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GLOBAL POPULATION MEDIA ANALYSIS

January 1-15, 2001

by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk
Communications Consortium Media Center,
1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20005
202/326-8700

U.S. POPULATION POLICY AND FOREIGN AID

The New York Times reported Jan. 14 that President-elect George W. Bush plans to "review and possibly roll back" a wide range of policies enacted by President Clinton, including providing "federal aid for family planning groups that promote or perform abortions abroad." The story noted that "one of Mr. Clinton's very first acts, two days into his presidency in 1993, was to sign an executive order scuttling a Reagan-era policy that prohibited these private organizations from receiving public funds" and that "under a compromise reached in October to avoid a confrontation between congressional Republicans and Mr. Clinton, Congress allocated $425 million for such family planning activities -- but said it could not be spent until Feb. 15," which "clears the way for Mr. Bush to return to the Reagan policy." Link

The Jan. 12 New York Times, Washington Post and Washington Times reported on Sen. Jesse Helms' (R-NC) call to abolish the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in a speech he gave before the American Enterprise Institute. Helms, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said "he would champion an increase in international assistance -- but only if all future United States aid was funneled to the needy through private charities and religious groups instead of a government agency," The New York Times reported. Link

The Washington Times reported that Helms, "a longtime foe of foreign aid abuse," called for USAID to be replaced by "a new body that would funnel block grants to organizations like Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and Save the Children." Helms said his plan would "reduce the size of America's bloated foreign aid bureaucracy." Link

According to The Washington Post story, USAID responded that last year "37 percent of its $7.6 billion budget went to 3,500 companies and 300 independent organizations," including organizations Helms mentioned in his speech, and that USAID's workforce has declined 32 percent since 1993. Link

 

GLOBAL POPULATION COVERAGE

The Jan. 5 Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on the release of Population and the Environment: The Global Challenge, the latest issue of Johns Hopkins University's "Population Reports." The story noted that "researchers are concerned that a growing global population will create demand for water, food and other materials that cannot be met by an increasingly stressed environment." The piece included worldwide statistics on population, land use and fresh water availability. Link -- Report

Agence France Presse reported Jan. 15 that "population growth, environmental damage or shoddy construction are the key factors behind the high casualties of recent [earth]quakes," because the "Earth's surging population, already more than six billion, is prompting many governments to house people in vulnerable areas."

According to a Jan. 1 Cox News Service story on a new Population Institute report, "the rapid growth of cities threatens to increase world poverty and harsh living conditions, especially in developing nations."

By contrast, BBC News reported Jan. 3 that "Russia is facing a demographic crisis unprecedented in peacetime," and that "unless something changes dramatically Russia will watch its population decline by 30 million people over the next few decades." Link

 

INTERNATIONAL FAMILY PLANNING AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Emergency contraception is now available without prescription to women 16 or older in Britain, according to reports in the Jan. 9 Chicago Tribune, Jan. 15 New York Times and Jan. 15 United Press International. The New York Times reported that "Britain regularly posts the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe" and that "the new policy immediately gave rise to impassioned debates in the news media about whether increased access to the morning-after pill would help or hinder the fight to control unwanted pregnancy among teenagers." Link

In China, "unplanned pregnancies are skyrocketing among single women as sex education fails to keep pace with changing social values in the country's larger cities," according to a Jan. 5 Agence France Presse story. A Family Planning Commission spokesperson for Shanghai stated that "the main reason for unplanned pregnancies among local married women" is that "only 12.97 percent of adult men are using condoms" in that city, which also impacts local rates of sexually transmitted diseases.

 

NEWS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ABORTION TRENDS

The Jan. 8 Newsweek discussed abortion policies in Mexico in an article on church-state relations under President Vicente Fox. He was elected last summer under the National Action Party, which "often fought the laws to keep the church out of politics." Newsweek reported that though Fox promised in his campaign "to promote 'the right to life from the moment of conception,'" he showed political "pragmatism" last August by opposing a highly-publicized proposal to "expand anti-abortion laws to include cases of rape [in the Guanajuato state]." The story noted that "though abortion is illegal in most cases [in Mexico], there is a growing movement to loosen restrictions, and the best estimates show that an average of 2,300 are performed each day." Link

In Thailand, the Jan. 12 Bangkok Post reported that a government council "set up a panel to look into the possibility of legalising abortion in the interests of the health of the mother."

 

OPINIONS AND EDITORIALS

An op-ed in the Jan. 6 Boston Globe by Pathfinder International President Daniel E. Pellegron said that if President-elect Bush "wants to heal the partisan divide that threatens to cripple our government," he should "allow funding for international family planning programs to be released Feb. 15 without imposing the Gag Rule or other restrictions that interfere with the ability of health organizations to provide quality family planning services."

A Jan. 3 Los Angeles Times editorial called on Bush "to arrive at a broader definition of the national interest" that would call for U.S. foreign aid, in contrast to his statements during the presidential campaign to limit aid only to "proven interventions." The Times cited humanitarian projects that demand U.S. attention and mentioned a 1995 CIA report study: It examined "31 variables connected to the collapse of nations in the late 20th century and concluded that the best predictor of all was a high infant death rate."

Responding to the Los Angeles Times editorial, a Jan. 15 letter by David and Lucile Packard Foundation President Richard Schlosberg noted that if "the U.S. is truly concerned about peace, security and democratic values, it must address the root causes of poverty, disease and environmental degradation" such as "population growth," which is "a significant hindrance to the development and stabilization of the world's poorest countries." Link

A Jan. 7 New York Times editorial on "Europe's Demographic Time Bomb" stated that "European leaders know that their nations' plummeting birth rates and aging populations cry out for a major change in immigration policy" but are "unwilling or unable to sell the need for greater levels of immigration." Link

A Jan. 14 letter in response, from former U.S. Census Bureau Director Martha Farnsworth Riche, noted that "significantly, the countries most worried about low birthrates -- Spain, Italy and Russia -- are also among those where women are still expected to shoulder the load with little help from either society or their menfolk" and that "where women's status in every way approaches that of men, fertility rates most nearly approach the sustainable population 'replacement' level." Link


The above analysis was written by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.

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