Increasing Contraception or Decreasing People: Melinda Gates Can’t Avoid Controversy Over Women Deliver Speaker List
When Melinda Gates announced the Gates Foundation’s expanded commitment to contraception, she made certain to spell out that this commitment did not embrace abortion or population control. Successful pursuit of this “middle road” Gates thinks should cause “no controversy” has frustrated both those who oppose government-run efforts focused on contraception and those who believe any reproductive health program that does not include abortion fails women.
The Gates Foundation has a long history of efforts to increase contraception access and use. When Bill and Melinda Gates created their foundation, they identified access to birth control as a priority early on. However, while continuing to fund such efforts, the foundation gave public priority to causes such as child health and vaccination. Recently reorganizing its priorities towards contraception in developing countries, the Gates Foundation has become a major sponsor of and participant in the United Nation’s Women Deliver conferences held every three years as part of its drive for increasing contraceptive use.
Women Deliver’s May 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur described itself as “the largest global meeting of the decade to focus on the health and well-being of women and girls.” Of the U.N. Millennium Goals, Women Deliver naturally focuses on the fifth, part A of which refers to reducing maternal mortality rates, and part B of which calls for “universal access to reproductive health,” specifying contraception, but not mentioning abortion on its main page. However, critics allege international development money has been used to force poor countries into population reduction programs, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been an active participant in the brutal One Child Policy of China.
The speaker list in Kuala Lumpur was also instructive. Several panels featured speakers from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (the largest abortion provider in the U.S.), International Planned Parenthood Federation, which boasts of dramatically increasing its abortion services worldwide in recent years, and Marie Stopes International (two of the largest abortion providers in the world). Each of these promotes abortion as a central part of their mission; in fact, IPPF’s African division has a goal of increasing abortions by 82% by 2015. Even if these organizations’ focus at the event was contraception, they were joined by late-term abortion provider LeRoy Carhart and Princeton ethicist Peter Singer. Whatever Mrs. Gates’ personal beliefs may be, it is clear that those with whom she shares the stage, her celebrity, and her funding believe abortion to be an inherent component of “reproductive health,” and have few qualms about population control, if any.
Dr. Carhart has been in the news in the past year for the death of a patient attributed to complications following the abortion and for a video in which he describes a late-term unborn child as “meat in a crock pot.” One of the most prominent late-term abortion providers in the U.S., he has sued against legal restrictions on abortion. In many countries and some U.S. states the late-term service he is known for is illegal. If “safe and legal” abortion is the goal, Carhart is a poor representative of it.
Peter Singer has also been no stranger to controversy for many years. While pioneering expansive notions of animal rights, Singer has also championed population control, abortion and even infanticide. His appointment at Princeton was met with protests by advocates for the disabled objecting to the hiring of someone to teach ethics who suggested that those with disabilities have less of a right to life than those without them. At Women Deliver 2013, Singer suggested contraception will not solve the overpopulation problem he sees, given that women can still choose to have more children than he considers ecologically responsible. “I hope we don’t get to a point where we do have to override” a woman’s freedom to have as many children as she likes, he stated, but he clearly considered it an option. At least one other speaker at the Gates event mentioned forcible population control.
Gates was not merely a guest at the conference; the foundation she leads sponsors it and has a visible presence. Presumably, she does not want to make funding abortion or coercive population control her cause, either because she does not agree with them, or because the resulting controversy would undermine her larger goals. Merely stating this, however, is not enough, when one’s foundation funds pro-abortion and population control organizations, and funds a stage legitimizing their work as benefiting women’s health.
Melinda Gates either does not know or does not care about the work she is funding. Even if there were no argument surrounding contraception, giving abortion and population control platforms at a development conference would create one. These organizations do not seem to understand that eliminating poor people is not the same as eliminating poverty. Given her promotion of contraception, perhaps she has also confused the two. Until Gates and her foundation recognize the gulf between her words and her actions, she cannot hope to avoid controversy.
 Melinda Gates, TEDxChange, April 5, 2012, http://www.ted.com/talks/melinda_gates_let_s_put_birth_control_back_on_the_agenda.html, transcript available at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/media-center/speeches/2012/04/melinda-gates-tedxchange-the-big-picture
 She solicited stories of how contraception had improved lives at http://www.no-controversy.com, so named because improving women’s health is not controversial. However, her preferred method, birth control programs, has not lacked controversy, and many women responded that they did not want Melinda Gates to speak for them, and do not believe contraception benefits women. See, e.g., Obianuju Ekeocha, An Open Letter to Melinda Gates (http://www.laici.va/content/laici/en/sezioni/donna/notizie/an-african-woman-s-open-letter-to-melinda-gates.html); Women Speak for Themselves (https://www.facebook.com/WomenSpeakForThemselves); No Controversy? Facts for Melinda Gates (https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-Controversy-Facts-for-Melinda-Gates/243862725717304).
 Wendy Wright, “Pro-Life Opposition to Melinda Gates Population Summit Not Fading,” LifeNews.com, http://www.lifenews.com/2012/07/20/pro-life-opposition-to-melinda-gates-population-summit-not-fading/ (July 20, 2012).
