African Catholics remained concerned about a push from Western leaders to promote abortion and contraception in Africa in the name of economic development, especially as the United Nations Commission on Population and Development began its annual meeting Monday.

Pope Francis has repeatedly warned against Western “ideological colonization” of developing countries in which aid money comes tied to contraceptives, abortion, sterilization, and gender ideologies.

“‘Reproductive health’ is the phrase that is the battleground of every UN Commission meeting we attend,” said law professor Teresa Collett, who will be attending the 51st session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, from April 9 to 13.

“Now ‘reproductive health’ as a phrase doesn’t sound that bad,” continued Collett, “The problem is that is diplomat speak for abortion on demand. It’s diplomat speak for contraception” Collett explained last week at a conference at the Catholic University of America marking the 50th anniversary of Humanae vitae.

At last year’s UN population and development meeting in New York,  the debate over reproductive health was “so heated that we had no outcome document,” Collett explained. She partly accredits this to the fact that “African nations stood strong.”

The UN preparatory document implicitly recommends policies to reduce the birth rates in Africa:

“In much of Africa and parts of Asia, numbers of children and youth are rising rapidly. Policies ... to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services are critical to achieve further reductions in maternal and child mortality. Typically, such policies lead also to a reduction in the birth rate.”

The document continued: “In countries where growth in the number of children and youth has slowed recently, there is an historic opportunity for more rapid economic growth. With a sustained reduction in the birth rate, the working-age population (ages 25-64) may continue to grow for a few more decades, temporarily raising the ratio of workers to dependents.”

Underlying  these UN debates are ‘neocolonialist’ Western assumptions about what African women want, according to Nigerian Catholic Obianuju Ekeocha, the author of a new book, “Target Africa.”

“For world leaders, the plan of action is very clear -- a dedicated effort in population control in developing countries. But in their single-minded obsession to reduce the fertility rate of women in sub-Saharan Africa, the one important consideration the experts have omitted is the desired fertility rate of the women in question,” Ekeocha wrote.

Ekeocha cites a 2010 USAID report on the number of children desired by people in various parts of the world, which showed that “the desired number of children is highest among people in western and middle Africa, ranging from 4.8 in Ghana to 9.1 in Niger and 9.2 in Chad, with an average of 6.1 children for the region.”

“Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae vitae. For these African women, in all humility have heard, understood, and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope,” Ekeocha wrote in a 2012 open letter to Melinda Gates.

Despite widespread moral opposition to birth control in many African countries, 77,225,741 units of unspecified birth control pills were donated to African countries in 2014 by Western governments and organizations, according to Ekeocha’s research.

“Populations-program donations to Africa used to be the lowest portion of social-sector foreign aid, much lower than aid for education, health, water, sanitation, and so on. But since 2009, population control funding has surged ahead of funding for everything else. In 2014, the United States and the United Kingdom targeted 31 percent and 43 percent respectively of their African aid to population control,” Ekeocha wrote.

Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, affirmed those findings at last week’s Humanae vitae conference.  

“In Africa, both Protestants and Catholics lean toward traditionalism in moral teaching … .It is in tradition-minded Africa that Christianity has grown explosively in the years since Humanae vitae,” Eberstadt said.

“As the Pew Research Center put it a few years ago, Africans are among the most morally opposed to contraception. Substantial numbers of people in Kenya, Uganda, and other Sub-Saharan countries, Catholic and otherwise agree with the proposition that contraception is unacceptable. In Ghana and Nigeria, it is more than half of the population,” continued Eberstadt.

In a paper presented at the same conference, Collet wrote that “during much of the past sixty years, Western intellectuals and philanthropists have aggressively promoted birth control as a moral response to a variety of real or perceived global problems. The West, and more particularly the United States, United Kingdom, and Scandinavian countries, have actively engaged in what might fairly be called “ideological colonization” through their worldwide promotion of a contraceptive mentality.”

In 1968, the same year that Humanae vitae was promulugated, “USAID began purchasing contraceptives to distribute in developing countries” and “Robert McNamara, as president of World Bank, announces that population control will be an element of review of loans,” Collett reported.

In the years that followed, governments began implementing mandatory population control policies, just as Pope Paul VI had predicted in his encyclical.

In India, 10 million sterilizations were performed within 20 months of a National Population Policy that went into effect in 1976. “All public employees were told that there jobs would be cut or their salaries eliminated if they would not be sterilized,” said Collett.

Two years later, China implemented its “Family Planning Policy,” better known as the “One Child Policy.”  

“This policy allowed (and incentivized) local government officials to monitor women’s menstrual periods and forcibly abort and sterilize women who were not compliant.  In 1983 the Chinese Ministry of Health reported 21 million births, 14.4 million abortions, 20.7 million (predominantly female) sterilizations, and 17.8 million IUD insertions were performed,” Collett explained.

“Not withstanding these horrific practices permitted under the Indian and Chinese Policies, in 1984 the first UN Population Award was given to Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, and Qian Xinzhong, Minister-in-Charge of the State Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China.”

At the next Population World Conference, President Ronald Reagan announced the Mexico City Policy, which states that the U.S. would not fund any international program involving coerced abortion, or abortion in general.

“Under every Republican President we have made the determination, consistent with federal law that the United Nations FPA is involved in programs that involve coercive abortion and therefore we will not fund UNFPA. Every Democrat president has restored that funding. This is the topic in part of the UN Population Commission annual meeting week,” Collett said at CUA on April 5.

In 2017, President Donald Trump expanded the Mexico City Policy and directed money that would go to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to the Department of State Global Health Initiative to “assist in helping African nations … training helping birth attendants … to ensure healthy pregnancy deliveries, to ensure the availability of clean blood supplies and clean water supplies are available to women in labor,” she added.

In “Target Africa,” Ekeocha wrote that “when President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy in 2017, a number of Western leaders scrambled to make up for the $600 million that America was going to withhold from pro-abortion organizations. They raised about $190 million through the She Decides campaign launched in Brussels, where Sweden, Finland, and Canada each pledged $20 million for abortion provider.”

“An anonymous donor in the United States committed $50 million, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promised $20 million, and hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Chris Hohn promised $10 million. On top of Canada’s commitment to She Decides, a few days after the Brussels fundraiser Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $650 million toward worldwide women’s reproductive health programs, including abortion services,” Ekeocha continued.

Ekeocha’s research indicates that the countries most aggressively promoting worldwide abortion are the same countries facing low fertility rates. Canada, Finland, and Belgium all have fertility rates below the replacement rate.

“Without exceptions, these nations are facing the real and imminent threat of a demographic winter, yet they join forces to ensure that the unborn babies of Africa can be aborted without any impediments,” she wrote.

“In their attempts to legalize abortion across Africa, abortion advocates say that legalized abortion is a way to reduce high maternal mortality rates.”

“There is no telling how many lives could be saved if even a fraction of the billions of dollars being spent by Western donors on contraception and abortion in Africa were directed toward improving the quality of obstetric care.”