Population Control Needs a Backup Plan

Edd Doerr

Climate change is real and threatens our whole planet. It is anthropogenic, caused by humans. Media coverage of it is spotty and inadequate. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised that we have only a dozen or so years left to get serious about dealing with it. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his followers have been thumbing their noses at the science community that has made the problem abundantly clear and deadly serious.

Please bear with me as I repeat a partial list of the inadequately discussed components and concomitants of climate change:

  • The Antarctic, Greenland and glacier ice melt
  • Permafrost and tundra thaw releasing methane and carbon dioxide
  • Rising sea levels (with 40 percent of world population living in coastal areas)
  • Ocean acidification
  • Coral reef die-off
  • Deforestation
  • Desertification
  • Soil erosion and nutrient loss
  • Clean water shortages
  • Biodiversity shrinkage (a “sixth extinction”)
  • Toxic waste accumulation on land and sea
  • Overuse of both renewable and nonrenewable resources
  • Excessive use of agricultural land for beef production
  • Possible disease pandemics
  • Increasing sociopolitical disorder and violence.

Driving all this is human overpopulation, up from two billion or so in 1945 to nearly eight billion today, and as many as an unsustainable ten billion by 2050. The answer, of course, is universal access to contraception and safe, legal abortion, which scientists have been recommending for over fifty years and which the Republican Ford administration recommended in its 1975 National Security Study Memorandum 200 report.

Now get this. For years now there have been over 56 million abortions worldwide per year and widespread use of contraceptives. Half of those abortions were unsafe and/or illegal, and over 22,000 women die every year from unsafe, illegal abortions. By comparison, there are about 130 million children born each year worldwide, and over 300,000 women die giving birth per year, mostly in undeveloped countries. Clearly, continuing a pregnancy until birth is more dangerous for women than having an abortion. But world population continues to increase, especially in southern Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America—including Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, whose messed-up and overpopulated societies have been driving refugees to our southern border. Blame for all this falls largely on the shoulders of an array of religious Right leaders (of many stripes) and the timid politicians they are able to influence.

To be blunt, women suffer and die, and our planet is becoming uninhabitable, because of male religious and political leaders.

Obviously, We the People of this planet have to reduce the excessive influence of the worst of these religious leaders and politicians and see that all women everywhere have access to contraception and safe abortion. But even then, there needs to be a backup plan. And that backup plan is voluntary sterilization, not tubal ligation (TL), which is expensive, requires a surgeon and a hospital, and is not all that safe for many women. The answer could well be quinacrine sterilization (QS), which is cheap, effective, and has been tested.

Quinacrine has been used for many decades to treat malaria and other diseases, so it is not something new and untested.

In quinacrine sterilization—always voluntary, of course—seven pellets (of 36 mg each) are placed in a woman’s Fallopian tubes using a modified IUD inserter in two doses one month apart. This produces scarring and permanent sterilization. QS has been administered by over 1,500 trained healthcare professionals, usually nurses or midwives, and has been found safe. QS is cheap, less than $1 per dose, and has been used by a reported 200,000 women in several countries. QS has been the subject of peer-reviewed articles attesting to its safety.

Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to permit a field test of QS in the United States, apparently due to pressures from economic and conservative religious interests.

The bottom line is that QS could decrease the abortion rate, greatly improve overall women’s health, and rein in population growth.

(For assistance with the QS matter, I would like to thank writer Donald Collins Sr. of the International Services Assistance Fund.)

Finally, it should be painfully obvious that at the root of the problem lie the deficits of women’s rights and political power virtually everywhere in the world, not just in Saudi Arabia and Alabama. Much work remains to be done. In July, I had an online debate with a woman teacher in Indiana who advocated the diversion of public funds to private schools through vouchers or tax credits. The usual arguments against such did not faze her. But this one finally did:

I find it incomprehensible that any woman would approve of government forcing all women (and men) taxpayers to support private schools, the overwhelming majority of which indoctrinate kids with the religion-based view that women should not have rights of conscience with regard to contraception and abortion or to have the same rights and authority as men.

Of course, we have the example of the despicable Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Secretary, and those women who blindly and foolishly agree with her.

Edd Doerr

Edd Doerr is a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He headed Americans for Religious Liberty for thirty-six years and is a past president of the American Humanist Association.


Climate change is real and threatens our whole planet. It is anthropogenic, caused by humans. Media coverage of it is spotty and inadequate. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised that we have only a dozen or so years left to get serious about dealing with it. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald J. Trump …

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