 See, e.g., Marcy Bloom, “Health Inequality: Gates Foundation Bans Abortion,” Truthout, http://archive.truthout.org/health-inequality-gates-foundation-bans-abortion62975 (Sept. 5, 2010).
 Sandi Doughton, “Gates birth-control initiative could fire up its critics,” Seattle Times, http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018631466_birthcontrol08m.html (July 20, 2012).
 Gates, supra n. 1.
 Women Deliver 2013 Conference Registration Home Page, http://www.cvent.com/events/women-deliver-2013-conference-registration/event-summary-ccfb71484fb4492da451fabcc2679863.aspx.
 United Nations Millennium Development Goals, United Nations, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/maternal.shtml.
 See generally Robert Zubrin, “The Population Control Holocaust,” The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-population-control-holocaust (Spring 2012).
 See Steven W. Mosher, testimony, “China’s One-Child Policy and the UNFPA: A Silent but Deadly Partnership,” available at http://lozier.adeo.tv/pri-president-steven-moshers-testimony-from-human-rights-panel-on-chinas-one-child-policy/.
 Charmaine Yoest and Anna Franzonello, “Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider: Planned Parenthood,” Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/18/the-nations-largest-abortion-provider-planned-pare/?page=all (April 18, 2011).
 European Dignity Watch, Funding of Abortion Through EU Development Aid 1 (2012), available at http://www.europeandignitywatch.org/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Day_to_Day_diverse/Funding_of_Abortion_Through_EU_Development_Aid_full_version.pdf.
 Women Deliver Conference Registration, Plenaries, http://www.cvent.com/events/women-deliver-2013-conference-registration/custom-22-ccfb71484fb4492da451fabcc2679863.aspx.
 International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region, IPPFAR Strategic Plan 2010-2015 at 7 (2010), available at http://cnsnews.com/sites/default/files/documents/STRATEGIC%20PLAN-IPPF.pdf
 Ken Schachter, “Jennifer Morbelli, New Rochelle teacher, died of complications after abortion, medical examiner says,” Newsday, http://newyork.newsday.com/news/nation/jennifer-morbelli-new-rochelle-teacher-died-of-complications-after-abortion-medical-examiner-says-1.4681091 (Feb. 20, 2013). A timeline of events constructed from reports by sidewalk counselors present notes that Mrs. Morbelli visited several times and died the day after Dr. Carhart typically flew out to his Nebraska clinic. See Jill Stanek, “BREAKING: Carhart’s victims identified,” http://www.jillstanek.com/2013/02/breaking-carharts-victims-identified/ (Feb. 10, 2013).
 LiveAction, Inhuman Series, video available at http://www.liveaction.org/inhuman/investigation-4-carhart/, transcript in Inhuman: Undercover in America’s Late-Term Abortion Industry 33, available at http://ccb36d22da576671ae77-0c9cfeae658d496c507e798db67b1ef3.r55.cf2.rackcdn.com/2013/05/NEreport_online.pdf
 See Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) (upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 as constitutional under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992)); Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000) (striking down a Nebraska law banning “partial-birth” abortions for placing an undue burden on the right to abortion).
 See Pew Forum, Abortion Laws around the World, available at http://www.pewforum.org/Abortion/Abortion-Laws-Around-the-World.aspx (a significant number of nations listed forbid abortion after the first trimester).
 Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1 Philosophy & Public Affairs 229-243, available at http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1972—-.htm (“I accept that the Earth cannot support indefinitely a population rising at the present rate. This certainly poses a problem for anyone who thinks it important to prevent famine… The conclusion that should be drawn is that the best means of preventing famine, in the long run, is population control. It would then follow from the position reached earlier that one ought to be doing all one can to promote population control.”)
 Peter Singer, “Abortion, the dividing lines,” Herald Sun, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/peter-singer-abortion-the-dividing-lines/story-e6frfifo-1111114264781 (Aug. 25, 2007).
 Peter Singer, Taking Life: Humans, Practical Ethics 2d Ed. (1993), available at http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1993—-.htm (see section “Life and Death Decisions for Disabled Infants”) (“In Chapter 4 we saw that the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings.”).
 Peter Singer, “Why We Must Ration Health Care,” NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/magazine/19healthcare-t.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all (July 15, 2009) (“Some will object that this discriminates against people with disabilities. If we return to the hypothetical assumption that a year with quadriplegia is valued at only half as much as a year without it, then a treatment that extends the lives of people without disabilities will be seen as providing twice the value of one that extends, for a similar period, the lives of quadriplegics. That clashes with the idea that all human lives are of equal value.”).
 Population Research Institute, “Peter Singer: Women Should Sacrifice Having Kids to Protect Environment,” LifeNews.com, http://www.lifenews.com/2013/06/05/peter-singer-women-should-sacrifice-having-kids-to-protect-environment/ (June 5, 2013).
 Id. (Comments by Kavita Ramdas, including “[Y]ou can force [American] women to have less children.” She did not seem to see the irony when she mentioned the unjust use of similar tactics in developing nations.)
 See Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Annual Reports, available at http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/Resources-and-Media/Annual-Reports. A review of the Foundation’s annual reports shows consistent and extensive funding of Planned Parenthood of America, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation, and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and projects related to them.