THE REPORTER POPULATION OPULATION C CONNECTION ONNECTION
Volume 45, Issue 2 June 2013
The Population Tide Continues to Rise, While “Birth Dearthers” Repeat Washed-Up Claims
o, we’re running out of people? At least, that’s what some would have you believe. It’s silly, of course. The world has never been so crowded. Careful review of global trends doesn’t support the shallow, vapid whingeing of the birth dearthers. That firmly said, there are diverse trends and counter trends around the world.
So, mission accomplished, or nearly so? Absolutely not. But we should celebrate this progress. It validates our goal of seeking to provide every woman and every couple with access to affordable voluntary contraception, a task in which the U.S. has played a leading role—at least during friendly administrations, including the current one.
On the negative side, global population has doubled in just four decades. We add one billion people every dozen years, more than the total current population of the Western Hemisphere. As we continue to overpopulate the planet, we’re on the verge of the most massive species extinction since the time of the dinosaurs. Billions of people live in terrible poverty. Climate change is accelerating at an unheard-of rate.
Progress has been wildly uneven around the world, with some places having made no improvement. And now we’re seeing disturbing signs of a backlash fomented by fundamentalists of various stripes. The New York Times recently ran a front page story about efforts in Egypt to reverse long-standing commitments to smaller families. Iran, a surprising leader for several decades in terms of voluntary family planning, is now seeking to increase family size. Here at home, not a day passes without news reports of one inane effort or another to block access to reproductive health care. Our opponents lack foresight and common sense, but they have no shortage of determination to turn back the clock.
Now for some good news. There are a variety of safe, reliable methods by which people can manage their own fertility. The birth control pill and other forms of modern contraception rank near the very top of technologies that have changed our world for the better. In 1950, the average woman in the world had 4.95 children. Today, she has 2.45 children. In 1970, only eight nations on earth were at or below replacement rate. Today, 76 of the 200+ nations on earth have reached this milestone. In just the first decade of the new millennium, family size in the impoverished nation of Ethiopia plummeted by more than two children per woman. While the average Ethiopian woman still has more than four children, that’s impressive progress. Mexico, with its strong commitment to voluntary family planning, saw its family size plunge from 6.75 children in 1970 to just 2.23 today. This averted more than 50 million unplanned births in Mexico and clearly reduced population pressures in that nation as well as its neighbor to the north.
Population stabilization may sometimes seem like a Sisyphean task. But the boulder can be moved, albeit in both directions. Decades of progress could be undone if we and our allies were to step to the sidelines for even one moment. There is zero chance of that happening. In fact, with your help, we’ll keep pushing harder than ever to create a better, safer, less-crowded world.
John Seager firstname.lastname@example.org
Help Make the Population College Connection
It’s going to take an extended, concentrated effort to achieve population stabilization. That’s why we need the next generation. We’re already active on nearly 200 college campuses, and we’re expanding our outreach. You can help. Just email Lee Polansky at email@example.com or call her at (202) 974-7702 if you know of opportunities for us to make presentations on any campus across the country. There is never any fee or other cost involved since reaching young people is central to our grassroots mission. The Reporter — June 2013
The Reporter Volume 45, Issue 2 June 2013
Board Chair Marianne Gabel President and CEO John Seager Editor and Designer Marian Starkey Contributors Amy Phillips Bursch, Rebecca Harrington, Froma Harrop, Amanda Marcotte, Stacie Murphy, Shauna Scherer, John Seager, Marian Starkey, Nathan Wallace Overpopulation threatens the quality of life for people everywhere. Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by earth’s resources. Annual membership includes a one-year subscription to The Reporter. Annual membership, $25. All contributions, bequests and gifts are fully tax-deductible in accordance with current laws. The Reporter (ISSN 0199-0071) Population Connection 2120 L Street, NW, Suite 500 Washington, DC 20037 (202) 332-2200 (800) 767-1956 (202) 332-2302 fax firstname.lastname@example.org www.PopulationConnection.org www.PopulationEducation.org www.Worldof7Billion.org www.popconnect.org/ConnectingDots http://twitter.com/popconnect www.facebook.com/PopulationConnection
“What to Expect?” Nothing New
America’s Coming Demographic Transition: Disaster or Opportunity?
‘Baby Bust’ Baloney
America Is Doomed Unless Women Start Having More Babies. How Convenient.
Letters to the Editor
In the News
The President’s Circle
The ZPG Society
Field & Outreach
By Amy Phillips Bursch
By John Seager
By Froma Harrop
By Amanda Marcotte
30 PopEd 32 Cartoon Cover Photo
Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com
Editorial Excerpts June 2013 — The Reporter
or the past five years, I have had at least a handful of pregnant friends at any given time. I buy stuffed animals, picture books, and cards offering my congratulations on their “new arrivals” in bulk. My Facebook news feed is crammed with photos of newborns, videos of kids learning to ride their bikes, and transcriptions of funny conversations my friends have had with their toddlers. To look at my social circle, you’d be hardpressed to convince anyone that Americans aren’t having babies anymore. And yet, according to Jonathan Last—a columnist at the Weekly Standard and author of the new book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting—I’m of the demographic—white, well-educated, upper middle-class—that has given up on our country’s future by not reproducing. Pffff. Actually, America’s fertility rate has hovered right around two children per woman for more than 40 years. Yes, it has dipped to 1.9 during this Great Recession. It did that during the economic slump in the 1970s as well, and then rebounded to replacement rate (2.1) for a decade. Postponing childbearing during tough economic times is nothing new. There is no reason to believe that the U.S. fertility rate won’t nudge back up to replacement level as our economy gets back on firmer ground. But there seems to be a certain level of confusion over demographic terms and concepts that’s clouding the discussion as well. Contrary to what the panicked voices that are making their way onto news and radio shows across the country are saying, our population is not shrinking, or even headed for decline any time soon. Instead, our ranks of 315 million are projected to swell to over 400 million by mid-century. Of course, much of that is due to immigration. But the rest is due to population momentum (a phenomenon that results from a large population of childbearing-age women). Immigration projections have been adjusted downward as the level of new entrants has decreased during the recession, and yet natural increase (births minus deaths) will still ensure that our population grows—and not meagerly, I might add. That’s the situation in the United States. Worldwide, we’re
The Reporter — June 2013
projected to add more than 2 billion souls by 2050. And that’s if fertility rates continue to come down as they historically have. That’s a big “if,” given the additional funding that’s needed to ramp up family planning programs to meet existing demand, let alone the new demand that will be created by huge numbers of women entering their reproductive years. The Guttmacher Institute projects that by 2015 there will be 233 million women with an unmet need for family planning. That’s up from 222 million today. Most of that increase is due simply to population growth. This issue of The Reporter contains several articles that refute Last’s birth dearth claims. Two are from Population Connection staff—our President, John Seager, and our Media Relations Manager, Amy Phillips Bursch. John challenged Last to a public debate—a challenge that received no response. Perhaps Last is concerned that his collection of exaggerations and misrepresentations will be outed to his target audience. At the very least, we want our target audience—you, our members—to know the truth. So John went through each of Last’s main points one by one and offered honesty in place of hyperbole. The two pieces in this issue written by journalists are columns that I found both informative and amusing—the best combination for attacking this particular topic, in my opinion. My hope is that the collection of articles in this issue will assuage fears in those who are already advocates of population stabilization, but also that those on the fence will jump off the Last bandwagon when they see how misguided his claims truly are. In the meantime, I’ll be busy buying burp cloths, cooing over pastel outfits at baby showers, and eating too much cake at children’s birthday parties.
Marian Starkey email@example.com
Letters to the Editor
ndence to mstarkey@popc onnect.org. Letters are also accepted via postal mail. Le tters may be edited for clar ity and length .
Attn: Marian St Population Co
nnection 2120 L St., NW , Ste. 500 Washington, D C 20037
The March issue on teen pregnancy was exceptional. Susan Hisrich Washington, Pennsylvania Thank you for all the wonderful work you do to empower and educate women all over the world.
bounced from one foster home to another, or other hardscrabble situations.
Lynsey Tamsen Jones
Just one guy’s observation. Overall you are doing an important and necessary job.
