Misleading America on Family Values and Population: The Two Faces of George Bush. In this article from the Sierra Club Adam Kolton, Alex Severens, Evonne Wetzner, Karen Kall, National Coordinator, Population Program, and Nancy Wallace, Washington Director, Population Program reveal what could be expected from a new Bush presidency.
The Sierra Club provides new evidence that George Bush, in an effort to placate right wing extremists, completely retreated from what he truly believed. This report contrasts his earlier leadership on family planning and population stabilization efforts as a representative in Congress, ambassador to the United Nations and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, with his efforts as Ronald Reagan’s Vice-President and as President of the United States.
During his presidency George Bush sought to dismantle the very domestic family planning program he fought so feverishly in Congress to create...
President Bush once advocated massive assistance to developing countries to halt population growth through the U.N....
President Bush once criticized those who stood in the way of family planning efforts..
President Bush once viewed population growth as a threat to our national security...
During his presidency undermined the efforts of his own State Department to promote population stabilization through international negotiations...
During his presidency, Bush allowed his policies to be held hostage to the Vatican...
President Bush led the charge against effective family planning and reproductive health programs.
Misleading America on Family Values and Population:
The Two Faces of George Bush
July 9, 1992
408 C Street, N.E. Washington, DC 20002
National Coordinator. Population Program
Washington Director, Population Program
The Bush administration, in a move to pump life into its ailing reelection campaign, has launched a new effort to link the nation’s woes to the deterioration of the American family. In spite of the President’s rhetoric on family values, President Bush has repeatedly blocked funding for both domestic and international population assistance programs. Reproductive health care programs are not only essential for healthy families, they are a necessary measure for protecting the environment through population stabilization. President Bush, however, has led the charge against effective family planning and reproductive health programs. These programs would begin to stabilize population and provide high quality health care for families around the world.
What’s most troubling about the President’s opposition to these programs is that George Bush was once one of the nation’s leading advocates for population and family planning programs. George Bush actually fought long and hard over many years for the U.S. government to take an active role in the effort to tackle the world’s burgeoning population.
On May 6, in the wake of the Los Angeles riots, President Bush said, “I believe that children should have the benefit of being born into families with a mother and a father who will give them love and care and attention all their lives1.” In fact, the administration has, by virtue of its policies blocked family planning and population assistance efforts at home and abroad, and encouraged the exact opposite. Millions of unwanted children are born annually to parents who know they cannot give them “love and care and attention all their lives,” simply because the parents didn’t have access to adequate family planning. Infant mortality rates in developing nations have remained at the tragically high level of millions of deaths each year, in large part because the administration won’t meet its international commitments to fund family planning efforts.
The Sierra Club today provides new evidence that George Bush, in an effort to placate right wing extremists, has completely retreated from what he truly believes. This report contrasts his earlier leadership on family planning and population stabilization efforts as a representative in Congress, ambassador to the United Nations and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, with his recent efforts as Ronald Reagan’s Vice-President and as President of the United States.
Population and the Environment
Rapid human population growth undermines both natural and man-made communities and contributes to virtually all global environmental problems. Global warming, deforestation, desertification, and extinction of species can all be traced to the addition of 4.5 billion people to the Earth over the past 160 years. A recent United Nations Population Fund study estimates that in 60 years, 80 per cent of the world’s existing wilderness will have to be converted to human uses. This report confirms the worst fears of scientists and environmentalists.
Will humans survive the loss of natural ecosystems as mounting population sky rockets us to the very edge of the last wilderness in search of precious natural resources? Stabilizing our population’s explosive growth is critical if we are to preserve nature’s resources and treasures for future generations.
What is Family Planning?
Designed to educate women and their families about their reproductive options, family planning programs provide basic health care, one-on-one counseling, sex education, and a wide variety of contraceptive services.
