October 2011's Edition of
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Population Institute Releases Report on World Population at 7 Billion
The report, which looks back at how the world has changed in the 12 years since the 6 billion mark was crossed, warns that while notable progress has been made in making immunizations, safe drinking water, and education more available to children in the developing world, those young people "are inheriting a world in which arable land and water are in increasingly short supply, food and fuel prices are steadily increasing, rivers and lakes are shrinking, water levels are falling, temperatures are rising, drought and flooding are intensifying, biodiversity is declining, the number of failing states is expanding, and the very future of ocean habitats is threatened."
New "Global Population Speak Out" Campaign Launched
Global Population Speak Out (GPSO) has launched a new website for the Population 7 Billion: It's Time to Talk campaign, which encourages supporters to "be part of the conversation" as the world observes the 7 billion population milestone on October 31, 2011. The new website offers many resources for supporters, including fact sheets, activity suggestions, a pledge to sign, and a video contest. The Population Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Post-Carbon Institute, and Population Media Center are partnering with GPSO on the project. The goal is to spark a worldwide conversation about the implication of population growth and the benefits of preserving and expanding family planning and reproductive health programs in the U.S. and abroad.
Congressional Showdown Looms on International Family Planning Assistance
In late September, the Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved a State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 that would provide $700 million for international family planning assistance, including $40 million for the United Nations Population Fund. The Senate action would boost funding by $85 million over this year's appropriation level ($615 million).
The Senate Committee's action sets up a budget battle with the House, where an Appropriations Subcommittee in July approved only $461 million, a 25 percent cut from the current funding level. The difference between the House and the Senate will have to be resolved through upcoming budget negotiations. The new fiscal year began on October 1, but neither the House nor the Senate has completed action on the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The Federal government is presently operating under a "continuing resolution" that provides temporary funding for federal programs until a final resolution is reached.
Senate Rejects Effort to Re-impose Global "Gag Rule"
The Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected a House subcommittee provision that would reinstate the global "gag rule." The rule, which President Obama repealed by executive order during his first month in office, prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance from using their own non-U.S. funds to perform abortions, refer patients for an abortion or even provide counseling on abortion as an available option in countries where abortion is legal. It also prevents them from advocating for the legalization of abortion in countries where it is not legal. The Senate language, in a clear challenge to the vote taken by the House subcommittee, would permanently repeal the "gag rule".
The battle over the "gag rule," however, is far from over. House and Senate conferees will have to resolve their differences in their effort to reach agreement on an appropriations bill for the fiscal year that began on October 1.
House Committee Votes to Bar U.S. Funding of UNFPA
On October 5, 2011, in a party-line vote of 23-17, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to reject President Barack Obama's request of $50 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Republican members of the committee argued that the UNFPA supports China's "one child" policy, which critics claim forces abortions and sterilizations. The UNFPA's steering document specifically excludes abortion as a method of family planning and a State Department fact finding mission to China in 2002 found "no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People's Republic of China]." The vote by the Foreign Affairs Committee comes on the heels of earlier votes to curb international family planning, including a vote to reinstate the "global gag rule." The legislation now moves on to a vote in the full House of Representatives.
Title X Family Planning Fund Once Again Facing the Chopping Block
House Republicans are trying again to eliminate all funding for Title X, the federal program that provides family planning and reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans. The proposed elimination of Title X is part of a larger package of budget cuts proposed by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). The cuts aim to eliminate "79 wasteful programs." The budget would also defund Planned Parenthood, prevent the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (which was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010), and cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention in favor of "abstinence only" education. Earlier this year House Republicans cut Title X funding by 5.5 percent, but were unsuccessful in defunding Planned Parenthood.
International leaders Call for Increased Funding for Maternal Health and Family Planning
As part of its Every Woman, Every Child campaign, the United Nations in mid-September announced that governments and NGOs, alike, are stepping up their support for maternal and child health programs, including family planning services. One of the goals of the campaign, in addition to slashing maternal and infant death rates, is to prevent 33,000 unwanted pregnancies. Last year, when the initiative was launched, $40 billion had been pledged; this week, the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced that an additional $10 billion has been committed, including significant pledges from the developing countries themselves.
That same week in New York, the Global Leaders Council of Reproductive Health, an Aspen Institute initiative led by former Irish president Mary Robinson, called upon donor nations to double their commitments to family planning and reproductive health programs in the developing world to $6.7 billion a year.