Thank you for allowing me to join you in Washington, DC at Capitol Hill Days. It was nice to be permitted the opportunity to talk to Senator Rob Portman. I promise you I did my very best! Marya DeBlasi In your articles on teen pregnancy you have (like many other media), by focusing on teen mothers, omitted half of the problem: unwed teenage fathers. I find it hard to believe that boys stand around minding their own business while girls throw themselves at their feet begging for sex. It is time to give these guys a kick in the pants (or wherever it will do the most good) until they get it through their thick heads they are no longer big babies, for whom somebody else must take all the responsibility. Grow up and take responsibility for yourselves, kids. Ruth Markham Sandy, Utah Your March issue is interesting. However, since a picture is worth 10,000 words, you are sending the wrong message re teen pregnancy. You have 10 or more pictures of pregnant teenagers, or teenage mothers. All are happy and smiling and well groomed. The infants are clean and happy. It looks like the thing to do. Your articles talk about the hardships and shortcomings of a lot of teenage mothers. No pictures of homeless teens, kids www.popconnect.org
Gene Werden Spokane Valley, Washington Editor’s response: Because we received several letters of complaint about the photos in the March issue, I would like to take this opportunity to respond. The articles about teen pregnancy did indeed warn of the many challenges faced by teen parents and their children, not to mention society at large. Teen childbearing can have lasting consequences for all parties involved. It can perpetuate the cycle of poverty, prematurely end girls’ educations, and create health and intellectual challenges for children. It can also cost societies a lot of money in medical care and lost taxes through lower future wages. However, teen moms are still parents like any others, who have a job to do and who—hopefully—have a fierce love for their children. As such, they tend to smile in photos with their babies and may even talk about how some aspects of parenting have been positive for them. Yes, they may wish that they had waited to have children—and the outcomes would have been generally improved—but younger mothers are just as capable as older mothers at loving their kids and enjoying their company. A magazine full of struggling teen moms would have been depressing and unconstructive and that’s never been our goal. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for all. June 2013 — The Reporter
June 2013 â€” The Reporter
Texas Title X Funds Change Hands The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) lost its Title X funding at the end of March. DSHS had been the sole recipient of Title X funds in Texas since 2009 and was the primary recipient for more than three decades. The funds were awarded instead to the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas (WHFPT), for a period of three years, beginning April 1. WHFPT is a coalition of 34 contractors who operate 121 clinics in Texas. The group expects to be able to serve more than 190,000 women with the available funds. WHFPT will allocate funds on the basis of which providers in the coalition can serve the most women. Planned Parenthood, which was previously barred from receiving Title X funds in Texas, is a member of the coalition.
Number of Women with Unmet Need for Family Planning Increasing The Lancet published a study by the UN Population Division and the National University of Singapore in March, which calculated that by 2015 there will be 233 million women with an unmet need for family planning—up from 222 million today. Although the percentage of women with unmet need is declining (from 15.4 to 12.3 percent during 1990-2010), because of population growth, the number is increasing. The percentage of married women using 6
The Reporter — June 2013
contraception worldwide rose from 54.8 percent in 1990 to 63.3 percent in 2010. Some regions are not experiencing much change in contraceptive use, namely Central and Western Africa. Only 8 percent of married or cohabiting women in Central Africa use a modern method of contraception.
EC Available OTC to 15-year-olds Controversy and court action continue to swirl around the question of access to emergency contraception for young people. The FDA lowered the age for over-thecounter (OTC) sales of the emergency contraceptive drug Plan B to 15 in late April. The product will now be stored in drugstore aisles, rather than behind pharmacy counters. Each box will have a security tag to prevent theft, since the drug costs about $50 retail. The switch will take place in a few months, according to Teva Women’s Health, Inc., which manufactures Plan B.
showing of bad faith and improper political influence.” In that decision, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s decision to allow girls of all ages to buy Plan B. The “all ages” ruling was scheduled to go into effect in early May, but Judge Korman allowed a brief delay so that the Administration could appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. The appeals court then set May 28 as the day to issue a decision, after hearing arguments from both sides. Emergency contraception works best within 24 hours of unprotected sex but can be effective for up to 120 hours.
North Dakota Sex Ed Grant at Risk Again
A criticism of the law is that girls who are 15 don’t yet have their driver’s licenses so will need to show a passport or birth certificate—which they may not have access to—in order to prove their age.
In the March issue of The Reporter, we wrote about a $1.2 million grant that researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU) won. The grant is to implement and evaluate a comprehensive sex education program that Planned Parenthood will deliver to at-risk teens. The President of NDSU initially rejected the grant because of the partnership with Planned Parenthood; the chancellor reversed that decision and the researchers were permitted to receive the grant.
Just one day after the ruling, the Obama Administration appealed a federal court order from earlier in the month that requires Plan B to be available OTC to customers of all ages within 30 days. Judge Edward Korman called the decision in 2011 to limit over-the-counter sales to women 17 and older “a strong
In a recent move by the North Dakota legislature, however, the grant is once again at risk of being terminated. The legislature is considering an amendment to an anti-abortion bill, introduced by state Rep. Bette Grande (R-Fargo), that would block the grant. Grande said of Planned Parenthood, “It is an overt
abortion industry that we don’t want to be a part of.” North Dakota already requires that school sex education programs teach abstinence-only curricula. The NDSU/ Planned Parenthood program would reach kids outside of school.
Repeat Teen Births Down Nearly one in five births—18.3 percent—to teens in 2010 were repeat births, i.e. the mothers already had at least one child. This is a decrease of 6.2 percent from 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rates of repeat teen births vary by race and geographic location. American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest rate (21.6 percent), followed by Hispanics (20.9 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (20.4 percent). Non-Hispanic whites had the lowest rate (14.8 percent). Texas had the highest percentage of repeat teen births—22 percent; New Hampshire had the lowest, at 10 percent. The study found that 91.2 percent of teen moms use some form of contraception postpartum, but only 22.4 percent use the most effective methods, including the implant and IUD.
Missouri Law Struck Down Missouri gave employers who object to providing employees birth control coverage an out last fall. The law requires insurers to provide policies that don’t include contraception coverage as an alternative to those that do. www.popconnect.org
Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the law, but the legislature then overrode the veto. U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig issued a temporary restraining order against the law last December. She then struck down the law in March, citing previous rulings that found federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws.
Population Growth Bad for Environment, Say Voters The Center for Biological Diversity commissioned the firm Public Policy Polling to do a survey of 657 American voters and found that 60 percent believe that “human population growth is driving other animal species to extinction.” More than half (54 percent) believe the world population is growing too fast, and 57 percent “believe human population growth is significantly impacting the disappearance of wildlife.” Two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents believe that an increase in population from 7 billion to 10 billion by 2100 will result in adverse affects on wildlife. More than half (54 percent) believe that “stabilizing population growth will help protect the environment,” and 59 percent believe that “addressing the effects of human population growth is an important environmental issue.”
Philippines Suspends Reproductive Health Bill The Supreme Court of the Philippines voted 10–5 in March to freeze the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act for 120 days. The law requires government clinics to provide subsidized contraceptives and also mandates the
teaching of sex education in public schools. Both sides will argue their cases before the Court on June 18.
Iranian Door-to-Door Baby Boom Campaign A new campaign in Iran has 150,000 health officials going door-to-door, encouraging couples to have more children. They are specifically targeting couples who have only one child. Their aim is to double the Iranian population, from 75 million to 150 million. Last year, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ended the country’s highly successful family planning program, started in the early 1990s.
