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Voices of Europe today Milton Mayer discusses in two recorded interviews the problem of overpopulation at the last general assembly of w h o the World Health Organization in the spring of 952 all resolutions having to do with overpopulation were tabled after a sharp cleavage between several delegations from predominantly Protestant countries including Norway and several predominantly Catholic countries including Ireland first in Geneva Switzerland. Milton Maier interviews a medical man of Europe whose nationality may reveal itself to many Americans when they first hear his voice. Dr. McCormick is one of Ireland's eminent specialists in preventative medicine and has been active in that field since 1900. He is now chief medical advisor to the Department of Health of Ireland and chief of Ireland's delegation to the World Health Organization. Here is Milton Mayer. Dr. McCormick What is the population problem what is meant by the term.
Well the term population probably should properly cover to us think under population and over population. The discussions at the last Assembly of the World Health Organization were concerned with problems consequent on overpopulation. What is the basis of the problem of overpopulation. How critical is it. Is it a simply a matter of a rising birth rate. No. Problem of raising birth rates complication by reduced debt rage. And as the death rate is reduced I suppose that in itself contributes to the rise of the birth rate. Be sure to do it as there are still more people who survive to have children.
Yes and if people have a greater expectation of life that is the average age is much greater than it was 20 years ago. And is there a further connection between this combined rising birth rate and the production and distribution of food in the overpopulated areas. Yes there is a very intimate relation between them. Is there a further connection. Dr. McCormick. Between overpopulation backwardness of productive method mal distribution of such food supplies as there are with. The problem of epidemic disease. But yes because all of the conditions that you have mentioned are phoned in which we refer to as the under developed
countries where for very many hundreds of years the pestilential diseases have been present in endemic and epidemic. I should suppose that the problem of malnutrition say in Europe or in America. Grave as it may be in certain areas is not to be considered critical as compared with the problem in Asia. You know I should say that there is no comparison to the seriousness of the problem. If then Dr. McCormick there exists a problem of overpopulation. In certain areas of the world particularly in areas of Asia. What should be done about it. By whom and how.
Well as regards what should be done about it that question would be answered by my replies to your second to clear is that it is by whom and ho what should be done about it. We should face up to the problem and see Joaquin as the possible solution overage. As regards by whom. The problem should be checked by the country concerned. How do I know which should be attracted. Brings me to the substance of the discussion at the last word you had said. I assume of course that in this impromptu interview you are speaking your personal view as a medical man and a human being and not as a
representative of a government shill. The. Suggestion put forward by some of the advocates of birth control. Are such as could not be accepted by any Catholic. There are three methods by which birth control may be alleviated and that's the problem of birth control. The first is the use of the Save period the second would be to use a mechanic do contraceptives and that herd would be sterilize ation. No with regard to the use of the safe period this method is the only method which
is recognised by the Catholic Church when I say that I do not mean that the Catholic Church advocates it or encourages it but it does allow the use of the saved period for medical economic are social reasons. It could in no circumstances I think agree to its use simply and solely for the purpose of having a good time by not having a family. No DC period and the use of the Save period. As applied to under developed populations where the vast majority of the people are illiterate. To my mind is simply clearest method for solving the problem. Now that brings us
to facing the issue plainly and squarely. And that is the use of contraceptives or the use of sterilization and abortion. And there we cannot agree even in the very slightest what these methods are irreconcilably contrary to the beliefs and practices of Catholic. If I understand it correctly Dr. McCormick. The issue as it came up in the last World Health Assembly in Geneva was this greater participation in the advocacy of birth control as a solution of overpopulation. It was recommended by the delegates of some countries strongly recommended by the
delegates of Sweden and Norway in particular. And this view was supported in some measure by the delegates from India and Ceylon two of the areas in which there is considerable overpopulation. And the opposition to further w h o o activity in this field came primarily from Ireland Italy France Belgium Holland and Lebanon. Am I right in my recollection. Yes should agree with it. And the result of the controversy on the floor of the last World Health Assembly because a deadlock was reached was the postponement of further consideration of the issue.
