Communications Consortium Media Center Communications Consortium Media Center


May 1 - 15, 2000

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



Media outlets worldwide covered Save the Children's report on the State of the World's Mothers 2000, released in time for Mother's Day. Reuters reported May 9 that the study measured mothers' well-being by examining "the risk of dying, the percentage of women using modern contraception, the percentage of births attended by trained personnel, the percentage of pregnant women with anemia, the adult female literacy rate and the percentage of national government positions held by women."

An April 9 Associated Press story, picked up by outlets across the United States, reported on study findings that "female education and use of voluntary family planning [is] most closely associated with improved status of mothers and children."

The Washington Post's May 13 "What on Earth" column highlighted the report, listing data on maternal mortality and women using modern contraception, among other indicators. The May 9 USA Today story quoted Save's Mary Beth Powers, who noted "a lot of decisions regarding U.S. foreign assistance sometimes undervalue the importance of investing in women's health." The May 9 ABC World News Tonight also mentioned the report.

Internationally, the May 9 Agence France Presse, May 10 Daily Mail (London) and the May 10 London Free Press were among media outlets reporting on the study.



May 11 was the official date of commemoration for India's population reaching 1 billion. The milestone was covered by CNN on May 11 and also reported by Agence France Presse May 7, Associated Press May 10, Deutsche Presse-Agentur May 10, South China Morning Post May 12, and USA Today May 11, among others. National Public Radio's Weekend Edition ran a May 13 story on the milestone.

CNN noted that in contrast to policies in the 1970s, India's "current [population] policy emphasizes maternal health and regards development as the best contraceptive" along with "the empowerment of women." Still, "India is expected to overtake China in 2045 as the world's most populous country." The Associated Press story focused on the efforts of a nurse "on the front line of efforts to reduce population growth" who "faces deeply entrenched attitudes against birth control" in a region where "half a million women die each year...from complications arising from childbirth." Agence France Presse reported that the milestone occurred "among fears that depleting natural resources will be inadequate to sustain the population boom."

China's population growth and its population policies were also in the news. The country will maintain and "refine" its one-child policy to limit further population growth, according to May 7 stories by the Associated Press and Agence France Presse, and May 8 by United Press International. By contrast, the May 3 Washington Post reported that though the one-child policy "is still on the books," its reach "has been limited by corruption, economic development, erosion of central control over local governments, grave demographic problems and the growing unwillingness of the Chinese people to tolerate controls on their personal lives" in a country where the population is "already estimated at 1.3 billion."

News about declining birthrates in post-Communist countries appeared in the May 4 New York Times and May 2 Associated Press. Reporting on a new economic survey issued by the UN Economic Commission for Europe, The New York Times reported that "the collapse of Communism in 1989 produced a sharp drop in the fertility rate throughout Eastern and Central Europe that could reduce the region's population nearly 20 percent by the year 2050."



The Panafrican News Agency reported May 11 that the fertility rate in Ethiopia is "6.7 births per woman," in a country where "only 2.9 percent of...couples use modern methods of family planning." The agency reported May 14 that the contraceptive prevalence rate in Morocco is 58.8 percent, but even so, "seven women die in Morocco each day during pregnancy or childbearing," a rate "25 times higher than in Europe."

In the United States, Newhouse News Service reported May 2 that "most women don't know what emergency contraception is, don't know where to get it and don't use it to avoid unintended pregnancy," although "it's been legal for years." Education about emergency contraception "is a top priority in the reproductive health community," and "use is on the rise."

Most major U.S. media outlets reported May 9 on the 40th anniversary of the availability of the birth control pill in this country. A CNN Early Edition segment included an interview with Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Gloria Feldt, who called the birth control pill "the most major step forward for gender equity, for social justice for women ever in the history of the world" because it allowed women to plan their childbearing and "go to school [and] plan their careers."



A May 3 Christian Science Monitor article reported that "in terms of development assistance as a proportion of total national output, the U.S. is last among 21 industrial countries" despite the fact that "public opinion surveys find strong support for helping poor countries." The article noted that the current U.S. foreign assistance budget is 0.11 percent of the total U.S. economy, "a level tied for the lowest percentage on record." Yet development is one of "the big issues of this century," particularly since "today's 6 billion people [will] swell to a projected 9 billion by 2050." The fact that the world population is not higher reflects "the success of U.S. and other foreign aid," as "the U.S. population program alone has introduced 50 million couples to family planning."



Several editorials and opinion pieces published in the United States on Mother's Day, May 14, discussed population issues. The Dallas Morning News highlighted Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers 2000 report in an editorial that stated, "Mother's Day should not just be a once-a-year American indulgence" but "an everyday international investment." It called for "greater international investment in women's education and high-quality, voluntary family planning," which are "key factors in women's and children's well-being."

An Asheville Citizen-Times (NC) editorial also featured State of the World's Mothers, listing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates for selected countries. It noted that "Save the Children has launched a campaign to expand women's access to the tools they need to help their children," including "high-quality reproductive care (family planning and maternal and child health services); girls' education and women's literacy programs; and access to credit and other economic opportunities."

Conversely, a Mother's Day piece by columnist Maggie Gallagher in The Washington Times argued "what my mom and dad increasingly rare these days all over the developed world," citing a UN report on replacement migration that projects declining populations in Europe and Japan.

National Public Radio's All Things Considered broadcast a May 9 commentary by Dinesh D'Souza of the American Enterprise Institute, in which he stated that "birth rates around the world are lower today than at any time in recorded history" because "as people become more affluent, they have fewer children."

The May 6 Washington Post printed a letter to the editor from Population Action International's Robert Engelman. He countered a previously published letter that had claimed "depopulation is the crisis that needs to be addressed," noting that "only 13 percent of the world's population lives in countries where population is expected to decline...[but] elsewhere, population growth continues with no certain end in sight."

A May 8 letter in The New York Times from the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy's Mindy Jane Roseman commented on declining birthrates in post-communist nations, noting that "across the region, employers discriminate against women of childbearing age...[and] domestic violence laws are nonexistent or poorly enforced." She concluded that "until Eastern and Central Europe begin to protect and promote their rights, women will continue to feel that these countries are not safe places to raise their children."

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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