Updated: Jun 17
The Ghouls get a little heavy today to talk about the very real and horrific ways our government and governments around the world have used population control to endanger the lives of women and more. We shine a light on historical events leading to such policies as well as reveal horrors America has done to Puerto Rican women and other Latinx women in America. We watched One Child Nation about China's One-Child Policy and What Happened to Monday for kicks.
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Kat's Facts - Overpopulation, One Child Policy and America's History of Sterilization
Today in Kat’s History Corner we’re going to talk about Population control. The question: Is this something we need to be worrying about? From a government choosing what to do with our bodies standpoint? YES. From a will have too many people and everyone will starve standpoint, I’ll be real I thought it was a thing at first, but after reading a lot of data and information about it I feel significantly less worried. So why am I not worried, I’d like to thank ourworldindata for that, as well as this video Gabe shared with me titled Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained from youtuber Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell which fun fact Kurzgesagt MEANS in a nutshell in German. So the video explains the development of human societies across our planet. They explain that as populations and countries develop they naturally go through a boom in population and then plateau once they realize through improved quality of life, that babies die less, so they don’t need to have as many, so they stop having as many, and the planet thanks us. This process is called Demographic Transition, which has 4 stages. PopulationEducation.org outlined these nicely for us, and even proposes a 5th stage to consider.
Stage 1, which can be applied to most of the world before the Industrial Revolution, both birth rates and death rates are high. As a result, population size remains fairly constant but can have major swings with events such as wars or pandemics.
Stage 2, the introduction of modern medicine lowers death rates, especially among children, while birth rates remain high; the result is rapid population growth. Many of the least developed countries today are in Stage 2
Stage 3, birth rates gradually decrease, usually as a result of improved economic conditions, an increase in women’s status, and access to contraception. Population growth continues, but at a lower rate. Most developing countries are in Stage 3.
Stage 4, birth and death rates are both low, stabilizing the population. These countries tend to have stronger economies, higher levels of education, better healthcare, a higher proportion of working women, and a fertility rate hovering around two children per woman. Most developed countries are in Stage 4
A possible Stage 5 would include countries in which fertility rates have fallen significantly below replacement level (2 children) and the elderly population is greater than the youthful population.
So this information, if we trust it and assume it’s accuracy which i’ll say I do, shows us that we will plateau globally as long as everyone helps each other out. In fact the In a Nutshell video states that by helping each other, i.e. developed countries providing aid and resources to countries experiencing dehumanizing levels of poverty WITH CONSENT, something western society struggles with, than we could see this happen quicker for homosapiens around the globe, which would help save the planet realistically if their boom period was shorter. So positive there. Now let’s loop back a bit to the first part of the should we be concerned about the government making these choices for us? A little bit, a lotta bit, some have already started this process bit. I’d argue the biggest concern is that because of such separation between us as homosapiens that each individual government posts a different threat. Basically it depends on if we try to continue to improve and develop, or choose to backslide for religious, subjective morality, or fear mongering issues. Some examples we see in America are governments trying to increase the amount of babies through limits on contraception, safe abortions, and women’s rights, essentially ignoring the fact our government should be secular and instead making it all about religion.
One Child Policy:
In China we’ve witnessed this through the One Child Policy. Now there are a lot of reasons for this policy, that extend back to the founding of The People’s Republic of China, an announcement that ended the costly full-scale civil war between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT) in 1949. In the 1950s China was transitioning from the 1st to the 2nd stage of the Demographic transition. They were widely shaken by the rapid growth of their population, and were trying to rapidly modernize to keep up with demand. During this time Mao Zadong’s Great Leap Forward was underway.in 1958, and it essentially forced villagers across China into communes as a means to rapidly industrialize the country of China. The event, combined with a handful of natural disasters triggered The Great Famine 1958-1962. It’s estimated by Census Demographers that during this famine that 20 to 30 million Chinese people died during this time. Frank Dikötter wrote an article in the NY Times, as well as a book titled “Mao’s Great Famine”. He states in his article that the number according to his research was far worse, stating that ”In all, the records I studied suggest that the Great Leap Forward was responsible for at least 45 million deaths.” He goes on to note that “Between 2 and 3 million of these victims were tortured to death or summarily executed”...for infractions such as not working efficiently enough, stealing of food during the famine period, among other things. During this time the government continued to promote family planning as a means to improve the quality of life for the Chinese people and limit famine related deaths. This was derailed slightly by the Cultural Revolution of 1966, where China experienced its own version of Creative destruction, with an out with the old in with the new, as a means to shift the cultural dynamic in china to meet what the government deemed the collective interest of a prosperous chinese future.
