GLOBAL POPULATION MEDIA ANALYSIS
July 16 - 31, 2000
by Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005 202/326-8700
GLOBAL POPULATION TRENDS
A July 24 article in The Nation stressed that it is "extremely important to avoid complacency in dealing with the population problem." The article focused on links between women's empowerment and falling fertility, noting that "the promotion of female literacy, employment opportunities and family-planning facilities can enhance the voice and decisional role of women in family affairs."
A July 28 population story by the National Geographic's online news service, NGNEWS.com, also discussed slowing population growth through "education, better reproductive health care, and more equality between men and women." However, the story's focus was mostly on resource shortages due to "overpopulation" in developing countries, asking poorly-worded questions like: "Why do rational adults continue to bring babies into places of starvation?" The story reported that "an estimated 8 million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation" because of "three years of insufficient rains" and the fact that "two years of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea have devastated the region."
The Associated Press filed two stories on challenges facing India as its population crossed the one billion mark. A July 21 piece detailed the country's population policy and its current efforts to address "unmet needs for contraception, health care infrastructure and how to care for pregnant mothers and children." A July 22 story reported the Indian government's creation of "a special fund to promote family planning programs aimed at stabilizing its population in two decades."
A July 20 Agence France Press story reported a coming major strain on water resources and fisheries along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia as a result of a projected 50 percent population increase along its banks over the next 25 years.
The Chicago Tribune reported July 28 on U.N. findings that an estimated 800 million people worldwide are "chronically undernourished" and could benefit from biotechnology that produces food in poor conditions.
On July 23, Africa News noted that "Uganda stands number one at the top of the list in teenage pregnancy in Africa."
REPORTS ON AGING AND DECLINING POPULATIONS
Several articles focused on aging populations. A July 17 Washington Times article reported that 6 percent of China's people would be over 65 this year, a ratio that will climb to 13.5 percent by 2025. The article noted that the U.N. defines an aging society as one where at least 7 percent of a population is over the age of 65. The July 26 Chicago Tribune quoted former U.S. Census Director Martha Farnsworth Riche as saying that because of the aging U.S. population, "every institution will change in one way or another." She noted that the average U.S. life expectancy has improved from about 47 years in 1900 to about 77 years today.
A July 29 Associated Press story reported that demographic declines in Russia were the result of "fertility problems" resulting in "2 out of 3 pregnancies in Russia ending in abortion," as well as "widespread poverty, disintegrating health care, environmental hazards and poor nutrition." Agence France Press also covered this story on July 18.
FAMILY PLANNING AND SEX EDUCATION
A July 19 article in The Jakarta Post reported on male use of family planning in Indonesia. A study by the Atma Jaya Research Center in that country found that "minimal knowledge of contraception, unavailability of family planning services for men and limited methods of male contraception" are factors contributing to men's low participation in family planning. Xinhua News Service reported July 18 that "38 percent of Pakistanis have no access to contraception facilities despite the government's efforts to curb the alarming growth of population," according to officials from the Population Welfare Department.
Africa News reported July 20 that Ugandan Bishop Ernest Shalita "supports the use of condoms" and "is not opposed to married couples using condoms in order to have a manageable family size.
In Thailand, "children will be taught sex education right from kindergarten level" under a new program aimed at curbing teenage pregnancies and HIV/AIDS infections in that country, according to a July 19 Agence France Presse story.
INTERNATIONAL ABORTION LAWS
A July 16 article in The Boston Globe reported on the successful campaign to free a 13-year-old girl in Nepal who had received a 20-year jail sentence for seeking an abortion after being raped by a member of her family. The case "became a rallying cry for women activists and family planning providers, who have been campaigning since the early 1990s to overturn Nepal's draconian antiabortion law." In Nepal, "20 percent of all female inmates...are serving sentences under the law, which bans abortion except when a woman's life is at risk."
The Associated Press reported July 27 that "France's Labor Minister unveiled a proposed law to loosen laws governing abortion, including a measure that would allow a woman to have an abortion through the 12th week of pregnancy instead of the 10th." Agence France Presse also reported on the story July 27.
A July 26 article in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that $21 million of Ted Turner's $42 million funding for the United Nations will be devoted to "improving the social and economic situation of adolescent girls worldwide."
The July 31 Christian Science Monitor featured a story on "the new face of philanthropy," highlighting the growing number of "young, cause-oriented Americans who have dedicated themselves and their substantial financial resources" to "challenging each other to act in accordance with their values." The article reported that "much of the effort of the emerging 'cool rich kids' movement has revolved around donating significant portions of income and overall assets to smaller, grass-roots organizations and activist groups often overlooked by large foundations."
OPINIONS & EDITORIALS
Media outlets nationwide printed editorials and opinion pieces on the global "gag rule" and the foreign aid bill passed by the House of Representatives July 13. A July 18 New York Times editorial on the "flawed" foreign aid bill argued that in addition to adopting an "overall allocation [that] is far too low to meet American foreign policy objectives," the bill included the "anti-democratic gag rule on abortion advocacy...[that] should now be abandoned" and did not meet President Clinton's "call on Congress to raise international family planning aid overall."
A July 25 editorial in The Des Moines Register noted that "Congress is into its annual battle over the abortion issue, for the wrong reasons, on the wrong battleground." The editorial stated that "the unconscionable gag rule denying aid to family-planning groups will encourage abortions" because fewer women will have access to the means to plan their childbearing.
A July 18 editorial in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution stated that Representatives who voted to maintain the gag rule were "trading the lives of women and children for political gain, while piously proclaiming themselves the protectors of human life." A July 25 St. Petersburg Times editorial called the gag rule the product of a "twisted morality" in Congress, which "blackmail[s] international family planning agencies that depend on some U.S. money into refusing to help the women who depend on them."
A July 26 Daily Camera (CO) editorial called the gag rule "a misguided policy" because a "prohibition on abortion-related speech has no place in foreign aid-legislation that should be focused on women's health and children's quality of life."
The Palm Beach Post called on Congress to "get rid of [the] gag rule" in a July 31 editorial that noted "to most Americans, helping couples in poor nations space their children with modern contraception is not a contentious issue but a common-sense way to help people improve their lives."
The July 24 San Francisco Chronicle featured an op-ed by Negative Population Growth's Meredith Burke on Americans' attitudes toward international family planning funding. She stated that Web polls like one on Vote.com, which recently featured a question on the global gag rule, misrepresent American opinion because they are "totally biased, using self-selected groups of respondents" and include "deliberately emotionally charged and misleading language" to generate the results they want. By contrast, a recent study by the Rand Corporation shows that "both conservatives and liberals are overwhelmingly supportive of foreign assistance to international family-planning programs, and a bare majority support government funding of overseas abortion services where legal."
The July 17 Corpus Christi Caller-Times featured an op-ed by writer Don C. Gentry on the relationship between population growth and the environment. "There has been much discussion about the things we can do to delay the collapse of the environment, but we ignore the real issue, which is that unless we address the root causes of environmental destruction, we can only delay the inevitable."
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. If you would like your name to be added to their email service, please e-mail your request to [email protected].
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