Hundreds of millions of women (between 25 and 50 per cent of developing-country women of reproductive age)2 do not have access to these critical reproductive health care services. Simply providing reproductive health care would dramatically reduce unwanted pregnancies and the incidence of abortion. Indeed, these programs could reduce birth rates by as much as 27 per cent in Africa, 33 per cent in Asia, and 35 per cent in Latin America.3
George Bush on Domestic Family Planning
As a Congressman from Texas, Rep. George Bush was an outspoken advocate of domestic family planning programs. Arguing for the establishment of a new joint congressional committee on family planning in America, Bush said, “I have become increasingly aware of a very sensible approach toward meeting quite a few of our most troublesome concerns. That approach is family planning and population control.”4
One year later, as Chairman of the House Republican Task Force on Earth Resources and Population, Bush introduced testimony from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare which revealed that 20 per cent of American families called their last child “unwanted.”5
His task force called for the United States to provide family planning to the “5.3 million American women who wish and need those services,” by increasing funding for domestic family planning programs from $30 million to $150 million and by creating a new Family Planning Institute.6
Bush recognized that family planning programs were not only indispensable to the quality of life for families, but needed to protect the country’s natural environment. “The quality of our lives depends upon our ability to control our fertility,” he said. “We feel that a national population policy is essential and should have top congressional priority. In dealing with environmental problems, we must not just treat the symptoms and neglect the cause.N7
Bush believed that the lack of a U.S. national population policy compromised its advocacy of population control internationally. He said, “We in America, have our own population problems and the time for facing up to these problems is now. Our cities are decaying, too many Americans lack proper food and nutrition, our transportation facilities are failing to meet the demands of urbanization, and as we crank up our technology to solve these problems we unwittingly spoil our air, water, land and oceans.
Bush translated his convincing rhetoric into meaningful actions by co-authoring a bill that established the first federal domestic family planning program in the U.S. The Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, commonly known as Title X, created clinics that offered comprehensive family planning services and aided millions of low-income women and adolescents. Upon passage of the bill Bush boldly declared, “No one has to feel timid about discussing birth control anymore.”9
As President, George Bush has sought to dismantle the very domestic family planning program he fought so feverishly in Congress to create Title X. Approximately 80 percent of the 2,500 federally funded family planning clinics operate with Title X monies.10 Money for Title X programs increased every year since 1970 until the Reagan-Bush administration reduced funds by $38 million in 1981.11 Under the Reagan and Bush administrations, domestic family planning funding has dropped almost two-thirds in constant dollars.12
The Reagan and Bush administrations, for 12 consecutive years, also tried to eliminate Title X altogether and divert the money to block grants for states making it easier to ban federal funds for abortion counseling or services. After an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Congress to rescind Title X, the Reagan-Bush administration promulgated the “gag rule” which prohibits all clinics receiving Title X funding from giving abortion advice or counseling, even if a patient requests it. The gag rule had a devastating impact on domestic family programs, creating a two-tiered system in which poor women who cannot afford their own doctor are blocked from getting abortion, advice counseling or information.
In 1991 both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to remove the controversial “gag rule” language. President Bush, contrary to public demand, vetoed the congressional action.
Today, more than 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended.13
President Bush on World Population Stabilization
In Congress, Rep. Bush viewed the United Nations as key to addressing overpopulation. He argued, “The United States would do well to concentrate on the problem of overpopulation in its own aid efforts. The proclamation of an ‘International Population Year’ by the U.N. will do much to focus world attention and hopefully action on this most vital problem.”14 Bush’s task force on population concluded that, “...developing countries are also receptive to family planning programs, especially if these programs are under such international auspices as the United Nations.”5 Bush further recommended that 5 per cent of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (AID) budget for family planning be earmarked to help establish the new United Nations’ Trust Fund for Population Activities.’6
Not surprisingly, George Bush became even more supportive of the U.N. ‘s population programs when he became President Richard Nixon’s representative to the organization. At a speech given by Ambassador Bush to the seminar on “National Priorities and Christian Responsibility,” he boasted that “...at U.S. initiative, the United Nations is becoming more heavily engaged in the population and family planning field.” Bush declared that the U.S. was prepared to contribute up to $15 million to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on a 50-50 matching basis with other nations.
