'Talking contraceptives with mom and grandma'

Carolyn Moynihan
March 9, 2017
Reproduced with Permission

I don't like to harp on about Bill and Melinda Gates, but, honestly, is propaganda for contraception the best they could do for International Women's Day?

In my mail this morning (March 8, US time) was a newsletter headed "Talking contraceptives with mom and grandma". You know, like, "Having scones and jam with mom and grandma," or "Taking a walk in the park with mom and grandma." As nice and feminine as that. Except that it isn't nice and feminine.

Contraception is about sterilising yourself in different ways: overdosing on hormones or having a metal or plastic device poked inside you, for instance; practices designed to make your body like a man's, unable to conceive, except for the times they fail and either destroy a new human life or present you with an unwanted pregnancy.

Now that would be something to discuss with grandma: "Dear Gran, if my contraception failed do you think I should go to Family Planning and get an abortion?" That's if you wnt to completely spoil her day.

There's a video with four grandmother-mom-daughter groups , but none of them had an abortion, although it would have been legal for a few of the younger women who had unplanned pregnancies. It makes you wonder why American women had to turn out in their hundreds of thousands in January to claim their abortion rights.

And the grandmothers are the only ones to talk about marriage and children in the same breath. Their daughters planned and used IUDs and things - and had the odd lapse ("my son was a big oops"). But for the youngest generation (still having unplanned babies occasionally) it's all about education, careers, "being anything I want", and, ideally, achieving all sorts of milestones, including home ownership, before children enter the picture. Being "in control" is big.

True, the stories start with an English grandma saying how wonderful it is to be a mother, "a privilege", but the poor things really had no choice. And neither, according to Bill and Melinda, do 225 million women in developing countries who "want to time and space their pregnancies, but they don't have access to modern contraceptives."

(Really? That many? Did they ask them all?)

"Let's work to give every woman the chance to lead a healthy and prosperous life," say the Gateses. "When women can plan their futures, everyone benefits."

No-one could disagree with that. But why, if contraception is the key to health, wealth and happiness - and goodness knows, it's been around for 50 years -are there so many women in countries saturated with cheap, often free, "modern contraceptives" who are struggling in poverty to bring up kids on their own?

Has Melinda warned the women she talks to in Africa and India that this is what can happen? And does she tell them straight off that the backstop is abortion, advocated and/or provided by organisations that the Gates Foundation partners with through the Family Planning 2020 coalition?

That network, which up until now, at least, includes US and UK government aid organisations, also had something to advertise on IWD. It's their own riff on international human rights agreements, although some of those "agreements" only exist in the reports of UN committees and not in international treaties.

Family Planning 2020: Rights and Empowerment Principles For Family Planning is an elaboration of the familiar "sexual and reproductive health" agenda. "Abortion rights" are implicit in projects like FP2020, which have an official aura about them, but are often boldly stated by groups like Planned Parenthood, which sponsored the Washington Women's March.

Western governments are shelling out enormous amounts of money for this reproductive health crusade. Yesterday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that it would be boosted by $650 million from his government - this, hot on the heels of a $20 million commitment to an international abortion fund.

As I've said before, Bill and Melinda do some great things - they also sent out yesterday a feature, Alive Under 5 , highlighting the 50 percent drop in childhood mortality since 1990, which they have assisted. It's a shame to spoil these achievements with a patronising and compromising role in the war on population.