Recent Resources for Feminists
UK: 39 years post-legalisation, abortion rights set to be clawed back from the bottom up Print E-mail
 London -- Friday October 27 2006

Time to speak up

It's 39 years since abortion was legalised in this country, yet these days it's rarely discussed without mention of 'shame', 'mental trauma' or 'viability'. With pro-lifers dominating the debate, and even leftwingers describing abortion as a 'necessary evil', women's hard-won rights could soon be under threat.

In an introduction to an eight-page special,  asks: are we just going to roll over?

Today marks the 39th anniversary of abortion becoming legal in Britain. Yes, yes, there would have been an argument for waiting for the 40th, but I really think, in the current climate, that it needs to be celebrated as often as possible. On Halloween, mindful or not of this anniversary, the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries will be introducing her 10-minute-rule bill, proposing a reduction in the time limit on abortion in this country to 21 weeks (down from 24 weeks at present), and a "cooling-off period after the first point of contact with a medical practitioner about a termination" - so far as I can make out, she wishes to slow the abortion process down still further, and then penalise women who have left it too late. Her rationale? She just "has a feeling it's right". Honestly.

I remember the first time that I wrote about having had an abortion; it was in the mid-90s (the abortion, I mean. And the article, too). A survey had come out saying that one in four women had availed themselves of termination services; I was surprised by how low that figure was, but it also made me think: if 25% of women have had abortions, then surely every one of us, male and female, has a friend or partner or family member, someone very close anyhow, who has had an abortion. Seriously, unless you are very cloistered or you are incredibly judgmental and uptight and nobody ever tells you anything, you will have been aware of an abortion at very close quarters, even if it was not your own.

So why does nobody talk about it, I pondered then, and do again now. Why are there never any abortion jokes? Why is it unthinkable to discuss it without prefacing everything with "of course, it's terribly traumatic, no woman enters into this lightly"? I found it no more traumatic than any other operation I have ever had, no more psychologically scarring, way less painful than anything involving my teeth and considerably less annoying than anything I have had done on the NHS (whose "resources" in this area - which I will complain about later - meant I had to go private, which is entirely against my principles, but did make it very convenient).

Even writing that, I am furious - it is considered a given, an unarguable tenet of modern society, that you would feel ashamed of having a termination, that you would, in some cutesy, feminine, inarticulate way, feel "bad" about it. You are not allowed to talk about this operation unless it is to say how dirty it made you feel. We are all expected to have these moral objections and yet suffer the business anyway, in the name of pragmatism. Ethically, this is a far dodgier and more repugnant position than mine, which is that I am entirely pro-abortion because I do not consider it murder; if you do not consider this foetus human, then it becomes no more of an issue than getting a tumour removed. If I have any shame at all, it is because, when my health was at stake, I immediately opted out and went private, and I would have hoped before that happened that it would have taken more than an unwanted pregnancy. Never mind. The NHS doctor made me feel that if I had stayed in the system, I would be wasting resources that rightfully belonged to poorer, younger mothers. I was 25; if I had been the age I am now, I would not have taken any notice of her.

This is worth revisiting. The prevailing attitude these days seems to be that abortion is state-sanctioned murder and we put up with it because if we didn't, women would have them in back alleys anyway. It is the lesser of two evils, therefore, and as such, must be cloaked in silence, since whichever way you look at it, it still has an evil at its core. This line has taken hold because it is the least controversial way of supporting the right: so an MP standing up and saying "Women need this right, because otherwise they will put their health at risk having illegal terminations" will not find the pro-life lobby instantly rearing up against them, petitioning their constituents with what a murderer he or she is. If, however, an MP were to stand up and say "I am pro-choice because I do not consider this to be murder. I do not consider it to be evil. I do not consider a foetus which a woman has a one in three chance of involuntarily rejecting anyway to be a viable life unless she deems it so. I do not buy this craven sentimentality about the unborn, this pseudo-spiritual cleanliness we ascribe to it. In fact, it makes me sick", then votes will be lost. In other words, there are no votes to be won supporting abortion in an ideologically honest way, and lots to be lost. The taboo started in Westminster, I believe; not everything starts in the Daily Mail.

Back to this article. I got a lot of weirdos sending me pictures of tiny bloodied babies' fingers, Photoshopped on to a pair of abortionist's rubber gloves, with captions along the lines of "Just a collection of cells? Tell that to the baby". Those were pretty lurid, but also amusingly put together. What irked me more, though, was all the traffic from the "voices of reason" saying words to the effect of "Why do you have to push everything? We all value the right to abortion, we're all glad it exists. Why on earth would you want to fight for the right to be able to joke about it? When it's not even funny?" But I was not saying abortions are, in and of themselves, hilarious. I was asking why they never crop up in jokes. Cancer does, cheese does, shagging and gonorrhoea and disabilities and dogs and flowers and terrible, terrible diseases, and all other foodstuffs, and all other genres of people ... There are taboos in political rhetoric, yes, tonnes of them, but in comedy, even in very mainstream comedy, there are almost no taboos. You could make a joke about September 11 before you could make a joke about abortion. And this is not irrelevant, it is not as if the right is inviolable, and the joking is a side issue. If you allow a taboo to hold, you leave all the cultural space open to anti-abortionists.

Ten years on, we can see the results of this. Culturally, there is an even greater silence around abortion, and an even greater refusal to discuss it except in terms of its terrible psychological toll on women. Research in both Britain and America repeatedly shows this not to be the case - that abortion, unlike bringing to term an unwanted pregnancy, does not increase the risk of depression; and furthermore, that the uptake on the compulsorily offered post-abortion counselling is staggeringly low (in some areas it is just 1%). And even she is probably just being polite.

Meanwhile there is an increasing foetus fetishisation in mainstream media - all this "miracle of life" stuff, with six-day-old embryos bouncing around, looking deliciously as if they are playing football with the placenta. It is hard to take this any more seriously than you would those pictures of baby bats in socks (non-readers of the Daily Mail will at this stage start to wonder what on earth I am on about) but, operating in this chamber of cultural silence where mature commentary about women's rights, health and beliefs vis-a-vis abortion simply is not happening, it is not a huge leap of the imagination to think that these dancing-foetus babies are jeopardising the gynaecological freedoms of the next generation.

Noises from parliament are ineffectual but nevertheless damaging. It has become de rigueur not to criticise the right to abortion, but rather to attack the time limit. During the tedious Tory leadership election, there was briefly some ham-fisted tub-thumping by Liam Fox (who wanted the time limit reduced to 12 weeks), but since then there have been cross-party rumblings, with early-day motions and other unhelpful motions made by Labour MPs Geraldine Smith and Claire Curtis-Thomas, as well as Liberals (notably Evan Harris).

