By: Roberto Rivera|Published: March 6, 2007 2:11 PM
Notes from the Wasteland
YOU ARE THAT MAN! About five years ago, Felipa Cusi, an Inca woman from the Peruvian countryside, went to a free clinic hoping for relief from her flu symptoms. She was relieved of something, all right: She ended up being involuntarily sterilized.
Cusi, who lived to tell her story, was the lucky one. Juana Gutierrez Chero, Celia Ramos Durand, Magna Morales Canduelas, Alejandrina Tapia Cruz, Reynalda Betalleluz, and Josefina Vasquez Rivera all died after being involuntarily sterilized. Other women, like Victoria Espinoza, died after an involuntary C-section. And then there are the cases of Ernestina Sandoval and Emilia Mulatillo. Sandoval, who committed the crime of being hungry, was told that she could get free food by going to the hospital. Once there, she was told that to get the food she had to be sterilized. When she refused, she was given the food anyway but told that the next month she had better be sterilized. Mulatillo wasn't as lucky. Her two-year-old was dropped from the food program when Mulatillo refused to be sterilized.
Peruvian health workers were paid between $4 and $12 a head to "persuade" poor women to be sterilized. This doesn't sound like a lot until you understand how poorly they're paid in the first place. Then that $4 to $12 becomes an incentive to go beyond mere persuasion.
These and other outrages that occurred during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori, the preferred candidate of Peruvian evangelicals, were chronicled in a report to the Peruvian Congress titled Anticoncepcion Quirurgica Voluntaria (Voluntary Surgical Birth Control). I will spare you the rest of the outrageous details, save for the second worst one (the first being what was done to these women): Your tax dollars helped pay for all this. Peru's National Population Program worked in concert with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to implement what the report called "explicitly restrictive and controlling" methods in implementation of "demographic strategies" designed to reduce Peru's birthrate.
A spokesman for UNFPA claimed that it only learned of the abuses late in 1997, even though reports about them had been "circulating in international and human rights circles long before" that. What's more, it was precisely during the period of these abuses that UNFPA "increased . . . [its] support and even participation in the task." Even after hearing about the abuses, UNFPA didn't bother with investigating the matter. In contrast, Grover Joseph Rees, staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, issued a report that described the abuses and recommended that the United States stop funding Peru's program. The Bush administration has gone further and is withholding $34 million from UNFPA. Needless to say, the "reproductive rights" and "women's health" crowd isn't happy. It wants the U.S. taxpayer to pay for more of the same in the rest of the developing world and has criticized the Bush administration for not getting with the program.
If major news outlets had reported on this story—yeah, right—they no doubt would have depicted the abuses as aberrations. But, to put it mildly, the history of "family planning" and other anti-natalist efforts are littered with similar abuses throughout the world and even here in the good ol' U.S.A. and its "protectorates." And it almost always seems to be the case that the woman on the receiving end of all the "planning" is brown, black, or yellow. Of course, this is consistent with the founding vision of anti-natalism—i.e., Planned Parenthood and its sainted founder, Margaret Sanger—which was at least as much about keeping the "wrong" type of folk from reproducing as it was about reducing the total number of births.
Modern attempts to limit the number of births must of necessity degenerate into these kind of abuses because their seminal vision brings to mind liberal theologian Paul Tillich's idea of the demonic will to undo. This vision views people as the problem and reducing the number of people as the solution to . . . well, almost everything: economic development, social and political stability, etc. With all of this at stake, it's little wonder that governments, egged on by NGOs, find it hard to resist (as Tillich might've put it) negating the negations, i.e., employing coercive means toward "good" ends. The disregard for human dignity, human freedom, and human life itself is easier when you think that it's an "excess" of human life that's the problem. Stated bluntly, "family planning," in the sense that it is practiced by the likes of UNFPA and its American supporters, is at war with creation and the created order.
Earlier I made what probably seemed like a gratuitous reference to evangelical support for former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that they knew of these policies, much less supported them. But the fight against this demonic anti-natalism is a lot easier—or at least a lot more consistently waged—if you don't concede some of the other side's premises, which is what many well-meaning Christians do. I'm referring, of course, to the allowance of artificial birth control. In Humana Vitae, Paul VI warned that in the absence of an intent to "conform . . . [conjugal] activity to the creative intention of God," one of the risks we run is that governments will decide that what is good for individuals is also good for the community as a whole. He warned that we "would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy" (section 17).
The sad truth is that had the "women's health" crowd not made abortion the focus of their efforts at places like Cairo, the Vatican would have probably been on its own in opposing the anti-natalist agenda of UNFPA and the like-minded. But just as the Gospel of Life is indivisible, so is the Culture of Death. We are either conformed to God's creative intentions or we are not. If we are not, then all we're doing is telling UNFPA, "I wish you hadn't taken it that far." We have no real moral basis to ask, "How dare you?" For Juana Gutierrez Chero, Celia Ramos Durand, Magna Morales Canduelas, Alejandrina Tapia Cruz, Reynalda Betalleluz, Josefina Vasquez Rivera, and Victoria Espinoza: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
ET TENEBRAE EAM NON CONPREHENDERUNT If I use the words "religion" and "Tibetan" in the same sentence, the words Buddhist and Dalai Lama will probably come to your mind. What wouldn't come to mind is Christian. Yet there are Tibetan Christians living in small villages on the Mekong River, surrounded by the Himalayas. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Foreign Mission of Paris sent missionary priests to Tibet. Despite martyrdom and other attacks, including the burning of churches, the Mission continued to send priests. It built a school, a seminary, and a hospital. It even planted a vineyard whose grapes are still used for communion wine. After the Communist takeover, services were banned. During the Cultural Revolution, the church was ransacked; the inscriptions in Tibetan and Chinese were scraped off the walls; the church building, which dates from 1887, only survived because it also served as a school. The one exception to the defilement was an inscription that the Red Guard couldn't understand: "Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis et onerati estis et ego reficiam vos." It's Matthew 11:28 in the Vulgate: "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." More than three decades later, the Red Guard has been relegated to history's ash-heap. Tibetan Christians pack their church every Sunday, even though a priest can visit only twice a year. In the end there was another verse from the Vulgate the Red Guard, and all the enemies of the gospel, would've done well to take to heart: "Et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt. . . ." The Light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)
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