Gates Foundation Funds Condom Innovation The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is offering a $100,000 startup grant to develop a “Next Generation Condom” that “significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use.” The grant could lead to $1 million in further funding. The inspiration behind the “Grand Challenge” is the fact that condoms are nearly universally recognized and available but are only used by 750 million people worldwide. The low rate of use is primarily due to a perceived lack of pleasure compared to using no condom. The “Next Generation Condom” will address this shortcoming. To read the original articles from which these summaries were taken, see www.popconnect.org/news June 2013 — The Reporter
The Population Connection President’s Circle
Recognizing Donors for Their Generous Contributions of $1,000 or More By Shauna Scherer
onnie Vitti of Toluca Lake, California is President of the Louis and Harold Price Foundation and a “very hands-on, involved mom” of three: twins Adam and Gabriel, 12, and Rebecca, 4. She’s been a member of Population Connection since 1989 and supports our work both personally, through a gift of $1,000 each year, and professionally, through an annual grant of $10,000 from the foundation. Established in 1951 by her great-grandfather, Louis Price (a founding partner in a baking and ice cream company that would eventually become Sara Lee), and her grandfather, Harold Price, the foundation contributes to social welfare as rooted in the Jewish tradition. Grants primarily support U.S.-based non-profits working on community support services, health, education, and the arts. Bonnie is an English and film graduate of San Francisco State University, whose campus was very politically active in the early ’80s when she was a student there. “I remember hearing on campus, in the papers, and on the radio about a lot of the problems in the world stemming from overpopulation,” she said. “Behind warfare was the need for territory in order to have enough food and land. Rather than fighting over vanishing resources, wouldn’t it be great to curb our population growth so that there’s enough to go around? I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being talked about in politics and leadership circles.” After graduation, Bonnie moved to Los Angeles and worked in animation production on series including The Simpsons,
The Reporter — June 2013
The Real Ghostbusters, and Alvin & the Chipmunks. The process of scheduling and budgeting for a single episode was arduous: it was six months from the time the script was approved until the episode aired. “The life experience was invaluable,” she said. “I learned how important careful advance planning was to a project’s success, and I gained an appreciation for how much things cost.” Intent on spending more time with her family, Bonnie left the field of animation after 15 years. Once she began to devote herself full-time to her kids, she was also able to become more deeply involved in her family foundation’s work. In fact, it’s fair to say that Bonnie is responsible for the Price Foundation moving toward funding population work. “It still bothers me today how little discussion there is about population and its impact on everything,” she said. “I’m an avid newspaper reader and news junkie. It’s not part of the public discourse.” She’s talked to her own children about wanting there to be enough for everybody. “Given their ages, I don’t want to alarm my kids,” she said. “There are a lot of scary ideas and facts out there. I don’t want to overwhelm them and cause them to feel helpless. I want them to think about planning ahead for one day if they want to have families. It’s more relatable to them to think about other children growing up without the same advantages.” Bonnie is disturbed by the fallout over “the abortion wars.” She realizes how nonsensical it is to be against abortion and contraception. “The vast majority of
unintended pregnancies could be prevented if there was a concerted effort to make sex education and contraception more readily available. Instead, there’s an assault on contraception. I would think that if someone’s primary concern was to reduce the number of abortions, then they would think it was in the interest of society, humanity, and morality to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.” Bonnie is a fan of science fiction. “I’ve always thought the realm of possibilities was interesting,” she said. “The ‘what if ?’ Where are we now and where are we going? If we do certain things, where will they lead us? Do we have the power to change the world?” At Population Connection, we are proud to recognize Bonnie Vitti as a partner in our mission to change the world. If you would like to join her as a member of the President’s Circle with your gift of $1,000 or more, please contact Shauna Scherer at (202) 974-7730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The zPg soCieTY By Shauna Scherer
opulation Connection is proud to welcome Linda DeStefano of Syracuse, New York as a new member of The ZPG Society—the recognition society for those who have included Population Connection in their estate plans. “Many, many years ago, I read The Population Bomb,” recalled Linda. “It struck me as profound insight that our world is beautiful, and its resources are limited.” She became involved with the local ZPG chapter near Albany and has been a member of Population Connection (formerly ZPG) since 1984. Linda graduated with a master’s degree in social welfare from the State University of New York at Albany in 1969. She worked in the field of social work for a few years before moving to Syracuse and becoming more deeply involved in community activism. “I founded People for Animal Rights with two women in 1982,” she said. “We have about 200 members and put on public programs two or three times a year. A local wildlife photographer who goes by the name of Safari Bob has spoken twice at our events. He has presented beautiful photos of wild animals and has discussed the effects of human encroachment on wildlife habitats. I told the audiences about Population Connection and that it was one of my favorite charities.” “Another reason [besides concern for the environment] that I promote Population Connection is because of the women and men who have no ability to access family planning services, who have to walk www.popconnect.org
many miles to health clinics,” Linda said. Her husband, Richard, a semi-retired medical doctor who also supports population stabilization efforts, volunteers at a clinic for people who don’t have health insurance. The couple met while stuffing envelopes at a mailing party for the Syracuse Peace Council. Linda is highly involved with numerous other local organizations as well. As Chair of the Biodiversity/Vegetarian Outreach Committee for the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, Linda has written material urging people to choose a plant-based diet to help protect the environment, natural areas, wildlife, and human health. She also has varied interests outside of her busy activism schedule. “I love to dance, so I do dancing three times a week: folk dancing, line dancing, English country dancing, and Zumba. And my husband’s a dancer, too. He goes to the international folk dancing and English country dancing with me.”
A Gift that Lasts a Lifetime
Linda established two deferred charitable gift annuities (CGAs) with Population Connection to support our
mission while providing herself with payments for life. “When I invest money, I try to invest in organizations that are socially responsible. This way, I can provide myself with security and support something I’m passionate about.” We thank Linda for her contributions, financial and otherwise. She has dedicated her life to helping people, animals, and the planet, and we are truly grateful for the support of such a conscientious individual. A charitable gift annuity (CGA) is a contract between Population Connection and one or two donors. In return for a gift of cash or other assets (valued at $10,000 or more), Population Connection pays a fixed amount of money for the donor’s lifetime. A portion of the payments can be considered partially tax-free, and a tax deduction may be made in the year the gift is made. (Always consult your financial advisor for tax advice specific to your situation.) The payments continue for the life of the donor(s). Then, the remainder of the gift will be used to support Population Connection. You must be at least 65 years of age to participate in our CGA program. For more information, contact Shauna Scherer at (202) 974-7730 or email@example.com. June 2013 — The Reporter
“What to Expect?” Nothing New
s half of a married couple that’s chosen not to have children, I’m used to criticism from certain circles. The New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that humans are better off when they’re “enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice”— such as babymaking. Ross Douthat is a master of this genre, calling childfree people “decadent” and saying our life “embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices.” Which is interesting, because the last time I looked, we pay plenty of taxes, have a 13-year-old car, and live in a one-bedroom, 680-squarefoot apartment. So what did I expect in What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster? More of the same guilt-tripping. And a heaping dose of “birth dearth” scare-mongering, given the “Disaster” subhead. I was not disappointed. The author, Jonathan Last, is not a demographer or any sort of population expert. He’s a writer from the (decidedly right-leaning) Weekly Standard with a (decidedly right-leaning) agenda. In the book’s acknowledgements, he thanks Tom Phillips of the Phillips Foundation for the fellowship that allowed Last to write the book. The Phillips Foundation board is full of people from rightwing organizations, including Eagle Publishing, Regnery Publishing, The Heritage Foundation, The American Spectator, and Focus on the Family. So how is he on the demographic arguments? Shaky, at best. Last is correct that America’s total fertility rate recently slipped below
10 The Reporter — June 2013
