Birth Control Benefit Protected by Appeals Court
The U.S. Justice Department failed to convince the courts that employers should be permitted to withhold birth control coverage in employee insurance plans on religious or moral grounds.
A federal judge already ruled against the Trump administration on its religious exemption in January, issuing a temporary injunction and preventing the exemption from going into effect until a hearing with a full court of appeals could occur. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld that injunction in July, citing the lack of a public comment period, which is standard for executive level rule changes.
Tanzanian President Urges Women to Have More Babies for the Economy
President John Magufuli, in office since 2015, urged Tanzanian women to have more children in order to raise the population growth rate. Speaking to a crowd in his home town of Chato, Magufuli said, “I know that those who like to block ovaries will complain about my remarks. Set your ovaries free, let them block theirs. … When you have a big population you build the economy. That’s why China’s economy is so huge.”
According to the latest UN estimates, Tanzania’s total fertility rate is 4.9 births per woman, and the population is growing by 3 percent a year—at that rate, the population would double in 23 years.
Global Gag Rule Leads to Higher Abortion Rates
In 2011, researchers at Stanford University published a study that explored abortion data in the sub-Saharan African countries at highest risk of losing U.S. family planning aid due to the Global Gag Rule. They compared data for 20 African countries during the Clinton and Bush administrations (1994–2008), and found that when the Gag Rule was in effect under George W. Bush, abortion rates more than doubled in the countries most affected by the funding cuts.
In June, the Stanford researchers published an update to their original research. This time, they looked at 26 African countries, and they expanded their period of study to 1995–2014 to include part of the Obama administration, during which the Gag Rule was not in effect. They found that in the countries most affected by the Gag Rule during the Bush administration, abortion rates were 40 percent higher than they were during the Clinton and Obama administrations, when the policy was not in effect.
“Our research suggests that a policy that is supported by taxpayers ostensibly wishing to drive down abortion rates worldwide does the opposite,” says Eran Bendavid, one of the study’s authors.
The elevated abortion rates are likely due to diminished contraceptive access when the Global Gag Rule is in effect: Organizations that cannot agree to the conditions of the Gag Rule lose their U.S. family planning funding. This causes supplies to dry up, staff to be laid off, and clinic doors to close.
Another of the study’s authors, graduate student Nina Brooks, says, “By undercutting the ability to supply modern contraceptives, the unintended consequence is that abortion rates increase.”
UN Releases New Population Estimates and Projections
The United Nations Population Division publishes new population estimates and projections every two years. The 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects estimates the 2015 population (which is used as the base year for population projections) to be 3.2 million people lower than it was estimated to be in the 2017 revision. Compared to the 2017 revision, the 2019 revision projects the 2030 population to be 2.7 million lower; the 2050 population to be 36.8 million lower; and the 2100 population to be 309.5 million lower.
Key highlights from the 2019 World Population Prospects are depicted in this issue’s Pop Facts feature, pp 4–5.
CDC Releases Provisional 2018 Births Data
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released provisional data in May on U.S. births for 2018. The total number of births was 3,788,235—the fewest in 32 years. The total fertility rate declined to 1.73 births per woman. The birth rate for teenagers (15–19) declined 7 percent in 2018 to 17.4 births per 1,000 women. These data are based on 99.73 percent of 2018 births; final results will be published this fall.
New Planned Parenthood President “Removed”
In July, Dr. Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood’s President since November 2018, was removed from her position. Dr. Wen said in her statement about stepping down, “I am leaving because the new Board Chairs and I have philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood.” Alexis McGill Johnson, a Planned Parenthood board member (and former chair), has assumed leadership until a replacement is found.
Some States Pass Unconstitutional First Trimester Abortion Bans…
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a 6-week abortion ban into law in March. It was scheduled to go into effect in July, but was blocked in May by a temporary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves. Mississippi only has one remaining abortion provider, in Jackson.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a 6-week abortion ban into law in April, with only one exception: to save the life of the pregnant person. U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett issued a preliminary injunction against it in July.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a 6-week abortion ban into law in May. Gov. Edwards calls himself a “pro-life Democrat.” The only exceptions to the law are to save a pregnant person’s life or prevent “serious risk” to their health. The law will only go into effect if the Mississippi law is upheld.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a 6-week abortion ban into law in May. Hollywood actors immediately threatened to cease working in Georgia if the law is allowed to go into effect (the state is a popular filming location).
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed an 8-week abortion ban into law in May, with an exception for medical emergencies only. The state is also trying to shut down its last abortion clinic, in St. Louis, claiming that the doctors who work there have refused to be interviewed in order to secure a renewal of the clinic’s license. The doctors were told that agreeing to the interviews could open them up to criminal investigation, and are therefore wary of proceeding.
In July, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong upheld a 2015 law banning the safest method for providing second trimester abortions: dilation and evacuation. The law effectively bans abortion at 14 weeks in Oklahoma.
The most egregious abortion ban in these past few months occurred in Alabama, which passed a law criminalizing the procedure at any point in pregnancy. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill—the strictest in the country—into law in May. The only exceptions to the law are when the life of the pregnant person is at risk or when the fetus has a fatal anomaly. Doctors who provide abortions outside these exceptions could face up to 99 years in prison.
…While Other States Move to Protect Abortion Access
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill in June to codify Roe v. Wade, enshrining abortion rights in the state should Roe be overturned.
Maine passed two pieces of legislation that expand abortion rights: one allows advance practice clinicians to provide abortions (in addition to physicians) and another requires MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, and employer-based insurance plans to cover abortion if they also cover maternity care. Opponents of the latter bill are collecting signatures in an effort to place a people’s veto on the ballot in November.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker made abortion a “fundamental right” in June, signing the Reproductive Health Act into law. The move codifies Roe v. Wade; requires private insurance companies to cover abortion; and repeals laws banning second trimester procedures, requiring husbands’ approval, and prosecuting doctors who provide abortions.
New York City allocated $250,000 to the state’s abortion fund, the New York Abortion Access Fund. Many of the patients helped by the fund come from out of state to access abortion services because access in their own states is limited or nonexistent.