Population Myopia

08/01/2017 10:04 am ET

The Trump Administration doesn’t grasp that “putting America first” is not bolstered by “putting developing countries last.”

That is evident by the president seeking to eliminate international family planning assistance as a cost-saving budgetary measure. In doing so, he would dispense with a vital strategy for helping to achieve elusive domestic stability in some poverty-stricken, densely populated foreign countries. It is the civil unrest in these beleaguered developing nations that possesses the potential to spread and adversely impact our national security at some point down the line.

Pentagon analysts warn that runaway population growth in certain impoverished Third World nations contributes significantly to political and economic instability. By exceeding the carrying capacity of these countries’ natural resources, the population overflow creates friction that sets the stage for regional wars as well as internal strife. Some of the most demographically stressed and volatile states are in sub-Sahara Africa, part of a continent that has 16 percent of the world’s population but half of its conflicts. These hostilities have the potential to erupt into more widespread clashes that ultimately could involve our armed forces.

Even in the absence of all-out military hostilities, civil unrest in crowded developing countries is still enough to intensify squalor. That can trigger large scale emigration of so-called “environmental” refugees, driven from their land by an erosion of resources and abysmal quality of life. Wherever they end up usually creates tensions of its own.

In many overseas locations, Family planning programs have been effective in reducing the birth rate to replacement levels (roughly two children per couple) and are important steps in combatting poverty, curbing famine, and establishing political stability.

So far, however, that has not been the case for much of Sub Sahara Africa.

Yet a lion’s share of the international family planning assistance that Trump would curtail currently goes to the very countries that need it the most. We fund 28 percent of the contraceptives distributed in the developing world, and no replacement source looms that would cover our withdrawal.

If Trump has his way with across-the-board funding cuts, an estimated 200 million woman of reproductive age, mostly in developing nations, stand to lose family planning assistance.

In addition, Trump wants to cancel our $69 million contribution to the UN Population Fund (UNPFA) which through counseling services averts an estimated 320 thousand unintended pregnancies annually. Trump’s rationale for suspending donations to the UNPFA is the blatantly false allegation that the organization promotes forced abortions and involuntary sterilization. On the contrary, suspension of family planning assistance will actually increase the number of abortions due to lack of counseling.

It follows that the curtailment of family planning aid would not only be a national security blunder but a reproductive policy disaster (and hopefully, something Congress will not sanction).

President Trump needs to respond realistically to global demographic politics instead of adhering to a series of ideological Right Wing talking points.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
CONVERSATIONS