replacement. But it’s also true that historically, that has happened every time the economy is weak. People hesitate to add to their families when they’re unsure about their job security or lack the income to rent a larger home. You’d think this would be reason for celebration. Look how responsible Americans are being! Not if you ask Last. “Sub-replacement fertility rates eventually lead to a shrinking population—and throughout recorded human history, declining populations have always followed or been followed by Very Bad Things. Disease. War. Economic stagnation or collapse,” he writes. Some leading conservatives aren’t buying this weak sauce “argument.” Economics professor Bryan Caplan of George Mason University might have said it best on the Library of Economics and Liberty blog when he wrote: History is full of cases where Very Bad Things happen, then population falls as a result: the Black Death, the Mongol invasions, the conquest of the New World. But history is not full of cases when population falls as a result of low fertility, then Very Bad Things happen. Indeed, I’m not aware of any clear-cut examples of the latter. And as far as I can tell, Last doesn’t provide any such examples. Last also seems concerned that the “right” people aren’t reproducing. You’d think that if he were so desperate for more babies, he’d welcome them regardless of the status of their parents. That doesn’t seem to be the case. “Middle-class Americans don’t have very many babies these days,” he lamented. In fact, his very
definition of “middle-class” should raise eyebrows. “In America, the fertility rate for white, college-educated women—[a] fair proxy for our middle-class—is 1.6,” he writes in the introduction. It certainly boosts his argument given that minority women have a higher fertility rate, but it doesn’t do much to bolster his credibility or reduce the suspicion that fear of a changing American complexion is driving at least some of Last’s panic. Last’s book is full of other bizarre assertions. He repeatedly blames child car seats—which he calls “vaguely antifamily”—for the drop in the fertility rate, since parents can’t pile kids in the back seat of the Ford station wagon like cord wood any longer. He also blames the gays, saying that “the growing acceptance of homosexuality liberated gay men and women who, in the past, often unhappily made do with heterosexual life.” Of course, gay and lesbian people DO have families—and their protection is one reason for the recent push for marriage equality. He also dubiously claims that the “pace of human progress has slowed considerably since 1972” and blames Western fertility decline. I don’t know how Last defines progress, but I’m writing this using a desktop with more computing power than may have existed in a midsized American city in 1972. I just sent a comment via Twitter to two people in London and Canada simultaneously. I’m healthy thanks to two medications that hadn’t been invented in 1972. We’re progressing in so many ways. Last—to his credit, I suppose—doesn’t come right out and blame American women for refusing to do their wombly duty. But the implication is there. “As more and more women began attending college, they entered a broader array of
fields, many of which were less conducive to family life,” he intones. Later in the book, he asked: “What about the … divorce, marriage, cohabitation, contraception, women in the workforce? I’m afraid that, as a matter of policy, there’s very little we can do to alter any of these stars in their courses.” What are his remedies for this supposed demographic catastrophe? More (straight) marriage and more overt (Christian) religiosity. He also wants to give additional FICA tax cuts for every child a couple has, weaken America’s higher education system (!), and build more roads (!!) to make commuting from the child-friendly suburbs easier. In the end, there’s not much new in this book. Last does a better job than some of
his predecessors of concealing his deep disdain for modernity via punchy writing and humor. And he freely admits that there are good reasons for not having children. He can’t help but diss those of us who choose that path, however, writing that “the child-free life is championed with the vigor and conviction of the early Marxists.” Funny that he compares people like me to Marxists when we’re the ones promoting freedom—the freedom to have children, the freedom to not have children, the freedom to choose one’s own path in life. I guess freedom is more than some folks can handle.
Hardcover: 240 pages Publisher: Encounter Books February 5, 2013
By Amy Phillips Bursch
Paul Prescott, Dreamstime.com
June 2013 — The Reporter 11
America’s Coming Demographic Transition: Disaster or Opportunity?
he Wall Street Journal recently provided ample space1 to Weekly Standard editor Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster. It’s the latest in a series of books by various authors predicting dire consequences because Americans are supposedly not having enough children. Here are some excerpts from Last’s article, along with responses from Population Connection’s President, John Seager.
12 The Reporter — June 2013
Wood Stork flying at sunrise. Jeff Grabert | Dreamstime.com
Jonathan Last: Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff, and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: the root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate. John Seager: Even assuming that Last is referring solely to economic problems, he’s missing the mark. The lion’s share of our fiscal predicament is due to two unfunded wars and the Bush tax cuts2. As for the challenge posed by Baby Boomer retirements, this represents a significant but transitory “one
“Another Baby Boom
time” expenditure that is a direct result of high post-World War II fertility rates. Another Baby Boom is not the answer since it will only replicate the current challenge decades down the road. The best long-term approach is to ensure that every child has good health and is welleducated. Let’s work to improve things for the 16 million American children now living in poverty. Jonathan Last: The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman bears over the course of her life. The replacement rate is 2.1. If the average woman has more children than that,
population grows. Fewer, and it contracts. Today, America’s total fertility rate is 1.93, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it hasn’t been above the replacement rate in a sustained way since the early 1970s. John Seager: Last’s definition of “replacement rate” is correct, but then he runs off the road. It’s true that we have not been above replacement rate since the early ’70s. But guess what? For almost that entire period, we’ve been at replacement rate, not below it. U.S. fertility has only dropped below replacement rate when
is not the answer since it will only replicate
the current challenge decades down the road.”
Chris Johnson | Dreamstime.com
June 2013 — The Reporter 13
our economy has tanked. Americans still have lots of children—nearly 4 million annually. One-third of those births are unplanned, which is incredible in this day and age. Jonathan Last: 97 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries where the fertility rate is falling.
7.8 in 1990 to its current level of 7.3. The UN projects that Niger’s population will soar from its current 15 million people to a crushing 139 million people by the end of the century. The average Nigerien already lives on less than $1 a day. Most nations are still well above replacement rate. And world population is growing by nearly 80 million people annually.
John Seager: Last’s statistical legerdemain includes places like Niger where the fertility rate has indeed fallen—from
Jonathan Last: For two generations we’ve been lectured about the dangers of overpopulation. But the conventional
wisdom on this issue is wrong, twice … Since 1970, commodity prices have continued to fall and America’s environment has become much cleaner and more sustainable—even though our population has increased by more than 50 percent. John Seager: Over the short or even medium term, commodity prices fluctuate wildly due to everything from war to drought to economic forecasts. But the evidence seems to work against Last’s conclusion over the long term.
“Americans still have lots of children—nearly 4 One-third of those births are unplanned, which is day and age. ”
14 The Reporter — June 2013
million annually. incredible in this
Women with children in a village in Niger. Smandy | Dreamstime.com
Population Growth and Commodity Prices
heories over population growth often can be divided into two camps: the pessimistic “Malthusians”—who believe that population growth places pressure on resources, which are finite and can run out—and the optimistic “Cornucopians”—who believe that population growth is inherently positive and the more people we have, the more resources and prosperity for everyone. In 1980, an ecologist (Malthusian) and an economist (Cornucopian) who’d been going back and forth with one another for years decided to put their money where their mouths were and made a $1,000 bet. The ecologist—Stanford professor, author of The Population Bomb, and Zero Population Growth cofounder Paul Ehrlich—thought that the inflationadjusted prices of five metals would keep rising as the world’s population soared. The economist—Julian Simon of the University of Maryland—thought that prices for chromium, tin, copper, tungsten, and nickel would fall by 1990.
with the latest set of super-cycles likely at their peak; these commodity price super-cycles are punctuated by booms and busts which are historically pervasive and becoming more exacerbated over time.” In other words, commodity prices are a little like the stock market: over time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen. However, that doesn’t mean that during any given year or even decade the price of stocks will rise. Since its inception, the general direction has been up with some wild and prolonged deviations from that rising arrow. In summary, the Jacks paper found that “Cumulatively, the picture emerging from this exercise is a clear pattern of rising real commodity prices from at least 1950.”
Ehrlich was right in one way. The world’s population did soar—from around 4.5 billion in 1980 to 5.3 billion in 1990. However, Simon ended up winning the bet. But what did the outcome really mean? Did it repudiate Ehrlich’s premise? Perhaps it was just a matter of luck—had the combatants settled on a different group of commodities or a different timeline, the results very well might have changed. A new paper from the National Bureau for Economic Research suggests just that.
A post on The Economist’s “Free exchange” blog on the research said that while Simon might have won the bet, the “Cornucopians” haven’t yet proven that their theories are correct. “This [Jacks paper] does suggest that while innovation, substitution, and conservation can reduce the price impact of rising demand for fundamentally scarce resources, they can’t necessarily eliminate it entirely (or haven’t yet, at any rate),” the post said. “Of course, rising demand itself might come to an eventual end given new technologies or—to validate Mr. Ehrlich—the ultimate stabilization and decline of global population. It may still be too early to tell whether humanity faces Malthusian limits or not.”
