As stated on the home page, the purpose of this site is not to nail down precisely what Planned Parenthood decided to do, but rather to lay out the options they were considering. Even this modest purpose is fought by Planned Parenthood defenders, who would like us to believe that the organization is thoroughly committed to a woman’s health and autonomy. Planned Parenthood’s posture in the 1960s and 1970s, epitomized by the Jaffe Memo, makes it clear that they were ready to dispense with such considerations if they deemed it necessary.
And yet, it must be understood that Planned Parenthood is a private organization, based primarily in the United States and England (especially in its early days), and not powerful enough to merely wave its wand and get what it wants. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were not entirely sure what they wanted, and not entirely sure that a particular measure would give them what they wanted. So, for example, in Jaffe’s memorandum to Berelson, he points out to Berelson that many people assume that government welfare encourages over-population, but that assumption had not yet been tested. Jaffe then tells Berelson that the opposite may be true: welfare might have the effect of diminishing a population.
This is one reason why this site is not dedicated to laying out precisely what Planned Parenthood decided. “What” it decided didn’t firm up until the late 1970s and early 1980s (at which point, Frederick Jaffe was dead).
Researchers who want to put Planned Parenthood’s decision making process in context would do well to factor in other things that were going on, such as at the United Nations. (Where Planned Parenthood and the Population Council was very active!)
This is a good example of Planned Parenthood’s limitations: At the 1974 population conference in Bucharest, proponents of more stringent population control measures were countered by a variety of third world nations who had a deep suspicion that when such advocates thought about population control, they were thinking about the populations of the third world nations, rather than their own.
Below are a variety of links and sources that will help the reader begin to understand the scope of the issue.
- Summaries of all of the United Nations populations conferences (UN Link)
- A critical summary of those conferences, up to 1994.
- International Planned Parenthood Federation supports warning world of dangers of over population (1974)
- Abortion as a powerful population control measure (Harriet Pilpel, 1969):
For several years, we have heard warnings about the population crisis. Indeed, so concerned are we that there now are voices in the land calling for “compulsory sterilization” and “compulsory birth control,” for the withholding of public support for illegitimate children in excess of a certain number, for conditioning welfare monies or parole or whatever on coerced sterilization, and so on. Yet little is done to make sterilization easily available on a voluntary basis, particularly to the poor and underprivileged.
So why do the abortion laws stay on the books? One reason is the apparent inability or unwillingness of those who advocate population limitation to see the connection. (This does not apply to Planned Parenthood-World Population, which in November, 1968, passed resolutions calling for repeal of the abortion laws in support of its declared policy of voluntary parenthood.) [Emphasis added; Planned Parenthood-World Population was Frederick Jaffe’s division!]
It would seem that abortion-law reform–and better, repeal–is an idea whose time has come. It is more than time that it be supported by all those who want to slow down our population growth rate without resorting to coercion or compulsion. As Secretary-General U Thant and many of the UN agencies have repeatedly said, “The opportunity to decide the number and spacing of children is a basic human right.” Until such time as we have a perfect contraceptive universally available and invariably used, voluntary abortion should be infinitely preferred to compulsory sterilization or compulsory birth control, and that may well be the choice.