Too Many (Other) People

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As a left-leaning Rutgers law professor in the early 1970s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought that the Roe v. Wade abortion decision was the product of "concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations we don’t want too many of," she recalled in a recent New York Times Magazine interview.

Her expectation was that the purported right to abortion created in Roe "was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them."

Ginsburg doesn’t specify which parts of the human population "we" should cull, or how the creation of an abortion "right" would necessarily be a prelude to creation of a system in which abortion would be required in some circumstances. She told the Times that the question was effectively rendered moot by the Supreme Court’s Harris v. McRae decision, which upheld a ban on Medicaid funding of abortion. That decision, handed down in 1980, indicated that her "perception" of the issue "had been altogether wrong,” Ginsburg concludes.

But this means that there was an interval of roughly seven years during which Ginsburg, a well-informed and influential academic, believed that America was creating a eugenicist system in which abortion would help reduce "undesirable" populations — however those populations would be defined. This was what Roe had wrought, Ginsburg believed for several years, and if she ever experienced misgivings about it, she managed to keep them private.

Another question worth examining is this: Where did Ginsburg — a rising star in academe long before being tapped to fill the Rosa Klebb seat on the Supreme Court — get the impression that American policy-making elites were discussing the use of welfare subsidies to bring about the attrition of "undesirable" populations?

If I may be permitted a modest venture in speculation, I’d suggest that Ginsburg, sometime in the 1960s or 1970s, became at least superficially acquainted with the writings of John Holdren or of like-minded people in the most militant branch of the population control movement.

In 1977, Mr. Holdren was a young academic who helped anti-natalist guru Paul Ehrlich and his wife Anne write an arrestingly horrible book entitled Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment. Today, Holdren is Barack Obama’s "Science Czar," in which capacity he counsels the president regarding the role of science in public policy. This relationship has a certain Strangelovian undercurrent, given Holdren’s enthusiasm for eugenicist and totalitarian methods of population "management."

In a passage that reads eerily like the direct counterpoint to Ginsburg’s musings about the reduction of undesirable populations, Holdren and the Ehrlichs wrote:

"If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility — just as they can be required to exercise responsibility in their resource-consumption patterns…."

The book offers similarly casual endorsements of "involuntary" and "coercive" fertility control," including the mandatory implantation of a Norplant-style capsule that "might be removable, with official permission, for a limited number of births."

The authors endorse the creation of "a Planetary regime" in charge of regulating all human economic activity and interactions with the environment and the "power to enforce the agreed limits" on human population growth through whatever means might be necessary — including compelled abortion, involuntary individual sterilization, or even mass involuntary sterilization through the infiltration of sterilizing agents into public water supplies.

That last deranged suggestion appears in several of Paul Ehrlich’s other books, including his (if you will excuse the expression) seminal 1967 alarmist tract The Population Bomb.

As someone who shared a full authorial credit on the book, Holdren bears full responsibility for the content of Ecoscience. His militantly anti-natalist views are easily as repulsive as anything promoted by white supremacist groups, albeit all the more dangerous for being more inclusive in their misanthropy. His writings would have been uncovered in the routine vetting process following his nomination, but they never came up during his confirmation hearing.

What is genuinely unsettling, however, is this: The totalitarian prescriptions offered in Ecoscience were squarely in the mainstream of the Stygian sewer called the population control movement.

In 1967, sociologist, demographer, and population control heavyweight Kingsley Davis published an essay in Science magazine observing that "the social structure and economy must be changed before a deliberate reduction in the birthrate can be achieved" in the West. He urged governments to subsidize voluntary abortion and sterilization and restructure their tax systems to discourage both marriage and childbirth.

Davis’s recommendations apparently inspired Frederick Jaffe, Vice President of Planned Parenthood, when he composed a 1969 memorandum intended for use as a template for anti-natalist efforts.

Jaffe’s memorandum, a version of which was published in the October 1970 issue of Family Planning Perspectives, organized recommended social policies under four headings: "Social Constraints," "Economic Deterrents/Incentives," "Social Controls," and "Housing Policies."

Like Paul Ehrlich, Jaffe suggested the placement of "fertility control agents in [the] water supply"; this recommendation was filed, oddly enough, under "Social Constraints." "Social Controls," on the other hand, included such measures as "compulsory abortion of all out-of-wedlock pregnancies," "compulsory sterilization of all who have two children except for a few who would be allowed three," and the issuance of "stock certificate-type permits for children." (Nearly every radical population control system is built around the idea of a government-issued “permit” or “license” to have children.)

