Thursday, June 28, 2012

Health Care Reform Upheld

By Brian Dixon
Vice President for Media and Government Relations

The following is Population Connection's official statement on today's Supreme Court decision:

We are thrilled that the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act this morning. Expanding health insurance coverage promises many important benefits to Americans from coast to coast, including ensuring that nearly all American women have access to affordable contraceptives.

Population Connection staff and interns today at the Supreme Court.
But, just because the court battle is over, it doesn’t mean the fight over universal access has concluded. The House GOP leadership has already promised to hold yet another vote to repeal the law in its entirety the week of July 9th.

And the Catholic Bishops have no intention of giving up their political efforts to allow any employer to deny birth control coverage. We must work equally hard to make sure they do not succeed.

The Affordable Care Act and its contraceptive coverage rule represent a crucial step toward reducing the unintended pregnancy rate in the United States – currently the highest in the developed world. It promises to significantly reduce the teen pregnancy rate – also the highest in the developed world.

Today, the Supreme Court has landed a critical blow on our right-wing opponents. With your help, we can ensure that our hard-fought gains will not be lost.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

War on Women Rages On

Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

A couple new fronts just opened in the war against women who have sex, whether it’s consensual or not. You know, sluts.

First up: A Tampa woman who was raped was given emergency contraception by her local rape crisis center. Some brands of EC involve taking one pill right away and the second pill 12 hours later. The woman took the first pill. She then reported her attack to the police – who promptly took her into custody on an arrest warrant for failure to pay restitution and failure to appear. Here’s what happened next, according to Courthouse News Service:

At the Hillsborough County Jail, staff confiscated her second pill. R.W. (the rape survivor) says she requested her second pill the next morning, but jail employee Michele Spinelli refused. ‘Spinelli told the Plaintiff that she would not give R.W. the pill because it was against Spinelli’s religious beliefs.’

You might want to finish these before going to jail. (Florian/Flickr)
REALLY? It’s disgusting enough that pharmacists are refusing to provide legal prescriptions – you know, DO THEIR JOBS – because of opposition to contraception. Now jail guards have veto power over decisions made by rape survivors? What’s next: Bus drivers refusing to drop young women off at Walgreens?  Security guards pulling birth control pills out of purses at metal detectors?

Luckily, R.W. will be allowed to sue. Whether young women in Calgary, Alberta, will have any legal recourse is another issue. According to the National Post, a Calgary bishop has decided that the HPV vaccine “contributes to promiscuity.” You know, turns girls into sluts:

Staring down the edict of a Calgary bishop who says the HPV vaccine contributes to promiscuity, a newly formed advocacy group is pushing Roman Catholic schools to allow students to be immunized against the sexually transmitted virus. Calgary is the only major city in Canada with a publicly funded school board* that withholds the vaccine on religious grounds, the group says. This puts the thousands of girls in the city and southern Alberta at risk of cervical cancer.

*My emphasis. For emphasis.

Keep in mind that the HPV vaccine works regardless of your sexual history. In other words, the bishop’s ban could be sentencing a woman who is raped to cervical cancer. Or a woman who is a virgin until her wedding night to cervical cancer. Not just those slutty slutty sluts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Holding Hands in Tennessee?

Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager
Sometimes, the only logical reaction to a story is “WHAT?”

Tennessee just enacted one of the strictest abstinence education laws in the nation. In fact, the law bans teachers from talking about “gateway sexual activity” without defining what, exactly, “gateway sexual activity” is, leading opponents of the law to brand it the “no holding-hands bill.”

"Gateway sexual activity"? (Katie Tegtmeyer/Foter)
And you guessed it: Tennessee has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation. Clearly, Tennessee teenagers are doing a lot of hand-holding. Or something.

I’m not here to pick on Tennessee – it’s not the only state that tries to tackle teen pregnancy with the “Just Say No” approach. The problem is, teens AREN’T saying no. Teens – including Tennessee ones – have sex. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 70% of American teenagers have had intercourse by their 19th birthday, beginning at age 17 on average.

Population Connection supports fact-based, unbiased comprehensive sex education. Why? Because it works.  One recent study found that teenagers who were taught both about contraception and the benefits of abstinence delayed having sex, protected themselves when they did and had the healthiest partnerships. Students who received only abstinence education also delayed having sex, but when they did, they were less likely to use contraception. And we all know what that leads to, which is great when you’re ready, but difficult when you’re not.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Melinda Gates: Family Planning Advocate

By Alice Taylor, Population Connection Intern
NOTE: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is co-hosting an international family planning summit in London on July 11, World Population Day.
Whenever I’m in the mood to have my mind simultaneously expanded and blown, I turn to TED Talks.  For people unfamiliar with the premise, they are videos of speeches delivered at annual conferences centered on the basic theme of “ideas worth spreading.” Ranging from humorous to heartbreaking, they tackle key issues that impact our world today. 