“From Boom to Bust: A Typology of Real Commodity Prices in the Long Run” by David S. Jacks found that over the long run, “Real commodity prices of both energy and non-energy commodities have been on the rise from 1950 across all weighting schemes; there is a consistent pattern, in both past and present, of commodity price super-cycles which entail decadeslong positive deviations from these long-run trends
Julian Simon died in 1998, while Paul Ehrlich is still on the faculty at Stanford and still raising what some would call his “Malthusian” alarm. So while there’s no chance of an Ehrlich-Simon rematch, perhaps Ehrlich should get one of the new “Cornucopians”—such as author Jonathan Last—to reprise the great bet, but over a longer period of time. It might be a good chance for Ehrlich to win back his $1,000.
BY AMY PHILLIPS BURSCH www.popconnect.org
June 2013 — The Reporter 15
The Economist blog3 cites a recent paper from the National Bureau for Economic Research, which concluded that “[I]f anything real commodity prices are on the rise if evaluated on the basis of the value of production … Cumulatively, the picture emerging from this exercise is a clear pattern of rising real commodity prices from at least 1950.” As for the environment, perhaps Mr. Last hasn’t heard about climate change, even though it’s been in all the papers. The links between human population growth and rising fossil fuel emissions are clear, conclusive, and irrefutable. Jonathan Last: Low-fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives
16 The Reporter — June 2013
for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care … They cannot sustain social security programs because they don’t have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces. John Seager: It’s not clear why Last seems to dismiss health care innovations. More broadly, however, the real key is not the ratio of workers to retirees. It’s the ratio of workers to those who are dependent—either on public and/or private resources. The U.S. dependency ratio today is far lower than it was during the Baby Boom. Of course, retirement is expensive. But it’s also expensive to
feed, clothe, house, and educate children. Over time, resources will need to be shifted from one sector to another, but that’s no crisis. When it comes to national defense, the United States has by far the largest military presence on the globe, spending more than the next ten nations combined. And our Armed Forces have no problem recruiting an all-volunteer force. The serious debate these days is how to restructure our forces as the war in Afghanistan winds down. Jonathan Last: If you want to see what happens to a country once it hurls itself off the demographic cliff, look at Japan, with a fertility rate of 1.3.
Aviahuismanphotography | Dreamstime.com
Germany vs. Japan
ermany and Japan both rank among the largest economies in the world. According to their GDPs in 2012, Japan was third, and Germany was fourth. And both nations have nearly identical fertility rates—with Japan’s at 1.32 and Germany’s at 1.36 in 2005-2010.
Steinberg and Masato Nakane of the International Monetary Fund. They estimated that if Japan’s women participated in the workforce at the same rate as do northern European women, Japan would see a 0.4 percent increase in GDP growth.
So you might expect that the two nations would be in similar economic positions. Yet Germany remains the economic powerhouse of Europe, while Japan’s economy, by most accounts, has been stagnant for at least a decade.
Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has said that Japan and Germany could boost their economies by more fully using the talents of their women.
Beyond their very low birth rates, the two nations are difficult to compare, said Carl Haub, senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, DC.
“There is one last element that can make a remarkable contribution to revitalizing Japan: lifting employment through greater women’s participation,” Gurria said during a speech last year at Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry. “To limit the decline in the labor force, the participation of underemployed individuals, notably women, will need to rise.”
While the fertility rate has some effect on a nation’s economy, it’s only one piece of a giant economic puzzle. A whole host of factors—including public debt, monetary policy, labor productivity, trade relations, and openness to immigration—determine how a nation’s economy performs. Haub said that one difference in their economic performance could be that Germany has been able to mitigate its population aging with immigration, but Japan has struggled to do the same. “Language is a real obstacle,” Haub said. When Japan turned to Filipino and Vietnamese nurses to alleviate a nursing shortage, half had to return to their native lands because they couldn’t get the hang of Japanese. One factor common to both nations is the relatively weak participation of women in the workforce. Neither country makes it easy for women to combine work and family, Haub said. Many German women switch to part time work or drop out of the workforce entirely when they have children—a trend that might become increasingly problematic as the population ages. According to World Bank data, in 2011, 53 percent of German women were “economically active,” or supplying labor for the production of goods and services, while only 49 percent of Japanese women were. By contrast, 58 percent of American women and 62 percent of Norwegian women were in the workforce. In Japan, the difference in the labor participation rate between men and women of prime working age was 25 percent in 2009. In Germany, the difference was less than half that, at 12.2 percent, according to research by Chad
As its population continues to age, Germany, too, must make better use of its women workers, Gurria said last year in Berlin. “In Germany more than one-third of all women work part-time, compared to one-quarter in the average OECD country,” he said. “And the gender earnings gap is the third highest among OECD countries. Increasing full-time female labor participation by lowering fiscal disincentives for second earners and further improving childcare supply has to be a key policy priority.” Statistics from the OECD show that in 2009, Japanese women’s median pay was 28.3 percent lower than men’s. In Germany, the gap was slightly lower, at 21.6 percent. Women in the United States were making 19.8 percent less than the male median. Women in Sweden and France had the smallest gap, at 14.9 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively. Would having more women in the workforce further reduce the total fertility rate? Haub thinks it might. But he said attitudinal changes toward family life seem to be the biggest source of low birth rates. He said many Japanese women choose to live with their parents and marry at later ages to avoid the domestic drudgery trap. In Germany, young men are more interested in traveling than in having families, he said. Neither country offers much support to parents, so many young people opt out. That’s not the case everywhere, Haub said. “In France, it’s like night and day,” he said.
BY AMY PHILLIPS BURSCH www.popconnect.org
June 2013 — The Reporter 17
“Of course, retirement is expensive. But it’s also expensive to feed, clothe, house, and educate children. Over time, resources will need to be shifted from one sector to another, but that’s no crisis.”
John Seager: Or look at Germany, with essentially the same fertility rate as Japan. But Last won’t like that example. The German economy is booming by any standard. A recent Bloomberg news report4 indicated strong GDP growth and a projected government surplus. The difference between Japan and Germany has nothing to do with family size—and everything to do with the economic policies followed by each nation. Jonathan Last: High on the list is the idea that “happiness” is the lodestar of a life well-lived. If we’re going to reverse this decline, we’ll need to reintroduce into American culture the notion that human flourishing ranges wider and deeper than calculations of mere happiness. John Seager: Mere happiness? As a member of the Catholic faith, perhaps Mr. Last should have paid more attention in catechism class. He might want to visit the Vatican website covering the Beatitudes, which include this comment from St. Augustine: “We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.” Atheist, agnostic, or believer, most people want to be happy. Judging by his glum attitude on the topic, Last seems the rare exception.5 Jonathan Last: [W]e could begin to eliminate college’s role as a credentialing machine by allowing employers to give their own tests to prospective workers. Alternately, we could encourage the university system to be more responsive to market forces by creating a no-frills, 18 The Reporter — June 2013
federal degree-granting body that awards certificates to students who pass exams in a given subject. John Seager: Last concocts a weird mix of policies aimed at curbing the cost of higher education, which, he opines, would make parenthood more affordable. Is he unaware that employers are now quite free to administer tests to prospective employees? Population Connection often requires a writing test for positions. So, nothing new there. Maybe his proposed government takeover of higher education is motivated by the fact that when students go to college and study (gasp!) liberal arts, they get all sorts of “funny ideas” about the world. Does anyone really think the federal government can do a better job than our diverse collection of 7,000 public and private institutions—ranging from affordable local community colleges to the exclusive Ivy League? America has the finest system of higher education in the world. Last wants to start demolishing it as part of some wild scheme to promote babymaking. Jonathan Last: A big factor in family formation is the cost of land: it determines not just housing expenses but also the costs of transportation, entertainment, baby sitting, school, and pretty much everything else. And while intensely urban areas—Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Chicago—have the highest concentrations of jobs, they come with high land costs. Improving the highway system and boosting opportunities for telecommuting would go a
long way in helping families to live in lower-cost areas. John Seager: Last offers his paean to American’s highways, of all things—saying that more roads would lead to more babies by enabling people to commute longer distances from cheaper areas. Maybe Last hasn’t noticed prices at the pump lately, which, of course, don’t even include the real cost of carbon emissions. He ignores the fact that housing prices dropped 30 percent over the past seven years at the same time that family size dropped by 10 percent. So, maybe Last has it all backwards. Or upside down. To be fair, his proposal to increase telecommuting seems OK. It’s hard to battle through Last’s article without concluding that it’s all something of a smokescreen. Mild protestations aside, he seems to long for a bygone era—before the scourge of modernity swept across our land—bringing with it women’s rights, contraceptive access, and all that other post-medieval nonsense. More worrisome than Last’s own lame nostrums, however, is the fact that a sizeable number of America’s politicians seem to share his desire to turn back the clock on a century of hard-won progress. It’s a free country, so Last and his ilk are welcome to try. But they can expect a fierce fight. www.popconnect.org/WSJ www.popconnect.org/TaxCuts 3 www.popconnect.org/Economist 4 www.popconnect.org/Bloomberg 5 www.popconnect.org/Vatican 1 2
Szccstudio Dreamstime.com June 2013 â€” The| Reporter 19
Holding her 7-week-old son, Rachel Popkowski receives the Imposition of Ashes at Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Kim Kim Foster-Tobin/The State/MCT via Getty Images
‘Baby Bust’ Baloney By Froma Harrop Froma is a syndicated columnist who can be followed on Twitter: @FromaHarrop
merica’s alleged “baby bust” is pushing the country over “a demographic cliff.” So argues Jonathan V. Last in The Wall Street Journal. Stacking one highly debatable claim on the next, Last builds a palace of hooey, in the basement of which sits a conservative agenda that’s not very conservative. Here are the agreed-on facts: America’s fertility rate—the number of children born by the average woman—has dipped below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Were it not for immigrants’ having more children, it 20 The Reporter — June 2013
“Putting the word “smart” before “pronatalist policies” does not make them something else.”