There is a huge amount of evidence for the disingenuousness of this strategy. Firstly, anyone with a serious interest in reducing the (already terribly small) number of late-term abortions would make it their priority to improve provision of pre-12 week terminations on the NHS. They would roll out the pre-nine-week abortion pill as something nurses could administer without doctors; they would, of course, overturn the ludicrously old-fashioned system of having two doctors on hand to ratify every abortion; they would lobby against the tacit but anecdotally widespread NHS policy of not even bothering providing pre-12-week abortions, on the basis that anyone who is in that much of a rush could go private.

Sufficient interest in late-term abortions to actually research them would, furthermore, show that the functional NHS time limit is not 24 weeks but 19, after which public health services become so foot-draggingly obstructive that women have to go private. Since the second scan during a pregnancy occurs at 20 weeks, sometimes later, and it is generally only at this point that many birth defects become clear, there would seem to be an active, perverse, unlegislated barrier to late-term abortions.

Furthermore, late-term abortions constitute the truly pitifully small proportion of 1.6%; that was in 2003, since when the trend has been downwards. The late-term argument always rests upon so-called "scientific advances", which have made foetuses marvellously hardy, so that the laws of 1967 are blatantly out of date. We are like a crowd of Victorian idiots marvelling at some fairground quack who claims to cure constipation. The truth is that no significant scientific development in foetal viability has occurred since the late-term law was brought down from 28 to 24 weeks in 1990. In all respects, you are better off dealing with those politicians who openly admit their anti-abortion stance: such as the Tory MP Laurence Robertson, who, in May last year, used his windfall in the private member's ballot to propose a blanket ban on all abortion. Robertson is not only a lot more honest than your Harrises and your Foxes, he also provides the useful service of reminding us that this right is still something we must be ready to fight for.

The other thing to remember, of course, is that the one thing we have in common with America (where, of course, the situation is much direr - see Suzanne Goldenberg's report on page 12) is that this boils down to a class issue. In the US, while the Christian right campaigns feverishly against late-term abortions, there are women leaving it to 18 or 20 weeks because they literally cannot afford the operation or even the transport to get to it. In the US, abortion laws are effectively working only for middle-class women already. In Britain, while some care trusts offer a good abortion service pre-12 weeks, it is by no means nationwide, so a very large proportion of women are having to wait till after their three-month scan unless they can afford to go private. And yet, many women who count as late-term abortions, at 18 weeks or more, report that the reason their pregnancy got so advanced was because that at any point from 15 weeks, their GPs became obstructive and unhelpful. So really, the window for an abortion on the NHS can be as narrow as three weeks, and all it takes is some garden-variety inefficiency for that window to be shut altogether.

So it boils down to this: for those of us with the cash, abortion is still an inviolable right, and for those of us without it, things are a lot more sticky. Let's not forget, this is exactly what the situation was before 1967. Not since the dawn of medical capability has it been impossible for a rich woman to get a termination. This battle was fought for all women; if, as middle-class women, we stand by and watch while the right is clawed away from the bottom up, and then if, in 50 years' time, it has been rescinded altogether, it will be no more than we deserve. Anyone interested in findiing our more on abortion rights should contact Abortion Rights ( ).


The facts

· The 1967 Abortion Act made abortion legal in the UK up to 28 weeks gestation. In 1990, the law was amended: abortion is now legal only up to 24 weeks except in cases where it's necessary to save the life of the woman, there's evidence of extreme foetal abnormality or there is grave risk of physical or mental injury to the woman.

· Abortions after 24 weeks are extremely rare, accounting for 0.1% of all abortions (fewer than 200 a year).

· The act does not extend to Northern Ireland. Abortion is only legal there if the life or the mental or physical health of the woman is at "serious risk". There are no clear guidelines, however, and provision depends on the moral outlook of individual doctors.

· In 2004/05, 64 women had an abortion in Northern Ireland, according to the Family Planning Association.

· In 2005, 1,164 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for an abortion. Women travelling from Northern Ireland for an abortion cannot have them on the NHS.

· According to the Department of Health, the total number of abortions in England and Wales last year was 186,400 (compared with 185,700 in 2004 - a rise of 0.4%).

· The abortion rate was highest, at 32 per 1,000, for women in the 20-24 age group.

· The rate for under-16s was just 3.7 per 1,000 women and the under-18 rate 17.8 per 1,000 women, both the same as in 2004.

· 89% of abortions were carried out when the foetus was less than 13 weeks old; 67% at under 10 weeks.

· 1,900 abortions (1%) were classified as having been carried out because of a risk that the child would be born with disabilities.

· According to pro-choice campaign groups, 1.6% of abortions fit the classification "late-term", being performed at 20 weeks or more.

· Scotland keeps its own statistics and in 2005 there were 12,603 abortions performed, compared to 12,461 in 2004.

Kira Cochrane

US: South Dakota pro-lifers hell-bent on sending women back to the days of the coat-hanger Print E-mail
 London -- Friday October 27 2006

America's abortion battlefield

Things may not be perfect in Britain, but they are far worse in the US. Suzanne Goldenberg reports from the front line in South Dakota

Signs of the times
[A "coat hanger" graffitied pro-life sign, Cliff Avenue and 49th Street, Sioux Falls Oct 17, 2006]

On the southern edge of Sioux Falls, where shopping malls and large suburban churches begin to give way to prairie, there is a squat, bunker-like brick building with a heavy flat roof and just a few reflective slits for windows. The entrance - a reinforced glass door manned by a security guard - is tucked away at the back. This is South Dakota's only abortion clinic. When the last doctor retired, no one dared take up the job, so these days Planned Parenthood, which runs the place, flies doctors in from neighbouring Minnesota once a week. Soon even this extremely limited access to abortion could cease, however. On November 7, the people of South Dakota will vote in a referendum whether to adopt a sweeping state law that would make abortion a crime.

This is a battle with nationwide significance. The law was passed in South Dakota last March with the express intent of provoking a challenge to the famous Roe v Wade supreme court ruling that in 1973 gave women in the US the right to an abortion. If South Dakota does outlaw abortion as many as 30 other states could soon move to impose their own abortion bans.

This is America's abortion debate in its purest, most distilled form: yes or no. There is no province for doubt. Should a woman be compelled to carry a baby to term when doctors tell her it will be born with no brain? Should a pregnant woman forgo potentially life-saving medical treatment for the sake of the baby she is carrying? Should a woman be forced to give birth to a child conceived in rape? Yes, yes and yes, says Leslee Unruh, the guiding light of South Dakota's anti-abortion activists. She has devoted her life to ending abortion, driven by her own guilt at having a termination as a young woman.

