The subject of population touches upon a wide variety of human interests from reproductive rights to economic development to a sustainable world. For a quick overview, see Why Population Matters. Every two years, the UN’s Population Division publishes its “World Population Prospects” report: Click here for a summary of the latest findings and trends.
The Economic Costs of Abortion Restrictions
Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including abortion, is critical for the health and well-being of people everywhere. In addition to underpinning people’s health and rights, there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of such access in economic terms. The advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights has helped people overcome barriers to earning better wages and has granted greater access to participation in the workforce. However, abortion restrictions enacted at the state-level threaten decades of progress made regarding the well-being of many individuals and families in the United States.
The Shadow Pandemic: Addressing gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic
Significant progress has been made in improving the lives of health services — have been overwhelmed, shifted priorities, or women and girls around the world in recent years. More girls are enrolled in primary and secondary education, the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) has seen an overall decline, and millions of child marriages have been averted worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, stands to threaten years of progress.
Separate Policies, Similar Harm: The Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment
As the world’s number one global health donor, the U.S. has an obligation to support the provision of equitable, accessible health care globally. However, there are two major policies that currently interfere with and disrupt essential health care services: the “global gag rule” (GGR), and the Helms Amendment. These policies have devastating impacts on safe abortion access (and beyond) for millions of people in low- and middle-income countries, primarily harming people of color. While the harm they cause is similar, these policies do have distinct differences.
The Time is Now: Repeal the Global Gag Rule
The Mexico City Policy, commonly referred to as the “global gag rule” (GGR), prohibits funding for safe and legal abortion and prevents people around the world from accessing care. In January 2021, the Biden administration rescinded the GGR, marking the end of a four-year reinstatement of the policy under the Trump administration, during which time, the harmful rule underwent the most severe expansion in history. Though it is a step in right direction, the recission of the policy by the current administration is not enough. Congress must permanently repeal the GGR and prevent future anti-abortion administrations from easily re-imposing it.
The Time is Now: Repeal the Helms Amendment.
Despite progress being made in liberalizing abortion laws globally, too many people living in low- and middle-income countries still struggle to access safe and legal abortion care because of the Helms Amendment. Women and girls living in countries receiving foreign aid from the U.S. are bearing the brunt of a political debate in which they have no vote or voice. U.S. policy should not restrict access to legal abortion care, but the Helms Amendment does just that.
The Time is Now: Repeal the Hyde Amendment
First implemented in 1977, the Hyde Amendment forbids the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. This restriction denies abortion coverage to many of those enrolled in Medicaid, the nation’s primary health insurance program for low-income individuals and families. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program. States can elect to fund Medicaid abortion coverage, but most do not. Even if states do allow Medicaid abortion coverage, it can still be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access. As a consequence, many of the nation’s poor do not have the same access to abortion services as those that have private insurance or are more affluent. When it comes to reproductive rights, they are treated as second-class citizens.
The Need for Comprehensive Sexuality Education in the United States
Comprehensive sexuality education, or CSE, is important to the health, well-being, and overall academic achievement of all students in the United States. It can contribute, as well, to improved gender relations and tolerance of differences among individuals, increasingly important in today’s world. CSE is evidence-based sex education that can be used as a tool to provide honest, accurate, and affirming information to young people about sexual health and interpersonal relations. It empowers students to make responsible choices for themselves, avoid negative health consequences, and understand their bodies. Furthermore, CSE teaches young people to respect others’ right to bodily autonomy through consent, recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and show dignity and respect for themselves and others. CSE in schools is essential as it effectively counters inaccurate messages and harmful stereotypes often perpetuated by abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) curriculums.
Population, Health, and Environment (PHE)
In a world increasingly threatened by environmental degradation, integrated approaches are needed to cope with climatic changes, deforestation, desertification, shrinking wildlife populations, unsustainable farming practices, and the collapse of fisheries. Livelihoods in impacted communities are being destroyed. Many of those communities are already among the poorest in the world, and because they lack access to essential health care services, including voluntary family planning, they suffer from high rates of maternal and child mortality.
Reshaping of the lower federal courts: What is at stake for reproductive health and rights?
A great deal of attention is paid to possible openings on the Supreme Court, especially now with the vacant seat opening since the recent death of beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. However, only a small fraction of legal cases ever makes their way to the highest court in the land. Much of what is decided by the federal courts that effects our day-to-day life is decided by judges at the Appellate Court or District Court levels. Therefore, consideration must be given to the importance that the lower federal courts have on our sexual and reproductive rights. The Trump administration has done just that, quietly appointing over 200 judges to the lower federal courts in under four years. President Trump has been successful in effectively stacking the lower federal courts in favor of the administration’s anti-choice agenda.
Covid-19 Crisis in Africa
After a relatively late start, the COVID-19 pandemic is gathering force in Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the novel coronavirus could infect up to
44 million people and kill up to 190,000 in the first 12 months of the epidemic, depending on the
success of containment measures. An early United Nations report projected that between 100
and 800 million could ultimately be infected on the continent, with a death toll in the millions.
In addition, economic contraction could push 27 million people into extreme poverty, reversing
hard-won development gains.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights During Covid-19 Crisis
The novel coronavirus pandemic affects all segments of society; however, women and girls face special challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic has major implications for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). There is growing concern about the impacts that the pandemic, pandemic related restrictions, and the resulting economic disruption are likely to have on SRHR and a broader range of issues affecting the health and wellbeing of women, girls, and LGTBQ+ people. From increased barriers to reproductive health services during the pandemic, to disruption in the global reproductive health supply chain, vulnerable populations and marginalized communities are in great danger of suffering from the secondary impacts of the coronavirus.
The African Sahel
Nations in the African Sahel, the semi-arid region south of the Sahara Desert, face significant demographic challenges. The region, which is one of the poorest in the world and also one of the most food insecure, has some of the highest population growth rates in the world. Climatic changes—rising temperatures and severe droughts—are contributing to water scarcity, desertification, and soil erosion, and exacerbating tensions between herders and farmers. If gender inequality is addressed, child marriage is abolished, greater investments are made in education, and access to family planning services improves, the region could benefit from an economic boom, what economists and demographers describe as the “demographic dividend.” For countries like Niger and Mali, however, time may be running out.