Population Matters

The War on Women’s Reproductive Rights Rages On

April 3rd, 2015


The 2010 midterm elections brought a wave of Republican victories, particularly at the state level, and along with those victories came a renewed attack on women’s reproductive health and rights. Between 2011 and the end of 2014, states have enacted 231 abortion restrictions, and more are on the way.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, legislatures in 43 states have introduced, so far this year, a total of 332 provisions seeking to restrict access to abortion services, and it’s only April. As of April 1, 53 of those proposed restrictions have passed at least one legislative chamber, and nine of them have been enacted into law by four states.


guttmacher april 2015
Arkansas enacted a new law that requires abortion providers to use outdated FDA protocol on medication abortions. Idaho and Arkansas enacted laws banning telemedicine for medication abortion. West Virginia joined 13 other states in enacting a 20 week post fertilization abortion ban, and seven other states are considering a similar ban. Arizona is the most recent state to enact a new abortion restriction. The new Arizona law not only prevents women from purchasing health insurance that includes abortion coverage on the federal health exchange; it also requires doctors to lie to their patients by telling them that medication abortions may be reversible. It is hard to imagine a more egregious intrusion into the doctor/patient relationship. It is, in effect, a legally mandated violation of medical ethics.

Those restrictions, unfortunately, are just the tip of the iceberg. RH Reality Check reports that Texas is considering 25 anti-choice bills, Missouri has introduced 20, Minnesota 14, South Carolina and Tennessee 12, and Iowa 11. Twenty-one states are considering targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAPs) that go beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety, and 16 states are debating Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) that could deny women insurance coverage for contraceptives. These state RFRAs are modeled after the federal law that formed the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

TRAP laws, however, are encountering trouble in the courts. Late last month U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered a permanent injunction against a Wisconsin TRAP law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they practice. In his opinion Judge Conley ruled that the proposed law violated the 14th amendment:

The marginal benefit to women’s health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women’s health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin….While the court agrees with the State that sometimes it is necessary to reduce access to insure safety, this is decidedly not one of those instances.
The court is, if anything, more convinced that the admitting privileges requirement in Act 37 ‘remains a solution in search of a problem,’ unless that problem is access to abortion itself.


Let’s hope that more courts overturn these TRAP laws and other arbitrary restrictions that serve only to deny women access to abortion services. Otherwise, it could be a very bad year in the ever escalating war on the reproductive rights of women.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

Millennials: The Reproductive Health Generation

April 1st, 2015

Given the escalating political assaults on family planning, one might easily have assumed that the American voters were softening in their support of contraception and abortion rights. Not so. A new poll released last week demonstrates that America’s up and coming generation, the millennials, are every bit as supportive of reproductive health and rights as their parent’s generation.

According to a new poll released Friday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, adults between the ages 18-35 understand the importance of low-cost birth control and support comprehensive sex education. The 2015 Millennials, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Survey breaks down the views of millennials on a number of topics, ranging from birth control to abortion to sex education. Below are some of the highlights:

Birth Control

Millennials do not see birth control as controversial; only 9% said that using contraception is morally wrong. Six out of ten indicated that access to contraception is critical to the financial security of women. An even greater majority, 81%, favor increasing access to contraception for women who cannot afford it, and nearly 8 out of 10 (82%) believe that insurance should cover prescription contraception. Millennials are also opposed to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, with 58% saying that privately owned corporations should be required to provide employees with health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. While Democrats were more likely to oppose the Supreme Court’s decision (73%), nearly 4 out of 10 Republicans (38%) also opposed the Court’s decision.

Emergency Contraception

55% of millennials are opposed to requiring a prescription in order to obtain emergency contraception and 60% say that emergency contraception should be covered by insurance.


Millennials are also opposed to new abortion restrictions; 55% said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 56% opposed making it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion. Millennials, however, are uncomfortable with the traditional “pro-life” and “pro-choice” labels; about a quarter each said they are either “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” and 27% said that both labels describe them equally.