Unruh is based at an industrial shed near the airport in Sioux Falls. This is where the protesters gather before they set out for the Planned Parenthood clinic, with their stark posters reading: "I regret my abortion." This is where they pick up the signs that are dotted along every major road in South Dakota, calling for a definitive end to abortion.

In the letters column of the local paper, the Argus Leader, opinion seems to be running in favour of the ban, with little tolerance for those who won't fall into line. "I am tired of people ranting about how women have the 'right' to choose," read one recent letter. "Osama bin Laden is pro-choice. He thinks he has the right to choose who lives and dies, based on his own twisted standards. Perhaps America's pro-choicers should elect him as their spokesman."

But South Dakota's pro-choice activists believe a silent majority in the state does support abortion rights; it's just that most of them are not ready to come out and say so openly. "We are a pro-choice state in denial," says a woman, who asked not to be named, who works in the state legislature at Pierre. "I have a friend who insists that she is pro-life, but then she says: 'I am not going to tell another woman what to do.' "

In the years since Roe v Wade, a generation of anti-abortion activists have successfully shifted the debate about reproduction and abortion away from the primacy of women's rights to those of the child she is carrying. In South Dakota, the argument has taken an additional twist, with Unruh claiming that abortion also runs against the best interests of women. She says she is seeking to protect women from what she claims are the lasting psychological and physical scars of abortion.

While the arguments against abortion may differ, from South Dakota to Mississippi, one fact is clear: women's access to abortion in America is diminishing, and the support for abortion rights from the political establishment is receding. The Democratic party, once an unabashed defender of abortion rights, is edging away from such full-throttled support in an attempt to win back social conservatives from the Republican party. Last year, Hillary Clinton gave a speech calling abortion a "sad, even tragic choice" and called for policies to ensure that "the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances". A number of Democratic candidates in these mid-term elections are avowedly pro-life. That would once have been almost unthinkable.

Next month the supreme court is expected to take up arguments on a federal law that would impose fines and prison on doctors who perform abortions using a technique that pro-life activists have labelled partial-birth abortion. The procedure is used in relatively advanced pregnancies when the cervix must be dilated before the foetus can be surgically extracted. Relatively few such abortions are performed using that method, but the campaign against "partial-birth abortion" has become a crusade for the pro-life movement in the US and gathered important supporters. The bill was passed by nearly two-to-one in Congress, and President Bush gave it his enthusiastic support. It has yet to take effect.

At the same time, state legislatures have moved methodically to limit the extent of the rights granted by Roe v Wade, and a number have passed laws that would immediately outlaw abortion if the supreme court ruling is overturned. "The general strategy over the past 20 to 25 years has been to just layer seemingly simple restrictions one on top of one another so that it creates a kind of web of impediments that together make access to abortion exceedingly difficult for women who are young, or poor, or who have to travel great distances for access," says Roger Evans, an attorney for Planned Parenthood.

Most states now allow abortion only up to 13 weeks. Others compel clinics to be equipped as if they were fully-fledged hospitals, making it expensive for them to remain in operation, or have restricted access to chemically induced abortions. Some states have imposed mandatory waiting periods. Some have laws that require women under the age of 18 to get written parental assent, or appear before a judge to argue for an exemption. They also make it illegal for minors to seek an abortion in another state. In some states, women are required to undergo an information session during which they will be warned about the possible psychological damage they could suffer if they have an abortion, or told that the foetus might suffer pain. And in many US states, women have to pay for abortions themselves; most jurisdictions now prohibit insurance cover.

Only a few hold-outs remain: the liberal coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington, and on the opposite coast, New York, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. But they could soon follow suit. Oregon and California are also holding referendums on abortion during this election season - on laws that would require parental notification of minors seeking an abortion.

But almost nowhere in the US is it as difficult to get an abortion as in South Dakota, which, even without the ban, has one of the lowest rates of abortion in the US (five per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 compared to the national average of 16). In the past decade, the state legislature has sys tematically drafted legislation to limit access to abortion, passing five new bills last year alone. South Dakota requires parents of minors to be notified and a 24-hour waiting period. Abortions are performed at the Planned Parenthood clinic only until the 13th week of pregnancy, and the women must bear the $500 cost. If they are from Rapid City, South Dakota's other main town, the clinic is a five-hour drive away. Last year, state legislators passed a law compelling doctors to tell women that if they have an abortion they would be terminating the life of a "whole, separate, unique human being". That law is under challenge in the courts.

But these restrictions were still not enough for Unruh, who was beginning to lose faith in the incremental approach of the anti-abortion movement. "We'd been there, done that, and it still didn't work," she says. "There were 800 women in South Dakota last year who underwent an abortion." So Unruh consulted her supporters in the South Dakota state legislature, particularly Roger Hunt, a Republican whose fingerprints lie on eight or nine pieces of anti-abortion legislation and who is the sponsor of the ban. "South Dakota is a pro-life state," he says. "It was certainly leading us to this." Under Hunt's lead, a law emerged that would permit abortion only if the woman was in danger of imminent death. The only other recourse in the case of contraceptive failure is the morning-after pill. That will remain legal under the ban, though South Dakota law allows chemists to refuse to sell it on religious grounds. The law was approved by both chambers of the state legislature - with support from Democrats as well as Republicans - and swiftly signed into law by state governor Mike Rounds last March.

Hunt, a former navy lawyer, defends the broad sweep of the current ban. Allowing exceptions for a woman's health would give women too many excuses, he says. So would allowing an abortion in the event of a rape. "The first thing any abortion clinic is going to ask a woman is if she has been raped, and she can come in anytime and allege rape. How are you going to establish that?" "Realistically you would be negating the whole intent of the bill." What about a 14-year-old girl who had been raped by a relative? Could he live with forcing her to carry the child? "I can live with that," he says. He argues that allowing abortion in cases of incest would allow the perpetrators to bury the evidence. "When you allow an uncle, father or brother to have an abortion, they are taking away the evidence of incest."

But Hunt is not really thinking about teenage girls in South Dakota, although he acknowledges that the bill would stand a far greater chance in the referendum if it made exceptions for a woman's health, or pregnancies that were the result of incest or rape. What he is really focused on, as he readily admits, is the supreme court.

Last year, President Bush named two new judges with impeccable conservative credentials, Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Samuel Alito, and anti-abortion activists believe their appointments could tip the balance in the court and overturn Roe v Wade. Hunt believes the odds could grow even more favourable during the remaining years of Bush's presidency. One of the more liberal judges, John Paul Stevens, is already 86, and his retirement or death could give Bush the opportunity to make lasting changes to America's top judicial authority. "You'd have to have your head in the sand if you didn't think that the bill would end up in the supreme court," Hunt says.

