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Fifty years ago today, on March 27, 1972, the Rockefeller Commission on Population Growth and the American Future issued a massive report calling for the United States to achieve zero population growth. The Commission’s report included a comprehensive set of recommendations for changes in federal, state, and local government policy to put the hand of government and the private sector heavily on the side of reducing the number of children conceived and born in the United States.  Under these recommendations, scarcely any topic touching on family relations and the human right to life was unaffected.

President Richard M. Nixon requested the report in 1969 and Congress authorized the creation of the 24-member Commission in March 1970.  Among other recommendations, the Commission called for the legalization of abortion through the second trimester of pregnancy, public funding of abortion and abortion-providing organizations, universal private insurance coverage of abortion, and distribution of anti-population propaganda  to teenagers.  These policies represented a sharp departure from centuries of U.S. law safeguarding human life and the family unit. The report proved to be highly influential. Less than a year after its release, the Supreme Court issued its opinions effectively legalizing abortion until birth on the barest of economic or health grounds.  The majority opinion by Justice Harry Blackmun openly asserted that “population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones tend  to complicate and not to simplify . . . one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion.”

More important in terms of its long-term impact, the Rockefeller Commission report posed, and continues to pose, a profound shift in the relationship between government and people.  At the outset, the report relies on decidedly bleak conclusions about human prospects, the opportunities for economic growth and technological invention.  It establishes as normative a relationship in which government is not merely an expression of the choices of a free people, but an overseer dedicated to its own designs for and limits on the populace, an overseer unbound by any duty to respect the sanctity of human life or the sanctuary of the family and other private institutions.

The Commission’s Report reflected the temper of the times. In 1968 Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich published a manifesto called The Population Bomb.  The book’s dire warnings capped a tragic decade of assassination and social discord.  The cover of the paperback version of the bestseller did an extraordinary thing, depicting a smiling infant inside the outline of an igniting bomb.  The goal was not to stir the natural heart of human beings to protect an innocent child, but to depict the baby as the bomb.  Today, 55 years later, we see that Ehrlich’s crude arguments for seeing the next generation as an enemy, warnings of raging disease and famine driven by “overpopulation,” have proved false – and that, as before, the faults of overbearing government and cruel policies that divide and devalue people are the source of the greatest calamities.

In the half century since the Rockefeller Commission report was released, the lives of 63.5 million unborn children have been taken in abortion facilities erected in the United States in the wake of the errors of Roe.  Parental rights over their children, and their health and safety, have been eroded to the point that in a number of states abortions can be procured by or foisted on minor children without parental knowledge or consent. These policies and practices have  been abetted by a series of public health alarms, beginning with population and environmental concerns and proceeding now through diverse panics induced by pandemics and climate change.  In each of these declared emergencies, legitimate matters of the common good and public concern have been translated into government policies and mandates designed to  truncate parents’ rights and subject them to the will of the state.  The People’s Republic of China is only the most draconian of nations that have taken this route of top-down control through its brutal child limitation policies enforced by family planning cadres and forced abortion up to birth.

Vice Chairman of the Rockefeller Commission Graciela Olivarez issued a dissenting statement warning of this threat for our own country: “The poor cry out for justice and equality and we respond with legalized abortion. […] I believe that, in a society that permits the life of even one individual (born or unborn) to be dependent on whether that life is ‘wanted’ or not, all its citizens stand in danger.”

We, the undersigned,

Have added our names to this statement on the golden anniversary of the dross of the Rockefeller Commission to declare that it is time for a new direction.  We equally reject the core policies on respect for human life promoted by the Rockefeller Commission and the apocalyptic tone and content of its warnings about a bleak and heartless human future.  We hold that the history of humanity, though troubled by conflict, poverty, war and disease, demonstrates that progress is possible in every area of human endeavor.  We likewise hold that it is essential that public policy reject extreme notions that put every group and individual in society in endless competition with each other for limited goods, and that inevitably lead to declining standards of living.  We embrace the worth of every human life and call for positive policies that put supreme value on the sanctity of life and the preservation of institutions that safeguard it.

Specifically, we support and urge:

  • The reversal of the unconstitutional abortion decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have wreaked so much havoc on America and deprived our nation of the blessings of millions of young people of both sexes and all religions, ethnicities and races.
  • The end of domestic funding at all levels of government to organizations that have embraced abortion, eugenics and population control as legitimate aims of health care programming, as these aims subvert respect for the equality of every human being under the law.
  • The United States to readopt similar policies in its programs of international aid to exclude abortion provision and advocacy.
  • Recognition that embracing abortion in response to population growth has contributed to sharply declining birth rates worldwide.  We note with particular concern that the decline in births is correlated to American women having fewer children than they and their spouses would prefer. Since the release of the Rockefeller Commission report, the U.S. fertility rate has often dropped below replacement, reaching record lows in recent years.
  • A renewal of American understanding that, as the founders and our leaders have long proclaimed, God is the source of both our rights and our blessings, and that just government depends on recognition of and Thanksgiving for what a good and generous God has entrusted to us.

Our message is that the historical impact of these policies, the toll of pessimism and savage competition, is enormous and accelerating.  It can and must be reversed. Today, on March 27, 2022, we unite in a plea to our fellow Americans to change course, to celebrate life, and to honor the principle that each and every member of the human family is endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights, including the right to life.

Charter Signatories

Signers’ affiliation listed for identification purposes only

Marjorie Dannenfelser

President, Susan B. Anthony List

Gary Bauer

President, American Values

Jeanne Mancini

Author and Pro-Life Leader

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D.

President, Ethics and Public Policy

Frank Cannon

Founding President, American Principles Project

Kristan Hawkins

President, Students for Life of America

Catherine Glenn Foster

President & CEO, Americans United for Life

Chuck Donovan

President, Charlotte Lozier Institute

Austin Ruse

President, C-FAM

Peter Wolfgang

Executive Director, Family Institute of Connecticut

Steven Mosher, Ph.D.

President, Population Research Institute

Star Parker

President, Center for Urban Renewal and Education

Ambassador Sam Brownback

Chairman, National Committee for Religious Freedom

Robert P. George

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Michael P. Farris

President and CEO, Alliance Defending Freedom

Gerard V. Bradley

Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Louis A. Brown Jr., J.D.

Executive Director, Christ Medicus Foundation

Christopher Manion, Ph.D.

Director, Humanae Vitae Project, Population Research Institute

Tony Perkins

President, Family Research Council

Ben Carson, M.D.

Chairman and Founder, American Cornerstone Institute

Kevin Roberts, Ph.D.

President, The Heritage Foundation

Shea Bradley-Farrell, Ph.D.

President, Counterpoint Institute for Policy, Research, and Education

John Stonestreet

President, Colson Center

Susan Wills, Esq.

Associate Scholar, Charlotte Lozier Institute

Russ Vought

President, Center for Renewing America

Penny Nance

President and CEO, Concerned Women for America

Ryan Bomberger

Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder, The Radiance Foundation

Bradley Mattes

President, Life Issues Institute

Jessica Anderson

Executive Director, Heritage Action

Tami Fitzgerald

Executive Director, North Carolina Values Coalition

Steven Ertelt


Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann

Archbishop Of Kansas City In Kansas

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Founder, Ruth Institute

Sign the Declaration for a New American Future