These totalitarian measures were widely and unabashedly promoted in the literature of the population control movement at precisely the time that the Roe decision was (if, once again, you’ll excuse the expression) gestating in the court system.

"How can we reduce reproduction?" wrote Garrett Hardin in a 1970 Science magazine article entitled "Parenthood: Right or Privilege?" "Persuasion must be tried first…. Mild coercion may soon be accepted — for example, tax rewards for reproductive non-proliferation. But in the long run, a purely voluntary system selects for its own failure: noncooperators out-breed cooperators. So what restraints shall we employ? A policeman under every bed? Jail sentences? Compulsory abortion? Infanticide?… Memories of Nazi Germany rise and obscure our vision."

Oh, those dreadful Nazis: If only they hadn’t given totalitarian eugenics such a bad name….

Hardin was one of many anti-natalist luminaries — the list included Kingsley Davis, Margaret Mead, Paul Ehrlich, and sundry Planned Parenthood leaders — who endorsed the 1971 manifesto The Case for Compulsory Birth Control by Edgar R. Chasteen. That book offered one-stop shopping for policy-makers seeking draconian population management methods.

Chasteen was emphatic on two points: First, ruling elites had to indoctrinate the public into accepting the idea that "parenthood [is] a privilege extended by society, rather than a right"; and second, that in the interests of public relations, supporters of that totalitarian perspective needed to settle on "a name other than compulsory birth control."

Essentially the same program was endorsed by Dr. Norman Myers, an adviser to the World Bank and various UN agencies, in his peculiar 1990 volume The Gaia Atlas of Future Worlds.

“Government population-control policies using strong economic and social incentives have been effective in China and Singapore,” wrote Myers, who commended China in particular for using “strong social pressure” to control its population. Myers didn’t to dwell on the fact that the Chinese government employs severe punishments — prison time, destruction of homes, retaliation against family members and co-workers — for women who have “unauthorized” children.

Myers suggested a variation on the same concept behind the “cap-and-trade” carbon credit system employing government-issued birth permits. Under his plan, couples would “be issued with a warrant entitling them to have a single child…. This warrant might even carry commercial value, allowing individuals to decide not to have children at all and to sell their entitlements to others wanting larger families.”

Arguably the most astonishing variant on this approach was proposed in 1994, just prior to the UN’s International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt.

In a book entitled Too Many People, Sir Roy Calne, a noted British physician, proposed a universal minimum childbearing age of 25, and a strict two-child quota. Those seeking the government-dispensed “privilege” of having children would have to pass a state-mandated parenting class and receive the appropriate “reproduction license.” Those who violate those restrictions would lose their children and face Chinese-style economic sanctions and criminal punishments.

Calne also suggested the development of an engineered sterility pathogen — he called it the “O virus” — that could be administered to women world-wide as a vaccine.

These malignant proposals are not just flatulent thought-bubbles blown in languid speculation by fringe eccentrics in the academic realm: With the exception — as far as we know — of mass involuntary sterilization through covert chemical or biological warfare, every method of coercive population control described above has been implemented somewhere with the material aid of the United Nations and its affiliates, and the practical support of organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.

Every argument on behalf of state-imposed population control rejects the concept of individual self-ownership and assumes that human lives — individually and in the aggregate — are a resource to be managed by society’s supervisors on behalf of the "common good." And, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg correctly intuited in 1973, the Roe vs. Wade decision was a triumph, albeit an incomplete one, for the cause of eugenicist population control.

Although it was swaddled in the language of individual empowerment, the Roe decision was a dramatic victory for collectivism: It enshrined, in what our rulers are pleased to call the "law," the assumption that a human individual is a "person" only when that status is conferred by the government.

While Harry Blackmun’s opinion in Roe pointedly avoided the question of when "personhood" begins, it emphatically made it clear that, for purposes of "law," that the term doesn’t apply to any human individual in his or her pre-natal stage of development. This, not the liberty to procure an abortion, is the real gravamen, or central legal finding, in the Roe decision: It put the government in charge of defining who is, and isn’t a person.

As judges like to say, the matter of reducing “undesirable” populations is reaching “ripeness” now. Barack Obama’s administration is eagerly expanding the government-dependent population and preparing to impose centralized “universal” health care on our society. And while all of this is going on, John Holdren, unabashed advocate of totalitarian population control, is in a position to whisper unthinkable thoughts into Obama’s ear.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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