, Xinhua General News Service

More than 9 of 10 American men and women have had premarital sex. This is normal behavior for the majority of Americans, and has been for decades.

The study, examining how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time, was based on interviews with more than 38,000 people in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002: 99% had sex by age 44, and 95% had done so before marriage.

Even of those who abstained from sex until 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by 44.

The likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s.

The study found women as likely as men to engage in premarital sex. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91% had premarital sex by age 30, while among those born in the 1940s, 88% had done so by age 44.

This calls into question the government's funding of abstinence-only- until- marriage programs. It would be more effective to provide young people with the information they need to be safe once they become sexually active.

A conservative group which strongly supports abstinence-only education was skeptical of the findings. "The numbers are too pat."

An organization promoting abstinence-only education contended that increasing numbers of young people were open to remaining chaste until marriage. doclink

Karen Gaia says: It should not be anyone's business if sex is conducted between two consenting adults. Yes, we should encourage our young people to save sex until they are emotionally mature and ready for a loving, long-lasting relationship. But we should not withhold comprehensive sex education, health care, and disease prevention, and contraception based on some antiquated religion's attempts to impose their morals on the rest of us. Most of these moralistic conservative religions are based on the concept of sin and guilt instead of instilling self responsibility.

India: Church Steps in to Advocate Safe Sex

December 23, 2006, Statesman

With the state reeling under drug use and HIV, a church in Manipur has taken a decision to step in and advocate safe sex, condom use and harm reduction behaviour, a move expected to make HIV interventions reachable for high risk groups. The Evangelist Baptist Convention Church (EBC), has decided to use the pulpit to talk about safe sex, HIV and drug use. The decision has been left to the pastors of individual churches with 15-16 agreeing to talk about HIV every Sunday.

The organisation has so far not been talking about condoms and needle exchange among drug users. Use of condoms and syringes is not permitted, but we have to check on reality. The EBC has introduced a module on HIV training in Grace Bible College for those aspiring to be pastors. Under EBC initiatives, the last Sunday of every November is celebrated as AIDS Awareness Day. The Church caters to spiritual aspects but cannot neglect drugs and HIV. Almost three families out of four are affected by drug use and HIV. The state has been adversely impacted by drug use, ethnic conflict, insurgency and poverty. About 24% of the IDUs (intravenous drug users) and 11.4% female sex workers in Manipur are HIV positive. However, 50-60% of IDUs tested positive for HIV. A high prevalence of HIV in IDUs has led to its spread to the general population through the sexual route. An IDU may have multiple sexual partners. doclink

US Agrees Not to Fund Abstinence Programme

February 27, 2006, Push Journal

In response to a claim that government funds were used for Christian proselytizing, the government agreed to stop funding The Silver Ring Thing programme which won't be eligible for more funding unless it ensures the money won't be used for religious purposes. The programme, related to a Christian ministry based in Pittsburgh has received more than $1 million in federal funding during the past three years. In The ACLU complained that the ring given to teenagers was inscribed with a Biblical verse exhorting Christians to refrain from sexual sin and group members testified how accepting Jesus improved their lives. The organization said teenagers can chose between religious or secular programmes. doclink

Ban Family Planning, Abortion: Puri Sankaracharya

January 23, 2006, Press Trust of India

Sankaracharya of Puri Swami Nischalananda Saraswati advocated a ban on abortion and family planning. He alleged that family planning measures were proving to be the bane of Hindus who would 'become a minority quite soon if these practices continue'. The Sankaracharya said that 'self-control' was the best process and 'not abortion or family planning measures'. He demanded that Ganga Sagar, a place of Hindu pilgrimage, be declared a holy place like Haridwar, and that the Left Front government in West Bengal should respect the sentiments of the Hindus and take steps to ban non-vegetarian food at the holy site. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I guess he thinks India's rapid population growth is sustainable and does not lead to povery and depletion of resources.

Tanzania: Catholic Bishops Oppose Teaching of Condom Use

January 10, 2006, News (UN)

Roman Catholic bishops in Tanzania have condemned as "unacceptable" a new science syllabus for primary schools that incorporates the teaching of proper condom use. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, the archbishop of Dar es Salaam, said "Teaching children, some as young as 12 years old, the use of condoms is disastrous." The disputed syllabus is a section that lists means of preventing the spread of HIV. The Episcopal Conference has remained steadfast in its opposition to condoms, despite the fact that at least two million Tanzanians are HIV positive. The Conference said the church was obliged to defend the dignity of human beings and, had to speak out. However, Halima Shariff, an official of the Tanzania AIDS Commission said: "The clerics say the only way to check further spread of HIV/AIDS is to abstain from sex or having a single partner, but what do you do with those who cannot manage to abstain or stick to a single partner?" doclink

How is there human dignity in the pain and suffering of AIDS and having no parents due to AIDs?

U.S.: Conservatives Step Up Activities Overseas

January 14, 2006, Associated Press

U.S.-based conservative groups are engaged in abortion and family-planning debates overseas. U.S. advocacy groups are now waging their culture war worldwide as they try to influence other countries' laws and wrangle over how U.S. aid money should be spent. Pro-lifers feel there's an opportunity to stop the U.S. government from promoting abortion and sex education and population control in the Third World. NGOs have been the playground for the leftist activists, and it's only been during the Bush administration that there has been an opportunity to be on a level playing field. Liberal activists acknowledge that U.S. conservatives have gained clout overseas and intimidated some foreign advocacy groups because of their influence on Bush administration policies. The Bush administration has implemented foreign-aid restrictions demanded by the religious right. At issue are conservative allegations that the U.N. agency contributes to coercive abortions in China. Several prominent U.S. groups are helping prepare for a World Congress of Families in Poland in May 2007. The chief organizer said U.S. conservatives view Poland - where the new president staunchly opposes abortion and gay marriage - as a rare holdout throughout the European Union. In Peru, the Population Research Institute contended that two local groups had violated U.S. policy by using American funds to promote legalization of the morning-after pill. Both groups were warned, and one will have to return some funds. Women's rights activists plan to seek to end Colombia's status as one of three Latin American countries prohibiting all abortions. Several U.S. conservative groups have been helping rally opposition to family-planning legislation in the Philippines. American conservatives have supported Bush policies emphasizing abstinence in overseas HIV/AIDS prevention programs. U.S.-based groups focusing on abstinence have received grants for work in Africa, in some cases drawing criticism that political ties overcame their lack of expertise. With Bush as president, they feel empowered and have been particularly active in Latin America. doclink

The Population Research Institute is an ultra conservative group that is opposed to most forms of contraception and seeks to prove that population growth is not a problem.

Women's Rights Fading in U.S.?

August 26, 2005, Detroit Free Press

In 1920, U.S. women won the right to vote but other rights are in peril. The right to birth control and abortion is under ceaseless attack by religious conservatives. Roe v. Wade has been chipped at by parental-notification and consent laws, 24-hour waiting periods and other requirements. Two-thirds of states deny abortion coverage to needy women. Abortion providers are found in only 13% of counties nationwide. Since 1993, antiabortion zealots have killed seven abortion physicians, clinic workers and volunteers as part of the campaign against abortion rights. Foes of abortion are targeting the right to contraception. Efforts to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter nationwide have stalled. A majority of states do not require insurance companies to cover contraception. As a senior legal adviser to President Ronald Reagan, Roberts once endorsed a controversial service for aborted fetuses as "an entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy." The lack of women's status and value is clear from the Democratic capitulation on Roberts' nomination. Senators should be objecting to Roberts on the basis that his appointment would ensure only one female justice on a court of nine. The Canadian Supreme Court, has four women justices out of nine. Why should U.S. women, be so underrepresented on our nation's high court? doclink

U.S.: Role of Religion in US Politics under Question

April 8, 2005, Financial Times (London)

While the US is robustly secular in its separation of church and state, George W. Bush is not exceptional among presidents in using religious themes to explain his policy. It has been a constant theme of presidents that the US has a mission to transform the world, and represents the forces of good over evil. More recently the tendencies of the early Protestants have been joined by conservative evangelicals who have lobbied for a greater Israel and defended Christians against persecution. But the furore over Ms Schiavo seems to be turning inward to emphasise the "culture of life" that smacks of hypocrisy and double-standards: The Pope's opposition to the Iraq war and capital punishment were ignored by the US. Religious ideology is driving US health policy abroad. Global abstinence, not condom use, has become the main anti-Aids policy. Even church members fear that the Republican party, has overstepped the mark. John Danforth - an Episcopal minister, former Republican senator and former UN ambassador recently attacked his party for allowing its traditional principles to become secondary to the religious right's agenda. He said the party had ultimately "become the political extension of a religious movement". doclink

CIRTL - Another Critic - This time Warren Buffet, who has given millions for population, is the target.

Catholics For a Free Choice doclink

Human Life International

"There is no overpopulation crisis anywhere in the world." "Contraceptives are the stepping stone for abortion". "Use of contraceptives often leads to divorce."
Says the Pill, Norplant, and Depo-Provera cause non-surgical abortions.
"There are actually between 300 and 1000 abortions per minute globally." doclink

Hard to believe since the net world growth rate is about 2.8 per second, or 170 per minute! We'd be standing on each others' heads if this was true and people stopped using contraceptives!

Chris Smith and the Religious Right

Planned Parenthood

In his op-ed column, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) wrote that President Clinton vetoed a foreign policy bill "because he objected to a provision restricting U.S. support for foreign organizations that promote abortion around the world." Rep. Smith misled readers--the bill President Clinton vetoed would prevent women from receiving lifesaving family-planning services.

