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AN APPEARANCE OF GENOCIDE: A REVIEW OF GOVERNMENTAL FAMILY-PLANNING PROGRAM POLICIES JAMES E. ALLEN* Have our federal, state, and local family-planning policies and programs become forms of genocide for nonwhite and poor Americans? Unfortunately, it is difficult to answer a categorical no, because certain policies and practices at various governmental levels have served to raise, not allay, the fears of genocide. It is clear that the genocide issue is real in the minds of many blacks. Two recent studies have shown that there is a significant group of black Americans who are wary of family-planning programs, especially if those programs involve sterilization or abortion and if the programs are run by nonblacks [1,2]. Although such fears were found to be greatest in the young, the male, the less educated, and residents of the North, concern has been expressed by other segments of black society as well. Newspaper and magazine articles which raise the question of a relationship between race genocide and family-planning programs appear to be increasing [I]. Many blacks are opposed to family planning on the argument of "strength in numbers"; they equate family planning with family limitation and feel black survival and betterment depend on ever-increasing numbers [3]. Others feel that nothing of value to blacks can come from the white power structure. In view of historical persecution and maltreatment of blacks by whites in the United States, the attitude is understandable . It is unfortunate that it is also understandable in view of certain federal, state, and local family-planning policies and practices that exist today. To the American white majority, it seems improbable, if not impossible , that government policymakers are practicing genocide. I agree with this view. Further, I agree with Robert Weisbord, who wrote in a 1973 issue ??Demography that, "even if a minority ofwhites foster black family *Director of the Master's Program, Department of Health Administration, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514. 300 J James E. Allen ¦ Appearance of Genocide planning for base motives, it may still be in the best possible interest of blacks to accept family planning" [3, p. 571]. Little controversy continues in the United States today over the desirability of all families being planned and of every child being a wanted child. Further, black women seek and receive family-planning assistance despite cries of genocide, predominantly by black males. Nevertheless, decisions by government policymakers, when viewed in a context broader than family planning, can give the appearance of having genocidal overtones. While most of us dismiss cries of genocide as coming from blacks misinterpreting well-meaning policies, many blacks are not so charitable. Certainly at the federal level, any appearances of genocidal policymaking seem inadvertent. They are probably a result of insensitivity of policymakers to the images that family-planning policy decisions produce among the black and poor in the United States. Assuming genocide is not intended, it is especially important both to recognize why increasing numbers of family-planning programs are associated with genocide in newspaper and magazine articles in the black community and to take steps to lessen officials' vulnerability to charges of genocide. Genocidal Overtones ofFederal Family-planning Policies and Practices A major criticism of federal family-planning policies and legislation has been that of misplaced priorities. A black nationalist at Indiana University pointed out that abortions are free, but aspirin costs money [4, p. 244]. At the same time that the poor must pay for medicines, the government has made it possible for Americans who do not have access to private family-planning services to obtain abortions when desired, at government expense. There are reasons why this is so. Foremost among the reasons is the fact that the pharmaceutical industries function in a for-profit environment. Nevertheless, the criticism of the black nationalist at Indiana University should be taken seriously. He points to a symptom of the larger problem: family-planning programs, however well intentioned, stand in contrast to the enthusiasm with which other programs for the poor have been pursued. Federal programs and policies further this image of misplaced priorities and inconsistencies. The Report of the Commission on Population Growth and the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 300-306
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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