George Bush further made the case for U.N.’s population efforts in the introduction to Phyllis Piotrow’s book, World Population Crisis: the United States Response: “Success in the population field, under United Nations leadership, may, in turn, determine whether we can resolve successfully the other great questions of peace, prosperity, and individual rights that face the world.”7
After George Bush’s election as Ronald Reagan’s Vice President, the administration’s new policies were in direct conflict with his previous position. This resulting ground shift in U.S. policy severely hurt the efforts of UNFPA. The Reagan-Bush administration signed the Kemp-Kasten amendment into law in 1985, and blocked all U.S. funding for UNFPA. The amendment was passed under the guise of opposition to China’s coercive population programs. In reality, less than 1.1% of China’s population budget comes from UNFPA, and none of that money goes to abortion or sterilization programs.18 Yet, as President, Bush vetoed the entire 1989 foreign aid bill of $14 billion because it included $15 million for UNFPA this despite three provisions which blocked the money from going to China. He also vetoed the annual foreign bill again in 1990 because of its UNFPA funding and pledged to keep U.S. funds out of the agency in the future. Every major nation in the world except the United States helps fund UNFPA programs.
Using Presidential Leadership to Address the Population Crisis
George Bush believed strongly that the White House was the key to raising awareness of the global population crisis. In 1969, before the House of Representatives, George Bush said, -”We need massive cooperation from the White House like we have never had before.”19
As President, Bush has been distressingly silent on the population issue, and has refused to allow the new “Environmental Initiative” in the Agency for International Development to include any population or family planning programs.
In a statement released by the President during “World Population Awareness Week” in 1991, Bush said, “Because every human being represents hands to work and not just ‘another mouth to feed,’ population growth may be an asset or a liability depending on such factors as government, economic policies, agricultural policies.. .because people are producers as well as consumers, population growth can also be a sign and a source of strength.” The 1991 White House statement also called population simply a “neutral phenomenon” -- the exact opposite of Bush’s prior statements.20
President Bush has also ignored agreements negotiated by his own State Department. Though the State Department negotiated and signed an international agreement on population in 1989 which set suggested funding levels for population assistance, Bush has never honored the spirit or the language of the agreement. The agreement, known as the Amsterdam Declaration, calls for the U.S. and other donor countries to dedicate approximately 4 per cent of their foreign aid budgets to international population assistance programs. President Bush’s annual budgets have recommended funding this program at less than half the U.S. share of this world-wide drive.
George Bush on the Impact of Family Planning Measures on the World’s Children
As a congressman, Bush believed that among the population explosion’s victims, children suffer the most: “Let us think seriously about the children of the world. No other aspect of explosive population growth, such as the world now has, is more frightening than the number of dependent children. How can we seriously believe that we will have stronger and healthier generations if we continually have more mouths to feed than there are people to provide the food and nourishment.”21
During his nearly four years in office, roughly 52 million children under the age of five have died, many from preventable causes linked to pollution.22 In parts of Africa, 114 out of every 1000 children born dies of malnourishment, disease and other causes.23 Much of this suffering could be averted with U.S. assistance, since basic family planning raises infant survival rates by 100 percent. With proper funding, family planning programs could reach the estimated 300 million couples who are not served by current family planning networks.24
George Bush on Opponents of Family Planning
Believing family planning should be above politics, Congressman Bush was critical of those opposed to population assistance. He said, “We need to take the sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone.”25
The Reagan-Bush administration launched an assault against family planning efforts in response to concerns raised by the Vatican. As a result, the United States adopted a policy, announced at the World Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984, that withdrew funding from International Planned Parenthood. “American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican’s not agreeing with our policy,” said William Wilson, the Reagan-Bush administration’s ambassador to the Vatican as quoted in Time Magazine.26
The new policy denied U.S. population assistance to any private program in another country, or to any international program, which provided counseling, referral, or even basic information about abortion, after meetings between officials of the U.S. population program and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family. Bush has continued to enforce this “international gag rule” policy as a solely executive branch action, without the sanction of Congress, despite the strong support for family planning among American Catholics.27