According to a 1996 report from one of the few U.N. organizations Mr. Smith supports--the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)--almost 600,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth each year; 75,000 die attempting to abort an unwanted pregnancy themselves or with the help of an untrained provider. These deaths render at least 1 million children motherless every year, and for every woman who dies, 30 more incur lifelong injuries.

Recently, UNICEF joined the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund in calling on nations to commit themselves to reduce maternal deaths. At the top of their action list was ensuring access to family planning. If Rep. Smith truly cared about the life and health of women and children, he would do everything in his power to ensure that both groups have access to food, education and primary health care, especially family-planning services. With a single word, Rep. Smith could sit in Washington and save 1.6 million lives. doclink

American Life League: USAID Responsible for AIDS Epidemic, AIDS Orphans; Genocide Hidden in AIDS Relief Package

July 17, 2000, PRNewswire

[Can you believe this?] "For the past few decades, funding for condom distribution abroad has fueled the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus," said the American Life League, attacking Clinton's $54 million HIV/AIDS relief program for Africa-a program titled "Leadership and Investment in Fighting an Epidemic," or LIFE. "AIDS mortality has skyrocketed over the past decade and a half, concomitant with USAID's massive condom distribution campaign. ... by occasioning promiscuity under the false guise of 'safe sex,' condom distribution has created genocide in the name of AIDS relief. .. By USAID's own admission, over one billion condoms have been provided to men, women and adolescents throughout the developing world over the past few decades." doclink

Didn't the Catholic Church inhibit the use of condoms until the epidemic was well under way? How can only one billion condoms (many of them never used) distributed between a billion young couples in the third world over several decades possibly promote any significant degree of promiscuity? What should they do - the millions of wives who need protection from AIDS because of the acts of errant husbands?

Pimentel's Answer to Judy Brown

December 8, 1999, David Pimentel, Professor of Agricultural Sciences, Cor

Judie Brown reported an impending population implosion, and implied that the world population was stabilizing to the point that we do not have too many people in the world. Unfortunately, Brown presents less than half the story. It will take about 70 years before the global population stabilizes, even if we adopt a plan of only 2.1 children per couple starting tomorrow. The total number of people will more than double before it stabilizes, because of population momentum, or the young age structure.

Some populations in Africa have a median age of 16 years. Similarly, if China is able to limit the number of children per female to one, China's population will add a population equivalent to that of the U.S. in about 30 years. In both of these examples, it is the young age distribution and the large number of females who will be at reproductive age that create the population problem.

Some people believe that the U.S. population has stabilized. To the contrary, the U.S. population has doubled during the past 60 years. Based on the U.S. Bureau of Census rate of growth, the U.S. population will double again within the next 75 years and will reach 540 million people. The U.S. adds nearly 3.5 million people to its population each year. For each person added to the U.S. population, about 5 acres of land are needed for food production, urbanization, and highways.

Based on a recent joint statement made by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and 57 other nations' academies of sciences, serious imbalances already exist between the level of world population and the basic resources that support human life. Shortages of food, fertile land, water, energy, and biological resources now exist throughout the world.

The World Health Organization reports that at present more than 3 billion people are malnourished, the largest number ever reported to experience serious food shortages. Per capita grains, which make up 80%-90% of the world's food, have been declining for nearly two decades because of shortages of cropland, fresh water, and fertilizers.

Much fertile cropland has been removed from production as humans have expanded throughout the earth for housing, industries, and roads. Through continuous cultivation, soil erosion has damaged cropland to the extent that nearly one-third of the world's cropland was abandoned during the past 40 years. These activities have left us with substantially less cropland to plant, just at a time when food supplies must be increased to feed more people.

Pure water is another resource declining as populations expand. Crop production requires enormous amounts of water. For instance, 120-1200 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of grain. Because food harvests must be increased, current water supplies must be stretched. Increased numbers of cities, towns, and industries sharing water supplies are further stressing our water supplies. For example, 7 U.S. states and Mexico take a share of the water in the Colorado River. By the time that the river reaches the Gulf of California, the river is nothing but a trickle because 99% of its total water has been consumed.

Large quantities of fossil fuel in the form of fertilizers and pesticides are used to power farm equipment and are essential for U.S. food production. Approximately 400 gallons of oil equivalents per American are used in the U.S. food system. The United States is currently importing more than 60% of its oil. The U.S. Department of Energy and others project that in about 15 years, we will be importing approximately 100% of the oil we need. How will the United States pay for oil imports after the U.S. population doubles to 540 million in a few decades?

Environmental degradation is partly due to population growth and is causing a rapid increase in infectious diseases in the world. Even in the United States, deaths from infectious diseases have increased 58% during the last decade!

Certainly, all of us desire freedom to reproduce. However, while we are protecting our freedom to reproduce, we are losing our freedoms from malnutrition, hunger, poverty, pollution, and disease. In addition, we are losing our freedom to enjoy our natural environment. Adding nearly a quarter million people daily to the world's population reduces everyone's freedom -- now and for the generations of the future. doclink

Another letter to American Life League president, Ms. Judie Brown: Dear Mrs. Brown,

While doing a search on Bill Gates I happened across your Website: .

I am certain you are aware that this Website cherry picks its materials. Unfortunately, they do not stand up to peer review evaluation. Most have been discredited and the balance are overly subjective. I want to say at the onset that most people will take great exception to the statement that the purpose of your organization is "to save lives." Mrs. Brown, your enthusiasm may be heartfelt, but clearly misplaced. It is hard to imagine the toll of misery and number of deaths that have resulted from the pro-life efforts. If organizations such as your's promoted family planning as vigorously as their Life agenda, abortions would have almost been totally eliminated. In fact it is quite probable they wouldn't have a cause and the need for these organizations would have disappeared.

You write that philanthropist funding organizations striving to better the human situation by promoting family planning are doing it a disservice. You write,

  • frightening development
  • population control
  • bamboozled by population controllers
  • scientific evidence
  • shreds every claim
  • these untruths
  • part of a major multimedia educational project

    Resolving overpopulation is a complex undertaking. If the world and each of its nations are to reach a point where numbers, resources, and biological systems are in balance, the growth of the human population must first be brought to a halt and then reduced. The challenge is how to address the issue of our burgeoning populations and provide for their welfare on a sustainable basis while maximizing biological diversity and minimizing environmental degradation. Unfortunately, the American Life League agenda doesn't appear to take these issues seriously.

    Some examples:

    • It required until soon after the year 1800 for the world's population to reach one billion; in 1927, 2 billion; 1960, 3 billion; 1974, 4 billion; 1987, 5 billion; and now, in only 12 years, 6 billion.
    • More than at any time in history, today the world has two billion poor and one billion in abject poverty with little hope of a positive outcome.
    • Almost half of the current six billion people are under the age of twenty-five and entering their reproductive years.
    • Today, over half a billion people have little fresh water and water tables are falling on every continent; the continued mining of fossil water will diminish its availability and increase its cost. Many nations, including the developed nations such as the U.S. suffer growing water shortages; major rivers such as the Colorado are already exhausted before reaching the seacoast.
    • Today, over 550 million people in China do not have enough water; two thirds of China's cities have water shortages; rivers are running dry; the Yellow River since 1985 has been running dry every year; lakes have disappeared.
    • The UN states that over thirty percent of the world's population will have serious and persistent water shortages within fifty years.
    • Species in lakes and rivers declined at a rate of six percent annually between 1990 and 1995.
    • The world's fisheries peaked in the mid 1980's and been in decline since; four major fisheries are lost and irrecoverable while eight or so are barely holding on; the remaining handful are in decline but could be saved.
    • In the last twenty-five years the number of ocean species declined by thirty percent.
    • Almost one third of the planet's animals were lost between 1970 and 1995.
    • An estimated 30,000 species go extinct every year; two mammals every month. From the Sumatran and Siberian Tigers to the Black rhinoceros to the Keys Deer and the Manatee, the larger animals are extremely threatened and unlikely to survive in nature because human population growth devours their living space.
    • Deforestation and desertification is occurring at an unprecedented rate. The rainforest of Brazil and much of Kenya and many areas of Africa are being reduced to barren deserts. If natural recovery is possible, it will require centuries.
    • Currently, food shortages are critical, with more than three billion humans malnourished; today there has never been so many; perhaps as many as 40,000 die each day, mostly children, due to malnutrition and diseases; in the early 1970's it was 'only' 10,000.
    • Per capita world grain production peaked in 1985.
    • Globally, cropland per person has dropped by half since 1950.
    • World oil production will peak within ten years, even assuming finding large new oil reserves.
    • U.S. oil production peaked in 1970; today the U.S. imports about 65% of its oil creating a third world debtor nation outlook. The U.S. has already used up 75% of its total recoverable oil and in 1999, U.S. oil production reached a forty year low. Recognizing the desperate situation the U.S. is already using its military might to preserve access to oil. This is frightful in its own right, but even more significantly, it is indicative of its political reluctance to re-define its future direction. The U.S. certainly needs no more people.
    • Because of the unprecedented changes required, it is probable the growing tensions will create social and governing problems on a world scale.

    As the above poignantly demonstrate the American Life League program needs to understand that a number of factors require balancing. How the planet reaches the balance point of human carrying capacity or even an optimum level, while providing for all other life is the issue.

    The important issue is one of sustainable, or better, optimal population level, and of providing for future generations. I keep thinking about the future for my children -and your's, and those elsewhere and how decisions we make today will determine their future; or if they will have a future. It's a serious bet you're making.

