Across the world, governments are introducing policies to increase birth rates which restrict women’s rights over their bodies. Population Matters’ Welcome to Gilead report uncovers the toxic mix of patriarchal attitudes, ethnic nationalism, contempt for human rights and panic over population decline that is driving abuses such as restrictions on contraception access, abortion bans and hostile propaganda targeting childfree people.
Call on your political representative to speak out against these violations and take action.
Individualised and personal letters are always the most effective when contacting political representatives. You can adapt or edit the letters below if helpful, or send them as written if you are short of time. The first is for use in countries in which no abuses are taking place, the second for where restrictions are already being introduced.
Dear [representative’s name]
A new report produced by campaigning charity Population Matters provides disturbing evidence of how policies restricting women’s reproductive rights internationally are increasingly being driven by a nationalistic pronatal agenda, with the objective of increasing birth rates. I am writing to call on you to speak out against these abuses, and to press our government to challenge them wherever they occur.
The report is called Welcome to Gilead in reference to the repressive and misogynistic society described in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It describes how in Poland, Hungary, China, Iran, Turkey and Russia, politicians are proclaiming the importance of population growth, while simultaneously introducing policies which limit access to contraception and abortion, and stigmatise women who choose not to be mothers. It also reveals how politicians, political parties and pressure groups in the US and Germany are now beginning to make the same linkage – of particular concern in the US where abortion rights are under threat. The examples the report describes are only representative of a wider problem, with Eastern Europe a particular hotspot for this agenda.
In many cases, these policies are driven too by an explicitly nationalistic agenda, hostile to other countries and cultures, and opposed to immigration as a mechanism for increasing population. The combination of nationalism, patriarchal attitudes and unjustified panic about population represents a particular risk of such abuses occurring, and the report calls on policymakers, human rights defenders and all those delivering and defending sexual and reproductive health and rights to recognise this emerging threat and oppose it. You can see the full report here and a summary of it here.
I call on you to use appropriate opportunities to speak out against these abuses and defend the right of women to have the size of families they choose, or be childfree. I also urge you to press our government to make a statement condemning these abuses, to use its mechanisms for monitoring and defending human rights abuses to document them, and to use its diplomatic leverage to press countries adopting them to reverse their policies, and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Template for countries where rights are being restricted. You may wish to specify the abuses taking place, where appropriate.
Dear [representative’s name]
I am profoundly concerned that our government is adopting policies which compromise the bodily autonomy of women and sexual and reproductive rights and health to which everyone is entitled. There are no justifications for such abuses, but I am especially concerned that they are being motivated at least in part by the desire to boost our country’s population. While I support measures which ensure that parents are not discriminated against and which promote gender equality through removing barriers preventing women having families, limiting their capacity to freely choose their family size is an abuse of a fundamental human right. Stigmatising those who choose smaller families or to be childfree is also completely unacceptable.
Our country’s future does not depend on more babies being born and, in particular, placing focus on the birth of babies from any particular national, religious or ethnic group can never be justified. A reduced birth rate provides an opportunity to improve quality of life by reducing pressure on infrastructure and services, and reducing our total environmental impact. There are multiple measures available to address the challenges which accompany demographic change which do not include increasing the birth rate.
I urge you to speak strongly out against such abuses and to do all in your power to ensure that our government stops all restrictions on reproductive rights, and is in full compliance with the principles identified in the Cairo Declaration on Population and Development.
How to identify and contact your political representative
Follow the links below. We are sorry that we can only provide a limited number of countries and options, primarily English-speaking. An internet search in your country will provide further information if it is not listed here.
Australia: Senators and MPs
Canada: House of Commons
European Union: Members of the European Parliament
New Zealand: Contact MPs
Republic of Ireland: Senators and MPs
South Africa: People’s Assembly
US: House of Representatives; Senate
Download the report
Read the full 25-page Welcome to Gilead report.