We (or more precisely, Ellis) just had a conversation with Population Connection’s Vice President for Media and Government Relations, Brian Dixon, about which family planning legislation has been coming out of Congress. The answer, of course, is that nothing is coming out of Congress because it is bogged down in maneuvering over how to make sure that nothing comes out of that once revered body.
Dixon was downright nonplussed, perplexed, and dismayed over the lack of anything coming out of that once venerated body, or pair of bodies. At one point he let out a sigh that said more than any full sentence he uttered. “The House (of Representatives) and the Senate are 180 degrees apart on family planning,” he complained.
Before the government shutdown, the House Appropriations Committee approved its 2014 State Department and Foreign Operations funding bill. That bill reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which forbids nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. assistance to use separately obtained non-U.S. funds to inform the public or educate their governments on the need to make safe abortion available, provide legal abortion services, or provide advice on where to get an abortion. The policy allows exemptions in the cases of rape, incest, and threats to the life of the mother, but not for a woman’s physical or mental health.
According to Dixon, the House Appropriations bill contained no funding for family planning. This has been a longtime conundrum for those who believe that family planning is essential for the prevention of problems associated with overpopulation, poverty, and abortion. The committee majority opposes funding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and family planning programs by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Where family planning funding goes down, pregnancies rise. And when women (and often, their partners) are victimized by unwanted pregnancies, they frequently turn to abortion, legal and otherwise.
Population Connection President John Seager says that Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) feels that, “slashing more than $100 million in family planning is a great way to save. After all, in era of tight budgets, we don’t need to be funding fornication, right?”
But if Population Connection’s calculations are accurate, the termination of family planning funds means that an additional one and a half million unintended pregnancies will lead to 700,000 more abortions. The irony is almost poetic. Those who are against abortion will stop funding access to birth control, which will lead to a dramatic spike in abortions. According to Brian Dixon, “It’s likely that this will result in about 4,000 additional women dying of pregnancy-related causes.” Brilliant!
In an August 3, 2013 commentary on the GlobalPost website, Population Connection President John Seager makes the case that, “A lack of access to birth control leads to rapid population growth. And rapid population growth often leads to the types of problems that can cause political instability, such as food insecurity, water scarcity, lack of arable land and environmental degradation.”
He offers Yemen as an example. It has one of the world’s highest fertility rates; 5.2 per woman. Sanaa, Yemen’s capitol, is likely to become the first national capitol—get a load of this— to run out of water. That means that a significant portion of its 4.2 million residents will be forced to relocate by 2025. And according to one of Yemen’s newspapers, the Interior Ministry estimates that water and land disputes lead to about 4,000 deaths each year.
Let us remind you that one of the few areas where Al Qaeda-related groups (e.g., Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula) thrive is Yemen. The connection? How about “misery loves company?”
Not hopeless enough for you? Nine of the top 10 nations in the Failed State Index have fertility rates above 4.0. Estimates place the number of women around the world who desire to avoid pregnancy but cannot afford contraception at 222 million.
Is there any hope? Well yes, and no. Congress has voted to pay all furloughed employees for the time they are not working. Evidently, there are some in that formerly-esteemed body who feel it’s more efficient to pay employees for not working than for accomplishing stuff. So-called conservatives have decided that it is more important to piss away money on temporary unrequested welfare, than it is to spend that money to help mitigate overpopulation and all the consequences it entails.
On the bright(er) side, the Senate Appropriations Committee gets that there are more than Enough of Us and has approved almost $670 million for international family planning programs, and has prohibited the president from enforcing the Global Gag Rule. So, we may one day get to some sensible funding agreement that could mitigate a serious dilemma if Congress ever gets back to doing its duty. It’s enough to make you gag.