    Sincerely, Dell Erickson


  • American Life League: Ted Turner the Racist Strikes Again!


    According to ALL President Judie Brown, "Ted Turner's personal population agenda is dead set against brown, black and yellow people," apparently because Turner compared Mexicans who cross the Rio Grande border to an "army of thousands of men", in statements made before a group of teenagers attending the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta. "He must not be reading about the impending population implosion the world is facing," Brown said. "In every aspect, there has never been a better time in the world's history to raise a family with many children. (Several inaccuracies in Ms. Brown's statement, including the misinterpretations of Turner's remarks, would merit a letter to Ms. Brown at to help her in her 'education'. Be polite.) December 3, 1999 PRNewswire doclink

    Religion Reproductionists

    Karen Gaia

    Some religious groups encourage their members to have as many children as possible. They do not believe in chemical means of birth control, but most do not have any religious objections to fertility timing, abstinence, and delaying of marriage. These religions usually teach that God will send down an apocalypse which will wipe out almost everyone except those that believe they same way that they do. Therefore, it is important for them to increase their numbers. They brush aside the conclusion that God seems to indiscriminately allow children of all types to die from malnutrition, disease, genetic defects, ect, because of the lesson of Job; it is a test of their 'faith'. They frequently will not listen to statistics and will liken efforts to slow population to Adolf Hitler's programs, and will call detractors 'agents of Satan'. Many have become convinced that the physical love between a man and a woman and the consequential procreation is sacred, and that most means of birth control are 'unnatural'. They overlook the fact that modern medicine, improved water purity, and modern farming practices, which have decreased the infant mortality rate, are man-made and also not natural. Many believe that a human embryo is to be held in the same regard as full term infant, even though it looks and behaves pretty much like a chicken embryo until further along in development. doclink

    A Response to ALL's Ms. Brown, David Pimentel, Professor of Agricultural Sciences, Cornell University Writes:

    "Certainly, all of us desire freedom to reproduce. However, while we are protecting our freedom to reproduce, we are losing our freedoms from malnutrition, hunger, poverty, pollution, and disease. In addition, we are losing our freedom to enjoy our natural environment. Adding nearly a quarter million people daily to the world's population reduces everyone's freedom -- now and for the generations of the future." doclink

    American Life League: Ted Turner the Racist Strikes Again!

    December 3, 1999, PRNewswire

    According to ALL President Judie Brown, "Ted Turner's personal population agenda is dead set against brown, black and yellow people," apparently because Turner compared Mexicans who cross the Rio Grande border to an "army of thousands of men", in statements made before a group of teenagers attending the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta. "He must not be reading about the impending population implosion the world is facing," Brown said. "In every aspect, there has never been a better time in the world's history to raise a family with many children. (Several inaccuracies in Ms. Brown's statement, including the misinterpretations of Turner's remarks, would merit a letter to Ms. Brown at to help her in her 'education'. Be polite.) doclink

    Religious Leaders Speak Out on Sexual and Reproductive Health

    Family Planning and Religion: How Clerics See it

    May 17, 2015, Guardian Nigeria, The   By: Chris Irekamba and Kenechukwu Ezeonyejiaku

    After the biblical verse in Genesis 1:28 where God says,"Go and multiply and have many children..."

    it is agreed by many that the present global and social situation dictates that couples have fewer children so that together with their children, they can enjoy high quality living.

    Do clerics endorse the idea of couples embracing family planning?

    Rev. Fr. Joseph Jwanua says family planning is advisable. God has given us the wisdom to know how to manage our resources. How can you responsibly have a family of eleven when you can only afford two? There is a natural way of knowing when your wife is likely to conceive and you avoid that period, if you don't want unwanted pregnancy.

    Evangelist (Mrs.) Elishama Ideh - If you have a child this year, then maybe you space out another child.

    Prof. Dawud O.S. Noibi - Family planning is permissible in Islam. While it does say to have many children, it also tell us not to undertake anything that is beyond out ability to see through.

    Rev. (Mrs.) Olayemi T. Aderibigbe - With family planning, some people are aware of their ovulation period and know when conception is possible, and can avoid having sexual relations during that period. doclink

    Faith Groups Tackle Malawi Population Growth

    Nyasa Times

    Faith groups in Malawi are leading a campaign to tackle the issue of population growth. The country's population is expected triple by 2040 from the 2013 estimate of 16,407,000 million. This is primarily due the fact that on average women in Malawi will bear six children during their life time.

    The Malawi Council of Churches, Episcopal Conference of Malawi through the Catholic Health Commission, the Evangelical Association of Malawi, the Muslim Association of Malawi, the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi, and the Seventh Day Adventist Association have partnered the government through the sanctioned Health Population Project (HPP). The groups organized an event last year, called the Population Weekend, which promoted the family planning community mobilization component of the Safe Motherhood Initiative.

    "Malawi's population is made up of 97% religious followers and faith groups are a vital tool in delivering population and development related messages to the masses", explained Laston Mteka of HPP.

    "Religious leaders will talk about population and family planning in their teachings. The weekends will engage individuals and communities to generate suggestions for addressing the problem of rapid population growth; demonstrate the commitment of religious leaders to support population management efforts; and promote collaboration amount religious bodies on issues of common concern" said a representative of HPP.

    The project's efforts are complementing government efforts to meet women's current needs for family planning, by making contraception readily available and building on the momentum of World Population Day 2013.

    Religious leaders are also taking action to sensitize their congregations to family planning, an important challenge of rapid population growth. With 97% of Malawians belonging to a religious body or group, religious leaders have a critical role to play in addressing these issues.

    "We should have a number of children only that we can be able to be responsible for as God wishes. This is the same Malawi, the same land and it is not enlarging. Resources now are becoming limited and we need to think critically about such issues and undertake to glorify God by responsible bearing of children" explained Bishop Gilford Matonga.

    The initiative is supported by the USAID-funded HPP in collaboration with the University of North Carolina (UNC) through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. doclink

    Faith in Values: Family Planning Is Key to Healthier Mothers, Babies, and Societies

    March 6, 2013, Center for American Progress   By: Sally Steenland

    Both liberals and conservatives can agree that strong families are essential to the well-being of society and the health of a nation and that investments aimed at strengthening families provide a big pay-off in both the short and long terms.

    One of the best ways to strengthen families - both in the United States and globally - is to guarantee access to family planning. Women are healthier when they can space the births of their children, and their babies are healthier too. Poverty rates go down and education rates go up.

    Christian Connections for International Health is a network of over 200 faith-based organizations that work on international family-planning issues, including contraceptives. This and other faith-based groups - including leaders from Muslim organizations such as Muhammadiyah - attended a family-planning summit in London this past summer that was organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore ways of strengthening faith-based efforts in family-planning service delivery and advocacy.

    In Kenya, Christian community health workers are collaborating with faith-based hospitals to teach family-planning methods, including the use of condoms and birth-control pills, which they provide. Lauren VanEnk at the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University says these hospitals "fully recognize the integral role that family planning plays in improving maternal and child health as well as relieving the economic burden many families experience when they are unable to plan their families."

    The efforts of these groups are grounded in spiritual values. The belief that human rights and dignity are God given, the importance of enriching and nurturing human life, the need to reduce suffering, the right to physical and mental health-these are values shared by many different faith traditions.

    In the U.S., the United Methodist church has long been a leader in the fight for maternal and child health. The Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative aims to educate and mobilize United Methodists on the importance of international family planning and maternal health.

    Last fall the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good released a public statement in support of family planning on religious grounds. "A Call to Christian Common Ground on Family Planning, and Maternal, and Children's Health" says that family planning should be accessible to women "in every part of the world." The statement points out that family planning saves women's lives, strengthens families, reduces abortion, and promotes human flourishing.

    "All persons should be free to make personal decisions about their families and reproductive lives that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community," said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, president of the Religious Institute. doclink

    U.S.: Evangelical Leader Says We Need Family Planning to Help Fight Climate Change

    December 10, 2012, Grist

    Richard Cizik, an evangelical, was a key leader of an evangelical Christian movement calling for climate action and "creation care" a few years ago, and he also endorsed gay civil unions. Cizik recently founded the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which advocates for social-justice causes including human rights, health-care access, and an end to war, and has put out a 13-page "Call to Christian Common Ground on Family Planning and Maternal and Children's Health." The document focuses on moral rather than environmental arguments, making the case that family planning reduces abortions, improves women's health, and saves women's lives.

    Cizik believes he can convince open-minded evangelicals and other Christians of the rightness of his cause.

    Worldwide, about 125 million women face social, emotional, and spiritual trauma -- and for some, the life-threatening risk -- of not having access to family planning. As a result, 25% births worldwide is unplanned, leading to 42 million abortions each year (half of them clandestine) and 68,000 women's deaths. Death in childbirth takes one woman's life per minute ... and 99% of these deaths occur in poor countries. Many more women survive but have their health permanently ruined by repeated childbearing.

    Here in the United States, lack of access to affordable health insurance results in an estimated 40% of poor women of reproductive age without family planning services. Contraception is credited with preventing an estimated 112 million abortions worldwide each year.

    "The choice of not having a baby is always best made before pregnancy. About this there is broad common ground." he said. "Please do not block family planning efforts, globally or domestically, because of your opposition to groups that provide both contraception and abortion. Instead, consider how a deeply pro-life moral commitment, focusing on the flourishing of all human beings made in God's image, actually ought to lead to support for family planning without entangling it in the often partisan, politically motivated abortion controversy."

