My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PHILADELPHIA —I have a number of inquiries on the subject of a problem which is being brought out by a variety of people regarding overpopulation in countries in relation to the food supply in those countries and the world's food supply.

It has always seemed to me to be a human right for a child to be born, because he or she is wanted. I had thought very little about the scientific side of increased populations in certain areas, though in the study of history it is always very evident that the problem of overpopulation leading to hunger and want has frequently also led to war. In the modern world we are learning more and more that we must plan for the future, and I think that research is needed in the whole population question.

On the more immediate question, which is being brought up in this country—apparently, in part, as a political issue to embarrass candidates running for office—it seems to me utterly unnecessary for any government interested in helping the problems of other nations to specifically tie a grant-in-aid to one particular area of help which, because of religious beliefs, might be a cause of contention within the donor or the recipient country.

We are a country from which other peoples have to ask loans, sometimes in the form of money, sometimes in the form of goods, sometimes in the form of technical assistance. We happen to have a population of mixed origin and of a variety of religions. Any government has a right, if it so desires, to set up a planned parenthood program if it is not in opposition to its people's religious beliefs. But there is no reason why this cannot be done with the funds of the country itself.

We can quite well, as a loaning country, give aid for economic projects or for general health projects, such as malaria control or epidemic controls of different kinds that may be essential to setting up an economic project.

When there is, however, a specific project such as the organizing of population control, there is no reason why a nation should not devote its own funds as it wishes. Why our government should commit itself to a specific grant, which some of its citizens will oppose for religious reasons, I cannot understand.

As far as individuals and organizations are concerned, they do not have to consult their government in this country as to the type of project they wish to aid in other parts of the world. There undoubtedly is a great deal of interest among certain groups and among certain individuals in the United States who feel that the problems of the future cannot be solved without population control, and there is no reason why this aid should not be given if it is on a voluntary basis and under no government control.

I happen to be one of the people who has long believed in planned parenthood, but I had six children in a period of 10 years. There was no health reason and no economic reason why they could not be well cared for and given a good start in their lives.

The World Health Organization will undoubtedly do research at the request of some of the members of the United Nations, but the policies of the U.N. itself and of its specialized agencies are directed by the will of the member nations, and the Secretary-General and the heads of the various specialized agencies will always be careful not to offend any of the member states.


(Copyright, 1959, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Philadelphia (Penn., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 15, 1959

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.