First, though, the bill has to go before the voters of South Dakota. Within days of the ban, local activists decided to exploit a state provision that allows for legislation to be put to a referendum following a petition campaign. At first, Planned Parenthood was sceptical; the organisation has focused on using America's courts to protect abortion rights, and was unsure about a change of strategy. But the response of ordinary South Dakotans to the ban took organisers of the petition by surprise; within weeks they had gathered more than 40,000 signatures - twice as many as required. The state's abortion ban was to be put to the ballot. Its pro-life movement, while a powerhouse in the state legislature, would now have to answer to the people.

Unruh knows the stakes are high, and she acknowledges that her opponents may have the edge. But that does not deter her. If the ban is defeated, she says, she will march right back to the state legislature in January and start over again. "It will never be over," she insists.

US: Media silent on God's army of self-admitted anti-abortion terrorists Print E-mail


Long Island -- October 8, 2006

The terrorists who aren't in the news

Anti-abortion fanatics spread fear by bombings, murders and assaults, but the media take little notice

On Sept. 11, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks that devastated our nation, a man crashed his car into a building in Davenport, Iowa, hoping to blow it up and kill himself in the fire.

No national newspaper, magazine or network newscast reported this attempted suicide bombing, though an AP wire story was available. Cable news (save for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann) was silent about this latest act of terrorism in America.

Had the criminal, David McMenemy, been Arab or Muslim, this would have been headline news for weeks. But since his target was the Edgerton Women's Health Center, rather than, say, a bank or a police station, media have not called this terrorism - even after three decades of extreme violence by anti-abortion fanatics, mostly fundamentalist Christians who believe they're fighting a holy war.

Since 1977, casualties from this war include seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, 152 assaults, 305 completed or attempted bombings and arsons, 375 invasions, 482 stalking incidents, 380 death threats, 618 bomb threats, 100 acid attacks, and 1,254 acts of vandalism, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Abortion providers and activists received 77 letters threatening anthrax attacks before 9/11, yet the media never considered anthrax threats as terrorism until after 9/11, when such letters were delivered to journalists' offices and members of Congress.

After 9/11, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups received 554 envelopes containing white powder and messages like, "You have been exposed to anthrax. ... We are going to kill all of you." They were signed by the Army of God, a group that hosts Scripture-filled Web pages for "Anti-Abortion Heroes of the Faith" including minister Paul Hill, Michael Griffin and James Kopp, all convicted of murdering abortion providers, and a convicted clinic bomber, the Rev. Michael Bray. Another of their "martyrs," Clayton Waagner, mailed anthrax letters while a fugitive on the FBI's 10 most wanted list for anti-abortion related crimes.

"I am a terrorist," Waagner declared on the Army of God's Web site. Boasting that God "freed me to make war on his enemy," he claimed he knew where 42 Planned Parenthood workers lived. "It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you."

That's textbook terrorism, defined by the USA Patriot Act as dangerous criminal acts that "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population" or "to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion."

Which brings us back to car bomber McMenemy. According to the Detroit Free Press (the only newspaper in the Nexis news database that reported his crime), he targeted the women's health center because he thought it provided abortions. It doesn't. (Oops!) It provides mostly low-income patients with pap smears, ob-gyn care, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and nutrition and immunization programs for women and children.

The attack caused $170,000 in property damage and left poor families without health care for a week. But long after Edgerton's water-logged carpets are removed, scorched medical equipment replaced and new doors reopened to the public, a culture of fear will linger among doctors, nurses, advocates and patients across the country, who will worry that they're next. Some frightened workers will quit their jobs; some women will be too scared to get the health care they need.

Every fresh incident of anti-abortion terrorism is a reminder that women's health supporters are not safe in a country where abortion is legal but mobilized zealots believe Jesus has empowered them to kill to prevent women from choosing it.

Is McMenemy a lone nutcase, or a member of that network of violent extremists? We don't know, because journalists haven't investigated.

Nor have they reported that just last year, nearly one in five abortion clinics experienced gunfire, arson, bombings, chemical attacks, assaults, stalking, death threats and blockades, according to the 2005 National Clinic Violence Survey. Additionally, 59 percent suffered intimidation tactics such as photo/video surveillance.

Federal efforts to hunt down these terrorists improved with the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994 and the National Task Force on Violence Against Health Care Providers, established by the Department of Justice in 1998. The feds have taken over McMenemy's case, charging him with arson against a business affecting interstate commerce. Yet as of Oct. 5, no news outlet on Nexis reported this, despite a second AP story.

As we continue national debates on how to keep America safe from terrorism, journalists do us - and especially women - no good pretending that the threats come only from radical Muslims outside our borders.


*Jennifer L. Pozner is founder and executive director of Women In Media & News, a national media analysis, education and advocacy group.

Anna Politkovskaya: Fearless investigative journalist & critic of Putin, August 30 1958 - Oct 7 2006 Print E-mail

[a]Books by Anna

Scroll down for [b] a selection of media reports about and by Anna during her lifetime and [c] tributes to Anna after her death and Anna's Wikipedia entry

(translated from the Russian by Arch Tait; published by Harvill)

A devastating appraisal of the policies of Russia's head of state by that country's leading radical journalist

Internationally admired for her fearless reporting, especially on the Chechen wars, award-winning journalist Anna Politkovskaya has turned her steely gaze on the man who, until very recently, was a darling of the western media.  A former KGB spy, Vladimir Putin was named President of Russia in 2000.  From the moment he entered the public arena, he marketed himself as an open, enlightened leader eager to engage with the West.  Unlike many European and American journalists and politicians, Politkovskaya never trusted Putin's image.  From her privileged vantage point at the heart of Russian current affairs, she set out to dismantle both Putin the man and Putin the brand name, arguing that he is a power-hungry product of his own history and so unable to prevent himself from stifling civil liberties at every turn. 

This is not, Politkovskaya argues, the kind of leader most contemporary Russians want.  To prove her theory, she tells the story of Putin's iron grip on Russian life from the point of view of individual citizens whose situations have been shaped by his unique brand of tyranny.  Mafia dealings, scandals in the provinces, military and judiciary corruption, the decline of the intelligentsia, the tragic mishandling of the Moscow theatre siege - all are subject to Politkovskaya's pitiless but invariably humane scrutiny.  This intimate portrait of nascent civil institutions being subverted under the unquestioning eyes of the West could not be more timely.

  WORLD SERVICE Tuesday 26 June, 2001

A Russian Reporter In Chechnya

Anna Politkovskaya is a special correspondent for the bi-weekly Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Her reports from the southern Russian republic, Chechnya, have angered authorities.

Once detained by Russian troops herself in Chechnya, she has experienced the conflict both as a reporter and a victim. She talks to Outlook about her new book A Dirty War.