Sex Education

Millennials support effective sex education in the schools, with 67% indicating that emphasizing safe sexual practices and birth control is a better way to prevent unintended pregnancy than teaching abstinence from sex. While 3 out of 4 millennials support teaching comprehensive sex education in schools, 23% of millennials reported that they did not have a sex education class in school, and 37% of those who did have a sex education class indicated that the class was not very helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships.

Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

20 Week Abortion Ban? Not so Fast

January 22nd, 2015

This day in 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court announced their ruling on the landmark case Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion nationwide. While Roe should have been the end of the fight, it was, unfortunately, just the beginning of a long drawn out war over women’s reproductive rights. Forty-two years later abortion opponents are still chipping away at women’s access to abortion, and, with the momentum provided by the election, they were prepared to seize the initiative.

In response to pleas from anti-abortion advocates, House leaders planned on bringing a proposed 20 week abortion ban to the House floor today, just one of six anti-abortion bills introduced in the first seven days of the new Congress.

But, suddenly, the political momentum has slowed.

The President earlier this week vowed to veto the 20 week ban if it were to reach his desk saying:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 36, which would unacceptably restrict women’s health and reproductive rights and is an assault on a woman’s right to choose. Women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care, and Government should not inject itself into decisions best made between a woman and her doctor.

But it turns out that President Obama is not alone in his opposition to the proposed 20 week ban. In what must have been a surprise to Speaker Boehner, there was dissent within the House Republican Conference. Some Republican women pulled support for the bill due to the limited nature of the rape exception. While the bill does allow for an exception to be made in the case of rape and incest, it requires that the rape or incest be reported to law enforcement before the woman attempts to access abortion care. This is problematic because according to the Department of Justice the majority of women who have been victims of rape do not report their rape to law enforcement.

Ultimately, the House leadership listened to the dissent and, temporarily at least, pulled the proposed abortion ban from floor consideration. It appears that House leaders may be beginning to understand the negative optics of going directly at abortion using narrow rape exceptions. I wish I could celebrate this as good news, but the House leadership could not let the anniversary of Roe v. Wade go by without some kind of attack on reproductive rights.

Instead of the 20-week ban, the House voted today on H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and it passed 242-179. This bill would prevent federal funding for abortion services for women in the military, civil servants, Peace Corps volunteers, women who live in Washington, DC, and women who have Medicaid coverage. The bill also codifies the Hyde amendment, which bans, with very limited exceptions, federal funding of abortion. The bill would also prevent private health insurance from covering abortion services if the plan received any subsidies or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The bill would apply tax penalties to any small business that purchases plans that cover abortion. In doing so, of course, the bill would eliminate abortion coverage for the poorest and most vulnerable women. The President has already issued a veto pledge saying:

The legislation would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule… The Administration strongly opposes legislation that unnecessarily restricts women’s reproductive freedoms and consumers’ private insurance options.

But the President’s veto power only goes so far. While the twenty week ban and HR7 have no chance of becoming law under President Obama, the state level assaults on reproductive rights continue, and abortion opponents have been successful in passing a growing number of abortion restrictions.

The Population Institute’s recent 50-state report card on reproductive health and rights awarded 15 states a failing grade (“F”). Many of these states, have cut funding for contraceptive services and approved targeted regulations of abortion providers (“trap”) laws that, in addition to curbing abortion access, have shut down family clinics providing contraceptive services. Several of these states have also blocked the proposed expansion of Medicaid under the president’s Affordable Care Act, which further reduces access to contraception.

The outcome of the 2014 election ensures that the state level assault on reproductive rights will continue unabated, and, as a result more family planning clinics will close this year and still more women will lose access to reproductive health services, including contraceptives services. That’s inevitable. But so is the political backlash. Stay tuned.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

Reproductive Health: The Battle Resumes

January 22nd, 2015

With the convening of the new Congress, the fight over reproductive health and rights has been renewed, and members of the new Congress are not wasting any time in drawing the battle lines. Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) reintroduced legislation this week to stop women from terminating pregnancies after 20 weeks.

The proposed abortion ban is part of a much larger, ongoing struggle over reproductive health and rights in America. This week the Population Institute released its third annual 50 state report card on reproductive health and rights in the U.S., and the results were mixed. The U.S. as a whole received a “C” for 2014, a slight improvement over last year’s grade (“C-“), but 15 states received a failing grade, and several states recorded a lower score or grade in 2014.

