Those who think international family planning groups are concerned about women’s health have been sold a lie. The founders of both Marie Stopes International and DKT International have both said so, ironically, in an opinion piece in The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. In this article co-authored by these two founders, and another DKT associate, argue that the issues of family planning and contraceptives should have virtually nothing to do with the medical field.
For those who do not know, DKT International is a so-called “humanitarian” organization that provides everything from sex toys to abortion pills. According to their website DKT International, “provided and sold 548 million condoms, almost 72 million cycles of oral contraceptives, over 16 million injectable contraceptives, 1.8 million IUDs, and 14 million misoprostol pills.” Although this is a non-profit business we can be sure of one thing: this is a business, not the Red Cross. The goal of the founder, Phil Harvey, is simple; he wants to reduce the population growth of poor countries.
Phil Harvey and Tim Black’s opinion piece entitled, “Slaughtering Sacred Cows” reveals that the biggest concern of these men is not women’s health but population control and increasing contraceptive demand. The article begins by stating that population control needs to be implemented by expanding access of contraceptives to poor regions of the world. In order to achieve this, the authors advocate for an aggressive marketing campaign to subvert cultural values, religious beliefs, and medical guidelines. The beliefs of these foreign peoples are barriers that must be overrun and trampled upon in order for their family planning and population control initiatives to conquer.
The authors show their contempt for women by advocating for the de-medicalization of family planning. On page two of “Slaughtering Sacred Cows,” the authors claim the following:
“The dominance of the medical ethos in the past meant that clients seeking contraception were – and all too often they still are – treated as if they were needy and motivated to the same extent as people who are ill…. But since the majority of women seeking contraception are in good health, the medical concepts of SRH care delivery are largely irrelevant.” [emphasis added]
In one sentence, they have diagnosed all women seeking contraception as generally healthy. Would you want to take a pill or be injected with a drug prior to seeing a doctor? Of course not! The WHO-provided questionnaire on DMPA makes clear that injectable contraceptives are a medical issue. DKT is not concerned about health. They are concerned about numbers.
Women and men alike should not view this issue to fund family planning and contraceptive issues as a matter of improving women’s health but as a population control issue. Make no mistake, the founders of Marie Stopes and DKT do not see increasing contraceptive demand as a women’s rights issue, “Effective fertility control requires creating and meeting a mass demand for contraceptives. This is not medicine; it is marketing.” This is about an organization seeking to control women’s behavior through marketing. Women may get the contraceptives they “want,” but they do so without understanding the price they will pay in terms of their health.