This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Birth Control Can Buy Breathing Room

Generally lost in the discussion about the population reaching 7 billion has been the question of how long it will take us to reach 8 or 9 or 10 billion. Slowing down the pace of population increase even a little bit can go a long way toward providing enough breathing room to figure out how to cope with a world inhabited by so many people. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof put the issue on the table today with his op-ed advocating that more attention be paid to bringing down the birth rate at a faster pace. He reminds us that in the United States the discussion about family planning has been hijacked by the abortion issue:

Traditionally, support for birth control was bipartisan. The Roman Catholic hierarchy was opposed, but Republican presidents like Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush provided strong support. Then family planning became tarnished by overzealous and coercive programs in China and India, and contraception became entangled in America’s abortion wars. Many well-meaning religious conservatives turned against it, and funding lagged. The result was, paradoxically, more abortions. When contraception is unavailable, the likely consequence is not less sex, but more pregnancy.
Contraception already prevents 112 million abortions a year, by U.N. estimates. The United Nations Population Fund is a bĂȘte noire for conservatives, but its promotion of contraception means that it may have reduced abortions more than any organization in the world.
Republicans are seeking to cut more money from global family planning — which, in poor countries, would mean more abortions and more women dying in childbirth. Conservatives have also sought to slash Title X Family Planning programs within the United States. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that in a year these domestic programs avert 973,000 unintended pregnancies, of which 406,000 would end in abortions.
Finally, a ray of hope: A group of evangelical Christians, led by Richard Cizik of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, is drafting a broad statement of support for family planning. It emphasizes that family planning reduces abortion and lives lost in childbirth.
“Family planning is morally laudable in Christian terms because of its contribution to family well-being, women’s health, and the prevention of abortion,” the draft says.
Amen! Contraceptives no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain.
A breakthrough on this policy discussion would be immensely beneficial because environmentalists have been frustratingly reluctant to connect population control to things like limiting the impact of climate change. More on that tomorrow...

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