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RESURGENT PRO-NATALISM IN THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
An NPG Forum Paper
by Tracy Henke
Historically, the primary determinant of U.S. population size has been fertility – a topic associated with some of the most polarizing issues in American politics, now particularly health care policy. While net foreign immigration will soon replace fertility as the primary source of U. S. growth, shockingly high fertility rates in major sending regions (such as Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Asia) are significant drivers of immigration. Therefore, to effectively address population size and growth, we must actively consider fertility and those policies which affect it. In the tempestuous political climate now surrounding the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress, any such consideration is proving to be particularly conflicted. Both parties have long eschewed making Population policy, as such, while fertility considerations are addressed primarily as issues of women’s rights and health care on one hand or respect for life on the other. Just within the first several months in control of the federal executive and legislative branches and state governments, Republicans have rushed to limit abortion rights, sex education, and government funded contraception.
Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, high-ranking members of the Republican Party have stepped up their condemnations of Planned Parenthood®, which are a leading provider of affordable reproductive health care and “the nation’s largest provider of sex education.”1 Conservatives have more than once introduced legislation to “defund” the organization – which receives approximately $500 million each year from the federal government – because some of its 650 clinics nationwide provide abortion services.2 Linked to this move is the push by Republicans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”). Failing that, Republicans push (HR 7) to rule out use of Federally-subsidized private insurance plans for abortion and contraception. One of the more widely used features of Obamacare is free or low-cost birth control for women (the ACA requires most insurance companies to cover contraception with no co-pays.) Either proposition – defunding Planned Parenthood or gutting Obamacare –would deprive millions of low-income women of affordable and readily accessible birth control.
Sadly, neither GOP leaders nor their Democratic counterparts have so far shown real consideration for what these measures could mean for U.S fertility rates – and the macro-population implications could be significant. Among low-income women (who rely on Medicaid, subsidies through the ACA or Planned Parenthood for their contraceptive services) increases to fertility rates could be disproportionately high. Below replacement fertility levels, which the U.S. has enjoyed for decades, could suddenly become a thing of the past.
While NPG’s main focus has been U.S. population growth, we also have a strong history of research and advocacy on world population restraint and ultimate reduction. Therefore, there are significant concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s pro-natalist foreign aid policies and their population implications. Early steps have been the restoration of the Mexico City policy begun in the Reagan era “. . .to insure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” (Presidential Memorandum of Jan. 23, 2017) On April 4 the Administration, arguing that the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) supported such coercion in China, banned further contribution of U.S. funds to that agency, a beneficiary of over $230 million in U.S. grants during the eight-year Obama Administration. Our leaders must consider dispassionately the long-term impacts of these actions on current high fertility rates, overpopulation, and the resulting destabilization in key third world regions that would boost future refugee and immigration flows into the U.S.
On both the domestic and global stage, NPG opposes – and we call on our members to voice strong opposition to – the pro-natalist measures that have already been so hastily taken by the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress, and many of those currently under consideration, chief among them:
- any laws, executive orders or reinterpretations that would eliminate the provision of free or low-cost contraceptive services for American women;
- reduction or restrictions on Title IX funding and its use for contraceptive assistance through Medicaid;
- the “defunding” of Planned Parenthood, or crippling restrictions on the use of federal funding or subsidies to private insurance policy holders for reproductive services;
- any withdrawal of U.S. contributions from international programs and agencies that work to advance women’s rights to freedom of choice and access to reproductive health care, such as the UN Population Fund, or non-governmental international organizations such as International Planned Parenthood.
After only a brief time into the Trump Administration, U.S. and third world women are understandably concerned that in the near future, access to safe and affordable birth control may become a distant memory. The prospect of increasing U.S. and global fertility rates – and the accompanying macro-population growth – is frightening. It is not an unreasonable fear.
Continue reading the full Forum paper by clicking here.
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