Anna Politkovskaya has made social issues her business. As a journalist she has reported on many subjects – from the fate of orphans to Russia’s defective judicial system.

Tired of the media image driven by the Russian government, Politkovskaya aims to keep the fate of Chechnya in the public eye. She presents the brutality from both sides when describing the abuses of the Chechen War whether due to the corruption of Post Communist Russia or the Russian authorities.

Her dispatches, from July 1999 to January 2001, tell a very different story to that told by the Moscow authorities.

Describing scenes of devastation, the words of desperate civilians who have lost everything scream from the pages. These reports are a moving testimony to the true costs of war.

A Dirty War

In 1996, at the end of the first Chechen war, there were hopes of a possible peace between the break-away republic and the Russian government. Hopes shattered by growing lawlessness and regional violence.

Then came bomb attacks on civilian targets in Russia; having blamed these on Chechen separatists, the Russian authorities launched a second Chechen war in October 1999.

Today Russian soldiers are continuing what they call an “anti-terrorist campaign” in Chechnya. The capital, Grozny, lies in ruins; the vast majority of the republic’s civilians are forced to live in appalling conditions.

Most of those injured or killed are innocent people caught up in what Politkovskaya has aptly called A Dirty War.

Truth Be Told

In order to write her despatches, Politkovskaya risked the dangers of a partisan war, of army checkpoints and Chechen kidnap gangs.

Finally, and most frighteningly, she was arrested, abused and threatened with death by some of the same soldiers she was investigating for atrocities. Her captors simply told her it was ‘time to pay’ for her reports on Chechnya.

But still Politkovskaya speaks out. Of her bravery and unquestionable drive she comments:

‘I simply reported what I saw. I feel that it’s my professional duty - if you hide information, you have failed in your duty.’

Repeatedly returning to Chechnya, her articles have finally led to arrests. Meanwhile her own experiences have shaped her personal life – her husband left her unable to cope with her hunger to reveal the truth.

Unperturbed, Politkovskaya remains firm in her commitment, she comments:

‘I think it is good that I have had these experiences otherwise I would have lived with illusions. Because of Chechnya I accept the world as it is.’

The Reality Of War

Politkovskaya has recorded many harrowing accounts of torture, murder and loss. Writing in a British newspaper earlier this year she recalled how ‘some stories were so horrific that one’s hand refused to jot them down.’

Her reports of maltreatment carried out by Russian troops include details of people being beaten over the kidneys with full water bottles, of having their nails ripped out and of being detained in shallow dug outs or pits, only big enough to stand in, for days on end.

Such brutality Politkovskaya believes has now bred a culture of revenge, she explains:

‘During this latest part of the “Second Chechen War” as we call it, there are those who feel that it is their duty to take revenge for their murdered and tortured relatives, that’s what their culture demands.’

‘This feeling I believe also drives the new generation of Chechen fighters – 13 to 14 year old boys, they’re the ones who lay the mines and they often come from families who want revenge.’

Conditioned by what they have seen, Politkovskaya is fearful of the hate now rife in Chechen society. She comments:

‘The Russian army is not reliving its glorious past in Chechnya, it is simply running wild, because of that the whole country is getting wild.’

‘The fighters return home bringing with them their military culture which has absolutely nothing to do with the law.’

‘In Chechyna there are a growing number of people who have stones in their hearts, stones that they want to hurl at Russians.’

The Fight Continues

With few indicators that the conflict will be resolved, Politkovskaya now calls for International support:

‘People are now starting to disappear in their tens and hundreds. There are more and more reports of unimaginable cruel torture and abuse.’

‘Those who care about the future are almost united in thinking that only urgent intervention by the international community can help. We won’t be able to cope on our own.’

It is impossible to understand the atrocities that Politkovskaya describes and as detailed in the book’s introduction, A Dirty War ‘offers no solutions to this continuing suffering’, but Politkovskaya reinforces the collective message from her writing by stating:

‘Please help us to stop what is happening in Chechyna. Russia is growing wild with this war and the world needs to understand that. This country is going to be dangerous. Please understand what I am saying.’



  The University of Chicago Press 1427 East 60th StreetChicago, IL 60637 USA
Voice: 773.702.7700 Fax: 773.702.9756

Politkovskaya, Anna A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya.

Translated by Alexander Burry and Tatiana Tulchinsky. Introduction by Georgi M. Derluguian. 232 p., 1 map. 6 x 9 2003

Cloth $25.00 0-226-67432-0 Fall 2003

Chechnya, a 6,000-square-mile corner of the northern Caucasus, has struggled under Russian domination for centuries. The region declared its independence in 1991, leading to a brutal war, Russian withdrawal, and subsequent "governance" by bandits and warlords. A series of apartment building attacks in Moscow in 1999, allegedly orchestrated by a rebel faction, reignited the war, which continues to rage today. Russia has gone to great lengths to keep journalists from reporting on the conflict; consequently, few people outside the region understand its scale and the atrocities—described by eyewitnesses as comparable to those discovered in Bosnia—committed there.Anna Politkovskaya, a correspondent for the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta, is the only journalist to have constant access to the region. Her international stature and reputation for honesty among the Chechens have allowed her to continue to report to the world the brutal tactics of Russia's leaders used to quell the uprisings. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya is her second book on this bloody and prolonged war. More than a collection of articles and columns, A Small Corner of Hell offers a rare insider's view of life in Chechnya over the past years. Centered on stories of those caught-literally-in the crossfire of the conflict, her book recounts the horrors of living in the midst of the war, examines how the war has affected Russian society, and takes a hard look at how people on both sides are profiting from it, from the guards who accept bribes from Chechens out after curfew to the United Nations. Politkovskaya's unflinching honesty and her courage in speaking truth to power combine here to produce a powerful account of what is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and least understood conflicts on the planet.


IntroductionWhose Truth? by Georgi DerluguianPrologueLondon, May 2002: The BeginningOrdinary Chechen Life in WartimeIt's Nice to Be DeafThe Chiri-Yurt SettlementMakhkety: A Concentration Camp with a Commercial StreakA Zone within a ZoneThe Hundredth Grozny BlockadeViktoria and Aleksandr: Grozny NewlywedsA Village That No Longer ExistsA Lawless EnclaveA Nameless Girl from NowhereThe Burning Cross of Tsotsan-YurtStarye Atagi: The Twentieth PurgeV-DayThe Chechen Choice: From the Carpet to the Conveyer BeltWhat Are the Rules of the Game?Modern Russian Life against the Backdrop of the WarRuslan Aushev: "Nobody Guarantees Life in Chechnya Today"A PogromFive Hundred Rubles for Your Wife: The Chechnya Special Operation Ruins the CountryChechnya's Unique IslamExecutions of ReportersRussia's Secret HeroesKilled by His OwnIt's Hard to Get Cartridges in MozhaiskWho Wants This War?An Oligarchy of GeneralsMiracle FieldsBoys and GirlsWesternizers and OrientalsChechyna as the Price for the UN Secretary-General's PostSpecial Operation ZyazikovWe Survived Again!: A Chronicle of Colonel Mironov's LuckEpilogueLondon 2002: An Ending without ClosureAfterword


  • HISTORY: European History
  • POLITICAL SCIENCE: Classic Political Thought
  • POLITICAL SCIENCE: Comparative Politics

Russia’s Secret Heroes
an excerpt from
A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya
by Anna Politkovskaya

The essence of the ruling regime of a country is how it designates heroes. Who are the “Chechen” heroes? And what do we want in Chechnya? What are we doing there? What is our goal? Who are we rewarding for what? And what are we trying to achieve?