Nationally, we saw some notable improvements in reproductive health last year. The reported teenage pregnancy rate, while still high, continued to decline, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more women were insured and able to access contraceptive services without a required co-pay. Those advances are largely responsible for the slight improvement that we see in the national grade for 2014. At the state level, however, there were some major setbacks for reproductive health and rights. Several states enacted arbitrary abortion restrictions that will likely lead to the closure of more family planning clinics, making contraceptive services more difficult to access. Other states approved further cutbacks in funding for family planning clinics, and just as importantly 23 states still reject the expansion of Medicaid coverage called for by the Affordable Care Act, effectively denying millions of women improved access to contraceptive services.

Unfortunately, next year’s report card could look a whole lot worse. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns key sections of the Affordable Care Act or Congress repeals it altogether, millions of women could be forced to pay a lot more for their contraceptive coverage. And if Congress slashes or eliminates funding for Title X, the federal program that provides family planning services to low-income households, millions of women could suffer a loss of contraceptive services.

We are also likely to see more setbacks at the state level. If more states cut funding for family planning clinics or more states impose arbitrary restrictions on birth control clinics providing abortion services, more clinics will close and more women will have to travel long distances to get access to family planning services. The threat of clinic closures today is very real. The political attacks on Planned Parenthood are taking a toll and, contrary to the stated intention of the attackers, the practical effect will be more abortions, not fewer.

Using nine criteria, the Institute’s report card ranked each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty percent of the grade is based on measures of effectiveness. This includes the latest available data on the teenage pregnancy rate (15% of the score) and the rate of unintended pregnancies (15%). Twenty percent of the grade is based upon prevention. This includes mandated comprehensive sex education in the schools (15%) and access to emergency contraception (5%).

Thirty percent of the grade is based upon affordability. This includes whether states are expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (10%), Medicaid eligibility rules for family planning (10%), and funding for family planning clinics serving low-income families (10%). The final 20 percent of the grade is based upon clinic access. This includes abortion restrictions (10%) and percent of women living in a county without an abortion provider (10%).

Based upon their scores, each state received a “core” grade (A, B, C, D or F), but some states received an additional “plus” or a “minus” for factors not reflected in the core grade, such as pending regulations or legislation.

Only 17 states received a B- or higher. Just four states (California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington) received an “A”. Fifteen states received a failing grade (“F”). States receiving a failing grade included Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Last year could have been a great victory for women’s reproductive health with tumbling teen pregnancy rates and increased access to reproductive health care for women under the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, setbacks at the state level negated some of the gains.

The reported teen pregnancy rate continued its historic drop, a 51% decline since its 1990 peak and a 15% drop between 2008 and 2010. But despite the drop, America’s teenage pregnancy rate is still higher than other industrialized nations and nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. To change this we must ensure that all women, including young women, have access to affordable reproductive health services and that young people receive comprehensive sex education in the schools.

America, however, could be headed in the wrong direction. With the makeup of the new U.S. Congress, the cases pending before the Supreme Court, and more setbacks anticipated at the state level, the outlook for 2015 is not positive. While the teen pregnancy rate will hopefully continue its historic fall, millions of women could experience reduced access to contraceptive services in the next year. We should not let that happen.

This blog by Population Institute President Robert Walker originally ran on January 8, 2015 on The Huffington Post

Mulling the Motherhood Mandate

October 29th, 2014

Of all the important decisions we make in our lives, questions about whether to have a child or not, or even when to have a child, have to be near the top of the list, and while that is true for men, it is certainly the case with women. Given the enormous personal stakes in childbearing, it is surprising that more women have not written a book about the pros and cons that go into making childbearing decisions.

The latest contribution to this field comes from Melanie Holmes, a mother with two grown sons and a 12-year-old daughter at home. Her book, The Female Assumption, seeks to free women “from the view that motherhood is a mandate.” The author makes it clear from the outset that she does not regret having three children, but she tells her readers that “females should be raised hearing that motherhood is only one option out of many paths that they might choose in order to live a full, happy life.”