would be lower still. All arrows point to it going down further, as the Latino fertility rate plummets. (In Mexico, it’s at the replacement level.) All this is true, but where is the problem? The problem, says Last, a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard, is that “growing populations lead to increased innovation and conservation.” Sure, more people mean more Albert Einsteins, but they also mean more Jeffrey Dahmers. My questions are these: Is today’s America cleverer than 1954’s America, when the population was 150 million
smaller? Teflon, McDonald’s and, er, the birth control pill were all invented that year. By the way, how are Niger, GuineaBissau and Afghanistan, with the world’s highest fertility rates, doing in the innovation department? Last’s effort to link a growing population with “conservation” is heroic but a crock. “America’s environment has become much cleaner and more sustainable,” he says, “even though our population has increased by more than 50 percent.” Actually, these improvements happened despite enormous increases in
population. And the environment has gotten better only by some measures. Our growing human population continues to run over natural habitats, pushing many species into extinction. There’s also a bit of elder bashing. Last impolitely refers to aging boomers as “the bloated cohort of old people.” Falling fertility can result, at least in the near term, in a society more weighted with the elderly, he notes. The result is “capital shifts to preserving and extending life.” What’s wrong with that? Developing drugs for Alzheimer’s is also innovation. Why is spending our capital on health care less admirable than devoting it to smarter cellphones or new cable programs? Meanwhile, a decline in the working population encourages the invention of labor-saving devices. Facing a sharp fall in population, Japan has become a leader in robot technologies. I do not kid: Last worries that the Social Security safety net acts as a disincentive to have children. Traditionally, care of older people fell to grown-up children, he explains. Certainly, that’s how it was done back on the farm in 1890. Last speaks of vague proposals “to dismantle this roadblock.” One would greatly hike the child tax credit. Another would exempt parents raising children from payroll taxes. The latter could be a slick way to defund Social Security, and thereby kill it. Other prescriptions include a “welcoming attitude toward immigration and robust religious faith.” The United States takes in more legal immigrants than the rest of the world combined. We’re already welcoming. www.popconnect.org
Aerial view of residential urban sprawl in southern California. Jenny Solomon, Dreamstime.com
And if by “robust religious faith” Last means strengthening respect for traditional marriage and the children born within it, that would be a positive thing. But for all the joys, raising children costs money, both in outright expense and a parent’s lost potential income. In service to that higher mission, conservatives might consider dropping their habit of equating wealth with “success.”
Ahhh, social engineering for conservatives. Putting the word “smart” before “pronatalist policies” does not make them something else. My favorite proposal is improving highways to help families leave congested cities for lower-cost areas. Gosh, if there were fewer people, there would be less congestion, and no one would have to move. June 2013 — The Reporter 21
America Is Doomed Unless Women Start Having More Babies. How Convenient. By Amanda Marcotte
ver since it became less socially acceptable to argue openly that women—at least white, middle-class women— owe it to men to curtail our professional ambitions in favor of a life as our husbands’ support staff, conservatives started to panic about declining birth rates. If women don’t start making more babies, they dimly warn, the country is headed for catastrophe as the workplace empties out of workers and retirees suck up all the money and people stop caring about the future. (Because we can’t care about the children we do have unless we have more of them, for some reason.) To save America, women, especially those aforementioned pesky middle-class, white women, are going to have to start having more babies at a younger age, the argument goes. That this demand means that women will end up curtailing their ambitions and moving into the support-staff role is simply a coincidence, of course. Nothing to see here. The latest installation in the declining fertility rate commentary series is from Jonathan Last, a Weekly Standard writer and author of a new book on “America’s Coming Demographic Disaster” and who is far better than say, Ross Douthat, at presenting this claim in a way that makes it sound reasonable. His piece in the Wall Street Journal is impressive particularly for deigning to take seriously liberal reactions to this argument, such as the environmentalist concerns or the tendency of liberals to argue for a better social safety net so women can both work and have more children. Here’s a good example of Last’s tagged-on nod to liberals: There’s a constellation of reasons for this decline: middleclass wages began a long period of stagnation. College became a universal experience for most Americans, which not only pushed people into marrying later but made having children more expensive. Women began attending college in equal (and then greater) numbers than men. More important, women began branching out into careers beyond teaching and nursing. And the combination of the birth control pill and the rise of cohabitation broke the iron triangle linking sex, marriage and childbearing.
22 The Reporter — June 2013
This is only a partial list, and many of these developments are clearly positive. But even a social development that represents a net good can carry a serious cost. Most tellingly, Last’s argument rests on the assumption that women’s income-drawing work doesn’t count. He dismisses the French approach of offering cheap day care, because “France, for example, hasn’t been able to stay at the replacement rate, even with all its day care spending.” But wait: if the goal is to have more people earning money, innovating and creating, and paying taxes, then the policy does work, unless you think, for some reason, that the women who are freed up by cheaper day care to earn income, innovate and create, and pay taxes don’t count because the only economic contribution women can make is to make more men. What really galls me about Last’s piece (and most like it) is the underlying assumption that human beings exist to serve society and not the other way around. Oh, sure, Last mentions a few conservative-friendly policy ideas to help people afford kids—such as reducing the number of kids who go to college, attacking Social Security, and pushing people to move to the suburbs—but if reducing day care costs doesn’t do it, there’s no reason to think these tweaks will either. The reader is left with the feeling that the only solution to save capitalism is to clip the wings of half of the population so they can spend more time laying eggs. I’d argue instead that if the system is set up so that it fails if women don’t start popping out more kids, then it’s a broken system and should be reworked to account for the reality of America today. If women don’t want to have more children, then instead of abandoning women’s equality as a goal, we should rework our economic system so it doesn’t rely on a steadily growing population to function. After all, the point of society is to serve the people in it, not to reduce us to cogs in a machine that serves no one at all. Printed with permission from Slate.
Lucerito Salgado, Dean’s Medalist in the College of Arts and Humanities, is applauded during Fresno State University’s 101st Commencement in Fresno, California. John Walker/Fresno Bee/MCT via Getty Images Amanda Engler, a research scientist for IBM Research, works in the lab in San Jose, California. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
June 2013 — The Reporter 23
24 The Reporter â€” June 2013
Design by Rebecca Dodelin
JuneDesign 2013by â€”Rebecca The Reporter Dodelin 25
Appropriations Process Lags; White House Perplexes Plan B Supporters By Stacie Murphy
t’s June in Washington, DC, which means that no matter what else is happening, the budget process is a constant hum in the background. With a divided House and Senate and an economy that remains stubbornly sluggish, it’s practically guaranteed that this year’s appropriations process will be a long and arduous one.
