Gilead Watch: Protect Women's Rights from pronatal politicians

In November 2021, we released Welcome to Gilead, an original report that exposes how politicians across the world are justifying the restriction of women's reproductive rights because of fears of population decline.

The report identifies a toxic mix of nationalism, economic anxiety, sexism, racism and contempt for human rights which can combine to drive measures such as abortion bans, restrictions on contraception access and political pressure on women to have more children. You can read the full report here and a summary of its findings and recommendations here.

Through Gilead Watch, we'll provide updates on relevant developments, including the ways in which governments are using coercive methods to advance their pronatal agendas, and how those policies are being promoted by other politicians, influencers and organisations. We'll also report on positive developments where they happen.

 

Defend women's rights from pronatal governments

Panic over population decline 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!

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CHINA

Although infamous for its historical policies forcing people to have small families, China is now showing hints of tipping into the other extreme. With its leaders fearing the economic effects of an ageing society, they are urging Chinese people – particularly those of specific ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds – to have more children, whilst at the same time repressing the reproductive rights of the Uyghur minority.

For full background, read the China chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • April 2022: State media report calls from Communist Party officials to oppose "radical feminism" and to criminalise abortion to boost the birthrate  The Diplomat 23 April 2022
  • February 2022: Campaign launched to deter women and teens from getting an abortion, South China Morning Post, 11 February 2022
  • December 2021: Reduced availability of vasectomies, Bloomberg, 16 December 2022
  • September 2021: Government announces plan to reduce abortions, New York Times, 27 September 2022

 


HUNGARY

Hungarian politicians like Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have actively stoked the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory, which holds that white Christian populations are threatened by the higher birth rates and migration of Muslims and other minority groups. In response, Hungary has shut its border to refugees and has actively promoted larger families among its white, Christian, heterosexual population.

For full background, read the Hungary chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • September 2021: Hungary hosts Fourth Budapest Demographic Summit at which political leaders pledge support for "pro-family" policies and opposition to immigration, Balkan Insight, 23 September 2021
  • June 2021: Government is trying to erase LGBTQ identities, casting queer families as "illegitimate, non-procreative entities", Vox, 28 June 2021

 


IRAN

Iran has oscillated between encouraging and discouraging population growth, largely driven by religious, economic, and geopolitical concerns. For the past ten years, the country’s regime has been ardently pro-natalist. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei seeks to double Iran’s population by 2050 in order to restore its “dynamism, development and youthful nature”.

For full background, read the Iran chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • September 2021: United Nations human rights bodies criticise Iranian abortion ban and restrictions intended to boost birth rate, United Nations, 16 September 2021
  • June 2021: Iran’s state hospitals and clinics no longer provide vasectomy services or contraceptives, The Guardian, 15 June 2021

 


POLAND

Driven by nationalism and the strong influence of the Catholic Church, Poland’s ruling party has taken tremendous steps to increase the birth rate. Politicians like the minister of education are quick to put the blame for population decline on women, who they believe must prioritise motherhood, which “God called on them to do”.

For full background, read the Poland chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • February 2022: Poland ranked worst country in Europe for contraception access Notes from Poland 10 February 2022
  • January 2022: More than 1,000 women and numerous human rights organisations have contested Poland's draconian abortion ban in front of the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International, 26 January 2022
  • December 2021: Government to launch new demographic plan based on "births, not migration", Notes from Poland, 28 November 2021
  • November 2021: Government considers limits on divorce to increase birth rate, and introduction of pregnancy, Newsweek 20 November 2021

 


RUSSIA

Nationalism, geopolitical interests, and social conservatism have led President Putin to declare that Russia’s declining population is its biggest problem. Incentives to raise the birth rate have failed, and the government is turning to more coercive measures in an attempt to reverse its demographic trends. 

For full background, read the Russia chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • September 2021: Russia announces plan to boost the birth rate and "strengthen traditional family values" that aims to halve the number of abortions by 2025, partly by making pregnant women undergo counselling, RFE/RL, 22 September 2021
  • September 2021: Russian official proposes that LGBTI+, "radical feminist" and childfree groups be labelled extremist, Moscow Times, 20 September 2021

 


TURKEY

Under President Erdoğan’s rule, the country has embraced population growth as a goal to further its economic and nationalistic interests. He tells people that “at least three children are necessary in each family, because our population risks ageing”, and implores the Turkish diaspora to have at least five children.