For the vast majority of human history the ‘default’ choice for women has been to have a child, if not several children. And that’s been good on several levels, not the least of which is the survival of the human species. Looking back, if women on average had fewer than two children each, we would not be here today. Indeed, child mortality rates were so high for millennia that women, on average, had to have several children or population would have rapidly declined. Large family size, for much of human history, has been a biological imperative.

Today, however, with 7.2 billion of us on the planet and demographic projections indicating that world population will increase by another 2.4 billion by mid-century, humankind is in no danger of shuffling off its mortal coil and women with access to modern contraception can now space or limit their pregnancies, and can opt, if they so choose, to go childless. But despite their reproductive freedom many women in the world are still under a lot of pressure to have children.

In many developing countries a woman may have little voice in determining the size of her family, particularly if she was a child bride. But even in the United States women can be pressured into having children. Holmes writes that “girls are coached, almost from birth, to embrace motherhood,” and that “married women without children are often bombarded with questions.” In the course of writing her book, Holmes interviewed more than a hundred women with daughters, and she reports that 88 percent of them said that they “assumed” that their daughters would have children, though only 42 percent said they would actively encourage their daughters to have children.

In Chapter 4 of her book, Holmes lists seven “dirty little secrets” that mothers refrain from telling their daughters about raising children. In a subsequent chapter, she also writes about the many “joys” of motherhood, but she concludes that, once you opt for motherhood, life as you have known it “ceases to exist,” and that “you must forego many other choices that could be equally rewarding.” In reaching that conclusion, Holmes talked to dozens of women who chose not to have children, many of whom, including my wife, reported no regrets about their decision.

Holmes is not the first woman in recent years to publicly attack the “assumption” that women cannot lead fulfilling lives if they do not have children. A few years ago, Lisa Hymas, a senior editor at Grist, generated some debate within the environmental community when she criticized the pressure that family and friends often put upon young women to have children. In a strong defense of her decision not to have children, she coined the phrase, “green inclination, no kids” or GINK, for short.

What sets Holmes apart from some of the other “child-free” advocates is that she is a mother of three and still willing to defend women who opt not to have children. For obvious reasons, it is a bit of a tightrope act; Holmes does not regret the “three beautiful souls” who came into her life, but neither does she shrink from describing the downsides of motherhood. The result is a fresh and balanced perspective on the relative merits of having children versus not having children.

Holmes treats childbearing as a highly personal decision, which it most certainly is, but for some people, like me, decisions on childbearing can also include larger, non-personal considerations, such as the impact that ever growing human numbers are having on the planet. As a man who decided early on that he would prefer to not have any children, I do not question those who elect to have children, but by the same token I do not think parenthood should be entered into lightly. For all the reasons outlined in The Female Assumption and more, I believe that women — and men — should think carefully about one of the most momentous decisions they will ever make. If you are woman and you have not decided yet whether to have children, I urge you to read The Female Assumption.

This blog by Population Institute President Robert Walker originally ran on October 24, 2014 on The Huffington Post

Child Marriage Undermines Progress on the MDGs

October 10th, 2014

Every year 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Today there are 700 million women alive who were married before their 18th birthday, and 1 in 3 of these women, about 250 million, were married before they turned 15. If we do not take urgent action to address child marriage now, by 2050 there will be 1.2 billion women in the world who will have been married before they turned 18. Tomorrow is the International Day of the Girl and it is imperative that we recommit ourselves to putting girls at the center of the development agenda. Eliminating child marriage will help us to succeed on 6 of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

MDG 1 Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
Poverty is both a cause and an effect of child marriage. Girls from poor households are nearly two times more likely to marry before they are 18 years of age than other girls. Once these girls are married they are often trapped in poverty because they are pulled out of school. Unable to complete their education, these girls will have limited economic opportunities and are more likely to remain poor.


MDG 2 Achieve Universal Primary Education
When girls get married they are often removed from school, which will limit their ability to lift their families out of poverty. Education is also one of the best tools to help girls avoid child marriage. Girls who have secondary schooling are up to 6 times less likely to be child brides than girls who have little or no education.