The tea got cold long ago. We’re drinking it in a café at Magas Airport in Ingushetia. I’m ashamed to look Colonel Mohammed Yandiev, an officer of the Ingush Ministry of the Interior, in the eye. It’s the third year in a row that I’m ashamed.

As a result of a criminal blunder of the Moscow bureaucracy during the storming of Grozny in December 1999, someone had to risk his life to save eighty-nine elderly people from a Grozny retirement home that was abandoned under the bombing. No one wanted to brave the firing for their sake. Colonel Yandiev was the only one of the hundreds of Russian colonels and generals gathered on this small area near Grozny to say “yes.” And with six of his officers whom he had personally asked about this, he crawled for three days—this was the only possible way—along the streets of Grozny to the neighborhood of Katayama, to Borodin Street, where the lonely, hungry elderly were dying in the care of a government that had forgotten its duty to them.

Yandiev rescued all these old people from Grozny. The losses turned out to be minimal. Only one old woman died along the way; her heart couldn’t take it. But the colonel was able to save all of the others from bullets and shells flying from both sides of the crazed battle, as if each of them were his own mother or father.

“To this day, they send me letters on holidays. I don’t even remember their names. But they remember me. And they write,” Yandiev says, very quietly. And I have to drag these words from him, otherwise he would have been silent. “They thank me, and that’s the best kind of gratitude,” Yandiev insists, continuing to stir the sugar he already stirred long ago in the cold tea. “I don’t need anything else.”

But I need for there to be something else. I am a citizen, and for this reason I want to know why the colonel still has not received the title of Hero of Russia that he was nominated for early in 2000 for his deed, for the true courage he showed in saving eighty-nine citizens of his country. What do you need to do in Russia, the way things are now, to not only be a hero, but to be officially acknowledged as one?


The path to answers to these questions turned out to be quite treacherous. The babbling of the high-ranking officers responsible for moving the applications higher and higher in the capital of our Motherland, toward the president’s signature, boiled down to two arguments against Colonel Yandiev’s candidacy as a Hero.

First of all, he is “one of them.” In translation from their Moscow bureaucratic language, that means that Yandiev is an Ingush, and Ingush in the army aren’t trusted much, like Chechens. Yandiev, I was told, is “practically a Chechen,” and “who knows just what was going on in Grozny then—he might have made arrangements with militants.”

And what if he did? For the sake of eighty-nine lives?

But there’s a second reason too, and this argument doesn’t only concern Vainakhs [Chechens and Ingush]. It turns out that we are only supposed to give the title of Hero if the person “killed a bandit.”

“And if they saved someone’s life?”

“That’s not quite what we’re looking for.”

“So do you give it for rescues or not?”

“Who would admit that they don’t?”

Alas, I gave my word that I would withhold the names of those who agreed to give inside information on this matter. These people, though they have big stars on their epaulettes and orders on their chests, are merely gofers in the grand scheme of things, obeying a higher authority. They know which documents the president won’t sign. And Putin won’t sign for rescues. Just a detail, you think? By no means. We’ve all observed how the word “mercy” has been swept out of the government vocabulary. The government relies on cruelty in relation to its citizens. Destruction is encouraged. The logic of murder is a logic that is understood by the government and propagated by it. The way things are, you need to kill to become a Hero.

This is Putin’s modern ideology. When capitalists can’t get it done, comrades take over again. We know very well that they never forget to line their own pockets. That’s how things stand: at the end of the seventh year of the war, and in the third year of the second campaign, Chechnya has been turned into a genuine cash cow. Here, military careers are speedily forged, long lists of awards are compiled, and ranks and titles are handed out ahead of time. And all you have to do is to kill a Chechen and submit the corpse.

So here I am, sitting across from Mohammed Yandiev. A normal hero in an abnormal country. He hasn’t robbed anyone, hasn’t raped anyone, and hasn’t stuffed any stolen women’s lingerie inside his camouflage jacket. He has simply saved lives. And therefore he’s not a general. And his Hero application is rotting in Moscow vaults.

A Perplexed Afterword

I called the Information Department of the Russian presidential administration. The head is Igor Porshnev, but it’s generally better known as the department of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, an assistant of Putin’s who is responsible for “information support for the antiterrorism operation.” I had two very simple questions. The first was, How many soldiers have received state awards for their participation in the second Chechen war? And the second was, How many of them earned the Hero of Russia title?

The Information Department sent me to the Putin administration’s Department of Government Awards, whose head is Nina Alekseevna Sivova.

“That information is classified,” the assistants firmly stated, categorically refusing me any chance to talk with the bosses of their departments. “It’s not subject to disclosure.”

“But that’s absurd!” I objected.

Finally, in Yastrzhembsky’s department, which is responsible for the formation of a “proper image of the war,” they took pity and at least agreed to “examine an official inquiry on this subject,” albeit without guaranteeing a positive answer (of two numbers!) or a date by which they’d examine it (and indeed, an answer never came!).

A conversation with Nina Sivova from the Award Department soon took place. And she affirmed: “This information is in fact confidential, for official use only.”

Maybe some people remember this term from Soviet times. Wherever you looked, everything was “for official use only.”

“Why are the Hero of Russia and other awards confidential?” I tried to find out from Nina Alekseevna.

“For the protection of those who receive these awards,” came yet another cryptic response.

“But I’m not even asking for their last names.”

“Call back…”

“Tomorrow, again?”

“Yes, tomorrow. Maybe…”

Or maybe not. A country in which the number of heroes is information for official use only of those bureaucrats who handed out the awards, and where real heroes don’t receive the Hero title, is hopeless. It will lose all wars. Because it never encourages the right people.


DifferenTakes #40: 10 Reasons to Rethink 'Overpopulation' Print E-mail


10 Reasons to Rethink 'Overpopulation'

A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College , No. 40, Fall 2006

Fears of overpopulation are pervasive in American society. From an early age we are taught that the world is overpopulated and that population pressure is responsible for poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and even political insecurity. If we don’t get population growth under control now, the argument goes, our future is in danger.

