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!

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

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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

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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

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ITALY

Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates (a measure of family size) in Europe, and while its population has been relatively stable thanks principally to net migration, political concern has been expressed about it for many years. Although abortion rights are protected in law, women face a number of obstacles in accessing it, including high levels of conscientious objection to performing the procedure by medical practitioners. With the election of the Brothers of Italy party to government in September 2022, conservative social values, hostility to immigration and demographic concerns threaten to lead to further restrictions.

background and RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

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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

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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

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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

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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

For developments

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

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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

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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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