Dr. Stephen J. Plank, assistant professor of Population Studies, cautioned scientists against "the facile assumption that we may be able to contracept our way to the Great Society."
Speaking last week to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Plank stressed that the birth control pill must not be thought of as a "panacea" for the population problems of such countries as India, where the people are economically underprivileged, highly agrarian, and often illiterate.
Dr. Plank's remarks followed a presentation by Dr. Gregory Pincus, who is known as the "father" of the pill, on the advantages of physiological control of conception. Dr. Plank, however, urged "continued cautious assessment" of the safety of the progestin-estrogen pills.
The possibility that the pills may not be totally safe is dismissed by some experts as inconsequential in the face of the immense good which they could do in overcrowded countries, Plank said. "But the world-wide imperative for limited procreation can not make them safe."
He said that the desirability of reducing population growth of underprivileged nations has little persuasive force upon individual parents in a country like India, where "mortality is high and the best old-age insurance consists in the children who survive."
Plank, who is president of the Massachusetts Planned Parenthood League, pointed out that there are many weaknesses in the claims that the pill can significantly decrease maternal and infant mortality and improve social and mental health.
"There are severe limitations to the technical solution of any social problem," he said.