“The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,” John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in “Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions.”
Holdren co-authored the book with Stanford professors Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. The book was published by W.H. Freeman and Company.
At the time “Human Ecology” was published, Holdren was a senior research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Paul Ehrlich, currently president of The Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford, is also author of the 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb,” a book The Washington Post said “launched the popular movement for zero population growth.”
“Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions” argued that the human race faced dire consequences unless human population growth was stopped.
“Human values and institutions have set mankind on a collision course with the laws of nature,” wrote the Ehrlichs and Holdren. “Human beings cling jealously to their prerogative to reproduce as they please—and they please to make each new generation larger than the last—yet endless multiplication on a finite planet is impossible. Most humans aspire to greater material prosperity, but the number of people that can be supported on Earth if everyone is rich is even smaller than if everyone is poor.”
The specific passage expressing the authors’ view that a baby “will ultimately develop into a human being” is on page 235 in chapter 8 of the book, which is titled “Population Limitation.”
At the time the book was written, the Supreme Court had not yet issued its Roe v. Wade decision, and the passage in question was part of a subsection of the “Population Limitation” chapter that argued for legalized abortion.
“To a biologist the question of when life begins for a human child is almost meaningless, since life is continuous and has been since it first began on Earth several billion years ago,” wrote the Ehrlichs and Holdren. “The precursors of the egg and sperm cells that create the next generation have been present in the parents from the time they were embryos themselves. To most biologists, an embryo (unborn child during the first two or three months of development) or a fetus is no more a complete human being than a blueprint is a building. The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being. Where any of these essential elements is lacking, the resultant individual will be deficient in some respect.”
In the same paragraph, the authors continue on to note that legal scholars hold the view that a “fetus” is not considered a “person” under the U.S. Constitution until “it is born.” But they do not revisit the issue of when exactly the “fetus” would properly be considered a “human being.”
“From this point of view, a fetus is only a potential human being [italics in original],” wrote the authors. “Historically, the law has dated most rights and privileges from the moment of birth, and legal scholars generally agree that a fetus is not a ‘person’ within the meaning of the United States Constitution until it is born and living independent of its mother’s body.”
The same section of the book goes on to argue that abortion spares “unwanted children” from “undesirable consequences.”
“From the standpoint of the terminated fetus, it makes no difference whether the mother had an induced abortion or a spontaneous abortion,” write the Ehrlichs and Holdren. “On the other hand, it subsequently makes a great deal of difference to the child if an abortion is denied, and the mother, contrary to her wishes, is forced to devote her body and life to the production and care of the child. In Sweden, studies were made to determine what eventually happened to children born to mothers whose requests for abortions had been turned down. When compared to a matched group of children from similar backgrounds who had been wanted, more than twice as many as these unwanted youngsters grew up in undesirable circumstances (illegitimate, in broken homes, or in institutions), more than twice as many had records of delinquency, or were deemed unfit for military service, almost twice as many had needed psychiatric care, and nearly five times as many had been on public assistance during their teens."
“There seems little doubt that the forced bearing of unwanted children has undesirable consequences not only for the children themselves and their families but for society as well, apart from the problems of overpopulation,” wrote the authors.
The Ehrlichs and Holdren then chide opponents of abortion for condemning future generations to an “overcrowded planet.”
“Those who oppose abortion often raise the argument that a decision is being made for an unborn person who ‘has no say,’” write the authors. “But unthinking actions of the very same people help to commit future unheard generations to misery and early death on an overcrowded planet.”
Holdren has impeccable academic credentials. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate at Stanford. He worked as a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before becoming a senior research fellow at California Institute of Technology. He then became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley before joining the faculty at Harvard in 1996, where he was the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy and director of the Program in Science, Technology and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
In addition to his duties at Harvard, Holdren was director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass.
His curriculum vitae posted at the Woods Hole Web site lists “Human Ecology” as one of the books he has co-authored or co-edited.
“Dr. Holdren,” says the Web posting, “is the author of some 300 articles and papers, and he has co-authored and co-edited some 20 books and book-length reports, such as Energy (1971), Human Ecology (1973), Ecoscience (1977), Energy in Transition (1980), Earth and the Human Future (1986), Strategic Defences and the Future of the Arms Race (1987), Building Global Security Through Cooperation (1990), Conversion of Military R&D (1998), and Ending the Energy Stalemate (2004).”
The next to last subsection of the chapter on “Population Limitation” in “Human Ecology” is entitled, “Involuntary Fertility Control,” which the authors stress is an “unpalatable idea.”
“The third approach to population control is that of involuntary fertility control,” write the Ehrlichs and Holdren. “Several coercive proposals deserve discussion mainly because societies may ultimately have to resort to them unless current trends in birth rates are rapidly reversed by other means.”
“Compulsory control of family size is an unpalatable idea, but the alternatives may be much more horrifying” the authors state at the end of the subsection. “As those alternatives become clearer to an increasing number of people in the 1970s, we may well find them demanding such control. A far better choice, in our view, is to begin now with milder methods of influencing family size preferences, while ensuring that the means of birth control, including abortion and sterilization, are accessible to every human being on Earth within the shortest possible time. If effective action is taken promptly, perhaps the need for involuntary or repressive measures can be averted.”
In February, when Holdren appeared before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for a confirmation hearing, he was not asked about his comment in “Human Ecology” that a baby “will ultimately develop into a human being.”
Sen. David Vitter (R.-La.) did ask him, however, about the population-control ideas he expressed in 1973.
“In 1973, you encouraged a, quote, ‘decline in fertility to well below replacement,’ close quote, in the United States, because, quote, ‘280 million in 2040 is likely to be too many,’ close quote,” said Vitter. “What would your number for the right population in the U.S. be today?”
“I no longer think it’s productive, senator, to focus on the optimum population for the United States,” Holdren responded. “I don’t think any of us know what the right answer is. When I wrote those lines in 1973, I was preoccupied with the fact that many problems in the United States appeared to be being made more difficult by the rate of population growth that then prevailed.
“I think everyone who studies these matters understands that population growth brings some benefits and some liabilities,” Holdren continued. “It’s a tough question to determine which will prevail in a given time period. But I think the key thing today is that we need to work to improve the conditions that all of our citizens face economically, environmentally and in other respects. And we need to aim for something that I have been calling ‘sustainable prosperity.’”
In a subsequent question, Vitter asked, “Do you think determining optimal population is a proper role of government?”
“No, senator, I do not,” said Holdren.
The White House Press Office did not respond to emailed and telephoned inquiries from CNSNews.com about Holdren’s statement in “Human Ecology” that a baby will “ultimately develop into a human being.”