GLOBAL POPULATION MEDIA ANALYSIS
April 16 - 30, 2000
by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk
Communications Consortium Media Center,
1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20005
EARTH DAY AND POPULATION ISSUES
In a special April-May edition for Earth Day 2000, Time magazine examined global population trends in a feature story and in other articles on biodiversity, water, climate, urban sprawl and wildlife conservation. The population feature reported on the impact of "adding nearly one new Germany to the world's population each year," noting that though "birthrates are easing and the population growth rate is falling," these trends will not continue "if there is neither the money nor governmental expertise" to carry out family planning programs. The article described the world consensus reached at the International Conference on Population and Development, which "acknowledged that giving women more education and reproductive freedom was the key" to slowing population growth.
Time also profiled the head of the Indian Village Health Nurse Association, Nirmala Palsamy, as a "Hero for the Planet" because of her efforts to provide reproductive health care in Tamil Nadu. The story noted that countries like India have "rejected target-based birth control in favor of giving women better health care and more family planning choices."
Other media outlets also reported on population and environment issues around Earth Day, which was April 22. The April 17 Washington Post reported that "growing demand for resources is threatening the world's environmental health" in an article describing results from a World Resources Institute study. Newsweek reported April 24 that "poor countries face the toughest [environmental] challenge" because "billions of people continue to grapple" with getting the resources necessary for their daily survival.
Agence France Presse reported April 18 that "unbridled consumerism in the West and disregard for the environment in developing countries" is contributing to environmental degradation "as the global population surges from six billion people today to eight or nine billion in 2050." An April 26 Agence France Presse story on a Population Action International study of population trends and biodiversity reported that population growth is placing "enormous pressures on the environment, through farming, construction, transport, forestry, mining, water use, tourism and pollution."
OTHER GLOBAL POPULATION COVERAGE
The April 26 Washington Post reported that "no country in Europe is producing enough children to replace its current population, which will lead to a decline in the base of workers contributing to the pension systems." By contrast, the Associated Press reported April 26 that "half of the population in Kosovo is under the age of 25 and the infant mortality is among the highest in Europe."
In Nepal, "population growth has been so rapid that it hindered economic development in the country," according to an April 18 Xinhua News Agency story. Xinhua also reported April 25 that "the Sri Lankan government is aiming to reduce the country's population growth."
INTERNATIONAL FAMILY PLANNING
The April 30 Associated Press reported that Vice President Al Gore included international family planning as one of his foreign policy priorities. In a recent address examining "21st century national security challenges," Gore included issues such as "global environment and international family planning, for which Gore supports additional U.S. aid."
In an effort to promote family planning programs and health education, Egypt has launched the "first Arab TV channel dedicated to health issues," according to the April 20 Associated Press. The channel operates under the supervision of the Health Ministry, which is seeking in part to combat the "widespread lack of awareness about sexual education" and "help family planning schemes make headway."
In Canada, the April 16 Edmonton Sun reported that a bill before the legislature "would prohibit employers from refusing to hire or promote a health professional" who will not dispense the morning-after pill or take part in any medical procedure that "offends the health professional's religion or belief that human life is sacred."
NEWS ABOUT ABORTION ISSUES
Major media outlets across the United States reported on Sternberg v. Carhart, the latest abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case will decide the constitutionality of a Nebraska law that bans so-called "partial-birth" abortion. While many news stories appeared about the case, The New York Times on April 23 examined the broader impact of the judgment, which is expected in July. "Though the justices made it clear that they were not interested in revisiting the court's precedents that established the constitutional right to abortion," the case has led to a wider debate on abortion, The Times reported. The Nebraska law is "identical to the laws in nearly all of the 30 other states that have enacted such bans," the article noted.
PHILANTHROPISTS AND POPULATION ISSUES
Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were the subject of an April 16 New York Times Magazine cover story that noted "the aspects of his philanthropical work that he seems most excited about have to do with redressing tremendous inequities in global health." The Times reporter traveled to Africa to visit Gates-funded projects on "childhood immunization, family planning, cervical cancer, malaria, the reduction of maternal and infant mortality and AIDS." The article reported that the Foundation officers take "a long-term, strategic view of what their grants can do, and they place strong emphasis on evaluation procedures."
An April 17 Washington Post article on "where, and when, Gates gives" also noted the Foundation's giving to UNFPA and family planning organizations.
Ted Turner spoke on population issues at an Earth Day forum, according to the April 22 Associated Press. Turner indicated that "increasing numbers of people are putting a harmful burden on the planet's resources" but that "the birth rate is dropping as people learn about family planning."
OPINIONS & EDITORIALS
A number of editorials and opinion pieces followed the April 7 White House World Health Day event on "Saving Women's Lives, Protecting Women's Health" through international family planning.
An April 22 New York Times editorial stated that "President Clinton recently called on Congress to raise aid for international family planning by $169 million next year" to "restore funding to 1995 levels." The editorial noted that Clinton "is also calling on Congress to abolish the pernicious restriction on advocacy activities that was imposed on foreign family planning organizations" and that "Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Nita Lowey, Democrats of New York, are both sponsoring legislation to end the gag rule."
The Boston Globe published an April 17 editorial on Clinton's request to Congress to restore international family planning funds to 1995 funding levels and to remove the ban on foreign groups from "lobbying, advising, or educating about abortion," which prohibits these groups from "exercising democratic rights in the own countries." The editorial concluded that while the politicians in the United States fight over these issues, "women in developing countries die from hemorrhages in childbirth."
The April 21 Charleston Gazette reprinted excerpts from The Boston Globe editorial, urging "West Virginia's members of Congress [to] do their utmost to help President Clinton prevail against" the GOP lawmakers who are fighting restoration of international family planning funds.
An April 23 commentary in the Palm Beach Post by editorial writer Fran Hathaway stated that "this year, Congress owes the world's women-big time" because of the restrictions attached to international family planning funds in last year's budget.
Tulsa World published an April 29 commentary by Population Institute President Werner Fornos, which called for restoration of U.S. international family planning assistance to 1995 levels because "while the emotionally charged verbal warfare...reverberates under the Capitol dome, 350 million couples in the poorest countries of the world-where 95 percent of population growth occurs-lack access to a full range of modern family planning information and affordable services."
In the May 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy President Janet Benshoof stated in a letter to the editor that "the practice of hampering overseas organizations that engage in discussions of abortion is called 'the global gag rule' for good reason," because "Congress penalizes foreign groups that provide essential (and legal) medical procedures, participate in the democratic process, and exercise free speech rights."
The New York Times also published two letters to the editor April 16 in response to an earlier article on Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (March 26) that described the budget compromise that instituted restrictions on international family planning groups in return for payment of UN dues. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote that "if Holbrooke had stood on principle instead of political convenience, we would have won UN dues without restrictions on women's health." CEDPA President Peggy Curlin wrote that the restrictions "deny international family planning programs the right to express an opinion on the abortion laws in their own countries," which would be "unconstitutional if applied to groups in the United States."
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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