MDG 3 Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Child marriage disempowers girls. It not only prevents them from completing their education; it generally means that they will have little choice or control over whom they will marry. Child brides are effectively denied gender equality, and are more likely to experience physical, sexual and psychological violence. Child marriage, in fact, may be the single biggest obstacle to achieving MDG 3.


MDG 4 & 5 Reduce Child Mortality and Improve Maternal Health
Child brides are often encouraged, or even forced, to have a child before they are physically or emotionally ready to become mothers. This has a devastating effect on the health of child brides. Girls under 15 are 5 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties. Child marriage, in fact, is one of the biggest impediments to reducing maternal mortality and achieving MDG 5. When a mother is under 20, her child is 50 percent more likely to die within its first weeks of life than a baby born to a mother in her 20s, undermining progress on MDG 4 (reducing child mortality).


MDG 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and other Diseases
When girls marry young they do not have the power or knowledge to negotiate safe sexual behavior, and are therefore more vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS and other STIs.


These are just a few of the reasons why ending child marriage must be part of the post-2015 development agenda. If we do not end child marriage, it will undermine progress on many of the other development goals. So this International Day of the Girl let us raise our voices and speak out to prevent another 15 million girls from becoming child brides next year.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

Contraception: Saving Lives… and the Planet

September 29th, 2014

On Friday, September 26, the world is celebrating World Contraception Day. Okay, ‘celebrating’ may be too strong a word. ‘Observing’ may be more like it. And the number of people actually observing the day in some form is probably small. Okay, very small. To borrow a phrase from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the world “will little note, nor long remember” World Contraception Day 2014. That’s too bad. For in truth, there’s a whole lot to celebrate, and a whole lot more left to do if men and women everywhere are going to have access to the contraceptive method of their choice.

The obvious reason for celebrating modern contraceptives is that they allow us to have children by choice, rather than by chance. They minimize, in other words, the chances of an unintended or unwanted pregnancy. That mere fact itself is worth a celebratory cheer, but there is a lot more to get excited about.

Contraception is a life-saver.

Contraception saves lives
, particularly in developing nations where access to contraception can mean the difference between life and death for girls and women who do not have access to adequate medical care. This is particularly true for child brides who are not physically mature enough to give birth, but pregnancy is a significant health risk for women of any age who are unable to space their pregnancies more than 18 months apart.

In the United States, very few women die from pregnancy-related causes, but in some rural parts of Africa, women have a 1 in 30 lifetime chance of dying as a result of a pregnancy. Of the 800 women in the world who die every day from pregnancy-related causes, the vast majority are in the developing world.

There are an estimated 222 million women in the developing world who want to avoid getting pregnant, but who are not currently using a modern method of contraception. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that meeting this ‘unmet need’ for family planning, would save the lives of 79,000 women each year by allowing these women to delay motherhood, space births, and avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Increasing contraceptive use in the developing world would also reduce the number of infant deaths. Closely spaced pregnancies are associated with an increased risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and other health risks for infants. Birth spacing also gives mothers more time to breastfeed, improving infant health and nutrition. Guttmacher estimates that expanding contraceptive use could prevent 1.1 million infant deaths every year.

One contraceptive method in particular, the condom, plays a crucial role worldwide in reducing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The World Health Organization emphasizes that the “Consistent and correct use of condoms, male or female, is critical for prevention of HIV transmission to non-infected sexual partners.”

In countries with rapidly growing population, increased contraceptive usage helps to relieve the pressure on overloaded health care delivery systems, freeing up resources for the treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, and other deadly diseases. In countries already struggling with hunger and malnutrition, increased contraceptive use can improve food security by lowering population growth rates. Current population projections indicate that Niger, which ranks very high on the Global Hunger Index, could nearly quadruple its population in the next 40 years. Without a reduction in fertility rates, it is hard to imagine how Niger could ever hope to adequately feed its population.

While contraception is saving lives, it is also saving the planet.

Contraception is helping to save the planet from the harm that humanity is doing to the climate, the oceans, and the survival of endangered species. Thanks to expanded use of contraception, fertility rates continue to fall, but world population, currently 7.2 billion, is still expected to reach 9.6 by mid-century and 11 billion by the end of the century. Scientists are warning that our consumption of material resources, driven by rising population and higher standards of living, is threating to breach “planetary boundaries,” causing irreparable harm to the environment and threatening the well-being of future generations.

