On April 18, 1996, the Population Research Institute (PRI) published a report detailing the involvement of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in promoting and performing abortion throughout the developing world.
Since the release of the original report, PRI has discovered numerous additional documents explicitly describing IPPF's efforts to encourage the legalization and performance of abortions, particularly in the developing world.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is the largest and most influential family planning organization in the world. Since it was founded in Bombay in 1952, the IPPF has grown from the nine original national affiliates to 140 family planning associations (FPAs), and exerts unparalleled influence on national policymaking regarding population issues. In the last 25 years alone, IPPF has expended the equivalent of more than two billion U.S. dollars (mostly provided by the governments of developed countries) in pursuit of its goals.1
The original IPPF mission was "The initiation and support of family planning services throughout the world." Over the last fifteen years, the IPPF has become increasingly unwilling to be perceived as a pure "population control" organization, and has thus recently emphasized such principles as "responsible parenthood" and the "health of families and young people."2
Despite this apparent moderation of its stance, no other organization has done more to spread abortion throughout the world than the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Not satisfied to rest on its laurels, the IPPF has forcefully and repeatedly stated its intention to assist in the legalization of abortion in every country of the world, regardless of the means used, and has also voiced its willingness to set up and equip abortion centers and provide the expertise required to perform abortions on a massive scale.
This report uses IPPF and other documents to show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that IPPF fully intends to aggressively agitate for the legalization of abortion in every country of the world, regardless of local customs, laws, beliefs or attitudes.
For more than three decades, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has lobbied worldwide for the liberalization and eventual repeal of all laws that place any restrictions whatever on access to abortion. This stance is reflected in all of its major policy statements, as described below.
The most definitive statement of IPPF's total commitment to the worldwide legalization of abortion is contained in its 1992 Strategic Plan - Vision 2000, which was unanimously approved by its 140 member family planning associations (FPAs), each of which operates in a separate nation.
In its Vision 2000 document, which is considered to be the "marching orders" for all member FPAs, the IPPF repeatedly and unambiguously calls for legalization of abortion in countries where the procedure is currently unlawful;
[IPPF and its member associations] … GIVE special emphasis to maternal and child health and notably to the elimination of unsafe abortion, through information, advocacy and access to family planning and safe abortion services.
Activities: FPAs … Where appropriate, include information on the rights of women to access to safe abortion … Analyze, and advocate for changes in, restrictive national laws, policies, practices and traditions … Collaborate with other national organizations in promoting sexual and reproductive health services in an effort to bring pressure on governments to remove barriers to access [to abortion] … To eliminate the high incidence of unsafe abortion, and increase the right of access to safe, legal abortion … Actively campaign to reduce levels of unsafe abortion and to improve access to safe abortion services where permitted … Provide information and technical expertise to assist FPAs in activities related to reducing unsafe abortions and improving access to safe abortion services … Where legislation is restrictive analyze, interpret and provide information on provisions in the law regarding safe abortions, and campaign for policy and legislative change to remove restrictions against safe abortions. Where legislation permits abortion, inform women of their legal rights to safe abortions, provide confidential information and counseling on how to obtain a safe abortion; provide access to safe abortion services; continually improve access to these services; and condemn incidents of any political, administrative or social barriers curtailing this right. Whenever possible, enter into a dialogue with political, religious, and cultural opinion leaders to liberalize their attitudes towards safe abortion.
Objective 4: Examine the current health care provision for the treatment of incomplete abortions and actively work to ensure that adequate and humane services are in place. Activities: International/Regional: Keep up to date with new technologies for the provision of safe abortion and work to ensure that individuals who perform abortions receive the appropriate training and equipment to carry them out safely" [emphasis added].
Many of the IPPF's international and regional conference summaries also explicitly describe the organization's philosophy and strategies regarding the legalization of abortion.
For example, in the summary of its 1994 Mauritius Conference, the IPPF states its general belief that "Safe abortion is a medical procedure that can save lives and protect health: It is unethical to withhold it." Dr. Richard Turkson, Legal Counsel for IPPF's Africa Region, very clearly outlines the organization's overall strategy in the same document: "Legal reform [of abortion laws] will have to take the form of a gradual expansion in the scope of permissible abortions until the exceptions become the general rule and vice versa."
In a section entitled "Safer Abortion: What FPAs Can Do," the Mauritius Conference summary issues guidelines on how member organizations can agitate for abortion law liberalization, and once abortion is legal, participate in the performance of the procedures:
Where abortion is illegal, all family planning organizations could; … Take up "test cases" to pressurize for more liberal interpretation of some legislation … Liase with sympathetic legal professionals to develop clear guidelines for health workers on the ways in which the law can be interpreted … "Where abortion services are not legally restricted, all FPAs could: … Play a role in preparing the ground for the use of newer abortion techniques and … provide training in safe abortion techniques.
The Mauritius Conference report includes an extremely detailed 12-page long country-by-country "Action Plan," which shows precisely where the IPPF's involvement in abortion advocacy will take place in the developing countries of Africa.