House Budget Process on Pause
The House got off to an earlier start than either the Senate or the White House, approving a budget outline that would almost certainly result in large cuts to our international family planning programs. However, our champions on that side of Capitol Hill issued a strong response. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) sponsored a sign-on letter to her House colleagues in support of $635 million for international family planning programs (this is the amount of President Obama’s requested funding level for international family planning, discussed further below). Her letter gained 96 signatures, a strong show of support considering the unfriendly terrain in the House. In addition, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) spearheaded a similar letter calling for $327 million—an increase of $28 million—for the Title X domestic family planning program. In a huge show of support, 138 of his colleagues signed. 26 The Reporter — June 2013
Strong Support in Senate Appropriations Process
At the end of March, the Senate passed its budget resolution. As was the case in the House version of the budget released earlier this year, the exact funding levels for individual programs have yet to be determined. However, the overall request indicates that large cuts to our international programs are not on the table. That does not mean, however, that the bill was without controversy. During the debate prior to passage, there were several amendments offered related to women’s health and family planning: •
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) offered an amendment intended to protect the birth control benefit included in the Affordable Care Act. Her amendment passed on a vote of 56-43.
Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) proposed an amendment that would have allowed employers to opt out of offering the birth control benefit by citing vague moral or religious objections. Her amendment was defeated, 44-55.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) offered an interesting twist on the usual “Defund UNFPA” amendment. His amendment prohibited any funding
to any United Nations body as long as any member state of the UN engages in coercive abortion. It was resoundingly defeated, 38-61. •
Additionally, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) filed the usual amendment to prohibit all funding to UNFPA. His amendment was withdrawn without a vote.
With these policy issues settled (for the moment), negotiations have now begun on exactly how funding will be apportioned. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) circulated a sign-on letter encouraging their colleagues to support $700 million in funding for international family planning programs, including $44.5 million for UNFPA. This is the amount that was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last year. Although the unusual appropriations schedule meant a short time frame for gathering signatures, the letter attracted the support of 21 senators, indicating a strong level of support for the request. It remains to be seen how the rest of the Senate process will go, but for now international family planning is in a strong position.
Mixed Reviews for the White House
Due to the chaos created by the
sequestration fight earlier this year, President Obama’s budget request, which would normally have been released in February, was instead delayed until early April. When it finally came, the news was good. The President’s budget calls for $635 million for international family planning, including $37 million for UNFPA, a significant increase over the current funding level. It is a sign that even as the economy continues to struggle and opponents keep trying to cut the program, the President understands the importance of international family planning and sees it as a worthy investment. The budget also includes funding increases for domestic family planning programs, as well as a provision designed to protect abortion access for Peace Corps volunteers who are raped while serving in the field. However, the news from the White House isn’t all good. You may remember that back in 2011, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, overruled a Food and Drug Administration recommendation that Plan B, the best-known emergency contraceptive, should be sold over-the-counter to women of all ages. Despite requests from women’s health advocates and doctor’s groups, the Obama Administration declined to www.popconnect.org
reconsider that decision, leaving in place the requirement that women under the age of 17 have a doctor’s prescription before purchasing Plan B. In early April, a federal judge ruled, in response to a lawsuit from several reproductive health and rights groups, that the decision to maintain restrictions on the drug was improperly made, and issued an order requiring Plan B to be sold overthe-counter without age restrictions. Later that month, the FDA announced that it was lowering the age for over-thecounter purchase to 15, while maintaining the prescription requirement for younger women. Then, in early May, the Obama Administration announced that it plans to appeal the court ruling removing the age restrictions. This is a deeply disappointing decision, and it’s all the more so for being so difficult to understand. Broad access to Plan B has the potential to dramatically decrease rates of unintended pregnancy, but only if it’s accessible when it’s needed. Placing barriers in the way of young women—through age restrictions and requiring photo ID from teens who may not have it—undercuts the goal of reducing teen pregnancy. And restrictions on access end up impacting everyone: we’ve already seen misunderstandings about the actual age limits;
men have been refused the right to buy Plan B, although that has never been one of the restrictions; and requiring women to ask a pharmacist for the medication has given too many pharmacists the opportunity to moralize to women about their choices and even to refuse to give them the medication. There is no additional health risk to younger teens using emergency contraception. In fact, Plan B is determined to be safer than drugs such as aspirin and acetaminophen. Throughout his administration, President Obama has shown time and again that he understands the importance of universal access to birth control, and how profound the consequences can be when that access is restricted. He’s fought hard to ensure that health insurance plans cover—without copay—the full range of contraceptive methods as the preventive health care they are. His track record makes this decision especially baffling. We don’t know exactly why the Administration has made this decision. But we do know that it’s the wrong one. We have called for the Obama Administration to drop its opposition to expanded access to Plan B, and we will continue to fight until all women of all ages have access. June 2013 — The Reporter 27
Field & Outreach
Capitol Hill Days 2013 By Rebecca Harrington
ep. Joyce Beatty’s (D-OH) office wasn’t large enough to accommodate all 37 Population Connection advocates from Columbus, so the staffer hosting the lobby meeting improvised and held it in the hallway of the Cannon House Building! Some of the most dedicated population activists in the U.S.—more than 100 strong—gathered in DC in April to urge their legislators to support international family planning programs. Our stimulating, fast-paced weekend agenda had them charged up and ready to lobby when their meetings with their members of Congress began on Monday morning. On Friday evening, participants got an introduction to the issues we’d be covering over the weekend with a viewing of the documentary No Woman, No Cry. The film, directed by fashion model Christy Turlington Burns, focuses on maternal health care in the U.S., Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Guatemala, and is a vivid reminder of the real lives that are impacted by a lack of access to antenatal services. Janet, a young mother in Tanzania whose labor isn’t progressing, is unable to receive the care she needs at her local clinic. Located five miles from her home by foot, the clinic is extremely short-staffed and rarely has a doctor on site. Finally, after two trips to the clinic
28 The Reporter — June 2013
and in increasing pain, the clinic staff recommends that she go to the nearest hospital, an hour away by car. Janet is weak from hunger, and has no money for food or for transportation. The film crew intervenes and provides the $30 fee—more than Janet’s family earns in a month—for a van to take her to the hospital, where she delivers a healthy baby boy. Janet was fortunate that the film crew was there to aid her rescue—too many women are not so lucky. Turlington Burns’ own birth experience was one fraught with terror. She nearly bled to death after her baby was delivered but was saved by an emergency blood transfusion. When she learned that hundreds of thousands of women around the world die each year from complications like hers, it sprung her into action. She wanted the rest of the world to know what she had learned— that being poor is a threat to women’s health and that most maternal deaths are completely preventable. On Saturday morning, A. Tianna Scozzaro, Population and Climate Associate at Population Action International, discussed the linkages between population, climate change, and family planning. Kelley Dennings, a Population Connection member from Virginia, reflected on her presentation
in her event evaluation: “I really enjoyed this year’s environmental speaker who linked climate change work with population. My wish would be to have even more people attend, learn, and talk to members of Congress.” Jon O’Brien, the President of Catholics for Choice, remarked during his keynote address, “You might not care about religion, but religion cares about you.” This sentiment was the crux of O’Brien’s presentation, which focused on the impact of religion in American politics, and the positive role that people of faith can play in family planning advocacy. Most people in this country do not oppose federal funding for domestic and international family planning programs. In fact, 98 percent of all self-identified Catholics in the U.S. who have had sex have used modern contraception at one time or another. On Saturday afternoon, the agenda transitioned to discussions of “on the ground” field programs. Sarah Craven, Director of UNFPA’s DC office, described the agency’s work in 155 countries around the globe. UNFPA manages programs that improve access to family planning, aid safe delivery, and reduce the incidence of gender-based violence and child marriage.