Humanity is already over-consuming water and other vital resources. The Global Footprint Network warns that by 2030 we will need two Earths to meet our demand for renewable resources. Lakes and rivers in many areas are shrinking and wells are going dry. Arable land is in short supply, topsoil is eroding, and deserts are expanding.

Our over-consumption of fossil fuels is altering the climate and the chemistry of the oceans. As emissions increase, temperatures and seas are gradually rising, while drought and flooding are intensifying. Dead zones are forming in the oceans, coral reefs are being destroyed, and the ocean ‘harvest’ is gradually declining from its historical peak.

And it’s not just humans that are endangered. Scientists are warning that human activity is triggering a “sixth mass extinction. Many of the world’s most beloved animal species– including elephants, lions, tigers, rhinos, and polar bears–could face virtual extinction in the wild, long before this century ends.

There’s more to be done.

Contraception is helping to save both lives and the planet, but there is so much more that needs to be done: About 40 percent of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, including about 50 percent of pregnancies here in the United States. We desperately need to improve contraceptive options for people around the world, particularly for adolescents and young adults. We need to expand the availability of IUDs and ‘injectable’ contraceptives that more effectively prevent unplanned pregnancies. We also need to eliminate the cultural and informational barriers that effectively prevent girls and women in developing countries from using contraceptives. Child marriage practices, in particular, should be abandoned, and we need to invest more resources in educating girls and providing women with better economic opportunities.

World Contraception Day is more than a celebration: It’s a call to action.

Posted by Robert Walker, President

This was originally posted on the Huffington Post on September 25, 2014

World Population Day: How Are We Doing?

July 11th, 2014

Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations Development Programme declared July 11 to be World Population Day. Much has changed in the past quarter century. Significant progress has been made, but many challenges remain. More women than ever are able to decide freely how many children to have and when, but many women in the world still lack access to modern methods of contraceptives, and gender inequality in the developing world prevents many girls and women from exercising their reproductive freedom. As a result, global fertility rates have fallen, but not as fast as once expected. Without access to reproductive services, maternal and infant mortality remain unacceptably high, and the challenges posed by a growing world population continue to mount.

Every woman in the world should be able to decide, free from any coercion, when to have children and how many children to have. As part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the UN set 2015 as the target year for achieving universal access to family planning and reproductive health services, but that target will not be met. Twenty-five years after the first World Population Day, the international community needs to recommit itself to empowering women and girls and ensuring that they have access to reproductive health services. Here’s why:


Population is still growing. Twenty-five years ago, world population stood at 5.2 billion. Today, it’s 7.2 billion, and if global fertility rates were to remain unchanged, world population would soar to an unsustainable 27 billion by the end of the century. In 1989, women on average had 3.3 children in their lives; today they have 2.5 children. Fortunately, demographers are generally agreed that fertility rates will continue to fall, and if they fall as fast as currently projected world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and nearly 11 billion by the end of the century. Even that projected growth path, however, has its perils.


The Global Footprint Network estimates that we are already overusing planetary resources. In terms of renewable resources and the Earth’s capacity to absorb carbon, toxic chemicals and other forms of pollution, we will need two Earth’s by 2030 to sustain us for the long haul. Our current growth path is unsustainable. The warning signs are all around us, as rivers and lakes shrink, water tables fall, carbon emissions rise, deserts expand, forests shrink, and fisheries collapse.


Current trends would suggest that we are on our way to becoming a “single-specie” planet. We have already using about half of the world’s land surface to grow our crops, raise livestock, construct our roads, and build our towns and cities. To grow our crops, we are using a land area about the size of South America, and to raise cattle and farm animals we have cleared an area greater than the continent of Africa. There is still land available, but what’s left, for the most part, consists of mountains, tundra, deserts, and lands of marginal utility. If we need more arable land, and it appears we do, we must chop down more forests, including tropical forests.


