How Birth Control Propaganda Triggers Abortion Explosion

Anthony Zimmerman
SVD STD, Report, 1964
December 31, 1964
Reproduced with Permission

A hush-hush part of Japan's birth control experience is the abortion epidemic. You have probably never seen it mentioned in American family planning literature. When Japanese delegates at an international Family Planning convention started to talk about it they were hurriedly shushed by worried colleagues.

Dr. Yoshio Koya, however mentioned the problem as an aside in a paper at the Asian Population Conference in Now Delhi last December. Abortion is a grave health problem in Japan now he wrote. He mentioned casually that an estimate would indicate that 70% of Japan's "success" in family planning is really due to abortion. Dr. Koya is President of the Family Planning Federation of Japan.

Dr. Minoru Tachi, promoter of family planning in Japan, is very such disheartened with the abortion problem. He is doing what he can to revamp the Eugenics Protection Law order to eliminate easy legal abortion. When promoting family planning in Korea in December of 1962, he warned officials there against legalizing abortion. But this summer, when I spoke to the director of family planning in Korea, and to the Welfare Minister, I learned that they are under heavy pressure to make abortion legal. Pressure comes from the Economic Planning Board. The Minister of the Board told me in turn that the population experts were insisting on abortion for economic reasons, because the two-year-old family planning program had not reduced the birth rate; they reasoned that abortion was the more practical and effective method for Korea. Hence they are pressing for legal abortion in Korea.

Dr. Gopaltawami presented statistics at the Asian Population Conference indicating that, after all the propaganda only about 1% of the Indian people were practicing contraception. The method is too sophisticated for the masses, he advised. To produce results India must adopt a program of mass sterilization or of mass abortion. He advocated sterilization at the rate of 2.5 - 3 million per year by 1970.

Those who are in a position to know have also told me that the "pill" would not succeed on a large scale in India. People are just not motivated, to take much trouble to avoid babies. If given a bottle of Pills, and a dose of propaganda, they might use up one bottle, but few would take the trouble to pick up a second one. Dr. Gopaliswami supported his thesis by adducing Japan's example. Even in that advanced nation which has all the latest techniques for family planning, the majority of the success of population control is due to abortion, he wrote. Contraception just won't produce the kind of population control which we need, he concluded.

The history of Japan's Family Planning Program turns out to be a sordid affair when viewed closely. When contraception was legalized by the Government in 1948, the Family Planning Association released a floodĘ of propaganda. The Welfare Ministry itself began to promote contraception, allegedly to prevent abortions, after 1952. But abortions exploded, as though touched off by the family planning propaganda. Here are the statistics of legal and registered abortions, given out by the Welfare Ministry (*=unofficial figure):

Legal Abortion in Japan
1940-48 1949 1950 1951 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1958 1959 1960 1961
50,000* 246,104 489,111 638,350 1,068,066 1,143,059
1,170,143 1,159,288 1,122,316 1,128,231 1,098,853 1,063,256 1,035,329 985,351

Besides the officially registered abortions there are numerous black market abortions. Some say there are 700,000 per year, others 1,000,000. The Japan Broadcasting Company scolded the people on February 23rd, 1962 for "discarding 3,000,000 tiny human lives per year as though they were useless."

The point to remember in that the Government and the Family Planning Association never had the least intention of encouraging abortion. Quite to the contrary, they discouraged it, and also sought to reduce it through the promotion of contraception.

The fact that abortions increased so rapidly during the intensive campaign for family planning in Japan is recognized by all. The statistics are there for all to see. That propaganda for contraception itself caused abortions is not easily admitted by leaders of the birth control campaign. Nevertheless, Dr. Ayanori Okazaki said exactly that an chief of the Research Institute of Population Problems, Ministry of Welfare in 1957. And Dr. Koya wrote as follows last year: "From the increase in induced abortions ... it would appear that women preferred the consequences of an induced abortion to the alternative of bringing an unwanted child into the world. Can we blame them for that? Absolutely not, because this line of reasoning reflects the results of our educational activity" (PIONEERING IN FAMILY PLANNING, page 84, Population Council of New York, Printed in Tokyo, 1963).

Dr. Kaseki, leader in family planning in Aichi Prefecture, says that there is an "abortion mood" in the country. His survey indicated that 67% of the women contacted by gynecologists and assistants in the Nagoya area experienced one or more abortions. One of the designers of the law which legalized abortion now states that this "mood" has become so pervasive that parents no longer love even their living children "except as pets, as a source of pleasure to themselves."

Dr. Kuroki, Chief of the Children's Bureau, Ministry of Welfare, links abortion to juvenile crime because children brought up in the "abortion age" do not feel enough parental love and therefore develop anti-social behavior patterns.

Perhaps the "abortion mood" has been created, at least in part, by the intensive anti-baby propaganda which characterized the promotion of family planning in Japan. Parents were instructed over and over again that it would be better for themselves, for the children, and for the nation, if they would plan their births; that is, if they would have fewer babies. Finally this generated an intensive desire to avoid births by all means. That is, whatever means are available must be employed. In this atmosphere it is not uprising that unplanned pregnancies will be aborted. Abortion appears to be a lesser evil than bearing an unwanted child.

Why do unwanted pregnancies occur? "That's due more to the human element involved than to faulty instruments or chemicals," says Dr. Muramatsu, Department of Health-Demography, Ministry of Welfare. "That's where our system breaks down." A Mainichi Newspaper survey indicated that 65% of the abortions followed a "failure in the practice of contraception." Apparently the other 35% didn't even bother about trying contraceptives. In a survey by Dr. Kaseki, only 21% of the women indicated that they had confidence in contraception; 29% did not answer; 50% indicated "no confidence." The majority confessed that they felt "agonized" about their abortions. One surveyor tried the question"How do you feel now about having aborted your child?" but he could record few answers. "They turned away and wept," he said. When asked whether abortion should be made illegal again, only 5% of the women answered yes. This probably indicates that they are caught in a trap: birth control has become a "must" because of public opinion and economic pressures, yet unplanned pregnancies continue to occur. Hence abortion seems to be the only way out.

Thus, sixteen years after Japan began to exercise pressure in favor of birth control on the masses, the nation is afflicted with an epidemic of abortions, taking 2,000,000 lives of children per year, and afflicting several million women with various health complications. "We are known throughout the world as an "abortion paradise" much to our disagreement," said Welfare Minister Kobayashi on May 8th of this year. "We must curb this evil practice which is eroding the physical and moral health of our nation."

Dr. Kaseki states that we should continue to promote family planning, but advise those who become accidentally pregnant to accept the child. With good reason others call this empty talk. In the present "mood" which is hostile to babies, this would be asking humans to act like machines. It appears more likely that the abortions will continue as long as the anti-baby mood prevails, unless sterilization becomes more prevalent. And it is the writer's opinion that if abortions be curbed in Japan by stricter laws - as appears more and more likely - the fact will help to dissolve the anti-baby mood. When the baby arrives, the mother will welcome it, and the mood will spread.

The history of Japan's family planning-abortion experiencing and the very dangerous situation in which Korea is floundering - poised as she is on the brink of a similar experience.- should make us wary about inept methods of promoting family planning. The danger we face is that we unwittingly promote abortion when we try to promote family planning. This question scarcely comes up in the literature about birth control and in the dialogue with those of other religious persuasions, in regard to methods of solving overpopulation. Dialogue cannot make much progress in this field, however, until we come to grips with this very real problem, namely that birth control propaganda spreads abortion epidemics.