Yes that's a fair way of putting it. And I would just prefer to call it a discussion rather than a contrariety. You see on account of what I've told you. With regard to the use of contraceptive methods and sterilization and abortion. Those of us who belong to predominantly Catholic countries were gravely concerned amongst other issues that the w h o should be drawn into this. The World Health Organization. Receives the contributions of all its member states and we. Could see really grave danger for the future of the organization if the money which was subscribed to the
organization were used for a purpose which as I say is irreconcilable with Catholic belief. That is the the two remaining approaches to the medical or biological attack on overpopulation. If we eliminate the safe period because of the educational backwardness of the over populated areas the two remaining biological approaches namely contraceptives and sterilization or abortion are unacceptable for religious and moral reasons to Catholics. Mary Short I am not going to suggest to any country which holds different beliefs to those headed by myself washy. A proper religious and moral
approach to this question. But I would explain your position in this matter boy see that if a country. Just to take a certain line in regard to the solution of this problem and does it by its own resources. It is not for the like of me to object. I may not agree with them at the dz that they adopt but I certainly have no right to object to them using these methods and I'm not going to attempt to dictate or to point out to any country what particular way they should set about solving their problem. I might have my own opinions as to the best way to do it and I could state here and know. That I considered that the real solution to the
overpopulation problem is more a question of economics and as a social question and education. And along these lines you will find a truer and more lasting solution to the problem than by the application of contraceptive methods which are objectionable not unknown on religious grounds but on medical grounds and psychological. Thank you very much Dr. McCormick. Next in Oslo Norway Milton Mayer interviewed Dr. Carl Abraham director general of health services of the Norwegian government and sheep of Norway's delegation to the World Health Organization. Mr. Mayor Dr Avon Dr. McCormick in my interview with him said
that overpopulation is a tremendous problem confronting the world and a critical one that it must be dealt with but that each country and each people must deal with it in their own way. That some of the methods frequently suggested such as birth control and abortion are repugnant to many people certainly to Roman Catholics and that no people should be compelled to support such measures against their will and that this is exactly what would happen if the World Health Organization intervened as an organization in the critical problem of overpopulation. What is your answer as the chief delegate of Norway and what is your all Dr A.
Well a lot and I think it's a very good and useful starting point to note that my very good friend Dr. McCormick of Ireland with whom I have worked intimately in international health for a number of years agrees fully with me that of the problem of overpopulation is an important one that it is an urgent problem and I understand he is also agreeing that this problem is getting more and more urgent especially in those countries of the world which we now know underdeveloped. Those are the poor countries of the world with a low standard of living really illiteracy those countries of the world which in the mind of many of us I represent also the basis for that tension
from which the whole world suffers at the present time owing to the difference in standard of living. Therefore to my mind the problem of overpopulation has very a wide implications indeed. I think that this is the reason why not only the World Health Organization the United Nations but also other specialized agencies within the United Nations. First and foremost the food Negra culture organisation F.A. all and also UNESCO's have started the real discussion of the problem of overpopulation as a matter of fact. The FAA all has urged that w age take up this problem at the Fifth World Health Assembly the.
Deputy Director General of the FAA or Mr Broadley may put a problem which to my mind is not only interesting. But represents a Chalons to the international bodies at the present time he said. There may be a conflict between the work of the World Health Organization F.A. in the BHO you are saving lives in millions. But we have not yet been able to supply them with food. Where is the clothing for them the houses the jobs when they grow up. He said and I quote where birth rates continue to advance as is the case in many countries and not only in the underdeveloped countries where death rates and human
mortality are being harmed where the expectation of life is gaining another 5 10 15 years we cannot just sit back and let nature take its course. If we do nature's cause will be a desperate one. Therefore the United Nations itself the main organization is planning to call a World Population Conference in 1953 and 54 and the proposal brought up at the Fifth World Health Assembly. To establish an expert committee to study the health aspects of the reproduction of population problem really meant that the World Health Organization would prepare itself for its participation in this world population conference. Now Dr. Yvonne I would like to know just what your position is with
reference to overpopulation. And W.H. of those connection with it and also with reference to the position taken by Dr. McCormick of Ireland in opposition to W H O activity in the overpopulation problem. Well to my mind there Dr. McCormick like many Catholics tried to push this whole question into a corner and limiting it to a comprise mostly the questions are contraceptives abortions etc.. To my mind then I feel that I must speak as a public hell of mannerism in a medical man. The problem is much wider than that. Therefore also the