Our claims upon the planet are having a devastating toll on all the other species that call this planet home. Scientists are warning that we are triggering the “Sixth Mass Extinction,” the great extinction, perhaps, since the dinosaurs were extinguished 65 million years ago. Rates of species extinction are currently about 1000 times higher than the natural rate.

Preventing unplanned pregnancies is in everybody’s best interests. In the developed world, where you and I are consuming a highly disproportionate share of the world’s resources, preventing unplanned pregnancies will help to reduce carbon emissions and slow the headlong depletion of the world’s limited resources. In the developing world, where fertility rates are still very high, family planning services are desperately needed to reduce maternal and infant mortality, fight poverty, end hunger, reduce gender inequality, and, in many areas, mitigate water scarcity and deforestation.


The United Nations estimates that there are 222 million women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not using a modern method of birth control. Meeting that contraceptive need would cost only $3.5 billion a year. By any global standard that’s a tiny investment of money, but it’s one that would pay enormous dividends in terms of improving the health and well-being of families. But in addition to expanding access to contraceptive options, we also need to empower girls and women.

Child marriage, in particular, needs to end. It’s a violation of human rights that imperils the health and wellbeing of girls, and one that serves to perpetuate the cycle of poverty and hunger in desperately poor countries.

Today, as in 1989, we need to recommit ourselves to a healthier and more sustainable world, and that begins by promoting gender equality and providing universal access to family planning and reproductive health services. It’s not just a moral imperative, it’s a global imperative, and that’s why the Population Institute has launched a population education campaign that features a brand new series of graphics and factoids that can be shared with your family and friends. Click here for more information.

Posted by Robert Walker, President

This was originally posted on the Huffington Post on July 10, 2014

The Supreme Court thinks it is 1964, not 2014

July 1st, 2014

In 1965 the Supreme Court ruled in Griswold v. Connecticut that married women could legally use birth control. Yesterday, 49 years later, the Supreme Court ruled that your boss’ religious views could trump your own beliefs and prevent you from accessing affordable contraception. It is nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around the idea that in 2014 women are still fighting for the right to access affordable contraception.

Contraception is basic health care for women. Not only does birth control allow women to plan when and if they get pregnant, thus preventing unintended pregnancies and reducing the need for abortion, it is treatment for a number of medical conditions. According to the Guttmacher Institute 62% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a method of contraception and 99% of women of reproductive age who have ever had sex have used a method of contraception.

When the Institute of Medicine was making its recommendations for what should be classified as preventative services, and thus available without a co-pay, it recognized that cost can be a barrier. This is particularly true with the IUD, which is the one of the most effective types of birth control, but not widely used in the United States for a number of reasons, cost among them. However, research has shown that when cost and lack of information are not a consideration women are much more likely to use a more effective method like an IUD or implant.

By allowing bosses to impose their religious beliefs on their employees fewer women will consistently use birth control and fewer will choose the most effective method, a concern that was raised in Justice Ginsburg’s dissent.

“It bears note…that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full time pay for workers earning the minimum wage…Working for Hobby Lobby…should not deprive employees of the preventative care available to workers at the shop next door.”—Justice Ginsburg

Unfortunately for any woman affected by yesterday’s decision, there will now be one more person in the doctor’s room with her when she chooses a contraceptive method… her boss.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Director of Public Policy

Hobby Lobby: The Day After

July 1st, 2014

In the 24 hours since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Hobby Lobby case, volumes have been written about the outcome of the case, but one of the best analyses that I have seen was written by Richard Cizik before the decision came down. Cizik, an evangelical leader of long standing, argued in a blog written for the Huffington Post that a victory for Hobby Lobby would be, in reality, a loss for all those “pro-life” Christians who are opposed to abortion. As Cizik duly notes, contraceptive coverage without a co-pay prevents abortion by preventing the unwanted pregnancies that lead women to terminate pregnancies. Cizik, citing medical opinion, rejects the argument made by Hobby Lobby that some of the contraceptive methods being funded by the Affordable Care Act are abortifacients.