    "Voluntary, non-compulsory family planning is a lot less expensive than most other ways of reducing CO2 emissions," he said. "It's one of the wedges, so to speak, among many that are needed" - a reference to a landmark 2004 paper that proposed using a number of different, currently available strategies to fight climate change, all represented as "wedges" on a graph that can help us ramp up to steep cuts in carbon emissions. Research published in 2010 found that slowing population growth could be a key wedge, providing 16 to 29% of emissions reductions needed by 2050.

    Cizik argues that evangelical Christians can make a real difference by supporting funding for domestic and international family-planning programs. "Republican congressmen are not going to be persuaded that they need to change their views from wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, Title X, and all these programs by having liberals approach them," he said. "The only way you do it is by having conservatives, particularly evangelical conservatives, appeal to them on the basis that this is simply common sense."

    "I do believe that good ideas drive out bad ideas, that ultimately evangelicals will themselves be persuaded by the evidence of the argument, and people change their minds. I changed my mind, and I used to be part of the group of people that are advocating for cutting Title X funding. I changed my mind because the evidence indicated that I needed to change my mind." doclink

    Opting Out of Parenthood

    eZine for Jewish Women Talks of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Childfree
    December 5, 2012, 614::HBI eZINE

    About 20% of the U.S. female population have chosen to be childfree, with this percentage having doubled in the last three decades. Women who choose to be childfree have to contend with being cast as social pariahs: "selfish," "self-centered," "baby-haters." "Given the rapid growth of this trend, we sought out a variety of perspectives on how this specifically impacts Jewish women".

    Click on the link in the headline for the articles. doclink

    Evangelical Coalition Rallies Behind Family Planning

    October 15, 2012, Washington Post   By: Adelle M. Banks

    The centrist New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good recently released a document calling for "common ground" support of family planning.

    Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, adviser to the group said: "We affirm that the use of contraceptives is a responsible and morally acceptable means to greater control over the number and timing of births, and to improve the overall developing and flourishing of women and children."

    Abortion is not included in the document's definition of "family planning." It emphasized that access to contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces abortion, and stressed the need to avoid "confusion of family planning with abortion" that has led some religious groups to oppose both.

    "It is urgent, urgent and imperative, that this issue be discussed and cleared up," said Crumpton, a Disciples of Christ minister.

    The Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the two-year-old organization, said family planning used to be considered a "third rail" topic of discussion but his organization is now calling on churches to address it.

    Cizik also worked as vice president for The National Association of Evangelicals, which has urged frank talk about the vast majority of young evangelicals engaged in premarital sex and briefly mentions family planning in its online "Theology of Sex" document. doclink

    U.S.: Diverse Religious Leaders Affirm Contraceptive Access as 'Moral Imperative'

    September 13, 2012, Huffington Post   By: Rev. Debra Haffner

    A picture on the Internet shows an elderly woman holding a sign that says, "I can't believe I'm still protesting for birth control." 50 years since the Griswold decision, who could have predicted that contraception would once again be controversial?

    90% of heterosexually active women use family planning, 90% of Americans believe that birth control use is morally acceptable, and 75% of voters in 2012 agree that "we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it."

    Yet, in the last two years, there have been efforts to pass so called "Personhood Amendments" that would criminalize hormonal methods of birth control, there was an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, and contraceptive coverage in health care reform is being challenged by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - they say its inclusion as a preventive health service an attack on "religious liberty." In addition, there have been increased restrictions on abortion and absurd statements by politicians' on how pregnancy does and doesn't occur,. With all this, the idea of a "war on women" seems all too true.

    38 nationally recognized and theologically diverse religious leaders have joined together to affirm safe, affordable, accessible and comprehensive family planning services. They include current and past heads of the United Church of Christ, the Reformed Church in America, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)); presidents of seminaries such as the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, the Union Theological Seminary and Episcopal Divinity School; organizational heads of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Catholics for Choice); and nationally recognized theologians such as the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, the Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield and Dr. Mary Hunt. They have all endorsed the Religious Institute's new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning.

    Earlier this spring a dozen Christian (mainline, Evangelical and Roman Catholic), Jewish and Muslim theologians created the Open Letter affirming that, "in a just world, all people would have equal access to contraception. The denial of family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing is an insult to human dignity." They called on hospitals and health services, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide or refer to contraceptive services, and reminded those who would oppose such services, that "no single faith can claim final moral authority in domestic or international discourse." They urged religious leaders to "advocate for increased U.S. financial support for domestic and global family planning services." .. "Contraception allows for a fulfilling sexual life while reducing maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases."

    The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform Judaism) and the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion passed the first religious organization policies supporting contraception in 1929 and 1930, respectively. Today, at least 14 major denominations, including the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Seventh Day Adventist Church have policies supporting contraception. doclink

    Australia: Anglicans: We Have to Acknowledge and Respond to Population Issues in Order to Care for Life

    October 15, 2010, Chair of the Anglican General Synod Public Affairs Commission

    At a time when the Catholic church is so often in the news for appalling attitudes to population, it is heartening to see the Anglicans making informed and moral observations about the need to reign in population growth.

    The General Synod has now endorsed the viewpoint of its Public Affairs Committee. We have to acknowledge and respond to population issues in order to care for life. The Anglican General Synod of Australia recently held its three-yearly meeting, at which a motion about the need to acknowledge and respond to population issues in order to care for life on our planet was warmly supported.

    The Lambeth conference of bishops from the world-wide Anglican communion reaffirmed a decade ago that the divine Spirit is in Creation and human beings have a responsibility to make sacrifices for the common good of all life.

    This year the Public Affairs Commission of the Australian Anglican Church presented a discussion paper on population issues which formed the basis for the attached motion recently passed by the national Synod.

    The Synod has called on Anglicans to grow in understanding of global and national environmental challenges and the fundamental role of human population growth and consumption in contributing to them. It has encouraged individuals and the church to reduce their levels of consumption, and to contribute thoughtfully and prayerfully to public debate about how to achieve justice for future as well as current Australians and to nurture life on this fragile land with all its beauty and diversity. It emphasized the need to share in a world of finite resources, showing concern particularly for neighbours who live in the poorest two-thirds of the world.

    The Synod called on the Australian Government to avoid any reliance on population growth to maintain economic growth; to determine a sustainable population policy for Australia; to consider carefully any incentive aimed specifically and primarily at increasing Australia's population, while continuing to support low-income families; and to contribute more generously to improving the welfare of people in the least developed nations, and other life in their environments, in particular by including support for family planning and women's reproductive health programs with aid for development. doclink

    Anglican Church Says Overpopulation May Break Eighth Commandment

    June 8, 2010,

    Australia's Anglican Church has linked overpopulation to the eighth commandment 'Thou shall not steal'. The governing body of Australia's Anglican Church has released a discussion paper that states "out of care for the whole of creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves, it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent [on the issue of overpopulation]."

    The paper adds that "unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment-'thou shall not steal'."

    The General Synod recommends that the federal government should no longer encourage population growth with financial incentives, such as the controversial 'baby bonus' whereby the Australian government pays a mother 4,000 Australian dollars every time she has a new baby. The bonus, which was put into effect beginning in 2004, has been linked to Australia's ongoing baby boom, the largest since the 1970s.

    "In the context of unsustainable global population growth it is inconsistent and arguably irresponsible to provide financial incentives for population increase," the Australian Anglican Church says.

    Currently some 6.8 billion people inhabit the Earth. Scientists estimate that by 2050 that number will rise to 9 billion before leveling out. Environmentalists say that overpopulation is leading to worsening climate change, unsustainable resource use, mass extinction, deforestation, pollution, and food and water shortages. doclink

    Church Sex Education Program Preaches More Than Abstinence; Our Whole Lives Takes Broader Approach Than Other Faith-based Classes

    March 27, 2007, Contra Costa Times (US)

    Our Whole Lives, a product of Unitarian-Universalists and the United Church of Christ, has proved popular at both churches, each has trained more than 1,000 teachers.

    Unitarian and United Church of Christ youths will lobby their congressional representatives for more money for comprehensive sex ed programs in public schools.

    Our Whole Lives stresses of abstinence, also includes birth control, safe sex practices and sexual orientation.

    These are done within the context of a loving, committed relationship. Only one family has ever opted out. In another case, the parents took the materials home and taught the course themselves.

    Many say the misinformation that abounds in the schoolyard mandates a pre-emptive approach.

    Although 15- to 24-year-olds make up a quarter of the nation's sexually active population, they account for nearly half of all new sexually transmitted infections a year. People are going to develop sexually whether ready for it or not.

    One of its goals is to open communication, so that children can chat comfortably with parents about intimate issues.

    The state requires schools to give only HIV/AIDS education, once in middle school and once in high school. A 2004 California law calls on schools that do offer broader sex ed to make sure the courses are medically accurate, age-appropriate and free of religious ideology.

    In choosing to teach about condoms and contraception, the state passed up millions of dollars the federal government makes available to abstinence-only programs.

    More than half of Americans believe that teaching teens how to obtain and use condoms does not rush them into sex. A survey found nearly two-thirds of adults and more than three-quarters of teens calling on faith institutions to do more to help prevent teen pregnancy. doclink

    The Rome Declaration:

    Religion Counts, an interfaith group of religious scholars, experts, and leaders, met in Rome in January and issued a declaration in support of the International Conference on Population and Development. The declaration asserts that, "People of faith readily recognize many of the values and principles in the concepts and commitments in the ICPD Programme of Action because they resonate with moral convictions that are deeply rooted in the heart of religious traditions." The group is composed of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and Christians--Protestant and Roman Catholic--from more than twenty countries.

