Phllip Jenkins has an interesting article on how fertility is falling in the Muslim world.
In just the last thirty years or so, those very Middle Eastern countries that used to teem with children and adolescents have gone through a startling demographic transformation. Since the mid-1970s, Algeria‘s fertility rate has collapsed from over 7 to 1.75, Tunisia’s from 6 to 2.03, Morocco’s from 6.5 to 2.21, Libya’s from 7.5 to 2.96. Today, Algeria’s rate is roughly equivalent to that of Denmark or Norway; Tunisia’s is comparable to France.
This doesn’t hold for such very poor ignorant countries like Yemen or Somalia, but give them time. Mark Steyn used to quip that the reason female literacy correlates with a decrease in births is that as soon as Muslim women learn to read they start reading the instructions on the birth control pills.
So a good argument to stay in Afghanistan is to protect the schools for females, the clinics for prenatal care etc. that are destroyed by the Taliban every chance they get.
The western press, that loves violence and loves to imply that a frenzied mob seeking a photo op or a killing is representative of the entire populace, ignores that there are no women in the mob.
Ah, but women have no rights, right? And all the men are abusive? No, because human beings are human, and every man knows that if mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.
Despite the complains that the Philippine gov’t isn’t promoting population control, the dirty little secret is that fertility is falling here too.
The problem? The Catholic church and many of the Muslim authorities oppose it, because the recognize that it means pushing artificial birth control in the public clinics in order to cut the population, not to empower the women. In too many countries, this has lead to women being pressured to use contraception or even sterilization against their will.
Actually, I don’t have a problem with clinics including pills with the NFP in our clinics. The problem I have is this:
We lost one of the local farmer’s wives to high blood pressure/eclampsia about a year ago.
Yes, there was a midwife in the area, but her “fee” was too high, so the woman didn’t see why she needed prenatal care.
But when she got sick and “swelled up”, they called us to help, and my daughter in law found her so sick that she called the local ambulance to take her immediately to the hospital in the nearby city. But by the time this was done (about three hours) she was already convulsing. The treatment for eclampsia is immediate delivery, so they stablized her seizures and did a Caesarian section. She had twins, both alive and well. But the seizures caused brain swelling, and she died three days later.
So, if you are a government with limited funds, do you give out free condoms/pills, or spend the money to fund free midwives in the villages? Without linking these two things, you are imposing the west’s desire for fewer poor people, not “empowering women”.
And even if the medical providers and their medicines are supposed to be “free”, do you check if the free medical providers demand an extra “gift” from the impoverished patients?
Condoms are available in the grocery stores here, right next to the bubblegum and batteries. But they do cost money.
Yet “free” condoms tend to be lost, mislaid, or used for other things.
And a condom that has been sitting around in the heat tends to be unreliable, so the girls who were talked into having “safe sex” by the roguish boyfriends end up pregnant anyway (which is the dirty little secret of the “safe sex” education that telling children “safe sex” is okay leads to more sex. But the dirty little secret is that the “real” pregnancy rate on condoms is 30 percent in the US, not the theoretical 7 percent you often see printed in arguments).
The government, of course, could just promote “responsible parenthood”, leaving out the “sex is okay for singles” part, and offering pills or NFP to couples after checking on their religious beliefs.
There is an “unmet” need here for fertility, but the worry by many of the bishops is that artificial birth control, that separates sex from love and children, distorts society.Â They argue that the safesex/promiscuity ideology will destroy families here as it did in the US, and since the family is the main “social umbrella”, destroying the family will lead to terrible societal problems.
Of course, as the bishops also point out, when the government here promotes jobs overseas (leaving family behind) this policy doesn’t help strengthen the family either. And the bishops point out that if the politicians weren’t so greedy for bribes, and if you got rid of some of the corruption, that a lot of businesses would hire our hard working and well trained people to work in factories here instead of hiring them to work in factories overseas.
So when you read all the pro Planned parenthood propaganda funding debate in the US, remember, instead of using the money to start private clinics to give out birth control, what they are using the money to pressure the politicians to pass things like the “Reproductive Health Bill” instead, trying to change the culture to what they feel is right,Â instead of trying to work within the culture.
Yet I’ve done family planning work in Africa, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Most cultures support family limitations for the health of the mother and child. For example, the Mullahs in Iran have proven that you can promote family values and family planning.
The dirty little secret is that women themselves can chose to have fewer children, but that the huge amounts of US money is more about population control than it is about empowering women, or strengthening families.
And the real question is if the government here in the Philippines is aware that some of these people have a larger agenda.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.