Cizik also believes that Monday’s Supreme Court decision will turn out, in the end, to be a loss for religious freedom. Whether or not it turns out to be a loss for freedom of religion, it certainly is a loss for women who need and who will now lose contraceptive coverage as a result of the decision. The Supreme Court has joined social conservatives in chipping away at the reproductive health and freedom of women in this country. Shame on the court.

I urge our readers to read Cizik’s blog and join with the thousands who have given it a “like” on Facebook.

Posted by Robert Walker, president of the Population Institute

If Hobby Lobby Wins, Pro-life Christians Lose
Posted: 06/27/2014 9:25 pm

We now know with certainty that the Supreme Court will announce its Hobby Lobby decision on Monday. This weekend, the craft and home décor store, along with numerous evangelical institutions that have filed briefs in its support -including my former employer the National Association of Evangelicals–are hoping and praying God will favor them with a whole new expansion of religious freedom and the protection of human life. I’m praying for the opposite.

Along with nearly 50 other for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby is demanding the same religious freedoms and protections that each of us has. Hobby Lobby was not endowed by its Creator with certain unalienable rights. It does not have a soul. It cannot have faith. Yet its owners (and their lawyers) insist that it should not have to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds. The Obama Administration reasonably granted an opt-out to houses of worship and other religious nonprofits. Hobby Lobby wants similar treatment.

Evangelical intervention on behalf of the multi-billion dollar corporation, which donates generously to their causes, is wrong for many reasons but here are two major ones: If you are pro-religious liberty and pro-life and family, you can’t support allowing a for-profit corporation to use religion to deny contraceptive coverage.

First, supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are helping the Christian faith but are actually harming it. In fact, a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby weakens religious freedom.

When anyone can use religion to claim an exemption on anything, religion loses meaning. Rather than a personal belief embedded in our souls, faith would become a set of arbitrary rules any corporation could choose from to skirt the law.

Is this what evangelicalism needs? I spent nearly three decades in governmental relations at the National Association of Evangelicals defending the free-exercise of religion and the right to life, among many other traditional values. Coming to the aid of for-profit corporations who want to ride on the backs of religion is not one of these honored principles.

Indeed, it is a kind of corporatism invading the body of Christ — concern not for the “least of these” but the richest of those among us. Is this what Christ would do?

When corporations are allowed the same exemptions that have always been reserved just for churches–whether on health benefits, hiring, or land use–those special protections become less clear and more open for interpretation.

If a for-profit corporation is eligible for legal exemptions on grounds of religious freedom, it puts government in charge of deciding what is or isn’t religion. You can just imagine the lawyers who will find work forever litigating these claims. I know, from experience, that their concern for what should be “legal” is not the same as what is “spiritual” or truly serves the interests of the Church.

What if a corporation owned by Jehovah Witnesses refuses to cover blood transfusions? If Christian corporations are allowed to use faith to refuse contraception coverage to women who work for them, what’s to stop a Christian Scientist business from refusing to cover any health benefits?

Second, the supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are being “pro-life.” They are wrong. A massive study conducted in 2012 showed that contraception coverage without a co-pay could dramatically reduce the abortion rate.

That study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine, of 10,000 women at-risk for unintended pregnancy found that when given their choice of birth control methods, counseled about their effectiveness, risks, and benefits, with all methods provided at no cost, about 75 percent of women in the study chose the most effective methods: IUDs or implants. Most importantly, as a result, annual abortion rates among study participants dropped up to 80 percent below the national abortion rate.

Well, you might ask, based upon some of the charges being made, aren’t the contraceptive methods being funded through the Affordable Care Act, abortifacients? Not if you believe medical science.

In the words of Jeffrey F. Peipert, M.D., Ph.D., the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine, “these contraceptive methods work by preventing pregnancy (fertilization) from occurring in the first place. For instance, the intrauterine device works primarily by preventing fertilization. Plan B (or the progestin-containing, morning-after pill), along with Ella (ulipristal acetate), delay the release of a woman’s egg from her ovary. The egg does not get fertilized, which means the woman does not become pregnant.”

In sum, Evangelicals supporting Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court are not actually being pro-religious freedom or pro-life. If they win at the Supreme Court, these causes will be damaged in the long run.

Richard Cizik is President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Previously, he was Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization he served for 28 years.

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