As the world’s population approaches seven billion — which it is expected to hit sometime in March, according to Census Bureau estimates — Joel Cohen, a mathematical biologist and the head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, examines the implications of “the enormous increases in households, cities, material consumption and waste” on health, agriculture, water security, the environment and poverty in this New York Times opinion piece. He writes, “For some in the West, the greatest challenge — because it is the least visible — is to shake off, at last, the view that large and growing numbers of people represent power and prosperity.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
Environmental health experts, scientists and government officials attending a conference in London sponsored by the British Medical Journal on Monday “issued a statement warning that climate change could not only bring a global health catastrophe but could threaten global stability and security as well, a journal release said,” UPI.com reports (10/17).
A panel hosted by the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council on Monday called for “a boost of aid for women in developing countries such as Somalia to help them control their fertility,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Somalia has the eighth highest birth rate in the world, and the average family has seven children,” the news agency notes, adding that “one percent of married women in Somalia have access to modern contraception, … according to data compiled by the Population Reference Bureau.”
The world’s population is expected to reach seven billion this month, which is “cause for profound global concern” and begs the question of “can we enjoy ‘sustainable development’ on a very crowded planet?” Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes in a CNN opinion piece.
IRIN Reports On Community's Efforts To Increase Access To Contraceptives, Improve Family Planning In Madagascar
IRIN reports on one community’s efforts to increase access to contraceptives and help provide information on family planning in Madagascar. The news service highlights efforts by women in Antalaha, Madagascar, who formed an association called Femmes Interessee au Development de Antalaha (FIDA). The association uses World Bank funding to run a center that provides information and support to teenage girls, with a focus on preventing early pregnancy; broadcasts “a radio program aimed at educating women about their reproductive health and legal rights; … disseminates information on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)”; and works with husbands to change “negative attitudes towards family planning, [which] were preventing even those women who could get contraceptives from their local clinic from using them,” according to IRIN.
In this post in the Guardian’s “Response” column, Jenny Tonge, chair of the U.K. all-party parliamentary group on population, development and reproductive health, responds to a Guardian opinion piece published last month entitled “Welcome baby seven billion: we’ve room on Earth for you.” Tonge writes, “The article seems to miss the point that more than 200 million women who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant are not using modern contraception,” adding, “The human toll of denying women the fundamental right to plan their families is extraordinarily high and also a significant source of population growth. If all women who want to avoid pregnancy were able to use and access family planning, the rate of population growth would slow substantially” (10/10).
The Republican-led House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would prohibit the U.S. government from providing funding to the U.N. Population Fund, an organization “that helps women and children in developing countries with reproductive health and family planning,” Agence France-Presse reports (Cassata, 10/5). “House Republicans say they are pushing the legislation because the fund, known as the UNFPA, is complicit in China’s controversial one-child policy, which enforces abortion and sterilization,” the Huffington Post writes (10/5).
Use Of Injectable Hormone Contraceptive May Double Risk Of Contracting, Transmitting HIV, Study Shows
“The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with HIV,” according to a study involving 3,800 sero-discordant couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the New York Times reports. The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington and published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, also found that when the contraceptive was “used by HIV-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception,” the newspaper writes. In addition, the study “found that oral contraceptives appeared to increase risk of HIV infection and transmission, but the number of pill users in the study was too small to be considered statistically significant, the authors said,” according to the New York Times.
“In the first study to examine” the effects of a U.S. policy prohibiting foreign aid from going to any organization that performs abortions or provides information about or referral for the procedure as a method of family planning (often called the “Global Gag Rule” or “Mexico City Policy”), Stanford researchers Eran Bendavid and Grant Miller found that “the number of abortions increased in African countries where U.S. support for NGOs was cut the most,” according to a Stanford University news release (Gorlick, 9/28).
China's Family Planning Policy, Lack Of Sex Education To Blame For Rise In Abortions Among Single Women
In this Washington Times opinion piece, Chai Ling, president of the non-profit group All Girls Allowed and author of “A Heart for Freedom,” examines the issue of abortions performed on single women in China in relation to the country’s family planning policy, which in most provinces requires couples to be married to obtain a birth permit, without which they are not permitted to have a child. She writes, “Though the problem of skyrocketing abortion rates among single Chinese women has been highlighted by the media and attributed to a lack of sex education, no one has connected the problem to this tragic equation: no marriage certificate, no birth permit. No birth permit, no baby. Millions of unmarried women in China get pregnant, but none is allowed to give birth to her baby.”