The day continued with a presentation by Jonathan Rucks, the Director of Advocacy for Pathfinder International, who shared information about his organization’s work in more than 20 countries. He described a current project to promote female condom use in Mozambique. The program disseminates female condoms at area clinics, trains local providers, and runs support groups for women to promote proper use and method adherence. Since the program’s inception in January 2012, more than 26,000 female condoms have been distributed and 4,800 women have participated in meetings to track female condom use. Our own Brian Dixon, Vice President of Media and Government Relations, and Stacie Murphy, Policy Associate, shared insight into the increasingly contentious politics that surround family planning. Participants were briefed on the history of U.S. family planning funding, as well as our three legislative “asks”: a U.S. investment of $1 billion in international family planning assistance; increased funding for UNFPA; and a permanent legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule. After a rich weekend of education and training, our advocates were excited to visit their members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Julian del Prado, a student www.popconnect.org
Our group included members, students, and activists from all over the U.S., including Arizona, California, Colorado, DC, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, and West Virginia.
at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, had a one-on-one meeting with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), a strong ally. Saul Pandey, a graduate student at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, had the opportunity to sit down with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). In all, our group visited nearly 80 congressional offices! Our participants tend to continue their advocacy work long after they’ve left DC. Ashley Thirkill, a Political Science PhD candidate at the University of Washington, shared these thoughts at the end of the event: “Capitol Hill Days was one of the most impressive training and education sessions I’ve ever been to. The speakers and activities were as inspiring as they were focused, efficient, and organized. Each minute was utilized
in sessions that struck a good balance between providing information and strategizing for the lobby visits and beyond. After the sessions, I felt confident and well prepared to share our concerns both with those lawmakers sympathetic and unsympathetic to international family planning (I visited both Washington and Utah offices). I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all those staff, members, and donors who made this event possible. It was an inspiring, well-managed, enjoyable, and successful week that I hope will serve as a springboard to further involvement with Population Connection.” Please join us for Capitol Hill Days 2014! We’ll post event details as they become available on our Facebook page: facebook.com/PopulationConnection. “Like” us for all the latest news! June 2013 — The Reporter 29
And the Winners are …
PopEd Announces Student Video Awardees
By Nathan Wallace
Second Place Winners Scout Taylor “Giving Girls Education” Davis, California
n May 7, we announced the winners of our 2012-2013 World of 7 Billion video contest, after nearly a year of preparation, marketing, and countless hours reviewing videos. The students who entered videos were tasked with creating a 30- to 45-second public service announcement (PSA) that highlighted the relationship between population and one of three topics: food security, wildlife habitat, and the global status of women and girls. To help us select the winning videos, we enlisted the help of 21 judges, all experts either in the topic they were judging or in film production. For example, the filmmakers for Mother: Caring for 7 Billion, a documentary that our field staff has screened around the country, were two of our expert judges, as was Lisa Russell, who has produced a dozen films about maternal and reproductive health. The reach of the contest was wider than we could have anticipated. The 567 submissions came from 37 states, one territory (American Samoa), and 17 countries outside the U.S. The students’ reasons for entering ranged from simply
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stumbling across the contest on social media to receiving the video challenge as a class assignment—which we encouraged through our teacher outreach. We weren’t just impressed by the quantity of videos, but also by the quality of the submissions. Our three first-place winners are bursting with talent. John Seager, President of Population Connection, marveled, “Each year, the submissions for our video contest get better and better.” Each student, particularly the finalists, showed a passion for the subjects they addressed in their videos. They wanted their PSAs to send a strong message that these issues cannot be ignored. Raising awareness is what this contest is all about! All of the winning videos, along with student bios and a list of our judges, can be viewed at www.worldof7billion.org. The winners for each topic received cash prizes of $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $250 for honorable mentions. Many thanks to all of the students (and their teachers) who entered and crafted such outstanding video messages on population issues!
Michael Ge “Nature Pre and Post Seven Billion” Fullerton, California Sara Hubberstey “Disappearing Act” Waterloo, Ontario
Honorable Mentions Maxine Alindogan “The Power of Education” Taguig City, Philippines
Olivia Wermers “Conservation for Wildlife” Virginia Beach, Virginia Robert Chandler “Food Security: Inked” Snellville, Georgia Katherine Salvatori “Women’s World Becomes Brighter Through Education” Osprey, Florida Anne McGrath “7 Billion” Toronto, Ontario Kiyomi Morrison “Serving Size: 7 Billion” Los Angeles, California Nick Kleine-Tebbe “Don’t Waste Our Food” Chattaroy, Washington
First Place Wildlife habiTaT
First Place food seCuriTY
First Place global sTaTus of WoMen and girls
Kelley Sheahan, a freshman at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, California, created her World of 7 Billion video “Origami Wildlife” as part of an assignment in her geography class, but was so pleased with the outcome that she decided to officially enter it in the contest. She chose wildlife habitat as her topic because “people sometimes don’t realize their actions’ impact” on the homes of animals. Her video features a beautiful display of origami, a hobby of hers since elementary school. Despite the fact that it took Kelley two days to create all the origami, she said that she enjoyed the process of making her video so much that she “would love to find a career where [she] could create things that send a strong message.” We think she’s well on her way!
Marius Vaitkevičius, an 11th-grader at Gabija Gymnasium in Mažeikiai, Lithuania, has been making films since he was nine years old. It truly shows in his video “Hunger—One of the Biggest Problems We Face Today,” which features an impressive series of infographics timed perfectly to an upbeat melody. Marius says, “Before making the video, I had totally no idea that so many people in the world don’t eat enough. Also, I was surprised when I found out that there is enough food for all of us but not everyone has access to it.” Although just 16 years old, Marius creates professional-quality videos—some that he has sold—and saw using computer graphics to make his video as an interesting challenge. Outside of film production, Marius is interested in promoting human rights both locally and globally.
Sara Hubberstey is in grade 12 at the Waterloo Collegiate Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. She was surprised to discover that she had made World of 7 Billion contest history by seeing not one, but two of her entries take a final prize. Her video “The Need for Equality” took first place in the global status of women and girls category, and “Disappearing Act” took second place in the food security category. Her accomplishment is an impressive feat considering the number of highquality entries we received. Obviously a talented young woman, Sara said she had almost no experience with computer design before she made “The Need for Equality,” and learned the design program as she went along. Sara will be putting her prize money toward her first year at the University of Waterloo.
June 2013 — The Reporter 31
Used with permission from Ryan North/Dinosaur Comics
32 The Reporter â€” June 2013
St. Louis, Missouri
New York, New York
Contraceptive use is increasing. Abortions are declining. There’s an absolute correlation between those two facts.
Each year some 47,000 women around the world die as a result of unsafe abortions. Efforts to reduce that toll are severely hampered by the Helms Amendment, which was originally enacted in 1973 and restricts the use of United States foreign aid money to finance abortions overseas, even in places where abortion is legal.
More access to the morning-after pill would help even more. So why are abortion opponents still trying to make “Plan B” pills tougher to get? The “freedom of conscience act” for pharmacists is designed to protect them from having to sell things to which they are morally opposed, specifically emergency contraception, oral contraceptives and drugs that they consider to be abortion-inducing. So, depending on where you live and who owns the drugstores in your vicinity, your family planning options could be limited by your pharmacist. No matter how much scientific information that says emergency contraception is not abortion is pumped into the debate, those who do not want women to control their own bodies won’t let it go. Most women want planned pregnancies. Most families can’t cope with unplanned pregnancies.
According to the amendment, foreign assistance money may not be used to “pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” That wording plainly excludes cases of life endangerment, incest and rape. Anti-abortion zealots in Congress may oppose a change in the implementation of the Helms Amendment, but virtually every federal abortion policy includes exceptions for life endangerment, incest and rape. Mr. Obama has room under the law to abide by the amendment in a way that is true to its wording, more humane and consistent with his own ideals. He should use it. —March 17, 2013
The cost to taxpayers is about $11 billion a year for nearly 1 million unintended births. About half of those unplanned pregnancies occur in women who are using no contraception. Society benefits when families have children they can afford to raise. Let’s not deny them that right by imposing unnecessary restrictions on any and all methods of birth control. —April 12, 2013
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