Feminists, Population Controllers Clash over UN Climate Change Proposals

The alliance between feminists and population controllers has always been uneasy. While feminists have supported a global right to abortion as a matter of human rights, population controllers support such a right as a means to reduce numbers, sometimes coercively.

This division has been papered over since the International Conference on Population and Development, which took place in Cairo twenty years ago. With the UN now planning something called the Sustainable Development Goals, a global planning document to replace the sun-setting Millennium Development Goals, the divisions are once more emerging.

The new issue is global warming, and the solution to many is the continued reduction of fertility rates, even though fertility rates all over the world have fallen below replacement level. This focus on reducing the fertility of women in the Global South rather than in reducing consumption patterns in the Global North has set these groups at odds once more.

Rebecca Oas reports in C-Fam's Friday Fax, "During the inaugural meeting of a new U.N. endeavor on the environment, one group took to social media to refute the ‘dubious linking’ between population and climate change, arguing that population control strategies inevitably lead to abuses, coercion, and the violation of women’s fundamental rights. The Malaysia-based group ARROW advocates for feminist policies at the U.N., including access to abortion. They are skeptical of wealthy Northern countries’ efforts to reduce the fertility of women in poor countries in the name of stopping climate change."

Oas reports, "At last year’s Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, controversial ethics professor Peter Singer posited that women’s desire to have children could be forcibly overridden to address environmental problems.” She also points out that Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, “the architect of the MDGs and a key contributor to the SDG process… proposed the U.N. aim for ‘rapid voluntary reduction of fertility’ to achieve sustainable development.”

ARROW tweeted an “infographic showing countries with the highest rates of population growth are also those with the lowest rates of energy consumption.”

According to Oas, “ARROW says linking population and climate change means ‘developed countries may be content with funding family planning in developing countries as climate change strategy,’ sacrificing poor women’s fertility to protect their own high levels of consumption.”

The UN has been working on the Sustainable Development Goals for more than a year. They are set to be finalized later this year and go into effect in 2015.


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