Conventional wisdom, however, is not always wise.  Placing the blame on population obscures the powerful economic and political forces that threaten the well-being of both people and the planet. It leads to top-down, target-driven population control programs that undermine voluntary family planning and women’s reproductive rights. It reinforces racism, promoting harmful stereotypes of poor people of color. And it prevents the kind of global understanding we need in order to reach across borders to work together for a more just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

Here are ten reasons why we should rethink ‘overpopulation.’

1. The population ‘explosion’ is over.  
World population is still growing and is expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. However, demographers agree that the era of rapid growth is over. Population growth rates peaked in the 1960s due to dramatic reductions in death rates and increased life expectancy. Since then, with increasing education, urbanization, and women’s work outside the home, birth rates have fallen in almost every part of the world. The average is now 2.7 births per woman. A number of countries, especially in Europe, are now concerned about declining population growth as many women have only one child. The UN projects that
world population will eventually stabilize, falling to 8.3 billion in 2175.

2. The focus on population masks the complex causes of poverty and inequality.

A narrow focus on human numbers obscures the way different economic and political systems operate to perpetuate poverty and inequality. It places the blame on the people with the least amount of resources and power rather than on corrupt governments and economic and political elites. It ignores the legacy of colonialism and the continuing unequal relationship between rich and poor countries, including unfavorable terms of trade and the debt burden. It says nothing about the concentration of much wealth in a few hands. In the late 1990s, the 225 people who comprise the ‘ultra-rich’ had a combined wealth of over US $1 trillion, equivalent to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s people.

3. Hunger is not the result of ‘too many mouths’ to feed.
Global food production has consistently kept pace with population growth, and today world agriculture produces 17% more calories per person than it did 30 years ago. There is enough food for every man, woman and child to have more than the recommended daily calorie intake. People go hungry because they do not have the land on which to grow food or the money with which to buy it. In Brazil, one percent of the land owners control almost half of the country’s arable land, and more land is owned by multinational corporations than all the peasants combined. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people earn less than $1 per day, making it difficult to afford enough food to feed a family. Many governments have failed to make food security a priority. In 2002, when at least 320 million people in India were suffering from hunger, the government tripled its rice and wheat exports. The U.S. is the largest food producer in the world, yet more than one in ten American households are either experiencing hunger or are at the risk of it.

4. Population growth is not the driving force behind environmental degradation.

Blaming environmental degradation on overpopulation lets the real culprits off the hook. In terms of resource consumption alone, the richest fifth of the world’s people consume 66 times as much as the poorest fifth. The U.S. is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming – and the least willing to do anything about it. And just who is destroying the rain forest? While poor peasants sometimes play a role, corporate ranching, mining and logging operations are chiefly responsible for tropical deforestation. Worldwide militaries are major agents of environmental destruction. War ravages natural landscapes and military toxics pollute land, air and water. Nuclear weapons, reactors and waste pose the most deadly environmental threat to the planet. Imagine what a different world it would be if all the resources invested in producing deadly armaments went instead to environmental restoration and the development of cleaner, greener energy sources and technologies.

Focusing on population also blinds us to the positive role many poor people play in protecting the environment. In many parts of the world, small farmers, especially women, are the main preservers of plant biodiversity through cultivating local crop varieties, preserving seeds, and forest stewardship. Recent research in Africa reveals that increasing population densities, if combined with sound agricultural practices, can actually stimulate environmental improvements.

5. Population pressure is not a root cause of political insecurity and conflict.

Blaming population pressure for instability takes the onus off powerful actors and political choices. In 1994, for example, top officials in the Clinton administration blamed the Rwandan genocide on population pressure, diverting attention from the tragic U.S. and U.N. decision not to take effective action to halt it. Especially since 9/11, conflict in the Middle East has been linked to a ‘youth bulge’ of too many young men whose numbers supposedly make them prone to violence. Missing from this simple picture is how oil politics, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Bush administration’s war on Iraq are causing unrest in the region. Ideas like the ‘youth bulge’ can have very real and lethal consequences. A case in point is Chechnya, where the International Helsinki Federation has charged the Russian army of abducting and murdering young males in a deliberate process of “thinning out a population of young men.”

6. Population control targets women’s fertility and restricts reproductive rights.
Population control programs view women as ‘breeders’ of too many babies without considering the complex circumstances of their lives and their reasons for having children. All women should have access to high quality, voluntary reproductive health services, including safe birth control and abortion. In contrast, population control programs try to drive down birth rates as fast and cheaply as possible through the aggressive promotion of sterilization or long-acting, provider-controlled contraceptives like Norplant and Depo-Provera. In addition to their side effects, these contraceptives pose greater health risks for marginalized women in areas where screening and follow-up care are inadequate or nonexistent. Unlike condoms, they do not protect women from sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.

The 1994 UN population conference in Cairo came out against the use of coercion in population programs, but unfortunately it persists. Today, in India, a number of states punish poor parents who have more than two children by denying them access to government assistance, employment and election to public office. In China, the one-child policy is still enforced through forced sterilizations and abortions. In both countries, the strong preference for bearing at least one son, coupled with restrictive population control policies, has led to sex-selective abortions of female fetuses and skewed sex ratios.

7. Population control programs have a negative effect on basic health care.
Under pressure from international population agencies, many poor countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, and India made population control a higher priority than primary health care. Especially in the 1970s and 1980s, reducing fertility was considered more important than preventing and treating malaria and other debilitating diseases, improving maternal and child health, and addressing malnutrition. This shift not only took a tragic toll on human life, but left countries without the strong public health infrastructure needed to face new threats like HIV/AIDS. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund further undermined primary health care by forcing countries to cut and/or privatize health services, putting them out of the reach of poor people.

This legacy continues today. Two prominent international family planners recently wrote that in Africa rapid population growth poses more of a threat than AIDS and therefore population control should be a high priority in the region. In actuality, while just over 10% of the world population lives in sub-Saharan Africa, it is home to over 60% of all people living with HIV.

8. Population alarmism encourages apocalyptic thinking that legitimizes human rights abuses.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb warned that the world was on the brink of massive famine and that in the 1970s “hundreds of millions” of people would starve to death. Though not borne out in reality, such dire predictions have long been popular in the population field. Today, population funding appeals still play on fears of future apocalypse. Fear does more than sell, however. It convinces many otherwise well-meaning people that it is morally justified to curtail the basic human and reproductive rights of poor people in order to save ourselves and the planet from doom. This sense of emergency leads to an elitist moral relativism, in which ‘we’ know best and ‘our’ rights are more worthy than ‘theirs.’ Politically, it legitimizes authoritarianism.

