Population Matters

Victory for Women

April 8th, 2013

 

In a victory for women and women’s health, a federal judge last Friday ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove restrictions on women’s access to emergency contraception. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman ruled that the FDA must make the most popular forms of emergency contraception available over the counter and without an age restriction.  The decision overturns a policy that restricts access to emergency contraception by requiring that women under 17 obtain a prescription from a physician, and requiring women 17 and older obtain it from pharmacies or health clinics with government-issued identification.

In striking down the restrictions, the judge ruled that when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped in to implement these restrictions it was “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

Emergency contraception reduces the risk of pregnancy after contraceptive failure or unprotected sex up to 120 hours after, but is most effective in the first 24 hours.  It is important, therefore, that women obtain access to emergency contraception in a timely manner.  The current restrictions often led to confusion and human error, effectively denying many women access to emergency contraception, particularly young women and those without any government- issued identification.  By making emergency contraception available over the counter to all women regardless of age it will ensure that women have better access to emergency contraception.  Costs for some women may still pose a barrier, but the court’s decision is still a resounding victory for women and women’s health.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

MDGs: One Thousand Days Left to Go

April 5th, 2013

Nearly 13 years ago the nations of the world came together in a bold new campaign to reduce extreme poverty and improve human well-being in the developing world.  The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were launched at that time, set forth an ambitious development agenda.  Eight broad goals were set with 2015 as the target year for their completion.  The goals set forth a series of targets relating to poverty, hunger, maternal health, child health, drinking water, sanitation, housing and other development objectives.

No one should underestimate the scale of what has been achieved in the past 12 years under the banner of the MDGs.  The accomplishments, by any fair measure, are impressive, but much remains to be done.   The UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group this week has called upon the nations of the world to redouble their efforts in the 1000 days between now and the 2015 deadline.  In a statement released by the Secretary-General’s office, the MDG advocacy group, said:

 “The Millennium Development Goals provide an urgent ‘to-do’ list to address many of humanity’s biggest and most important challenges. Since their creation, the global community has mobilized around these common goals to drive incredible progress that is improving lives around the world. More children are reaching their 5thbirthday, fewer people are living in crushing poverty, and as many girls attend primary school as boys.

While we’ve made great strides forward, our work is not done. Now is the time to build on the momentum we’ve started to reach families and communities that have been left behind. Today’s milestone is an opportunity for everyone who cares about creating a more just world to take action in support of the United Nations and the MDGs. What we do over the next 1,000 days matters to millions of people. As MDG Advocates, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help drive further progress. Let’s seize the next 1,000 days to change lives and chart a course for a brighter future for our world.”

The Population Institute is proud to join with the UN’s MDGs Advocacy Group in calling for a renewed commitment to the MDGs.   In particular, much work still needs to be done on MDG 5, which seeks to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters for the period between 1990 and 2015.  While notable progress has been made in expanding antenatal care in developing countries, many women still lack access to family planning services and information.  Better access to contraceptive services could go a long ways toward lowering maternal mortality rates, particularly in countries where the prevalence of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy rates are still high.   That’s one of the reasons why the UN—in MDG 5(b)—ultimately set forth 2015 as a target year for achieving universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

No one expects that MDG5(b) will be achieved by 2015, but that certainly does not diminish the urgency of trying to achieve universal access.   In addition to improving maternal health, expanded access to family planning is crucial to fighting severe poverty, improving food security, boosting educational attainment, and other MDG goals.

While renewing our efforts on behalf of the MDGs we also need to begin thinking about what comes next.   The UN is presently developing a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will either complement or replace the MDGs as the focus of international development efforts in 2015 and beyond.  Whatever happens in the next 1000 days, we can say with absolute certainty that more work will need to be done on achieving universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

At the same time, world leaders—as part of the SDG process—will need to confront head-on the challenges posed by climate change and resource scarcity.  Now, more than ever, we need to take inventory of the Earth’s resources and their capacity for supporting continued progress on human development. We urgently require some form of resource sufficiency evaluation to determine whether we are living sustainably.  By some estimates, humanity is already using 150 percent of the planet’s supply of renewal resources.  Many scientists warn that by 2030 we will need two planets to sustain us in the long haul.  Unfortunately, we only have one planet, and it is beginning to show considerable wear and tear.

So let us wholeheartedly renew our support for the MDGs, but let us also get to work on the  development of meaningful SDGs.  Human development must not only be achieved, it must be sustained.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, president