    The Rome Declaration states, "Sexual and reproductive health are of significant religious concern as integral components of human well-being. Reciprocity and mutuality in relationships is the appropriate moral and ethical foundation for policies related to sexuality. Both women and men must exercise responsibility in their sexual behavior. Most faith communities accept modern forms of contraception and family planning, and even where there is official religious condemnation the evidence suggests that a great many adherents make use of artificial contraception without a sense of being unfaithful to their traditions. Sexual and reproductive heath care, including education and access to comprehensive health services, should be available to all women and men."

    "People with HIV/AIDS have human dignity that must be respected. There is no justification for stigmatizing them. Religious leaders and teachers have a particular duty to dispel the myth that AIDS is a punishment from God....Those who value life should support access to services that prevent the transmission of HIV. The world's religions are compelled to assert their most fundamental teachings on the sanctity of life by advancing comprehensive sexuality education, assertive positions on the use of condoms, confidential HIV testing, and support for those affected by the disease."

    "The world's faiths...share common moral sensibilities. The different traditions highlight complementary values. In many indigenous faiths there is a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between human beings to the earth; in Hinduism a great appreciation of diversity and tolerance; in Buddhism a deep understanding of suffering and compassion; in Confucian teachings a powerful awareness of reciprocity and duty in human relationships; in Taoism an enduring emphasis on harmony and balance; in Judaism a profound regard for the sanctify of life; in Christianity a rich understanding of charity and mercy; in Islam a boundless devotion to equality and justice."

    These values are splendidly expressed in the Programme of Action adopted in Cairo....The conference articulated a new approach to the positioning of health and education as central components of human development replacing a prior concentration on fertility regulation and population control. Finally, the ICPD acknowledged over-consumption in the developed world as both socially unjust and ecologically damaging.

    The declaration was organized by the Park Ridge Center for Health, Faith, and Ethics, and Catholics for Free Choice. "Far too often in the age of the soundbite, it is only the most extreme and most conservative religious views that grab the headlines," said Larry Greenfield, Research Scholar of the Park Ridge Center. "Religion Counts gives the mainstream majority a voice on issues that greatly concern people of faith from every part of the world." A delegation of 25 members attended the recent ICPD forum at The Hague and the group will be represented at the forthcoming PrepCom in New York. doclink

    The Presbyterian Church

    The 202nd General Assembly (1990) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) adopted policy on climate change, which among other things: called upon the United States to take the lead in addressing global warming, urged "firm international agreements for steady and substantial reduction of the gases causing climate change"; recommended that the U. S. government undertake serious measures to increase energy conservation and efficiency and "to accelerate the transition to an economy based upon renewable, safe non-polluting, affordable energy"; and called for assistance, including technology transfers, to help developing countries achieve much needed energy sufficiency while minimizing pollution.

    The 210th General Assembly (1998) urged ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sets specific targets for greenhouse gas reductions; and, in "Hope for a Global Future: Toward Just and Sustainable Human Development" called "for Presbyterians and other Christians to lead the way to a reconceptualization of the 'good life', one that, in accordance with our Christian and Reformed Heritage, is less materialistic and more frugal"; and, recognizing "the formidable problems that substantially reduced consumption ... would pose for an economy geared to growth," called "church members, economists, politicians, and citizens to wrestle with the issues of fashioning economic arrangements that affirm global solidarity and participation by all in sustainable sufficiency".

    The 210th General Assembly (1998) reaffirmed existing policies on population and , in view of "the compelling need now for fewer births, "called for "encouragement and support, respect and honor" to be accorded to couples "who choose not to conceive children" as well as to those who choose to conceive. doclink

    Pro Choice Religious Leaders

    Religion News

    Being Religious and Concerned About Population: Are We Outgrowing Our Planet?

    October 29, 2011, The Rev. Robert F. Murphy

    by The Rev. Robert F. Murphy, Unitarian Universalist minister in Falmouth, Massachusetts

    When in Genesis God says repeatedly, "Be fruitful and multiply," the same instructions are delivered to humans and to others. The Bible tells us that God is concerned about the whole of nature. Later, after God had rescued Noah and his animal companions, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the Deity's covenant with all living creatures. The world doesn't exist for the sole benefit of one race, one nation, one gender, or even one species.

    The Day of Seven Billion is day when religious reflection on population issues will be appropriate. Individuals who are concerned about social responsibility are encouraged to address the issue. Religious leaders have discussed family planning and sex education programs, marriage and adoption rights, the prevention of teenage pregnancies, and a long list of other concerns. While all of these matters are relevant, important and need immediate attention, the fact that the human population is still growing is seldom mentioned.

    In 1930, the size of the world's human population was close to two billion. It was four billion as recently as 1974, and now it's 7 billion. Even though worldwide rate of population growth has declined during recent years, there could be 10 billion people in the year 2050.

    Rapid population growth coupled with high levels of consumption will lead much of the world to economic ruin. The gap between rich and poor is widening in some nations. When you discuss population growth, note the inequities that exist in the world and acknowledge the influence of technology and human consumption on environmental quality. Then, at some point, ask the question, "Are there too many people in the world?"

    While we don't know if the world can support a human population of 10 or 15 billion, it's apparent the supply of many natural resources is limited. Understand concepts like "carrying capacity." If the worldwide supply of oil continues to decline, while the human population is expanding and the developing nations are industrializing, the results may be catastrophic. As arable lands and fresh water become scarce, nations will compete with each other, and, in some places, the competition may become violent.

    38% of pregnancies in the world are unwanted, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Unwanted pregnancies often produce unwanted children, and, in the poorest regions of the world, children are often abandoned and easily exploited and abused. There are tens of millions of these children on the planet. Without adequate protection and care, many will become criminals, many will be exploited in sweatshops and on plantations, and many will become child prostitutes and child soldiers. Will religious leaders and social workers discuss family planning and the need for social services?

    The increase in the human population is caused, in part, by the increase in life expectancy in many nations. Which leads to more questions about the future of families, the economy and the environment. Some Americans who are now past the age of 60 will retire to a life of comfort. Others will be pushed out of the workforce and into a life of poverty and neglect. Ask, "What, if anything, does our society owe to its senior citizens?" Raise that question in the population growth discussion.

    The great religions remind us that the world does not exist for our species alone. Cormorants and turtles have their place in the community of life. As human beings demand more and more, more species will become endangered. Ask the religious question, "What moral responsibility, if any, do human beings have to protect biodiversity?"

    At some point, religious leaders, in all of the faith traditions, need to put their differences aside in order to think and to think again about population growth. The quick and simple answers that have been suggested in the past are inadequate. Something new is needed.

    Pray that we get it right.

    The Rev. Murphy received a Special Service Award from the national Sierra Club in recognition of his ministry. Last year, he represented the Sierra Club in Ethiopia, studying family planning and environmental justice issues. doclink

    U.S.: Evangelical Use of Contraception is High, Family Planning Funding Reflects Needs and Desires of Most Women

    April 17, 2011, The Colorado Independent

    In refusing to defund Planned Parenthood, US senators voted to protect family planning services that are important to some of the same people who so vehemently oppose abortion: Christians, and Evangelicals in particular, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute . The study shows that 99% of all women who have had sex have at one point used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning (such as periodic abstinence, temperature rhythm and cervical mucus tests).

    Only 2% of Catholic women use naturally family planning and over 40% of Evangelicals rely on male or female sterilization, a figure higher than that of other religious groups.

    This is the breakdown of religious women who are sexually active but do not want to get pregnant and, therefore, use a highly effective method of birth control, such as sterilization, hormonal birth control pills or the IUD : 69% of all denominations, 68% of Catholics, 73% of Mainline Protestants, 74% of Evangelicals.

    Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.

    Guttmacher based religious beliefs on womens admitted attendance to religious services and questions about their religiosity. 83% of women reported a religious affiliation: 48% identified as Protestant, among whom 53% said they are Evangelical and 47% who claim to be Mainline Protestant (including Methodists, Presbyterians and other groups); 25% are Catholic; and 11% identify with another religion such as Buddhism, Islam or Judaism.

    Gutthmacher concluded that contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals, including those who frequently attend religious services, is the widespread norm, not the exception. The implications for policymakers are clear: Policies that make contraceptives more affordable and easier to use are not just sound public health policy, they also reflect the needs and desires of the vast majority of American women and their partners, regardless of their religious affiliation. doclink

    Opinion: the Elephant in the Room

    April 12, 2010, WOA

    All this about Global Warming and Climategate (from both sides) seems a bit pitiful while we ignore the elephant in the room.

    The Earth's population is increasing inexorably, and this trumps every effort to save resources and the environment. Without population control, the environment is literally doomed.

    Catholics are among the biggest offenders, but Pagans, Muslims, and some protestant sects also participate.

    I hate anecdotal examples, but here I go with one anyway. I use it because it illustrates in microcosm the problem in much of the world.

    One of Ben's and my wards is a Maasai, the star student in a school far from the beaten path on the edge of the Serengeti. The Maasai culture is traditionally pastoral and (in hard times) nomadic, but development and national boundaries have made them more sessile.

    They have religious taboos against eating wild animals, bless them! - although killing a lion with a spear has been a rite of passage. But the lion does have a chance. When we visited, the weather had been kind of dry and the cattle were skinny, but people were getting along.

