LETTER: Family planning helps Third World

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The Independent Online
From Mr Harry Stopes-Roe

Sir: I much appreciate Emma Brooker's report on our conversation ("Sex, libel and eugenics", 17 November). But there was one point where she over- simplified what I said. As the issue is important, I would like to explain.

I said that the family planning being done by Marie Stopes International (continuing my mother's work now, in ways relevant now) is a practical contribution to a complex problem (namely, Third World development); I did not say a "practical solution to a straightforward problem". There is a growing attack by certain elements in the Third World movement against the importance of family planning; and one of their grounds for attack is the claim that some supporters of family planning press it as the solution. I, and those I know, certainly do not.

There are 100 million couples in the Third World who have no proper family planning services, which is causing untold tragedy. Many hundreds of thousands of Third World women a year have non-medical abortions, often suffering the attendant morbidity and death.

These are personal tragedies. The community also suffers. Every addition to a country's population requires addition of capital to provide corresponding education and health care, and as the child reaches maturity further additional capital is required. All this must be provided out of whatever increase in GNP the country may achieve, thus reducing the GNP per capita available as income.Increased total food production yields a reduced per capita food production in nearly half the developing countries. Women's personal losses have their communal costs, too: for example, half of the Nigerian maternity budget is wasted on complications from illegal abortions.

Certainly the developed world should support health, women's education, appropriate technology, etc; but family planning is very productive, too.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Stopes-Roe