April 2012's Edition of
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Population Institute Launches “Halt the Assault” Campaign
Responding to the escalating political attacks on contraception and reproductive health, the Population Institute launched a campaign aimed at halting the assault. In unveiling the new effort, Robert Walker, President of the Population Institute, said, "Isn't it time for all of us—women and men—to let our political leaders know where we stand? When leading political figures like Rick Santorum are talking about the 'dangers of contraception,' and others, like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, assert that 'women don’t care about contraception,' it's time for average Americans to stand up for reproductive health and rights."
“Planet under Pressure” Conference Urges Global Action
In preparation for the UN’s upcoming "Rio plus 20" conference coming in June, nearly 3,000 scientists convened in London late last month for a "Planet under Pressure" Conference. While the conference focused on climate change, food security, and other global challenges, population was also discussed. Several presenters suggested that empowering women and expanding access to family planning were needed as part of a larger strategy aimed at reducing humanity's impact on the environment. Numerous presenters warned that the time for action on climate change and other issues were running out.
The ‘War on Women’ Escalates
The war on women continues to make headlines across the country, but the push-back has begun. The Texas legislature recently cut off all Medicaid money to Planned Parenthood in the state and the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill requiring a 24-hour wait period before terminating a pregnancy. The Missouri House passed a bill allowing medical professionals to deny services such as abortion, contraception, and sterilization if they have a moral objection. Despite those setbacks, reproductive health advocates have scored some recent victories. Tennessee has dropped a provision that would have required the disclosure of detailed demographic information about a woman seeking an abortion as well as the name of her doctor; and the Arizona Senate defeated a bill that would have allowed employers to deny insurance coverage to their employees if they had a moral objection. On the federal level, the U.S. Senate earlier defeated the Blunt Amendment by a vote of 51-48. The Blunt Amendment would have permitted virtually any employer with moral objections to drop contraceptive coverage from their health plan.
Proposed House Budget Cuts Foreign Assistance
In late March Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Committee Chairman, released his proposed FY2013 budget. The Ryan proposal would slash the international affairs account from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2012 to $43.1 billion in fiscal 2013, $40.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $38.3 billion in fiscal 2015, and $38.1 billion in fiscal 2016. Under the Ryan plan, funding for the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance would not be restored to current levels until 2022. If the Ryan budget plan is approved, it could have a significant impact on the amount ultimately set aside by Congress this year for international family planning assistance. The Obama Administration has proposed $642.7 million for international family planning assistance in FY2013, a five percent increase that includes $39 million for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
World Marks 101st International Women’s Day
On March 8, 2012, the world celebrated the 101st annual International Women's Day, a day set aside to celebrate the social and economic progress of women around the world. But amid the celebrations lies the worry that some of the hard-fought gains women have made over the past 101 years are in jeopardy. Over the past year, the U.S. House of Representatives has threatened to eliminate Title X, which helps to provide low-income women with access to family planning services. The House attempted to expand the ban on abortion funding by narrowing the exception for rape, and actually passed a bill that would have allowed hospitals to refuse to provide an emergency abortion, even to a woman who would die without it. The Senate nearly passed a Blunt Amendment that would have allowed any employer or insurance company to refuse coverage for any activity to which they claim a religious or moral objection. International family planning assistance has also come under attack, as Congressional opponents sought, unsuccessfully, to defund UNFPA, and reinstate the global 'gag rule'. Funding for international family planning assistance last year was cut by five percent.
World Bank Releases New Poverty Numbers
At the very end of February, the World Bank reported that both the number of people living in extreme poverty and the poverty rate itself declined in every region of the developing world during 2005-2008. The data released by the World Bank's Development Research Group showed that "22% of the developing world’s population – or 1.29 billion people – lived on $1.25 or less a day in 2008, down from 43% in 1990 and 52% in 1981." The new numbers were greeted, however, with caution and some degree of skepticism. While the estimate of the number of people below the severe poverty line ($1.25 a day) has fallen, the number of people living just above the line has soared. According to the Bank, 1.18 billion people lived on between $1.25 and $2.00 per day in 2008 compared to only 648 million in 1981. The total number of people living on $2.00 a day has changed very little over the past few decades: 2.47 billion in 2008 compared to 2.59 billion in 1981. In reviewing the report, the Population Institute welcomed the signs of progress, but recommended that more resources be devoted to measuring poverty and ensuring that gains in reducing poverty are sustainable.
UN Commission on Population and Development to Focus on Youth
The United Nation's Commission on Population and Development (CPD) is convening this month to discuss the state of reproductive health and rights. This year's annual session will focus on youth and adolescents. With the world's largest generation ever of young people about to enter their prime reproductive years, a growing number of experts are warning that not enough is being done to address the reproductive health and rights of adolescent populations. Globally, the adolescent pregnancy rate has declined sharply over the past half-century, but in recent years the rate has leveled off. Experts indicate that several factors may account for the rebound in adolescent pregnancies, including the persistence of child marriage practices and the failure of many developing countries to provide comprehensive sex education to younger populations.