1. Archive

U.S. no world leader in family planning

There were 3-billion people in the world in 1960; there are 5.5-billion now. Another 3-billion people will be added over the next 30 years. What are the nations of the world doing to slow down this race?

The Population Crisis Committee, a non-profit Washington group that advocates access to birth control, recently chose some countries as its picks and pans for their performances on family planning last year.

India, with 850-million people, was among the winners. The United States, with 250-million, was a loser.

"We're not comparing countries with each other," said Sharon Camp, the group's vice president. "We're comparing them against their own records."

India, the first country in the world to have government backing for family planning, won acclaim because contraceptive use has risen dramatically in five states: About half of couples use birth control, compared with a handful some decades ago. Camp defended selecting the provinces instead of looking at the country as a whole. Many Indian states have populations that would rank them as large countries. The five states together have a population of 200-million.

In Thailand, nearly 70 percent of couples use contraceptives, compared with less than 10 percent in 1970. The average family has two children, compared with four or five in the past.

Colombian women bore an average of seven children in 1960. Now the average is three children. In the Moslem kingdom of Morocco, 40 percent of couples use birth control. That has brought down the number of children in a typical family to four, compared with seven children in 1980.

Only 27 percent of Kenya's couples use contraceptives, but the figure should be seen as heartening. It is double the figure a few years ago.

The countries that lost out were the United States, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Malawi and Haiti.

About half of Malawi's children are malnourished, but the government has refused sponsoring family planning programs. Only 1 percent of Malawi's couples use birth control. Haiti's women continue to bear an average of six children. Political turmoil and corruption have prevented family planning programs from taking root.

The Philippines has neglected family planning over the last few years. The government of Corazon Aquino, a devout Catholic, is influenced by the church, which was instrumental in her electoral victory and has not pushed family planning.

Saudi women bear an average of seven children because their government opposes the use of contraceptives. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries whose governments try to encourage population increases. The government's aim is to reduce the country's reliance on foreign workers. But Saudi Arabia has an untapped pool of potential workers: its women. Only a fraction of Saudi women have access to education, and less than 5 percent are allowed to work.

American families have been growing larger since 1988. The average family has 2.1 children, compared with 1.8 then. The government has undercut access to birth control by decreasing federal financing for family planning and removing access to abortion in publicly financed clinics.

But if Thailand can support two children in a family, why can't the United States? Although Americans bear far fewer children compared to people in other countries, even a slight increase in child bearing has a disproportionate impact.

"We're looking at 2.7-million people that are going to be added this year, and all of them are born to shop," Camp said. "They will (each) consume 40 times as many resources" as someone born in India.

Put another way, India will add 16-million people to the world this year. In terms of the amount of resources Americans consume, the United States will be adding the equivalent of nearly seven Indias to the world this year.

Where have all the dictators gone? Dictators are becoming an endangered species in the new world order. We always rail against them, though not as consistently as we should, when they are in charge, but we lose sight of them once they are overthrown. They're as hard to find and easily dispensable as last year's telephone directory.

Uganda's Idi Amin has lived in Saudi Arabia since his overthrow in 1979. Amin, who received aid from Libya and Saudi Arabia because he smartly converted to Islam during his rule, lived briefly in Libya. He later moved to Saudi Arabia, where he lives with his four wives and numerous children.

Amin didn't expect to be overthrown and didn't sneak out many of his riches, but the kingdom has been kind enough to give him a pension. He has gotten into trouble a few times for bending the country's rigid ban on alcohol. Either that or nostalgia, perhaps even foolishness, prompted Amin to try smuggling himself into Uganda through Zaire last year. But he was recognized by Zairean officials and apprehended. Uganda's government wanted him back so he could be put on trial, but Amin was returned to Saudi Arabia.

In Ethiopia, when rebel soldiers finally closed in on Addis Ababa, the capital, communist ruler Mengistu Haile Marium secretly fled the country. His administration officials later learned that Mengistu had flown out with an un-proletarian hoard of riches to Harare, Zimbabwe, where he bought a sumptuous villa and lives under the protection of Zimbabwe's one-party ruler and president-for-life, Robert Mugabe.

Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and his wife, Elena, were captured as they tried to escape. They were executed after a secret trial shortly after the uprising in 1989. Their son, Nicu, is serving a 16-year prison sentence because he ordered troops to fire on demonstrators, killing many.

Former East German leader Erich Honecker fled to Moscow in 1989. He is presently a virtual prisoner, by his own choice, in the house of the Chilean ambassador to avoid being extradited by the Yeltsin government. The German government wants him back so it can try him for the deaths of people killed as they tried to cross over the the Berlin Wall.

Honecker is embroiled in a suit against the German government, because it halted pension payments to him nearly a year ago. Honecker was drawing a modest pension of $1,800 a month _ $400 as a government pension, and $1,400 as an allowance given to people persecuted during Nazi rule.