    The drought has continued and worsened. The cattle are starving and the people will follow suit. In the old days, the village might have picked up stakes and moved to greener pastures. Or if the famine were widespread, many would have perished, reducing the overpopulation for a generation or two.

    We are facing a dilemma. Our ward emailed us recently asking us to support his family in the crisis. How many? Well, there are his mom and dad. And five brothers and sisters. And 24 half-brothers and sisters and five other wives. (Maasai are polygamous. Don't even mention family planning.)

    Get the picture? About five kids per mom, a massive generational increase in an already stressed resource base. Some could move to the City ... and do what? Beg?

    So. We or the Tanzanian government could provide food to bring them through the current famine. That leaves everyone poised on the edge of the Serengeti, in an area already defoliated and overgrazed.

    Or we and the government could ignore the issue. Some would move to Arusha and Dar es Salaam, abandoning their families and culture. Imagine the Amish being forced to move to the slums of Philadelphia and Baltimore. The rest would remain at the traditional homeland, and some would starve.

    Wouldn't birth control have been a better solution? Why don't people talk about this?

    Steve Parks doclink

    U.S. Religions Quietly Launch a Sexual Revolution

    February 24, 2010, Women's Enews

    A think tank, The Religious Institute, in a a 46-page manifesto on the state of sexuality in religious communities has said that silence should be broken about a host of sexuality issues. The manifesto is titled: "Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade."

    Goals include improved pastoral care of marital relationships, domestic abuse and infertility, and training for prospective clergy in sexuality-related matters.

    According to the manifesto, religious leaders should provide lifelong age-appropriate education for youth and adults and to become more effective advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health in society.

    Clergymen who are often first responders in matters of domestic violence and potential (and actual) suicides by young people struggling with sexual identity have usually received little to no training for the job.

    The document offers an uncompromised progressive vision that does not seek "common ground" with conservative evangelicals and Catholics.

    It calls for full access to reproductive health care, including abortion, marriage equality, full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of religious communities.

    The report as generated only a little media attention but progress is already being made.

    The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary saw it as "evidence of the continued subversion of biblical authority and confessional integrity that characterizes the revolt against orthodoxy in so many churches."

    But he acknowledged: "Our pews are filled with people worried about their sexuality, wondering how to understand these things, struggling with same-sex attractions, tempted to stray from their marriages, enticed by Internet pornography and wondering how to bring their sexuality under submission to Christ." And evangelicals "should not avoid its urgency in calling pastors and Christian leaders to teach and preach about sex and sexuality."

    The Religious Institute is a national network of more than 5,000 clergy and religious leaders from 50 religious traditions. Its founder Rev. Debra Haffner, is a former executive director of SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States), the nation's leading association of sex educators.

    Advances have been made in the last 10 years, with female clergy taking leadership roles in major denominations; a woman is presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; Lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people gaining acceptance; and marriage equality being recognized by the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Unitarian Universalist Association.

    One Church recently announced that clergy will now be required to be "competent" to address matters of sexuality in the lives of their parishioners.

    The manifesto said that 75% of progressive clergy had not addressed sex education and 40% had not preached about sexual orientation over a two year period. 70% had never preached on reproductive justice.

    Issues that parishoners have where they need the help of clergy are: sexual abuse, marriages breaking up, and infertility.

    When matters of sexuality are avoided, it shows up in clergy sex-abuse scandals. "And it's not just the Catholics." When you can't talk about it in your churches, where can you talk about it. Silence contributes to people's alienation and aloneness.

    Five mainstream denominations are working on mandatory sexual competence for clergy and 15 denominations on matters that affect everyone. a number of denominations have focused on issues of domestic violence. All would benefit from clergy training and open discussion of matters of sexuality, including the teaching of young people and strategies for keeping children safe from sexual predators.

    Dr. Martin Marty, the eminent historian of religion at the University of Chicago compared sexuality to religion. "If you get it right, it's beautiful. But if you get it wrong, it really messes you up." doclink

    Fertility Rate, Religion, and Conflict

    January 12, 2010, Bruce Sundquist

    The 15 nations of the world with the lowest total fertility rates are predominantly Catholic countries. In addition, the data indicates that the outlook of Muslims is changing toward contraception. Imans and Mullas are more willing to put forth favorable fatawas on that issue.

    All the non-Muslim nations that border on the Muslim world will be delighted, since that interface is where many of the armed conflicts are taking place, or have taken place in recent decades. Elsewhere on the website is data that shows armed conflict increases markedly with total fertility rate.

    Follow the link to reach this data. doclink

    Indonesia: Discrimination Over Access to Reproductive Health

    July 25, 2009, Jakarta Post

    Unmarried women have been discriminated against by lawmakers in a health bill with religious overtones. This bill, which precludes them from reproductive health treatments, and which requires a recommendation from a religious panelas a requirement for approving abortions in life-threatening pregnancies or for rape victims - will replace the 1992 Health Law, which does not regulate reproductive health.

    "The bill is a step backwards from the current Health Law."

    In Jakarta, many sexually active unmarried women have found it difficult to get professional advice about reproductive health without having to face judgmental medical workers.

    There is concern that there would be more bureaucratic procedures in hospitals to access reproductive health.

    The legislation would increase the psychological trauma rape victims suffer. Especially as the provided period only allows for abortions in the first six weeks of pregnancy, which is basically unrealistic because in this period, women are often not aware of their pregnancy.

    In Mahayana teachings, abortion is considered murder.

    One woman said: "For me, giving birth to a human without being able to be fully responsible for them is also a sin." doclink

    Religious Group Attacks Religion in U.S. Health Care

    April 24, 2007, Reuters

    A coalition of religious leaders took on the Catholic Church, the U.S. Supreme Court and the administration with a plea to take religion out of health care in the US.

    Last week's Supreme Court decision outlawing a certain type of abortion demonstrated that religious belief was interfering with personal rights and the U.S. health care system in general.

    The group said it planned to submit its proposals to other church groups and lobby Congress and state legislators.

    Concerns are being raised in religious communities about the ethics of denying services.

    The group also complained about Catholic-owned hospitals that refuse to sterilize women, refuse to let doctors perform abortions and do not provide contraception.

    Doctors, pharmacists and nurses are also increasingly refusing to provide essential services on moral or religious grounds. The government is codifying these refusals, through legislation and the recent Supreme Court decision, where five Catholic men decided that they could better determine what was moral and good.

    The group includes ordained Protestant ministers, a Jewish activist, an expert on women's reproductive rights and several physicians.

    Health care decisions ought to be made freely, based on medical expertise and individual conscience.

    Allow doctors to use best medical practices, providing comprehensive counseling on sexual or reproductive health and honor advance directives -- including "do not resuscitate" orders.

    Refusal to provide health care would be balanced by alternate service delivery so that no one would be victimized when another exercises his/her conscience. doclink

    U.S.: Republicans Split Over Religion's Growing Role in Their Party

    March 28, 2006, Bloomberg (US)

    Republicans, who have profited politically from faith and family values, are finding those issues dividing the party. Economic conservatives and secular Republicans complain their message is being drowned out by Christian conservatives. On the other side, "values" advocates say they have provided the party with crucial support, when they mobilized religious conservatives to help re-elect President Bush. Such concerns are turning Republican tensions over the role of religious conservatives into an election-year split. Former governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman has started a political action committee to elevate issues such as government spending and health care. Representative Davis said too much focus on abortion and gay marriage may weaken Republican support where economic matters and other issues count more. Ten years ago, small-government Republicans outnumbered religious-values voters by as much as 20% to 25% but now their numbers are almost equal. The schism in the party is whether or not you believe God's Law should be used to set public policy. Conflict between religious and moderate Republicans will intensify ahead of the 2008 presidential election. In a complaint the accusers said Russell Johnson of the Fairfield Christian Church and Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church violated a provision of the tax code barring political advocacy by churches and other nonprofits. The IRS said it was stepping up enforcement of the ban on political advocacy by tax-exempt groups amid an increase in the amount of money such organizations are spending on political campaigns. doclink

    Bangladeshi Couples Hold Dowry-free Weddings at Islamic Gathering

    January 29, 2006, Agence France-Presse

    Some 100 couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony in Bangladesh, during the world's biggest annual Islamic event after the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. The three-day World Muslim congregation was due to end Sunday with organisers estimating it had attracted at least four million devotees, including 101 couples who married without dowry in accordance with the rules of Islam. But disputes over dowry are frequently cited as triggers for violence against women. The mass wedding ceremony, however, was attended by only the grooms and the brides' guardians who had arranged the matches. Arranged marriages are common in Bangladesh although the majority of couples do meet before their weddings. For the next few weeks the grooms will be taught by their religious leaders how to lead a good conjugal life according to Islamic law. Then they will meet their brides for the first time. Some 22,000 troops were deployed at the festival. At least 28 people including four suicide bombers have been killed in the attacks since August. The Biswa Ijtema is organised by a group launched to encourage Muslims to follow Islamic tenets in their daily lives. Secular Bangladesh, a nation of 140 million people, is the world's third largest Muslim-majority country. doclink