Gabe's Facts - Forced Sterilization in US:
Now before we get all Boo China, how awful, the US is also guilty of population control and manipulating and controlling women in our country, and forcibly sterilizing women here. As early as 1907, the United States had instituted public policy that gave the government the right “to sterilize unwilling and unwitting people.” Some states, notably including North Carolina, set up Eugenics Boards in the early 20th century. These boards reviewed petitions from government and private agencies to impose sterilization on poor, unwed, and/or mentally disabled women, children and men. North Carolina alone sterilized over 7,600 individuals between the 1930 and 1970s. In North Carolina, a state noted for its discriminatory sterilization practices in the 20th century, 65 percent of sterilization procedures were performed on black women, even though only 25 percent of the state’s female population is black. There are also hundreds of thousands of cases where the government threatened women with losing federal benefits if they did not undergo sterilization. Also just to throw more salt on that wound, as many as 25% of Native American women between 15-44 years old were sterilized by the 1970s without consent.
US Sterilizes Puerto Rican Women: I’m going to start off with a really sad, depressing and angering statement: Between the 1930s and the 1970s, approximately one-third of the female population of Puerto Rico was sterilized, making it highest rate of sterilization in the world. The US government was worried about overpopulation in Puerto Rico but also, due to it being a poor country - they were able to get away with a lot more. They were hoping, similarly to China, to create a more modern and economically successful country. So they instituted an intense sterilization program and when a new, not-yet-tested contraception pill with 10x the amount of hormones needed to be effective (which can be deadly in such situations, leading to heart failure) was being offered to this vulnerable population. And the women took it, to avoid being sterilized, to continue to work and because they had no idea of the side effects. According to Sex, Explained episode about Birth Control, the women in Puerto Rico didn’t even know they were being used in this experiment until a documentary filmmaker turned up to interview them about it. Many women suffered from the side effects but at least 3 women died, though it was never investigated further. A program endorsed by the U.S. government began sending health department officials to rural parts of the island advocating for sterilization. By 1946, postpartum sterilizations happened frequently in various Puerto Rican hospitals. However, these women were led astray and most often regretted the decision afterward, mostly because they did not know the procedure was permanent and had been told they were having a procedure similar to their “tubes being tied.”. Similar to what we talked about last week with Romania and how their problem was that women were going to the workforce and having less children, in PR, women were going to the workforce and couldn’t take care of their children so the government convinced them that sterilization or the operacion, was the best form of birth control, it was quick, you only needed it once and it was free. The prevailing wisdom was that denial of motherhood was a more effective means of incorporating women into the workforce than affordable childcare. And at the time, it was hard to argue against as many of the alternatives were just as harmful and untested. And if you think this assault to latinx women ends in Puerto Rico, you’d be surprised. In California, the Mexican-American women there were forcibly sterilized after giving birth. The film No Más Bebés tells the story of these events taking place in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s. The case of Madrigal vs. Quilligan was a federal class action lawsuit in which these women fought back after being sterilized without informed consent or under duress. Dolores Madrigal, one of the 10 plaintiffs in the case, was told her sterilization could easily be reversed. evina Hernandez who did not find out that she had been sterilized until years after her son was born. At the end of the trial in 1978, the judge ruled that neither of the charges were true, citing “misunderstandings’ due to the fact the women primarily spoke Spanish. The judge blamed their distress from the procedure on “cultural background” that made these women believe that their worth was in their ability to have children. Another cause of the decision was that voluntary informed consent was not a legal requirement until 1974, after the case was decided. At the time of the procedures, there were no serious legal objections to asking women to consent to an irreversible procedure while she was in the middle of labor (Valdes).Thanks to the University of Pittsburgh’s article, The Dark History of Forced Sterilization of Latina Women by Katherine Andrews and Stanford Universities’ article, Forced Sterilization in Puerto Rico for these details. I also don’t want to gloss over the fact that the sterilization of these Latina women was brought about by a superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office named Harry Laughlin. Laughlin used a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law to implement the mandatory sterilization of the “socially inadequate” in 30 US states and Puerto Rico.