George Bush on Population and National Security
In 1974, President Richard Nixon ordered an in-depth study to determine how population growth impacts our national security, entitled “Implications of World Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests. " The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Agency for international Development (AID), and the Departments of Defense and Agriculture participated in the study. The State Department, to which Bush reported as Nixon’s U.N. ambassador, also played a major role in the study. The document--National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200)--found that, “There is a major risk of severe damage to world economic, political, and ecological systems, and as these systems begin to fail, to our humanitarian values.”28 Moreover, the report said, “...It is of the utmost urgency that governments now recognize the facts and implications of population growth, determine the ultimate population sizes that make sense for their countries and start vigorous programs at once to achieve their desired goals.”29
Later, when Bush was Director of the CIA, President Ford directed the Chairman of the Undersecretaries Committee to “define and develop policy in the population field and to coordinate its implementation beyond the NSSM 200 response.”30
NSSM 200 clearly spelled out the pressure of population growth on natural resources as one of the major causes of wars and violence around the globe. It said, “Where population size is greater than available resources.., there is a tendency to internal disorders and violence, and, sometimes, disruptive international policies or violence.”31 As CIA Director, George Bush was in the position most concerned with such “disorders.” Just days after leaving his post at the agency, he told Dr. Stephen Mumford, author of a book on overpopulation as a global and national security threat, “I agree with everything you are saying here,” referring to Mumford’s book, “and I can assure you the folks at the CIA agree with you too.”32
Dr. Mumford, now the President of the Center for Research on Population and Security, claims that President Bush has failed to adhere to the policies of NSSM 200. He says that because of Bush’s clear understanding of the national security implications of world overpopulation, “his behavior with respect to population growth control has been not just un American, it has been anti-American--and anti-humanitarian. He has failed miserably to execute his most important duty--to protect the country against its most important security threat.”33
President Bush has also undermined the efforts of his own State Department, the agency responsible for representing the U.S. at international discussions on population and the environment. The staff of the State Department’s population affairs coordinator was cut back from three to one full-time staff person in 1991, leaving it with extremely limited resources to prepare for this year’s U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), known as the Earth Summit. The State Department also lacks the necessary staff to prepare for a major international population conference in 1994.34
The major U.S. international population assistance programs are implemented by the State Department’s development branch, AID. During Bush’s tenure as president, Congress increased funding for U.S. international population and family planning assistance by $60 million, a 21 percent increase. At the same time, the Office of Management and Budget required AID to eliminate eleven population staff positions, a 20 percent decrease. AID is now planning to withdraw support for population efforts in several developing countries due to inadequate staff resources.
While the Bush administration is spending time attacking fictional television characters for political gain, real people are dying of famine, disease and environmental degradation. Leadership through adequate funding of population assistance could have prevented many of these tragedies. George Bush’s tough talk about families comes at the very time when his administration has undermined domestic and international family planning services. He once believed these services to be basic rights of all families. “We need full public recognition that family planning is not merely birth control but basic health care for the benefit of both parent and child,” said Congressman Bush on the House floor in 1970. Yet, because of President Bush’s failure to support international population programs, more than 300 million couples are without access to this “basic health care.”
In addition to the sheer human suffering caused by Bush’s policies, there has been irreparable damage done to our planet’s life support systems. During his four years in office the world’s population has increased roughly 400 million, resulting in the extinction of species, the release of millions of tons of global warming gases into the atmosphere, and the loss of vast portions of the world’s tropical forests. Without adequate funding for family planning programs, the United Nations Population Fund predicts that four-fifths of the world’s existing wilderness areas will be lost. Per capita food and income are now decreasing in many developing countries, as economic and agricultural progress is overwhelmed by the rate of population growth --just as George Bush’s Task Force on Earth Resources and Population predicted.
President George Bush was once one of the nation’s most eloquent and outspoken champions for family planning programs and population assistance. Today, he stands as the chief obstacle for real progress in the area. He once fought hard for public understanding of population’s connection to environmental destruction, poverty, disease, hunger, and national security. Today, he actively denies any connections, calling it a “neutral phenomenon,” and blocks all funding to the most effective family planning agency in the world, the UNFPA.
George Bush has not only turned his back on the population crisis and families around the globe, but has abandoned his own strongly held beliefs in favor of short term political gain.
1 Michael Wines. New York Times, “Appeal of ‘Murphy Brown’ Now Clear at White House,” pg. 1.
2 Norman Myers. Population. Resources and the Environment; The Critical Challenges. United Nations Population Fund Report, pg. 111.
3 Norman Myers. Population. Resources and the Environment; The Critical Challenges. United Nations Population Fund Report, pg. 111.
4 Congressional Record. July 30, 1969, pp. 24342.
5 Congressional Record. June 30, 1969, pp. 18083.
6 Congressional Record. December 22, 1969, pp. 41201.
7 Congressional Record. February 5, 1970, pp. 2680.
8 Congressional Record. July 8, 1970, pp. 23189.
9 Congressional Record. July 16, 1970, pp. 24812.
10 J.D. Forrest, The Delivery of Family Planning Services in the United States, Family Planning Perspectives. 20(2), March/April 1988, pp. 88-98.
11 Data collected by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Public Affairs Division, Washington, D.C.
12 Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Public Affairs Division. "Title X: The Nation’s Family Planning Program," pp. 1.
13 Susan Harlap, Kathryn Kost, Jaqueline Darroch Forest, “Preventing Pregnancy, Protecting Health: A New Look at Birth Control Choices in the U.S.,” pp. 21, Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1991.
14 Congressional Record. July 30, 1968, pp. 24344.
15 Congressional Record. Dec. 23, 1969, pp. 41205.
16 Congressional Record. Dec. 23, 1969, pp. 41205.
17 Phyllis Piotrow. World Population Crisis; the U.S. Response, New York: Praeger,. 1973, pp. ix.
18 United Nations Population Fund Report, Sept. 1991.
19 Congressional Record. Feb. 24, 1969, pp. 4207.
20 Federal Registrar. Vol. 56, No. 210, Oct. 30, 1991, Proclamation 6366.
21 Congressional Record. Nov. 20, 1969, pp. 35205.
22 Population and the Environment: The Challenges Ahead. United Nations Population Fund Report, pp. 20.
23 Population and the Environment: The Challenges Ahead. United Nations Population Fund Report, pp. 20.
24 Population and the Environment: The Challenges Ahead.. United Nations Population Fund Report, pp. 27.
25 Congressional Record. Dec. 22, 1969, pp. 41201.
26 Carl Bernstein. Time. “The U.S. and the Vatican on Birth Control,” Feb. 24, 1992, pp. 35.
27 New York Times - CBS News Poll, August, 1987; CNN/Time poll, June 1992.
28 National Security Council National Security Study Memorandum 200 Executive Summary, Dec. 10, 1974, pp. 10.
29 National Security Council National Security Study Memorandum 200 Executive Summary, Dec. 10, 1974, pp. 15.
30 Stephen D. Mumford. Human Quest “Papal Power U.S. Security Population Directive Undermined by Vatican with ‘Ecumenism’ a Tool,” May/June, 1992, pp.15.
31 National Security Council National Security Study Memorandum 200 Executive Summary, Dec. 10, 1974, pp. 69.
32 Letter from Stephen Mumford to Alexander Severens, Sierra Club on June 17, 1992.
33 Letter from Stephen Mumford to Alexander Severens, Sierra Club on June 17, 1992.
34 Interview with the Coordinator for Population Affairs, Department of State. June 26, 1992.