Melinda Gates fails to defuse controversy over contraception campaign

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Melinda Gates. Credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Barbara Kinney.

A bid to promote global contraceptive funding as uncontroversial has backfired on professed Catholic Melinda Gates, with her “No Controversy” campaign continuing to draw fire.

Wendy Wright, interim executive director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said in a July 6 statement that Gates' contraception effort marks “a new chapter in the population control movement.”

She predicted that the “guise of 'helping poor women'” would be used “to extract permanent funding for abortion-promoting and population control groups” under Gates' ambitious plan.

Observers from the Catholic human rights institute will be present at the July 11 London Summit on Family Planning, where the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will promote her plan to raise billions of dollars to provide artificial birth control to 120 million women around the world.

In its July 6 release, the human rights group warned that Gates, who identifies as a Catholic, would be spearheading a plan to erode parents' rights and religion in the developing world.

The campaign seeks billions of dollars in private and government money, along with commitments from “all members of the global community” to eliminate “barriers” to contraceptive use.

According to Wright, Gates' agenda would pressure donors and governments to give contraception “a higher priority than education, basic health care, infrastructure, and economic improvements – diverting funding from measures that empower women and communities.”

While backers of the summit assert that 215 million women have an “unmet need” for contraception, they are also looking to “increase demand” for it – based on the idea that a substantial number of woman do not yet realize this “need.”

According to the Catholic Family and Human Rights institute, demand is likely to be “increased” through timetables and goals that encourage involuntary or pressured sterilization.

The institute also warned that Gates' plans, if implemented, are likely to be overseen by organizations like Planned Parenthood, with a history of abortion promotion and other controversies.

The website for the Gates Foundation's “No Controversy” campaign declares that “contraceptives are not controversial,” and must be provided to “more than 200 million women and girls in developing countries who don't want to get pregnant.”

But controversy has dogged the campaign, particularly after an April 2012 speech in which Gates identified “as a practicing Catholic” and suggested she had followed “in the tradition of the great Catholic scholars” by questioning the Church's “received teachings” on artificial birth control.

In a July 6 CNN interview, the Gates Foundation co-chair sought to downplay the ongoing controversy over her campaign and its conflict with Catholic doctrine. She and her critics within the Church are “not going to agree about everything, but that's OK,” she told Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Gates also told CNN that the lack of contraceptive access in some African countries was “a crime.”

“If you see what's happened in other countries that have had contraceptives, they use them first of all and the birth rates go down,” she observed. “The question is could it have come down even more quickly?”

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