These activities range from organized agitation for abortion legalization to the equipping of abortion clinics and the training of medical personnel to perform abortions.
The IPPF's activities are certainly not restricted to Africa, however; it periodically holds similar conferences in Asia, Oceania, and Latin America as well.
Vision 2000 and the Mauritius Conference summary are certainly not isolated statements of the IPPF's political support for abortion legalization. Calls for "reform," "repeal," and "legalization" of abortion laws, and participation in the widespread implementation of abortion services themselves, permeate all of the IPPF's publications.
As one of many scores of examples, the IPPF Medical Bulletin has stated that:
Where access to safe abortion services is restricted, FPAs should maintain a positive dialogue and work constructively with other NGOs or groups devoted to reducing unsafe abortions, reforming the law or other specialized activities related to this issue. Where safe and responsible abortion services are available, FPAs have an obligation to defend such services against unjustified criticism and restriction. FPAs should assist health professionals to implement safe abortion services, where appropriate, according to contemporary interpretations of the law, and to facilitate women's unrestricted access to these services.
Where Services Are Legally Restricted: Through liaison with sympathetic legal professionals, develop clear guidelines for health workers on the ways in which the law can be interpreted positively to provide a safe abortion, where a clause in the legislation may permit a safe abortion to be performed under certain circumstances. Those laws with an exclusionary clause dependent on health may require [sic] to be interpreted more broadly than those where the exclusionary clause depends on saving the life of the woman. Liaise with sympathetic legal professionals who would represent health personnel and/or clients who are facing penalties for carrying out/undertaking a safe abortion. Take up "test-cases" to pressurize for more liberal interpretation of some legislation.4
IPPF published several position papers as adjuncts to its Vision 2000 Strategic Plan. Each of these papers took a strong position in favor of abortion advocacy. The "Vision 2000: Moving Forward After Cairo and Beijing" paper contained typical pro-abortion language under a heading entitled "Actions for NGOs/FPAs:" "Monitor the legal status of abortion and advocate for abortion law reform and repeal of any punitive measures."5
Although the IPPF claims to be "neutral" on abortion, the evidence shows that not only the parent organization, but all of its affiliates as well, are in practice expected to think and act as abortion advocacy groups.
Dr. Fred Sai, former President of International Planned Parenthood Federation, hinted darkly that Family Planning Associations that do not vigorously support abortion legalization may not be welcome as members of IPPF;
I made a strong plea for IPPF to take another look at its stand on abortion and revise its position in line with the realities of women's reproductive health in the 1990s. Two years on, I can happily say that progress is being made within the Federation … Now in the 1990s IPPF must be at the forefront of these [abortion] rights, and those who are not prepared to stand by this in practice as well as in theory must ask themselves whether they still belong to the IPPF family … Now for the first time, the IPPF Strategic Plan [Vision 2000], unanimously adopted at the Members' Assembly in Delhi last October, outlines activities at both the Secretariat and FPA level to further IPPF's explicit goal of eliminating unsafe abortion and increasing the right of access to safe, legal abortion.6
The IPPF also demonstrated its absolute and unwavering commitment to abortion, voluntary or otherwise, when it opted to give up United States funding in 1985 rather than comply with the Mexico City Policy, which stated that the U.S. would not continue to fund organizations which were involved in any way with population programs promoting abortion.
The IPPF was warned that, unless it certified that it would no longer promote or perform abortions, it would lose all monetary support from the U.S. government. The IPPF refused to give any such assurances.
IPPF's attitude was reflected in the remarks of Daniel Weintraub, Vice-President for international programs for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), a member of the IPPF. Speaking to a Planned Parenthood legislative conference held in Madison, Wisconsin, on March 12, 1985, Weintraub stated:
I know that there are some people in our own country … who sincerely believe that we should compromise, we should accept the Administration's [Mexico City] policy. And the argument goes that [after all abortion in our international programs is only a small percentage of our entire program. Strategically we would be better off to try to save family planning by giving up abortion.] Well, I tell you that these people are wrong … One of the principles of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is that reproductive freedom is indivisible. You either have it or you don't.
Because of its intransigence on the abortion question, IPPF lost its funding. Its attitude has not changed.
IPPF repeatedly insists that it is not involved with, nor does it support, coercive "family planning" programs. For example, it alleges in its "Statement on Unsafe Abortion and Reproductive Health" that "IPPF unequivocally rejects the use of coercive abortions and abortions for reasons of sex selection."(4)
However, evidence shows that IPPF has supported the Chinese coercive one-child policy from its inception in 1979. Madam Peng Yu, Vice Minister of the State Family Planning Commission of China, revealed that the International Planned Parenthood Federation is one of the "major international agencies that have been extending cooperation to China."7 After nearly two decades of involvement in China, it is reasonable to conclude that IPPF is not only thoroughly familiar with, but wholeheartedly supports, Beijing's coercive family planning program, a program that includes forced contraception and sterilization, compulsory abortion, widespread sex-selection abortions, and the notorious "dying rooms" for less-than-perfect newborn babies.