    U.S.: Christian Groups Find New Allies at USAID

    January 18, 2006, InterPress Service

    Bonicelli, the former dean of academic affairs at Patrick Henry College - a small fundamentalist Christian college - was appointed by the George W. Bush administration to oversee USAID programmes. His responsibilities "will focus on the rule of law and respect for human rights; promoting genuine and competitive elections and political processes; development of a politically active civil society; and implementing a transparent and accountable governance." A posting at the Herescope blog argued that his ties to Patrick Henry College made the selection significant "because USAID has been a major player in the 'transformation' of the African continent". Here scope is organised by Discernment Ministries, Inc because they had become "deeply concerned with a radical shift away from the authority of Scripture". In December 2002, a Centre for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was established at USAID, like the others created at more than a dozen other U.S. agencies. Christianity Today interviewed a former missionary doctor to Zimbabwe and Zaire who was appointed by the Bush administration as head of global health for USAID. Ashe was asked about the policies regarding AIDS in Africa, and to comment on the work Christian evangelical groups were performing there. A posting on the website of USAID says "Community and faith-based organisations have a critical role to play in the provision of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. This makes them an invaluable asset in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Pres. Bush proposed spending 15 billion dollars fighting AIDS and in Africa over a five-year period. He told a Philadelphia audience: "I think our country needs a practical, effective and moral message. We need to tell our children that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid contracting HIV. The administration announced 100 million dollars in new grants for abstinence-focused programmes. One of the projects listed among USAID partnerships with faith-based organisations appears not to have turned out so well. Swaziland has one of the world's highest HIV rates. According to USAID, trained pastors talk to their congregations about abstinence until marriage, fidelity to one's partner, and reducing stigma. Unequal treatment of women contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS, so he challenged pastors to make clear that men and women are created equal. In 2004, The New Republic's Andrew Rice reported that the World Christian Encyclopedia noted that while 17 million Africans attended Pentecostal churches in 1970, that number had jumped to "more than 125 million and demographers predict that the continent's Christian population will nearly double by 2025. Politically, that's good news for the Bush administration which, since its war on Iraq, has lost more friends than it gained. USAID is in a position to help ensure that evangelical faith-based organisations, steeped in the reactionary politics of the Christian Right, receive a lion's share of money from Bush's Emergency Plan. doclink

    U.S.: Zealots Find Risk of Death Preferable to Teenage Sex

    January 22, 2006, San Jose Mercury News

    A cure for cancer has run afoul of the morality police. A vaccine prevents human papilloma virus, known as HPV which HPV is sexually transmitted. Conservatives object to putting it on the list of immunization shots that girls receive before puberty fearing that protecting a girl's health in this way could encourage promiscuous behavior. Never mind that cervical cancer strikes more than 10,000 women each year and kills more than a third of them. The subtext of the morality-police is that the risk of death is an acceptable penalty for premarital sex. Prompted by a similar controversy over whether the FDA should approve over-the-counter purchase of "morning after" pills, a study was conducted last year to see if more access to the drug would affect sexual behavior. Results showed that improving access to the emergency contraceptive does not increase unprotected sex or sexually transmitted diseases. By opposing the vaccination of girls against HPV, social conservatives are saying, `If people have sex outside of what we say is permissible, they're going to get punished.' Girls aren't likely to change their sexual behavior because of a vaccine. Getting cancer later in life is a terrible price to pay for making a bad decision as a young adult. doclink

    India: Hindu Women Urged to Stop Using Contraceptives; the More Babies the Better, Says Nationalist Leader

    November 21, 2005, South China Morning Post

    Calcutta Hindus have been urged by their representative body to stop using contraceptives so that India remains a Hindu-majority nation. Hindu couples should produce at least three children that runs counter to a "two-child norm" aimed at keeping a cap on growth in the world's second most-populous nation. Mr Sudarshan said: don't practise birth control. We are instituting awards for women who produce 10 children. These remarks stem from the fallacious theory that Muslims and Christians are breeding faster than Hindus. According to a 2001 census however, Hindus account for an 80.5% of 1.03 billion Indians. India's Muslim community is 13.4% of the population, Christians 24 million and Sikhs 19 million. The ruling Congress Party called the National Volunteers' Force chief's remarks anti-national and irrational. India's leading population expert said that between 1991 and 2001, the Muslim community's growth rate has declined at a greater rate than the Hindus. The All India Democratic Women's Association accused Mr Sudarshan of "communalising the electorate". "Are women reproductive machines for serving the Hindu nationalist agenda? Mr Sudarshan has contempt for a woman's rights over her body, her well-being and health". doclink

    Ukraine Faces Population Crisis

    October 20, 2005, For_UM

    Fertility in Ukraine reduced twice for the last years, with the divorce rate 160-165 thousand annually. As a result, more than 150 thousand children live with one parent only and is not compensated by second marriages. The number of families which do not want to have children due to social, financial or psychological reasons, increased for the last years. As a result, there is population decrease and worsening of its qualitative characteristic. This is the result of state education. Socialism teaches equality between men and women. It's from Carl Marx - it's not natural and is against the Bible. A man and a woman have a different role in the family. It is the result of economic policy of Ukraine and low living standards plus the minimum care from the state. Women are not going back to the kitchen and why should they. Biblical or not- who cares - especially if you're not Christian. Get over it. Birth rates will continue to fall until men take an equal active role in the day to day caretaking of their children and household chores. doclink

    Interesting opinion, we offered it here to understand various attitudes towards population and women's equality.

    Abortion Still Supported; Despite Decades of Debate on Subject, Pew Poll Shows Majority of Americans Endorse It, with Restrictions

    August 5, 2005, Newsday

    A new poll shows that 65% of Americans support the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, but almost three-quarters favor restrictions. The abortion issue is of most interest to people at the extreme left and the extreme right. People in the middle have a more complex and ambivalent view: They support a woman's right to have an abortion, yet they favor many of the reforms. For the first time, the study found that a narrow majority of Americans (53 percent) favors civil unions that would give gay couples many of the legal rights as married couples, even though they continue to oppose gay marriage. The survey shows growing support for stem cell research among all major religious groups - with the exception of white evangelical Protestants. About a third of white evangelicals support the research, compared with 70% of mainline Protestants, 61% of white Catholics and 77% of nonchurchgoers. For liberal Democrats, no issue facing the Supreme Court rivaled abortion. Conservatives and white evangelicals ranked the rights of detained terrorist suspects 69% and permitting religious displays 68% nearly as high as abortion 75%. Large majorities in all religious groups and about two-thirds of nonchurchgoers told pollsters they believe girls younger than 18 should receive parental consent before an abortion. The poll found less agreement on allowing women to obtain the "morning after pill" without a prescription, with 52% in favor, and 37% opposed. doclink

    The Methodist Church

    The Population Institute is an international, non-profit organization that seeks to reduce excessive population growth in order to achieve a balance between world population and a healthy environment. The institute was established in 1969 by the United Methodist Church and is located in Washington, D.C. doclink

    The Bride was 7; in the Heart of Ethiopia, Child Marriage Takes a Brutal Toll

    December 12, 2004, Chicago Tribune

    There are, according to child-rights activists, an estimated 50 million young teen or preteen girls whose innocence is being sacrificed to arranged marriages, often with older men. While humanitarian campaigns have focused attention on childhood AIDS in Africa, female genital mutilation and child labor, one of the underlying sources remains ignored. Child marriage was only denounced by the U.N. as a human-rights violation in 2001. Early pregnancies are the leading cause of death for girls age 15 to 19 in the developing world and medical relief groups believe that 2 million women are living with fistulas, from bearing children much too young. Untreated they can be fatal, and survivors are usually left incontinent. Often treated like servants, young brides are subject to beatings by their husbands and in-laws. Thousands of girls end up in the sex trade, through organized trafficking rings or by drifting from abusive marriages into street prostitution. Child marriage pries millions of young girls out of school and cheated of education, are condemned to lives of ignorance and poverty. According to UNFPA, 49 countries face a child bride problem. The epicenters of child wedlock are sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where cementing clan ties through marriage, a preoccupation with bridal virginity and fear of contracting AIDS are strongest. Ethiopia has started prohibiting early marriages yet the tradition is hard to stamp out. Among Ethiopia's rural Amhara people 82% of brides are underage. But virtually every little girl is already spoken for. Amharaland has the highest child marriage rates in the world, in some corners of the highlands, almost 90% of local girls are married before 15. And because daughters rarely inherit fertile lands, keeping them at home and feeding them are considered a folly. Better to marry them off quickly, to strengthen family alliances for the lean times. Parents push their daughters into wedlock before puberty because they fear the onset of menstruation may be mistaken for premarital sex. And the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has long played a role in early matchmaking encouraging marriage before 15, declaring that this was the age of the Virgin Mary at the Immaculate Conception. In Ethiopia, education is mandatory for both sexes until the 6th grade. But many families keep girls at home to tap their farm labor. Parents also fear for their daughters' virginity at the mud-and-wattle schoolhouse 3 miles away. Child-rights workers agree that education is the most important key unlocking the prison of child marriage. Schoolwork also gives her body time to mature before the rigors of childbirth. Convincing parents of the benefits of schooling works better than just banning child marriage. In countries such as India, secondary education has slashed child marriage rates by up to two-thirds. And across the developing world, girls who complete primary school tend to marry four years later and have two fewer children. Conservative parents distrust education as most pupils never want to go back to the farm and be their mother-in-laws' slaves. In Addis Ababa, a metal structure towers over the houses, a multistory homeless shelter made from stacked shipping containers. It is a training center for escapees from early marriages. Countless runaways end up mired in the sex trade. The plagues of HIV and child marriage go hand in hand throughout the developing world. Research shows that because their husbands are often sexually experienced and possibly carrying the virus already, child wives are more at risk of AIDS than single girls. The infection rates of child brides are even higher by the folk belief that sex with virgins can cure AIDS. A girl's highest function is to produce boys, quickly and often. Starting at 14, an Amhara girl will give birth every year for 15 years and be left with seven surviving children. For millions of child brides, initiations into sex can be traumatic. Among the minority Gurage people, brides are softened up with purgatives and fasting, and their fingernails clipped. The groom forces himself on his weakened wife and she is expected to resist. A 14-year-old schoolgirl shot dead her rapist and would-be husband with a rifle and was acquitted of murder, to the astonishment of the conservative public. In a hospital in Addis Abbaba there is the reek of feces, urine with disinfectant from the patients, women and girls whose reproductive tissues have been ripped apart by too-early childbirth. For every one of the 1,200 girls who are operated on yearly for fistulas there are at least 10 others left untreated. 2 million women worldwide suffer the devastating ailment. Husbands and families disown them. They end up as beggars or hermits. doclink

