In the News
March 2017

U.S. Population Growth Rate Lowest Since 1937

The United States population grew by 0.7 percent from July 2015–July 2016, the lowest rate of growth since 1937–1938. Between 2015 and 2016, the population grew by 2.2 million, bringing the nationwide total to 323.1 million.

Demographers cite several reasons for the slowdown in natural increase, including increased deaths due to population aging and decreased births, as the trend toward lower fertility continues.

Immigration levels also continue to be lower than they have been historically.

Trump Imposes Global Gag Rule by Executive Order

Trump predictably and maliciously imposed the Global Gag Rule on his first full day in office. The horrible details are covered in Washington View.

Efforts to Make Hyde Amendment Permanent Law Underway

The House of Representatives voted in January to codify the Hyde Amendment into permanent law (as opposed to an annual rider to the budget bill), with an expansion that bans Affordable Care Act health insurance plans from covering abortion as well. Members voted 238-183 in favor of the bill (H.R. 7). Details on that atrocity are also covered in Washington View.

U.S. Abortion Rates at Historic Low

For the first time since 1975, the number of annual abortions has dropped below one million (958,700 in 2013 and 926,200 in 2014).

The abortion rate is the lowest it’s been since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States—14.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15–44 in 2014.

The study’s authors credit a decrease in unintended pregnancies due to more widespread use of the most effective methods of contraception, but also recognize that abortion restrictions at the state level have likely played a part.

The data come from the Guttmacher Institute’s census of all known abortion-providing facilities in the United States.

Gov. Cuomo Introduces New York State Birth Control Back-up Plan

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has moved to keep the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act intact in New York, even after its imminent repeal.

“These regulatory actions will help ensure that whatever happens at the federal level, women in our state will have cost-free access to reproductive healthcare and we hope these actions serve as a model for equality across the nation,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The New York State Department of Financial Services will mandate that health insurers:

  • Provide coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices and cover at least one form of contraception in each of the FDA-approved contraceptive delivery methods without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles, regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Provide coverage for the dispensing of an initial three-month supply of a contraceptive to an insured person. For subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive prescribed by the same health care provider and covered under the same policy or renewal, an insurer must allow coverage for the dispensing of the entire prescribed contraceptive supply, up to 12 months, at the same time.
  • Provide coverage for abortion services that are medically necessary without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles (unless the plan is a high-deductible plan).
  • Provide full and accurate information about coverage.

Ohio Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law in December, known to supporters as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It would block any woman from having an abortion past 20 weeks gestation, unless her life was endangered. There would be no exception for rape or incest.

Similar laws in Arizona and Idaho were struck down as unconstitutional, since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion up to the point of fetal viability, commonly identified as 24 weeks gestation.

The ban wouldn’t go into effect for 90 days from the signing (so right around the time you should be receiving this magazine), but fights over its constitutionality could delay or outright prevent its imposition.

At the same time that Gov. Kasich was considering the 20-week ban, he was also faced with a “heartbeat bill,” which would have made abortion illegal as soon as a fetal heartbeat could be detected—as early as six weeks gestation. Knowing that such a bill would not withstand legal scrutiny, he declined to sign it.

Filipino President Duterte Orders an End to Unmet Need for Family Planning

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (maligned for his violent response to the country’s drug trade) has ordered that by 2018 there should be “zero unmet need for modern family planning” among the country’s poor. He signed an executive order in January demanding that government agencies “intensify and accelerate” their provision of subsidized or free contraceptive services to low-income Filipinos.

This executive order comes after years of disagreement, with Duterte and the previous president, Benigno Aquino III, on one side—in support of increased access to family planning—and the Catholic Church and Supreme Court on the other side—against increased access.

Giraffes Newly Classified as Vulnerable

For the first time, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has categorized giraffes as “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species. A vulnerable designation means a species is “facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.” The global giraffe population living in the wild (all located on the African continent) declined 36–40 percent from 1985–2015. In 1985 there were an estimated 151,702–163,452 giraffes, and in 2015 there were only 97,562.

The four major threats to giraffe populations are all human-caused:

  • Habitat loss (through deforestation, land use conversion, expansion of agricultural activities, and human population growth),
  • Civil unrest (ethnic violence, rebel militias, paramilitary and military operations),
  • Illegal hunting (poaching), and
  • Ecological changes (mining activity, habitat conversion to agriculture, climate-induced processes).

The success of conservation efforts will depend on the level to which the above factors can be mitigated, which will be a massive challenge, given that giraffes range in the areas with the highest human population growth rates.

More Women in Venezuela Seeking Sterilization Amid Economic Anguish

In tumultuous Venezuela, 23 percent more women are choosing to be sterilized over four years ago, says family planning organization PLAFAM.

Inflation is out of control, violence is ongoing, and basic necessities—including contraceptives—are difficult or impossible to obtain. Birth control is often only available on the black market, where prices are hugely inflated and product quality is questionable at best.

Because sterilization is an expensive procedure (around $1,500), many women opt to participate in official “sterilization days,” when they can get free or subsidized surgeries from the government and non-governmental organizations. Sterilization days typically offer only 40 slots, though, so some 500 women are currently on a waiting list, hoping that they don’t get pregnant before their numbers are called.

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