World Population Conference Bucharest 1974

Anthony Zimmerman
August 19, 1974
Reproduced with Permission

Through the kind efforts of the Randy Engels Foundation a group of pro-life people from various countries came together at Bucharest to attend the Forum associated with the World Population Congress August 19-31, 1974. We debated at the Forum, and had access to Congress Sessions as well, and became fast friends as we experienced the hardships and peculiarities of life behind the iron curtain in a communist country.

For example, when the UN people in charge of printing facilities did not allow us to use their machines to print our partisan materials, including the letter to Mr. Raphael Salas which follows below, two of us went to town to try to find a printer. We wore Roman collars. At one printer a middle age man glanced at our collars then waved us aside: he cannot dare to print it here, but he will take us to another plant, which he did. When alone he told us that he had been in the USA as a young man, and worked at a gasoline station in Los Angeles. He became homesick and wanted to go back to his homeland in Romania. The people at the gas station told him it was utterly foolish, he should stay in America and keep his freedom. But he decided to return to Romania anyway. At this point he stopped. He cried, wept, and could say no more. We went into the store, and had this letter printed on very bad paper, but we handed it to Mr. Salas, then Executive Director, UN Fund for Population Activities. (May he rest in peace.


Executive Director, United Nations Fund For Population Activities

May he rest in peace!

Dear Mr. Salas:

We members and friends of the Coalition for Life are confident that you will always be the first to prevent use of your Fund for purposes which are inhumanitarian, unhealthy, and immoral. We refer to the financing of programs launched under the banner of contraception, whose end results are abortion on a large scale.

As you know, abortion has spread to almost every country which has undertaken the promotion of contraception. It has become evident that one follows the other. Mothers in these countries resort to abortion in one sense voluntary, but in another not without coercion imposed by the pressure of public opinion and newly-formed socio-economic patterns.

But abortion is, for many mothers, a brutal experience in the light of their traditional humanitarian sentiments and moral values. For example, when the Prime Minister of Japan questioned his people in 1969, 88% of the women answered that they consider abortion to be an evil thing, or something which is not good in itself but which has been made unavoidable by circumstances. And 31% of those mothers who had experienced abortion declared that their health was not the same, as before, because medical complications had resulted from the operation. We believe that surveys among women in other countries will yield similar findings.

We. participants in the population deliberations at Bucharest, ask you, therefore, not to allocate funds to programs which would tend to spread the practice of abortion. We suggest that you aim to motivate countries to control this inhumanitarian, unhealthy, and evil practice. We urge that you disqualify countries from use of the Fund, if they intend to use its resources, whether directly or indirectly, to promote abortion.

(Signed): Coalition for Life
P.O. Box 315, Export, Pa. 156329 USA (12 signatures)
Plus 17 sympathetic Associations


Anthony Zimmerman, SVD, STD, Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan

Prepared for World Population Tribune, Bucharest, Aug. 19-31, 1974


1. The DRAFT WORLD POPULATION PLAN OF ACTION which you prepared so carefully for presentation to the World Population Congress may evolve into an instrument of immense importance for mankind. May I select points for comment and criticism I write as one who has long been interested in applying Catholic social thought to population questions....

6. Another point of criticism is the easy air of optimism you seem to have of promoting birth control by government action and mass media, while scarcely mentioning the skeleton in the clauset, namely abortion. You know so well - it appears in many studies - that action policies to control births are everywhere detonating abortion explosions. But almost like Cinderella with stars in the eyes, you mention the one without much mention of the other. This is not worthy of scientists who must be realists; much less is it to be expected of a body which prepares a DRAFT for action which can affect mankind so profoundly. Has any nation ever succeeded in a PLAN OF ACTION to reduce births, without falling into the quicksand of abortion? If so, we should like to hear about it, since we know only the other experience; namely that every nation which buys mass birth control buys abortion in the same package. I wish you would come clean on this point in the revised DRAFT. If you don't, are you not like the wolf in the fable, who puts on grandmother's clothes and speaks to Little Red Riding Hood with sweet rasping tones, hiding murderous designs on her life.....