    Faith-Based Parks? Creationists Meet the Grand Canyon

    November 21, 2004

    At a park run by creationists near Pensacola, visitors are informed that man coexisted with dinosaurs and accommodates the creationists' view that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Among the exhibits is a long trough filled with sand and fitted at one end with a water spigot. Above the trough is a sign reading "That River Didn't Make That Canyon." and when visitors open the spigot, the water cuts a gully through the sand, supposedly demonstrating how the Grand Canyon was created, practically overnight, by Noah's flood. Some four million people annually visit Grand Canyon National Park, and in Park Service (NPS) affiliated bookstores, they can find literature informing them that the great chasm runs for 277 miles along the bed of the Colorado River and was formed about 4,500 years ago, a consequence of Noah's Flood. This is the ill-informed premise of "Grand Canyon, a Different View," on sale at the bookstores. The head of the Geologic Resources Division of the Park Service sent a memo to headquarters urging that the book be removed as it is not based on science, but on religious doctrine. But when Grand Canyon National Park superintendent attempted to block the sale he was overruled by NPS headquarters, and that a high-level policy review would be launched and a decision made by February, 2004. So far, no official decision has been announced. doclink

    Druggists Refuse to Give Out Pill; Say Their Religion Forbids the Use of Contraceptives

    November 9, 2004, Push Newsfeed

    Some pharmacists refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and states have proposed laws that would protect such decisions. Mississippi enacted a statute that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience. South Dakota and Arkansas had laws that protect a pharmacist's right to refuse. Ten other states considered similar bills. The American Pharmacists Association has a policy that druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but must make arrangements so a patient can get the pills. In Madison Wisconsin, a pharmacist faces disciplinary action for refusing to transfer a woman's prescription for birth-control pills to another druggist or to give the slip back to her because of his religious views. The House of Representatives passed a provision that would block federal funds if they make health care workers perform, pay for or make referrals for abortions. While some pharmacists cite religious reasons, others believe life begins with fertilization and see contraceptives as capable of causing an abortion. A Texas pharmacist at an Eckerd drug store wouldn't give contraceptives to a rape victim. The American Pharmacists Association says it is rare that pharmacists refuse to fill a prescription for moral reasons and less common for a pharmacist to refuse to provide a referral. Medical workers, insurers and employers increasingly want the right to refuse certain services. In Wisconsin, a drive is underway to revive a proposed law that would protect pharmacists who refuse to prescribe drugs they believe could cause an abortion or be used for assisted suicide. doclink

    Unchecked Epidemic

    July 21, 2004, United Nations Population Fund

    Early in the epidemic, world leaders were slow to act because AIDS was seen as a gay man's or foreigner's disease. Since then, AIDS has claimed 17.5 million lives, and 37 million people are living with AIDS. Women and girls account for 60% of new infections in Africa and a vaccine is years away. Organizers of the 15th International AIDS Conference were forced to cancel a summit of world leaders because only Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accepted the invitation. We need leadership, especially from the United States, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. The Bush administration has committed $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean but all of that money isn't going into the UN Fund, as the administration favors abstinence-only programs over those that endorse condoms in addition to abstinence. Bush isn't willing to risk alienating his conservative constituency, for whom condoms are a horror. The administration announced it will withhold congressionally approved funding of $34 million for the UNFPA because the administration claims that the fund abets forced abortions in China - a claim that has been discredited. doclink

    God, Satan and the Media

    March 4, 2003, New York Times*

    Nearly all of the news business is out of touch with 46% of Americans who call themselves born-again Christians. America is experiencing a religious revival like those that have periodically swept America in the last 300 years. President Bush doesn't believe in evolution and a poll shows that 48% of Americans believe in creationism, only 28% in evolution. Acording to a recent Gallup poll, 68% believe more in the devil than evolution. There are negative consequences to this religious influence. Evangelicals' discomfort regarding sex has led to policies that lead to more people dying of AIDS, more pregnancies and abortions. Fundamentalist Christianity is racing through the developing world and the boom is among charismatic Pentecostalists. One of the deepest divides in America today is the gulf of suspicion that separates evangelicals from secular society, and policy battles over abortion and judicial appointments will aggravate these tensions further. Both sides need to display some of the wisdom of Einstein, who wrote "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." doclink

    Philippines: Catholic Church Praises Arroyo's Natural Family Planning Campaign

    March 4, 2003, Push newsfeed

    The Roman Catholic Church welcomed efforts by the government to spearhead an extensive campaign to promote natural family planning methods. The government admitted that it is advocating natural family planning in accordance to the Catholic Church's encouragement. The campaign targets 20% of couples within five years. The health department has allotted P150 million for the program. Meanwhile, the last shipment of contraceptives purchased by the United States Agency for International Development for the Philippines arrived in Mandaluyong City. USAID is gradually reducing its condom shipments as part of an effort to build the country's self-reliance in providing contraceptives to Filipino couples. USAID is also set to cut back its supply of pills, IUDs, and injectables to the country until 2006. Reduced amounts of each type of contraceptive will be channeled directly to government clinics for poor couples. doclink

    Dioceses Fight N.Y. Over Contraceptive Law

    January 6, 2003, USA Today

    Roman Catholic dioceses in New York are suing to block a new state law that requires them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. New York is the 20th state to require coverage of contraceptives. Churches and seminaries would be exempt but not Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies. New York exempts only institutions whose primary purpose is teaching religious values. The plaintiffs seek a court injunction to exempt them from the requirement. A similar lawsuit in California, is pending before California's Supreme Court. Advocates say religious-affiliated hospitals and other institutions employ and serve people of other faiths, accept public funds and must abide by the same laws as secular institutions. Bush had campaigned on expanding the role of religious groups in using federal dollars for social services. But Democrats objected to provisions that would exempt religious-based charities from anti-discrimination laws. In challenging the New York law, the Catholic Church is arguing that its health care is part of its religious ministry. doclink

    Gotta Have Faith

    New York Times

    The Bush administration has removed barriers between church and state, insisting that the new policy isn't to allow government-funded proselytizing. George W. Bush is careful to speak in favor of faith in general. Last spring Tom DeLay, soon to be House majority leader, said he was on a mission from God to promote a "biblical worldview" in American politics. Mr. DeLay suggested that the Columbine school shootings tragedy occurred because our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial mud and that Charles Darwin kills people. Don Nickles, is aligned with the religious right. Mr. Ashcroft gives every appearance of placing his biblical worldview above secular concerns about due process. doclink

    New Moral Order?


    President George W. Bush wants support for the globalization of Bush family values. This president was born again at age 39, and he speaks against abortion for his faith. He withheld funding from agencies that discuss abortion and seems prepared to export just-say-no abstinence to sex outside marraige. At a U.N. Session, Washington sought to make abstinence the centerpiece of sex education. The administration lost that battle, but it set the tone for other fights. Members of the Congress challenged a $65 million grant to the Population Council because it is a provider of abortion and reminded the agency that abstinence remains priority in the battle against sexually transmitted diseases. This push represents a narrow conception on the part of the Christian evangelical right-wing who do not have a monopoly on morals. Tony Blair is a religious man, whose beliefs explain his support for the wars of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that it's best to keep politics separate from your beliefs. The American president campaigned unashamedly as a man with "Jesus in my heart," rescued by Christianity from his wayward youth. With Bush, the world will have to contend with a leader with a global reach that extends beyond anybody else's. doclink


    Your site on religion is very one sided with respect to Catholicism and ignorant in many areas with regards to understanding for their actions. If you are going to insult my faith you should research yourself properly instead of taking isolated quotes and stances that you don't understand and shooting them down. Catholicism does support family planning. You seem to have overlooked that point. They also support adoption. Putting out inflamatory statements you think you can fool or convince the average reader with is in very poor taste.

    Eric Laake ?? doclink

    Catholic Bishops Share Responsibility for Spread of HIV/AIDS

    The Washington Times/Catholics for a Free Choice

    All 100,000 Catholic hospitals and 200,000 Catholic schools and social service agencies are prohibited by local bishops and Vatican policy from providing condoms to HIV/AIDS patients, clients or students. 10 million people with HIV/AIDS who are "treated" by the Church have no access to condoms from their caregiver. This unnecessary transmission of HIV/AIDS is caused by a church that neither educates HIV/AIDS patients about how to save lives nor provides them with the means to do so. Even our priests and bishops have difficulty following church teaching on abstinence. For such people to tell ordinary people in desperate circumstances that they cannot use condoms to prevent the spread of a deadly disease is to preach a culture of death.