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Fighting overpopulation with reproductive rights

On Monday, population expert John Seager talked about family planning’s importance in resisting overpopulation. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.
On Monday, population expert John Seager talked about family planning’s importance in resisting overpopulation. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

Population expert John Seager delivered a talk on Monday about the importance of access to family planning in the fight against overpopulation and the challenges presently facing family planning efforts. Seager is the founder of Population Connection, a “national grassroots population organization” that seeks to educate the public about the threat of overpopulation and ensure greater access to family planning resources, particularly for women in the developing world. Seager has previously worked in Congress and at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Seager began his talk by explaining the causes of recent massive population growth and the threat posed by overpopulation. The dramatic decline in child mortality in the developed world that started in the early 1800s is the reason why population has grown so much in recent history, he said. According to the UN, global population is expected to growth to about 11 billion people by 2100, which could put a strain on natural resources, exacerbate climate change and lead to greater famine and war if not dealt with properly.

“The way to make population challenges evaporate is by focusing on reproductive autonomy, on removing the barriers that prevent women and girls and couples from achieving their own chosen reproductive destiny,” Seager said.

He then criticized the Trump administration for cutting off US funding to UN family planning programs as well as reinstating what is known as the “global gag rule” or “Mexico City policy,” which prevents clinics abroad from receiving US funds if they perform abortions or refer patients to other clinics to receive them.

“A lot of programs around the world, the last time this was imposed by president George W. Bush, felt that they could not in good conscience accept these restrictions and so they said ‘we’re going to have to stop getting US funds since we can’t stop all these other things,’” Seager said.  “Here’s what happened in Nepal: 60 health workers were laid off, they closed down mobile clinics. Then, President Obama took office, lifted the gag rule, Nepal’s maternal mortality roughly fell by a third, and there’s example after example around the world.”

Seager then urged the audience to support the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, which prevents the president from initiating a “Global Gag rule,” using the hashtag #FIGHT4HER

In the end, Seager said that ensuring access to family planning for every woman and couple is within our reach and that the cost of providing reproductive health services for every woman in the world would be just $25 per woman, per year. He urged audience members to be optimistic in considering the future and fight for the well-being of all people.

“If you stand up for people who are in difficult situations,” he said, “you will not decades later look back and regret having done that.”

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