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Latest revision as of 13:43, 29 July 2020

Zero Population Growth
Washington, D.C.

This article discusses the Right's involvement in working to weaken 
environmental protection.

Population advocates are well served by an understanding of their formidable 
opponents, namely the anti-choice and anti-environmental "user" groups 
(deceptively termed the "Wise Use" movement by its participants).

Both these groups perpetuate effective misinformation campaigns: Users pit 
jobs vs. the environment; anti-choice extremists preach a "family values" 
agenda that promotes sexual ignorance over education. The tactics and 
moralistic language used by the anti-choice and anti-environmental groups are 
remarkably similar, and have become all too familiar to many population 
advocates. Such groups play a significant rule in shaping political debate, 
and have proven themselves effective opponents to both reproductive choice and 
a health environment.

Preaching Spontaneous Abundance
The anti-choice and anti-environmental movements are similar in that they both 
espouse a pro-growth doctrine and a faith in the limitless abundance of 
natural resources. Anti-choice leaders take the biblical mandate to "be 
fruitful and multiply" literally -- promoting an anti-abortion, anti-
contraception and anti-sex education agenda. In a similar vein, the anti-
environmentalists believe that humankind's mission is to dominate and "subdue 
the earth." Their political agenda includes opening the Arctic National 
Wildlife Refuge for all exploration, clear-cutting old growth forests, gutting 
the Endangered Species Act and opening 10 million acres of designated 
wilderness to development. As Ron Arnold, one of the most outspoken leaders of 
the User movement, explained, "We want you to be able to exploit the 
environment for private gain, absolutely. And we want people to understand 
that is a noble goal."

"It's a holy war between fundamentally different religions," proclaims Charles 
Cushman of the National Inholders Association, an anti-environmental 
organization, "The preservationists [environmentalists] are . . . worshipping 
trees and animals and sacrificing people . . ." A similar viewpoint is 
expressed by Judie Brown, anti-choice leader and president of the American 
Life League: "[Environmentalists] are more concerned with saving animal life 
such as whales, seals, snail darters, owls and hawks. They are equally 
concerned about controlling the numbers of human beings who live on the earth 
because they view human beings, another animal form, as a threat to the 
animals they claim are 'endangered species.'"

Anti-environment and anti-abortion extremists also portray environmental and 
pro-choice advocates as the new political threat. It's as if they are looking 
for a substitute for the Cold War. As former Secretary of the Interior Stewart 
Udall aptly puts it, "the color green has become red" in the eyes of the far 

Allusions to a "socialist plot" to control people and destroy the economy are 
found throughout anti-environment and anti-choice rhetoric. "The phony 
environmental crisis is a socialist plot to create so much bureaucratic 
control of business in the name of saving the environment that it will cost 
billions of dollars and thousands of lost jobs during the next ten years," 
writes Fundamentalist Reverend Tim LaHaye, former board member of the Moral 
Majority. The anti-choice organization, Human Life International warns that ". 
. . the birthrate is below reproduction, and the industrial power of the 
nation will certainly decline . . a direct result of Planned Parenthood's 

Know Thy Enemy
Combining skilled rhetoric and a subtle distortion of the facts, the anti-
choice and User movements have successfully employed similar tactics to stymie 
pro-choice and environmental initiatives. With the help of two sympathetic 
presidential administrations, anti-choice and anti-environmental ideologues 
have infiltrated the courts and federal agencies -- wielding tremendous 
influence over policies relating to reproductive health and the environment. 
In particular, both camps have effectively used the judicial system to advance 
their agendas and undermine precedents that protect reproductive rights and 
the quality of the environment.

In two symbolic decisions handed down this June, Planned Parenthood of 
Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal 
Council, the U. S. Supreme Court confirmed every population advocate's deepest 
fear -- that we can't rely on the highest Court to protect our fundamental 
rights to individual reproductive choice and a healthy environment.

Both cases have sent a confusing and insidious message. While on the surface 
the decisions appeared to uphold the right to choose and the right to protect 
the environment, by the same stroke the Court undermined the principles that 
enable us to exercise these very rights, thereby diminishing their 
constitutional protection. In Casey, the Court severely weakened Roe v. Wade, 
the precedent establishing a constitutional right to choose abortion, by 
allowing states to restrict access to abortion services. In the Lucas case, 
the Court set a disturbing new precedent which calls into question the ability 
of state and federal government to enforce environmental regulations when they 
impact upon private property owners.

As a result, the Court catapulted reproductive rights and environmental issues 
squarely into the political debate and shifted the battleground from the 
judicial to the legislative arena. The anti-choice lobby has effectively 
impeded the progress of pro-choice legislation by "littering" pro-choice bills 
with anti-choice amendments such as mandatory parental involvement for minors 
seeking abortion and mandatory waiting periods prior to an abortion. Likewise, 
anti-environmentalist are gearing up to load the federal Endangered Species 
Act with debilitating amendments as the reauthorization process begins.

To rally support for their legislative agendas, both camps have taken a unique 
approach to grassroots activism. Many of the User organizations are, in 
reality, merely frustrated corporate interests. Compulsory activism in which 
mining and timber industries fund and coordinate "grassroots demonstrations" 
of workers to protest un-employed by Users. Anti-choice leaders use mandatory 
"school trips", sponsored by private religious institutions to fill their 
ranks at political rallies. Through this technique, these movements attempt to 
falsely project the appearance of broad voluntary support for their political 

The "Vision Thing"
Difficult economic times have helped to fuel increasing fears about the 
future. Anti-environment and anti-choice leaders have effectively used this 
fear to energize their crusades.

The vision of the future promulgated by the Users is one in which a healthy 
environment can only mean lost jobs and lost profits. Anti-choice groups 
contend that women must not "deny their feminine nature" and should leave the 
workforce to return to the job of procreation as their fundamental mission.

Such a vision ignores the economic necessity of women having to work outside 
the home to support their families as well as the economic and social impact 
of forcing women to have unwanted children. In addition, the long-term costs 
of a polluted and degraded environment are dismissed at a time when an 
increasing member of economists and political leaders recognize the connection 
between environmental health and economic well-being.

The challenge facing the pro-choice and environmental communities is to regain 
control of the debate and promote a new vision of the future.

A variety of polls show that Americans are committed to preserving freedom of 
choice and protecting the environment. A poll conducted by the League of 
Conservation Voters found that 69 percent of Americans choose environmental 
protection over the economy. A recent Associated Press poll found that 60 
percent of Americans support a woman's right to choose abortion.

As the nation struggles for solutions to escalating social, economic and 
environmental problems, many voters have expressed a desire for change. 
Unfortunately, while wide-spread support for choice and the environment 
clearly exists, the public has found itself mired in the elaborate rhetoric 
surrounding these issues.