Steven Mosher on Your Rights: Reproduce Whether You Like It or Not


Anti-choice “aid” organizations are up in arms over Hillary Clinton’s pledge to ramp up women’s health care in international development, and her assertion that abortion is a fundamental part of women’s health.

One man sounding the alarms is Steve Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute. PRI’s most notable “research” finding is that the world is not, in fact, overcrowded, and the organization’s “human rights projects” include denying women contraception, opposing the Freedom of Choice Act, and fighting the United Nations. Mosher says:

“’Reproductive health’ is a code word for abortion and population control.  It has little to do with women’s health and everything to do with advancing an anti-life agenda worldwide.”

Anti-choicers have been worked up ever since President Obama repealed the Mexico City policy, or the Global Gag Rule, a year ago. The gag rule prevented U.S. funding from going to organizations that so much as mention abortion. (Predictably, this policy only resulted in more unintended pregnancies and life-threatening abortions, as it crippled organizations providing contraception.)

When are we going to stop defending such a blatant double standard? Abortion is fine for Americans—it’s been legal here for 35 years and it will continue to be legal—but it’s not okay for the women in the countries America consistently supports. We send them food and doctors, we help them develop strong agricultural and economic systems, but we don’t give their women the very basic right to choose when and if they have children. For these women, there is no daycare. They can’t throw a little more food into their shopping carts.

But apparently Mosher knows more about the female reproductive system than women, doctors, or the UN:

“…reproductive ‘health’ programs exist not to improve the ability of women to reproduce,” Mosher explained, “but to cripple or disable their reproductive systems by means of abortion, sterilization and contraception. They should more accurately be called ‘reproductive crippling’ programs.”

Why doesn’t Mr. Mosher ask a 38-year-old Indian woman, worn out from her seven pregnancies, if she would like to have a few more? Why doesn’t he talk to the children she leaves behind when she dies in childbirth? Why doesn’t he ask a 14-year-old girl in Africa if her reproductive system is working beautifully when she, undernourished herself, has her second child?

Children are having children. Over 500,000 girls and women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year. They can’t buy condoms at the corner deli, and they don’t get free birth control pills from the university health center. If abortion is a necessary option for women in this country, where many (but not all) of us enjoy good, low-cost access to contraception, don’t you think that it might come up in places where a) contraceptive access is very poor and b) many local aid organizations are religiously-affiliated and DO NOT PROVIDE contraception to the women whose bodies or lives cannot support a pregnancy (or to communities where one in five people has HIV).

These religious aid groups, and people like Mosher, believe that the women they’re “serving” are meant to reproduce, even as they can’t feed the children they have, or themselves. Their common argument is that people, like Clinton, who believe that women in poor, developing nations should have the same resources as women in prosperous nations are pushing abortion on women who don’t want it. International reproductive health workers are “promoting” abortion, brainwashing women, and undermining other countries’ cultures. Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, claims that the big bad Americans (Clinton, Obama) are involved in a plot to “[get] Catholic countries to change their laws on abortion.”Catholic countries??? What about human beings? Countries do not have rights; people do. Do the women of these so-called Catholic countries want to be pregnant all the time? If they did, there wouldn’t be a United Nations Population Fund. Doctors from the developed world wouldn’t abandon their lucrative practices in America and Europe to work for nothing in Africa and Asia. The demand for reproductive health care is not fictional; it is not created by the industrialized world. It is real.

Ruse and Mosher have a concept of “women’s health” that has nothing to do with women, or health, and everything to do with their own ideology. It’s selfish, cruel, and criminal. They’re free to pontificate elsewhere, but their arrogance has no place in international aid.

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  • amanda-marcotte

    I love how anti-choicers are selective in this argument about how because a body can do something—in this case, produce one child after another—it should.  If they believe this, then they should not get any kind of medical intervention.  If your heart seizes up and kills you, who are we to play god and intercede?  Because it can do that and it does that without interference, clearly it was meant to be.

  • booga614

    Framing this discussion in terms of ‘overcrowding’ and ‘worn out women’ is counterproductive. I agree 100% that all women should have the option to abort if necessary, to access birth control, and to access all maternal and child healthcare regardless of the country they reside in. However, painting third world women as ‘worn out’ and the earth as overcrowded is a Malthusian argument and has (in the past) led to forced sterilization of ‘worn out poor women’ who WANT more children (India). This argument insinuates that poor women shouldn’t be having babies if they can’t take care of them and it is the other evil side to argument that women shouldn’t have the choice to abort or prevent any baby.
    Fertility is highly valued in a lot of cultures–and I’m not sure it shouldn’t be. Overcrowding is a relative term, and the truth is that there IS enough food, and there probably ARE enough resources, just not enough for this earth to live like we Americans and British and French and German and Japanese, etc.. So, when you say that ‘these poor women’ are worn out from having so many babies, remember that many of them are wanted and in fact may be the very definition of wealth to a ‘poor worn-out woman’. In my experience, Catholic and Protestant efforts ARE providing family planning services to patients (including condoms and birth control; not abortion– but I did meet a Catholic man working at a Marie Stopes clinic!) Support those efforts, and resist engaging in an Malthusian argument that ultimately makes you just as callous as those people pontificating anti-choice discourse.

  • crowepps

    This argument insinuates that poor women shouldn’t be having babies if they can’t take care of them

    Are you seriously arguing that having babies without the resources to take care of them is perfectly okay because their brief lives have served a purpose in ‘proving fertility’?  That’s right up there in disregard for any intrinsic value of the babies themselves with ‘have an early full-term pregnancy to prevent breast cancer’.

  • princess-rot

    Silly, silly Amanda. You should know "non-interference" only applies to females and brown people. They’re not as important as rich white males in first world countries. Bet my bottom dollar that if Mosher’s crotch seized up, he’d be the first in line for Viagra from his private doctor. "What? Sexual health is important to other people, too? Screw that, my boner is dead!"

    /cynic