Melinda Gates on birth control and saving babies

Billionaires get attention especially when they do something they claim is for the good of the little people.  Thus Melinda Gates got a one-third page story in the first section of the Wall Street Journal for May 11-12, 2013 (Travels Changed Gates’s view on Global Birth Control).  According to the story, Mrs. Gates heard complaints from women in sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia that because of a short supply they were frequently not able to get the Depo-Provera “shot” they had previously received.  So last summer the Gates Foundation co-hosted a conference that raised pledges of $2.6 billion “to bring voluntary family planning services to 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.”  What a horrible and counter-productive waste of money!

To reach their goal, the Gates Foundation and several public and private partners have cut a deal with Bayer and Merck to reduce the price of their long-lasting implants by roughly one-half to $8.50 per unit.  “Janelle” is the successor to Norplant and can be used for 3 to 5 years, and Merck’s Implanon can be used for 3 to 4 years.  The list of side effects is long, but third-world women who use these hormonal birth control agents will most likely not have a local doctor who can help them, and how much it will cost to remove the implants is unknown.  The Big Pharma houses will most likely not have to deal with class-action lawsuits from third-world women who believe they were inadequately warned about possible side effects—as they have in the States.

Mrs. Gates is also interested in reducing child infant mortality, and she recommends “Kangaroo” mother care.  This involves holding the infant closely with lots of skin-to-skin contact to maintain the infant’s body heat, and that’s all very well and good.  But, as my wife has pointed out in her letter to the WSJ, the primary benefit of kangaroo care is that it promotes ecological breastfeeding if the mothers and their coaches allow it.  Allow???  Yes–allow!  Although we might think that in third-world and supposedly nature-oriented cultures mothers would automatically breastfeed as soon as the baby is born, that is unfortunately far from being the case.  Here’s a quotation from Sheila’s letter:

“While the baby-warming effects of kangaroo care are important, the most important thing that can be done to save babies is immediate and prolonged breastfeeding.  A study by Save the Children (2013) shows that 830,000 babies’ lives would be saved if breastfed within the first hour and that such first-hour breastfed babies were about three times more likely to survive than babies breastfed just one day later.”

Just imagine for a few moments how much the health and lives of babies and their mothers would be improved if every third-world baby were blessed with ecological breastfeeding.  Not only would there be a natural spacing of babies about two and sometimes three years apart without any contraception or even systematic NFP, but they would also be saved from the bad effects of the hormonal contraceptives.

So, pray for the conversion of Melinda and Bill Gates, and please pray for our NFP apostolate whose advocacy of ecological breastfeeding is unique in the field of natural family planning.

John F. Kippley, President, NFP International,