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John Whitehead's Commentary

The Population Control Movement's Billionaire Backers

John Whitehead
On February 11, 1999, the United Nations Population Fund celebrated one of its largest gifts ever: $2.2 billion in stock. U.N. officials hailed the donation as demonstrating "compassion for the world's poor." This gigantic gift, however, is just one example of how the world's rich are funding population control groups. And since almost all population control efforts include an agenda to make abortion more available, acceptable and legally sanctioned, this financial support is eroding human dignity and respect for life.

Consider these other recent donations from the same donor who gave the U.N. gift. In June, Population Communications International received a $1.8 million grant. In August, the Population Research Center received a $1 million gift. In October, the International Planned Parenthood Federation expanded programs with a $1.7 million donation. And on January 1, 2000, to celebrate the new century, this same donor gave the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada $760,000.

Who is this mystery donor? None other than Microsoft founder Bill Gates. And these gifts are just a taste of the buffet of funding that Gates is serving up to population control efforts around the world. Gates, who is worth tens of billions of dollars - an exact estimate is impossible since much of his assets are in the fluctuating stock market - started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to "improve people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community."

With an asset base of approximately $22 billion, the foundation is one of the most well funded philanthropic organizations in the world. To put this kind of money into perspective, think of it this way: Gates could give a $20 bill to every person in China and still have a couple of billion dollars left for the rest of the world.

But Gates isn't the only billionaire backer of population control funding. His friend, and extremely wealthy investor Warren Buffett, has also contributed significant resources toward the issue, including $2 million to fund research on the controversial abortion pill, RU486.

This isn't to suggest that Gates and Buffett are part of an emerging trend. Population control has long been a cause célèbre for wealthy Americans. Ford, Rockefeller and DuPont all made significant contributions to Margaret Sanger's pioneering population control efforts during the first half of the twentieth century. And their foundations continue to fund those efforts long after their deaths.

The population control movement itself has a sordid history. Its founder, the eighteenth century writer Thomas Malthus, advocated cutting off support for the poor since he thought it would simply cause them to bear more children. In later years, the movement concerned itself with sterilizing the mentally unfit (a practice endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1926 decision of Buck v. Bell). Sanger herself advocated sterilization for the "unfit," a broad term that could encompass almost anyone but was mainly targeted at the poor.

In the '70s, the population control movement became more about preserving planet resources from human overpopulation - a kind of locust plague view of mankind. Books like The Population Bomb helped broaden support for population control programs and introduced terms like "population explosion" to the popular vernacular.

Today, the movement's rhetoric combines the concern of limited planetary resources with a focus on "reproductive health," placing particular emphasis - in public pronouncements at least - on female mortality during childbirth and infant health.

As for the first concern, an over-stressed planet, one need only consult the work of the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in economics, Amartya Sen. His research has shown that famines are the result of political corruption rather than overpopulation. In fact, he demonstrated that a famine has never occurred in a democracy. In other words, famines are not about a short food supply, but rather shortsighted and corrupt leadership. So, if Gates and Buffett are really concerned with limited resources, they should concentrate their efforts on funding programs for political reform. However, they may be more focused on the second point - "reproductive health."

If population control groups really only emphasized true health concerns like helping women survive childbirth and teaching them how to provide proper nutrition for their children, their work would deserve the funding it receives. Unfortunately, much of their agenda is an attempt to guarantee unlimited access to abortion for women in every country.

In fact, Planned Parenthood may be the largest single abortion provider in the world. Clearly, this is not the kind of health care that women in Third World countries need. They already face a higher infant mortality rate than their developed neighbors and their children are more susceptible to deadly diseases such as malaria and AIDS. Given these indigenous threats to human existence, one would think that killing their own children before they were born would be the last thing on these women's minds.

Obviously, a mission that really cared about women's health would teach them respect for life and work toward making it as easy and risk-free as possible to bring a child into the world. But Bill Gates and friends are funding programs that encourage the opposite result.

If Gates and Buffett really want to make a difference in the world, they need to reassess their priorities. Women and children everywhere need help with the serious health issues they face every day. Simply encouraging them to terminate their child's life is not the solution.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at Whitehead can be contacted at

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