Nowhere is the negative effect of apocalyptic thinking more dramatic than in the case of China. The decision to implement the draconian one-child policy was greatly influenced by the 1972 Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, a deeply flawed computer simulation that incorrectly predicted impending economic and environmental collapse due to population growth.

9. Threatening images of overpopulation reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes and scapegoat immigrants and other vulnerable communities.
Negative media images of starving African babies, poor, pregnant women of color, and hordes of dangerous Third World men drive home the message that ‘those people’ outnumber ‘us.’ Fear of overpopulation in the Third World often translates into fear of increasing immigration to the West, and thereby people of color becoming the majority. Harvard professor Samuel Huntington argues that high numbers of Latino immigrants threaten a unified American Anglo-Protestant culture and identity. Anti-immigrant groups tied to white supremacists strategically deploy population fears to appeal to liberal environmentalists. The demonization of immigrants ignores their positive contributions to the U.S. economy as well as the global economic forces that drive many people to migrate. In Europe, nativist policymakers are urging white women to have more babies to reduce the economy’s dependence on immigrant labor.

In the U.S. there is a strong link between negative images of Third World overpopulation and racist views of African Americans as burdens on society. Eugenics programs and punitive welfare policies have subjected African Americans and other marginalized communities to sterilization and contraceptive abuse because of racist assumptions that their fertility is out of control. Even though women on welfare have on average fewer than two children, the image of the overbreeding ‘welfare queen’ remains firmly fixed in the white imagination.

10. Conventional views of overpopulation stand in the way of greater global understanding and solidarity.
In order to solve the world’s pressing economic, political and environmental problems, we need more global understanding and solidarity, not less. For all the reasons cited above, fears of overpopulation are deeply divisive and harmful. Population control programs distort family planning and diminish human rights. In order to protect and advance women’s reproductive rights in a hostile climate, we urgently need to work together across borders of gender, race, class and nationality. Rethinking population helps open the way.

The Population and Development Program
CLPP, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002
Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors unless otherwise specified.

For more information on population issues, see:
Population in Perspective: A Curriculum Resource, by Mary Lugton with Phoebe McKinney,
Population and Development Program at Hampshire College,
Committee on Women, Population and the Environment,
The Corner House,


1. The population ‘explosion’ is over.
For a review of population dynamics, see Mary Lugton with Phoebe McKinney, Population in Perspective: A Curriculum Resource, Amherst, MA: Population and Development Program, Hampshire College, 2004,, and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, “World Population Prospects, the 2004 Revision,” February 24, 2005.

2. The focus on population masks the complex causes of poverty and inequality.

Population in Perspective, Section Four, “Population and Poverty,” and Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, Boston: South End Press, 1995.

3. Hunger is not the result of ‘too many mouths’ to feed.

Population in Perspective, Section Two, “Population, Food and Hunger.” and Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter Rossett, World Hunger: Twelve Myths, New York: Grove Press, 1998.

4. Population growth is not the driving force behind environmental degradation.

Population in Perspective, Section Three, “Population and the Environment.” On military and environment, see Joni Seager, “Patriarchal Vandalism: Militaries and the Environment,” in Jael Silliman and Ynestra King, eds., Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment and Development, Boston: South End Press, 1999, 163-188. On the positive role many poor people play in protecting the environment, see James K. Boyce and Barry G. Shelley, eds., Natural Assets: Democratizing Environmental Ownership, Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2003. On gender and biodiversity, see Patricia L. Howard, ed., Women and Plants: Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation, London: Zed Books, 2003.

5. Population pressure is not a root cause of political insecurity and conflict.

Betsy Hartmann and Anne Hendrixson, “Pernicious Peasants and Angry Young Men: The Strategic Demography of Threats,” in Betsy Hartmann, Banu Subramaniam and Charles Zerner, eds., Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, 217-237. For more on the youth bulge, see Anne Hendrixson, “Angry Young Men, Veiled Young Women: Constructing a New Population Threat,” Corner House, Briefing No. 34, December 2004,

6. Population control targets women’s fertility and restricts reproductive rights.

See Reproductive Rights and Wrongs; Amy Oliver and Diana Dukhanova, “Depo-Provera: Old Concerns, New Risks,” DifferenTakes, No. 32, Population and Development Program, Hampshire College, Spring 2005,; Rajani Bhatia, “Ten Years after Cairo: The Resurgence of Coercive Population Control in India,” DifferenTakes, No. 31, Spring 2005,; and Kay Johnson, Wanting a Daughter: Needing a Son, Minneapolis: Yeong and Yeong, 2004.

7. Population control programs have a negative effect on basic health care.

Sarah Sexton, Sumati Nair and Preeti Kirbat, “A Decade after Cairo: Women’s Health in a Free Market Economy,” Corner House, Briefing No. 30, June 2004,; John Cleland and Steven Sinding, “What would Malthus say about AIDS in Africa?” The Lancet, Vol. 366, Issue 9500, Pages 1899-1901 (November 26, 2005); UNAIDS: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS,

8. Population alarmism encourages apocalyptic thinking that legitimizes human rights abuses.

John Dryzek, “Looming Tragedy: Survivalism,” in The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 23-44; Susan Greenhalgh, “Science, Modernity and the Making of China’s One-Child Policy,” Population and Development Review, Vol. 29, No. 2 (June 2003), 163-196; Larry Lohmann, “Malthusianism and the Terror of Scarcity,” in Hartmann et al, eds., Making Threats, 81-98.

9. Threatening images of overpopulation reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes and scapegoat immigrants and other vulnerable communities.

Elynor Lord, “The Huntington Challenge: Why “The Hispanic Challenge” Should be Discredited,” DifferenTakes, Fall 2004,; Adam Werbach, “Hostile Takeover: Anti-Immigration Coalition Seeks Control of Sierra Club,” In These Times, March 9, 2004; Binta Jeffers, “Population Control Imagery: Stopping the Blame,” computer graphic presentation, Committee on Women, Population and the Environment, forthcoming 2006; Jael Silliman and Anannya Bhattacharjee, eds., Policing the National Body: Race, Gender and Criminalization, Cambridge. MA: South End Press, 2002; Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, New York: Pantheon Books, 1997; Elizabeth L. Krause, “Dangerous Demographies: The Scientific Manufacture of Fear,” Corner House, Briefing No. 36, July 2006,

10. Conventional views of overpopulation stand in the way of greater global understanding and solidarity.

See Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross and Elena R. Gutiérrez, Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organiz for Reproductive Justice, Boston: South End Press, 2004; Adam Werbach, “End of the Population Movement, The America  Prospect, October 5, 2005; and “Call for a New Approach” in Silliman and King, eds., Dangerous Intersections, xx-xxi.

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