IPPF's efforts to universalize abortion includes not only adults, but also young children. In a 1994 book entitled Understanding Adolescents, the IPPF defines "adolescent" as children between the ages of 10 and 19. Such adolescents, the IPPF claims, "have the majority of the same rights as other clients where it concerns health and sexuality: The right to choose whether or not they want to have a sexually active life; to information, to contraception, to safe abortion, and to protection against diseases; to confidentiality, and to be able to trust those who offer them help."
In the early 1970s, Malcolm Potts, onetime IPPF Medical Director, came to the realization that it was impossible to initiate a family planning program whose purpose is to limit population without widespread abortion. He also realized that the IPPF was (as it remains today) in a unique position to promote abortion all over the world:
Abortion and contraception are inextricably intertwined in their use. As the idea of family limitation spreads through a community there appears to be a rise in the incidence of induced abortion at the point where the community begins to initiate the use of contraceptives … Abortion is the horse that pulls contraceptive practice into the community. When abortion is omitted, then family planning programmes often lose direction.
… Predictably, the inter governmental agencies, such as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and the World Health Organization, are in an especially weak position to promote abortion services, although they command many of the available resources. Therefore, a particular responsibility falls on the non-governmental agencies; the Population Council and especially the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Fortunately, the resources needed to extend realistic abortion services into the poor, or at least into the urban, slums of the world are modest.8
Leading IPPF spokesmen have lately adopted the tactic of avoiding mention of abortion altogether, except to advocate the "elimination of unsafe abortion." While this phraseology sounds reasonable to all parties in the abortion debate, it must be stressed that it is merely IPPF code language for the legalization of abortion.
This point is emphasized by the IPPF's "Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights" which was adopted during an IPPF Members' Assembly in Manila, Philippines, 10-13 November 1995. The Charter reads:
Delegates to the triennial Members' Assembly also adopted a strong policy on unsafe abortion which calls on FPAs to advocate women's rights of access to safe, legal abortion when an unwanted pregnancy has occurred … FPAs are urged to: make known the negative consequences of unsafe abortions for women; work to ensure that treatment for the complications of unsafe abortion is available through health services; analyze the legal status of abortion in their country and work to maximize the availability of safe abortion services under the existing laws; and campaign for the removal of legal, policy, and other restrictions on women's rights of access to safe abortion services.9
Dr. Halfdan Mahler, then Secretary-General of the IPPF, had earlier adopted the "unsafe vs. legal" theme at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, 5-13 September, 1994:
IPPF's fourth challenge and one that has been particularly contentious for this Conference is the elimination of unsafe abortion. IPPF has made a powerful and bold commitment to speak out on this major threat to the health and lives of women … The only way to fight wanted and unnecessary abortion is to provide all women everywhere with quality reproductive health care including contraception and, if indispensable, safe abortion. At a recent IPPF conference [the above-mentioned Mauritius Conference], delegations from 20 African countries agreed in a final declaration to "act now to end the tragic and needless suffering from unsafe abortion," by strengthening family planning programmes, working to liberalize restrictive [abortion] laws, and ending "the conspiracy of silence that has kept the full extent of unsafe abortion out of the public eye and the public conscience for decades.
It is critical to note that, when IPPF calls for the elimination of unsafe abortion, it does not mean more vigorous prosecution of illegal abortionists; it means simply legalizing abortion, as stated in Vision 2000.
The IPPF also claims that it maintains a "neutral" position on abortion, which is curious in light of the fact that it agitates for abortion legalization all over the world.
Dr. Fred Sai, immediate past President of IPPF, recently verbalized this peculiar brand of abortion doublethink when he claimed that IPPF is "neutral" on abortion, but that it also fights to legalize and implement it: "On abortion, we are neutral … If the local FPA has to fight its government on the issue of abortion, we will support them in that fight. If the countries legalize abortion, we will help them train people to do it properly."10
The International Planned Parenthood Federation has repeatedly demonstrated that it considers its "principles" and its "conscience" to a be far more compelling guide than inconvenient local laws or customs.
The IPPF has stated that "[Family Planning] Associations should operate right up to the edge of what is legal and sometimes even beyond where the law is uncertain or out of tune with public opinion. While a government gains short term respect by being respectable, a voluntary body may gain long term respect by being responsibly disreputable."11
Malcolm Potts, a former Medical Director of the IPPF, has claimed that "There are some laws that can and should be broken … restrictive abortion laws … are as obsolete and irrelevant to the contemporary world as the New York State statute which makes it a crime to have a deck of cards in an apartment within a one-mile radius of an armory."12
In its document entitled The Human Right to Family Planning, the IPPF states that "Family Planning Associations … should not use the absence of law or the existence of an unfavorable law as an excuse for inaction: Action outside the law, and even in violation of it, is part of the process of stimulating change."13
In another widely-distributed document, IPPF boasted that "Many IPPF/WHR [Western Hemisphere Region] members introduced family planning services in their countries, often at a time when family planning was illegal or had no legal status."14