10. In No. 13 of the DRAFT you take up the problem of socio-economic development versus demographic growth. Because of so much mis-understanding about this problem in the world - where perhaps most still accept the simplistic formula that fewer births mean more food for the population - you might have helped mankind by setting the record straight here, with a little more information. You must recall how Dr. Kuznets told the delegates at the Second World Population Congress at Belgrade:

11. "There was, and is, no invariant and significant direct effect of population increase on the rate of rise of per capita product ... Under certain conditions, population increases have an expansive effect on per capita product; under other conditions, such increases have a depressive effect.... Policy choices may exist, therefore, between those bearing directly on population growth and those bearing directly on sources of growth of product (World Population Conference, Vol. 1, pp. 307-309; UN, 1966).

12. You should tell the world that policies bearing directly on sources of growth of product may be an alternative to population policies according to informed opinion. In fact, you may as well tell the whole truth, saying that population policies as such are slow, clumsy, usually ineffective, and do not increase production by themselves; whereas policies to influence growth give much greater promise of desired results. You would do the world an immense service if you would urge it to turn the potential energies of young and growing populations into actual energies to power the socio-economic development process; in other words, to perform the task of making the most of population growth, instead of being content with making the best of it, or even grumbling about it......

16...... You urged the world long enough already to spur that tired horse of birth control. It is waiting for new and more imaginative approaches from you now. Thank you.

(Signed) Fr. Anthony Zimmerman SVD

Report to Catholic Shimbun, Sept. 2, 1974

......The Holy See held a press conference to a very crowded audience at Bucharest on August 22nd. Bishop Edouard Gagnon, leader of the Vatican Delegation, spoke of a "crisis of existence" as the true population problem. When asked about the meaning, one of the panel, Monsignor Riedmatten, responded that there is evidence of a negative attitude towards life, an attitude which can destroy not only the lives of unborn children, destroy family life, but also lead to the eventual downfall and disappearance of nations.

At the same news conference the Holy See stated that:

We will not pass over the fact that the passages of the Plan relative to contraception are not acceptable to us. They are not acceptable in what concerns contraceptives in regard to which the Catholic Church has already made her position clear: and is aware of the-need to reaffirm and maintain her teaching without ambiguity. Nor are these passages acceptable because we have no guarantee that those who have recourse to abortion and to its legalization will not appeal to them (to promote such plans in various countries).

One of the reporters asked whether the Holy See does not stand isolated in this opposition to contraception because many Catholics and theologians now accept it. But Msgr. Riedmatten said that the Holy See will never change, and that the Catholic world, despite difficulties and problems, accepts its teaching. Dr. Lejune from France, also on the panel, who is noted for his work in genetics, then intervened to say: "If I thought that the Holy See would evolve and change its teachings, e.g. about abortion, then I, as a doctor, would not agree to be a member of the Holy See delegation here.

There was a strong group of Catholics who are "pro-life" at the Conference of which I was a member. We also held a news conference revealing that there were now 83,000 doctors who signed as members of a new organization to work for life and to oppose abortion. We sent an open letter to Mr. Salas, Director of tie United Nations Fund for Population activities, urging him to use the FUND in a way which will decrease abortions throughout the world, and to disqualify countries from use of the fund if they promote abortions directly or indirectly; in the letter we quoted the findings of the survey made in 1969 by the Office of the Prime Minister in Japan; the survey indicated that 88 percent of the women in Japan consider abortion to be an evil thing, or something which is not good in itself but which has been made inevitable by present circumstances. And 31 percent of those mothers who had experienced abortion declared in the survey that their health was not as good as before the operation.

Our pro-life group at the Conference favors large families; in fact, three of its members/have 8 children. The group also promotes "natural family planning" that is, use of the ovulation method, the basal temperature method, and such more sophisticated methods employing periodic abstinence. There is widespread use of the methods now in America, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and others. Eventually the group hopes to gain consultative status with the United Nations, and to get funds to promote natural family planning....

May I add that I think that the newspapers and mass media have created a totally artificial problem when they make us afraid of more people. It is like the artificial problem created in the Shinkansen when the cooling system broke down. Outside it was hot, but inside everybody was shivering from cold. The problem that had to be fixed was the cooling system, not the weather outside. The problem in Japan is not that it is overpopulated, but the mass media have created an artificial atmosphere of public opinion which makes everybody afraid of overpopulation. Fix the media and you fix the problem.