For full background, read the Turkey chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • September 2021: Turkey withdraws from Istanbul Convention against violence towards women, Equal Times, 1 September 2021
  • February 2020: Erdoğan urges deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to have at least three children, duvaR.english, 20 February 2020
  • March 2017: President Erdoğan calls on Turkish people living in the EU to have five children, Hurriyet Daily News, 17 March 2017

 


USA

Though the US population continues to grow, a number of conservative lawmakers and political influencers have joined in the population panic. Some worry about the economic implications of declining birth rates and don’t want to turn to immigration as a solution, while many others are clearly motivated by social conservatism and nationalism. For example, former Vice President Pence joined other notable world pro-natalists at the 2021 Budapest Demographic Summit, where he stated that “plummeting birthrates” are a “crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilisation itself”.

For full background, read the USA chapter of Welcome to Gilead

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • March 2022: Many US states are passing or trying to pass abortion restrictions in anticipation of Roe v Wade being overturned later this year, New York Times, 7 March 2022
  • January 2022: For a third time, the Supreme Court rejected a request by abortion providers to intervene in the ongoing legal challenge against Texas’ restrictive abortion law, France 24, 20 January 2022
  • December 2021: Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a crucial case that will determine whether it is unconstitutional for states to prohibit elective abortions before foetal viability (threatening the right to abortion at the national level), C-SPAN, 1 December 2021
  • September 2021: Texas bans all abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, NPR, 1 September 2021

 


Influencers and organisations

A growing number of non-governmental organisations and religious institutions have been influencing governments to adopt pronatal, anti-choice, and often anti-LGBT agendas. Some have infiltrated governments while others have been working behind the scenes, mobilising an international network of allies. The Vatican, for example, has used its global reach and permanent observer UN status to promote large families and deny sexual and reproductive healthcare around the world.

BACKGROUND AND RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • April 2022: French far right candidate Marine Le Pen enters final round of French election. Le Pen opposes extension of abortion rights, subscribes to 'Great Replacement' theories and proposes €100,000 grant to couple who have a third child. Le Monde 8 April 2022
  • April 2022: US Catholic website carries item titled "Once and for all, overpopulation is a myth" written by Ruth Institute, a US-based "pro-family" organisation hostile to the "sexual revolution" and associated with anti-LGBTQI+ propaganda. National Catholic Register, 1 April 2022 
  • March 2022: Coalition of US anti-abortion influencers call for end to abortion in a 'Declaration for a New American Future'. The declaration links population "control" with eugenics and forced abortion, and identifies falling US fertility rates as a consequence of the policy. Signatories include senior figures in C-Fam and the Population Research institute, whose are featured in the Welcome to Gilead report. Lifenews.com 28 March 2022.
  • January 2022: French populist politician Eric Zemmour, known for his anti-Muslim and anti-feminist rhetoric, proposes €10,000 baby bonus in rural areas, GetToText, 31 January 2022
  • January 2022: European far-right leaders attend meeting in Madrid at which opposition to immigration and concern about low birth rates are reaffirmed, Euractive 31 January 2022
  • January 2022 Right-wing US commentator Tucker Carlson produces Fox documentary praising Hungary's pronatal  policies and advancing Great Replacement Theory ideas Vox, 29 January 2022
  • January 2022: Catholic Church in Burkina Faso opposes government family planning campaign to reduce family size  Crux 25 January 2022
  • January 2022: Pope Francis calls childfree people 'selfish', CNN, 5 January 2022
  • September 2021: European Parliamentary Forum report identifies sources of hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for anti-reproductive rights activity in Europe, EPF, 6 September 2021

 


Have you come across any other news about threats to reproductive and women's rights driven by attempts to boost population growth? Perhaps you've seen an article written in a different language? You can share it with us by emailing updates@populationmatters.org with the subject line 'Gilead Watch'.

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