Gabe's Film Analysis - Overpopulation in Film, the power of documentaries
This film is not the best, certainly not. But it's a fun sci-fi romp with a huge over-saturation of Aeon Flux action! But some things I found super important in this film that I’ll go over quickly.
1. The 7 sisters are made to hide in the attic, efficiently hiding if anyone comes knocking. Remind you of anyone? Mayhaps a young, jewish girl who wrote about her life trapped in such an attic because the government didn’t want her to exist? Yeah.
2. Spoilers - they kill the children. There is no better tomorrow. And as sci-fi and DUH of a moment it is when it is revealed that the “cryogenic” freezing process wherein which we could save our siblings/children for a day when they world could sustain us all was in fact a big fat lie. They vaporize the children, rather horrifically - we should really talk about the employees who are ok with this. This is reminiscent of yet again the Holocaust but also of the actual times in which countries have murdered the 9-month old, born full humans and called it “abortion” in China. We’ll talk more about that for the next film but yeah, it seems crazy and absurd in a fun science fiction film where we are dropping sisters left and right but the reality is so much more terrifying and awful. It’s not too far fetched at all to imagine this world sans the future tech.
Something great that Syfy brought up in their article, Not Guilty, What Happened to Monday - is that this is a future that focuses on women. Most science fiction and action films focus on men, even when using women in lead roles. Which is great, however they bring up a really great point. There is, meanwhile, the entirely valid complaint that when warnings of a government potentially sterilizing women are brought up in science fiction and the emphasis is on white women, it neglects Black and Native women in the United States that have been forced to undergo what is termed “compulsory sterilization.” Other communities affected by the eugenics-based concept include intersex and transgender people, who have often been forced through the process in countries across the world. Meanwhile, disabled people are almost unfailingly the subject of extreme hatred and cruelty in eugenics-based ideologies, and sterilization has thus been a constant threat. It is important to note that what is considered a dystopian future for white women is a historical fact for many marginalized communities.
One Child Nation “In every level of the government there was a family planning office. People’s job was to monitor women down to like when their periods come and whether a woman was pregnant or not. So, if a pregnant woman gave birth to their first child, within a month they would be forced to have a sterilization,” Wang states. “And if women resisted, let’s say if they tried to hide in a different city, in a different village, once they were discovered they would be taken into a clinic to have a forced abortion.”
“The government has never admitted that the one-child policy has done a lot of harm on the society,” Wang comments. “Instead, when they opened up the two-child policy… the overall official narrative from China is now China has grown into a much more powerful country and we are able to provide more resources to each individual, so the government is making strategic planning to allow a family to have more than one child, and two is the best.”
“I’ve done a total of between 50,000 to 60,000 sterilizations and abortions,” Yuan declares, saying she now feels guilt about it. “I aborted and killed babies. Many I induced alive and killed. My hands trembled doing it. But I had no choice; it was the government’s policy.”
Female babies were routinely cast aside, Wang says.
“This happened very commonly in rural areas… There is a traditional value that has been going on for thousands of years in China that male is valued more than female,” the director notes. “So when the one-child policy started, families had only one chance to have a baby. They would give away or abandon the daughters in the hope of trying again for a son.”
John Oliver - “It is very easy to be pro-choice and anti-forced abortion. In the same way you can be pro-water fountain and anti-waterboarding. The important thing really is, who is in charge of the fucking process.”
“I think our film shows what would happen if a government takes away the choice from women, or from any individual,” she says. “But a government trying to control women’s reproductive rights is not only happening in China. It’s happening in many countries, including in the U.S. There’s always a different form by limiting the access to reproductive rights, limiting the access to abortion, and they both are trying to control women and to take away their choices.”
Media from this week's episode:
What Happened to Monday (2017) Creator: Tommy Wirkola
In a world where families are allowed only one child due to overpopulation, resourceful identical septuplets must avoid governmental execution and dangerous infighting while investigating the disappearance of one of their own.
“In the last 50 years, we’ve doubled our population, tripled the amount of food and water we use and we have quadrupled the use of fossil fuels,” the film begins. “Every four days, there’s a million more people on the planet.” In the film, this lack of food spurs European countries to make rash decisions, which leads them to embrace artificially grown food. However, as a result of genetic modifications gone wrong, humans become prone to multiple births or genetic defects. The narrator then intones, “The solution is now feeding the problem.”
One Child Nation (2019) Creator: Nanfu Wang, Lynn Zhang
After becoming a mother, a filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China's one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment.