Impediment to Development: Family Planning for Mexico's Rural Population in the Late-Twentieth Century

In the 1970s, after decades of shifting economic development strategies, Mexico, with encouragement from external development agencies, began to focus on reducing birthrates.This paper examines how Mexico's developmental trajectory was altered through the implementation of population reform and family planning programs. A pro-natalist national policy was enacted in 1936 an attempt to recover from the social and political upheaval plaguing the nation since independence. The decrease in infant mortality and steady rate of population growth (2.7% a year from 1947 and onward) greatly changed the population demographics of Mexico. The Mexican economy also grew with population: from 1940 to 1970, gross domestic product increased by 6% per year. However, it soon became clear that the growing population would require resources unattainable with Mexico's slowing rate of GDP, prompting a General Population Law of 1974 that codified Family Planning as a solution to the burgeoning population. Mexico sought foreign assistance for family planning programs from both the public and private sectors. The International Planned Parenthood Federation and Foundation for the Study of the Population were two corporations involved with population programs in Mexico. The rural-and largely indigenous-population of Mexico was designated as the sector that required the most immediate attention. These two groups were largely funded by the United States Agency for International Development, an organization that prioritized strategic implementation of foreign assistance in the name of development to the economic and political benefit of the United States. The IPPF identified sterilization as one method of family planning, while also notating that it might be a contentious option. While there was support from the Mexican Government and Catholic Church in initiating Family Planning, sterilization was not approved by the Church, nor viewed as a favorable method of family planning by Mexican society. From an examination of official USAID documents, population laws, and development strategies it is clear that IPPF and the Mexican Government utilized family planning in the rural sector to reduce the number of children birthed to rural women, a clear violation of human rights, in the name of development.