heading of the resolution which was suggested was the established inexpert Committee on Health problems relating to the population problem. What I mean is this that the reproduction of the human race cannot under our conditions take place without guidance without medical science without psychological die without a word that rational thinking and medical knowledge has to end this field as it has ended and guided other fields of life. We have for example just to start with the beginning of the congenital known hereditary malformation and diseases. We have the question of genetics inheritance of disease is sterilization for example justified on voluntary or compulsory bases in selected cases. We have the vast problem Aster Realty in families 10
percent or more of families are empty. Is there any way or treating that. It's a tragedy. It's a loss to society and to the families themselves. There you have the quite question artificial insemination. So either you have the question of abortions these spontaneous and the provoked abortions. Then again the enormous problems still unsolved. The hygiene of childbirth should deliberately take place at home or in institutions. What's the role of the doctor of the midwives. What about service for premature. What about spacing meaning proper distance between children and in this connection of course also the role in Metta the anti conception then the hygiene of family life the divorce problem. How many divorces are caused by the simple fact that the two members of the family didn't know anything about sexual
hygiene. Sex education in the family the sex anomalies homosexuality and other so-called perversion. When all these are to my mind health aspects of the population problem. One of the feeling. Expressed by Dr. McCormick Dr. Avon that for the World Health Organization to enter into the overpopulation problem as an organization would be in effect to compel people like him and many other many millions of other Catholics to support measures such as birth control or abortion to which they have religious and moral objections.
And according to Dr. McCormick scientific objections and medical and psychological objections as well. I really have great difficulty in following. Dr. McCormick on this point how does an international body like the bridge work. It is not the intention. And such an organization and it has not the power to enforce anything upon any country any people or any individual. What doubly age old can do in its field is only to collect this material to bring together knowledge relating to this subject so that those countries which feel that they would like to make use of this knowledge would be free to do so. We must remember that some of the aspect of the population problem especially the problem of
overpopulation is a pressing one. In those countries which do not happen to have the experts the knowledge the facilities to provide education etc. etc.. Therefore this suggestion really meant that of the expert committee would collect the material and put it at the disposal of those companies who would want it not to press it upon anybody. I would ask and I do feel that every human being would be in the position of his own experience to judge here. I would ask is there any field in the world of where we are dealing with more misery and suffering that physical and mental that could have been prevented. Is there any field in which you find more deaths
that should never have taken place. More disease abled chronically disabled and exhausted individuals especially women. I would also ask Is there any field in which the medical profession find more appeals for help and where the medical profession is in possession of less knowledge to meet those demands. Then in the field of health problems relating to reproduction and yet doctor you are confronted with the Catholic doctrine held by. Many hundreds of millions of people that it is not for May and to decide whether a human creature is to come to life or not. How can
you. Speaking you say as a medical man answer this doctrine. Or cause. I would like to state that I have the deepest respect for religion as it is being presented to us in many of the larger legions of the world. Catalyst as in Protestantism Buddhism Hinduism Mohammedanism etc.. And I would be so far removed from trying in any way to force these people to do something against their will or against their belief. However we have seen how the religious values of these large philosophical systems. Have been a value with a lasting value through
hundreds and thousands of years and at the same time. How are these religious systems have adapted themselves to life as it was developed by human beings all over the world. And it seems to me that it is most encouraging as far as the Catholic Church is concerned that although this church now seems to adopt one type of interference by human beings in the reproduction the reproduction process. Namely by proving this so-called safe period system. It is my hope that gradually as the Catholic church unlike in the Protestant Church will find out. That it may without in any way violating its religious principles adapt itself to human life
and thereby. To my mind also adapt itself to what must be asked now from a medical and I gently point of view. Thank you very much Dr. Milton Mayer has been interviewing Dr. McCormick chief of Ireland's delegation of the World Health Organization and Dr. Carl Ivanka head of Norway's delegation. This program was made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education an independent organization established by the Ford Foundation. These programs are prepared and distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This program was introduced by Norman McKee and this is the end AB type network.
Voices of Europe
The population problem
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Interviews with Dr. McCormick and Dr. Karl Evang on the population problem.
Series Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
Developing countries.
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Interviewee: Evang, Karl, 1902-1981
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:00
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; The population problem,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; The population problem.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; The population problem. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from