Melinda Gates talks about family planning. (Gates Foundation)
It is unsurprising, then, that a recent talk focused on the undeniable importance of putting family planning back on the global agenda. In a 25-minute speech, Melinda Gates makes a strong argument for why access to contraceptives -- an issue that has increasingly polarized politicians -- should, at its core, be noncontroversial. It is, in her words, about “giving women a power to save their lives, save their children’s lives, and give their family the best possible future.”

She offers some sobering statistics to underscore her life-saving argument for contraceptives, namely that, out of women experiencing unintended pregnancies, every year:  
  • 100,000 die in childbirth.
  • Another 600,000 have their baby die within its first month of life.
And yet, she emphasizes that the discussion of family planning is about more than the statistics. It’s about impacting change on the individual level. Impacting change for people like Marianne, a Kenyan woman who explained her desire for contraceptives by stating that, “I want to bring every good thing to this child before I have another.”

And that simple sentiment, borne out of a mother’s love, should not be controversial.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Need by the Numbers

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

The Guttmacher Institute – guru of all things reproductive health – has a new report out on the demand for contraception in the developing world – and the news isn’t all that peachy. Here are the numbers you need to know:

222 Million: The number of women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using modern contraception. That's not good.

56: The percentage of married women in Southeast Asia using modern contraception.

Less than 10: The percentage of married women in Western Africa using modern contraception. Yikes.

4 billion: The amount in dollars spent per year to provide the current level of contraceptive care in the developing world.

8.1 billion: The amount in dollars per year it would take to fully meet the need for contraception in the developing world.

11.3 billion: The amount in dollars per year an $8.1 billion annual investment in contraception would save. Family planning saves money, folks!

21 million: The number of unplanned births that would be avoided.

26 million: The number of abortions that would be avoided – including 16 million unsafe procedures.

79,000: The number of women whose lives would be saved.

Would doubling our investment in family planning funding be worth it? My sources say yes!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Time for a Rio Focus on Population

Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Happy Rio week! Wednesday marks the start of the Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Our newest issue of The Reporter is focused on sustainable development, demographics, and how the two are linked. And boy, are they linked.

What exactly is sustainable development? Here’s one quick definition:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sounds good, right? It’s a laudable goal, and one we’ll be hard-pressed to achieve without a renewed focus on population stabilization.

Luckily, a lot of really smart people are pointing out the need for reproductive health care to have a prominent place in the Rio discussions.  One of them is Tewodros Melesse, director-general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. He’s got a great post in the BMJ blog that you should check out.

Here’s Melesse’s money quote:

Across the world more than two in five pregnancies are unplanned. Clearly this is a wasted opportunity to boost development and (stabilize) population growth—through something women want and need—the ability to decide when to become pregnant.

Amen to that.

So keep an eye on the news from Rio this week, and see if voluntary family planning gets the attention it needs and deserves. You can also follow the Rio conference on Facebook and Twitter. What do you want to see world leaders focus on in Rio?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Talking Trash

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Let’s talk trash! This kind, not that kind. Sorry to get your hopes up.

So what does garbage have to do with human population growth? Plenty. The more people on the planet, the more garbage they produce, and we’re already producing A LOT of garbage. One Saturday morning trip to your local landfill will convince you of that fact.

According to a new study out this month from the World Bank:

Currently, world cities generate about 1.3 billion (tons) of solid waste per year. This volume is expected to increase to 2.2 billion (tons) by 2025. Waste generation rates will more than double over the next twenty years in lower income countries.

All this garbage isn’t just ugly. According to the study, it’s also dangerous and expensive:

Locally, uncollected solid waste contributes to flooding, air pollution, and public health impacts such as respiratory ailments, diarrhea and dengue fever. In lower income country cities, solid waste management is usually a city’s single largest budgetary item.

Reducing, reusing and recycling helps reduce the volume, of course. But unless we want our planet to look like this is 2050 or so, one of the best ways we have to cut down on the waste we produce is to slow population growth. How? It’s not that difficult – or even that expensive.

In fact, for every  investment of $100 million in family planning, 3.6 million women are able to choose the size of their families, and 2.1 million unintended pregnancies are avoided. It’s a relatively tiny price tag for better lives – and a cleaner planet, too.

Then after slowing population growth, we just need to get everyone to live like the trash-free Johnson family of Mill Valley, Calif., and WALL-E will have to find a new line of work.