WHO is for Human Rights?

A German cardinal recently discounted, rather infelicitously, the extent to which westerners should listen to what African Bishops have to say – at least when it comes to topics such as marriage and the family. His indelicate dismissal of African voices, a source of acute embarrassment even if not motivated by outright racism, generated swift and widespread denunciation.

In their own (less-noted) way, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF would like nothing more than to muffle the voices of African bishops on account of their irksome temerity to defend basic human rights. How dare benighted African churchmen stand in the way of their disguised population control schemes? Don’t they know that desperate causes call for desperate measures – that clandestine campaigns to sterilize women without their knowledge are justifiable and even laudable, not an obscene violation of human rights?

Every single one of the Kenyan bishops has, by signing a remarkable statement earlier this month, accused the WHO of sponsoring just such clandestine sterilizations – not in a “straightforward” manner, but indirectly by means of a tetanus vaccination campaign. This is no ordinary tetanus vaccine, but what is known as a “fertility regulating vaccine.”

Here’s how it works: the vaccine is intentionally manufactured to contain the pregnancy hormone HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). This does not belong in a standard tetanus vaccine and doesn’t get there by accident. As a result, the body learns to interpret as hostile the presence of that hormone, just as it would signs of tetanus.

So when a woman subsequently becomes pregnant and this hormone surfaces, the body springs into attack mode because that is what the vaccine has instructed it to do; constant miscarriage and therefore infertility is the end result. Talk about treating pregnancy as a disease!

Vaccines have been one of the greatest disease-fighting tools ever developed; using its mechanism of action to attack human life is truly devious stuff. Though induced infertility is the objective, it does not achieve its intended effect instantaneously – or even over the course of a normal tetanus schedule. For this to work, it needs to be administered in multiple (5) doses spread out over six-month intervals, roughly and unnecessarily double that of a typical tetanus vaccine schedule.


Before making such an explosive charge, the Kenyan bishops did their homework, including testing several samples of the vaccine. All of the results (from tests conducted both inside and outside of Kenya) indicated that they were indeed fertility regulating vaccines. The WHO – along with the Kenyan government – fervently deny these charges. So someone is lying (or just somehow wrong).

The measured yet powerful Kenyan bishops’ statement seems credible, particularly as these same types of duplicitous, infertility-inducing campaigns have occurred elsewhere (Latin America, Philippines) in recent decades. Now would probably be a good time to mention that this type of vaccine was first developed a couple decades ago – by the WHO.

The Kenyan bishops’ statement should be making international headlines. After all, the media would normally be eager to pounce on anything that smacks of rank imperialistic exploitation. We claim to look back with horror on the forced sterilizations that occurred in this country in the early 20th century, and to recoil at, say, the forced sterilizations that took place by the millions in India in the 1970s.

Never again, we say. So one might think that “progressives” in “humanistic” international development institutions would strive to keep such abuses firmly in the rear view mirror. And yet this form of anti-humanism has remained a stubbornly recurrent fixture. Some have even opposed the use of DDT to contain malaria precisely because it was so effective at saving lives!

With this undercurrent of anti-humanism in mind, it’s not insignificant that the Catholic Church is standing up for basic human rights. This might strike many casual observers as paradoxical, considering that the Catholic Church is increasingly portrayed as an obstacle to human rights in countries (such as our own) besieged by an inhumane ideological fundamentalism. Where, for instance, adherence to the traditional view of marriage is absurdly cast not only as violation of “rights” – because by definition it excludes members of the same sex – but as the equivalent of racism.

And yet most people, I’d venture to say, instinctively grasp that enticing African women with the promise of protection against tetanus, while ensuring that they also walk away infertile, is an egregious contravention of human rights. So if the Kenyan bishops are right about that ignored abuse, might the charge that the Church is somehow against human rights in other contexts also be called into question?

Next thing you know, we would have to revisit the competing conception of human rights that compels western authorities to send foreign “re-education” advisors to Africa with the aim of blunting resistance to “advances” such as “gay marriage.” That conception would seem tougher to defend, even if one were so inclined, when kindred elite spirits are engaging in the surreptitious suppression of members of another race.

That, I think, is one reason this story has not made a lot of waves: better not to dig too deep – otherwise the whole Weltanschauung just might unravel. And when that’s on the line, what’s just one more human rights abuse?

Matthew Hanley’s new book, Determining Death by Neurological Criteria: Current Practice and Ethics, is a joint publication of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and Catholic University of America Press.