In the News, June 2020

Written by Stacie Murphy, Director of Congressional Relations | Published: June 1, 2020

Egypt’s Population Reaches 100 Million

The population of Egypt reached 100 million in February, straining resources in a country where 8 percent of the territory contains 97 percent of the inhabitants. With the population growing by 2.5 million each year and 6 in 10 people under the age of 29, education, jobs, and infrastructure remain an enormous challenge.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity mounted a public health campaign last year called “Two is Enough” to encourage people to have smaller families. Officials say it is working, pointing to a decrease in the fertility rate from 3.5 in 2014 to 3.1 in 2018.

Most Americans Want Abortion to Remain Legal

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,215 people in the U.S., 59 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and nearly 7 out of 10 support Roe v. Wade.

However, the researchers found what they called a significant “knowledge gap” when it comes to abortion facts. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents believe that most abortions take place at 8 or more weeks into pregnancy (in fact, nearly two-thirds of abortions take place at less than 8 weeks). Thirty-one percent of those polled believed that between 20 and 49 percent of abortions take place more than 20 weeks into pregnancy (the actual number is 1.2 percent). Nearly 8 in 10 had never heard of mifepristone, a pill that can be taken to end a pregnancy in its early stages.

The poll also revealed that many people support restrictions on access, including waiting periods and the requirement that providers have hospital admitting privileges—measures that have no impact on women’s health and safety. Support for these restrictions appears soft, however. After hearing counterarguments, many respondents who had supported the measures stated that they had changed their minds.

Being Denied Abortion Leads to Longterm Economic Fallout

Women who seek abortions but are denied access to the procedure are at high risk for devastating economic consequences, says a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Co-authored by Sarah Miller, a professor at the University of Michigan’s business school; Laura Wherry, a professor at UCLA’s medical school; and Diana Greene Foster, a professor of reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, the paper uses data from the U.S. Turnaway study.

From 2008–2010, researchers followed 217 women who were above the gestational limits of the clinic and were denied abortions. Of this “turnaway” group, 68 percent carried their pregnancies to term, while 32 percent were able to access abortion elsewhere, miscarried, or had a stillbirth. Researchers tracked the women for five years, calling to check in every six months.

Previous research has found that women who were turned away from abortion services experienced a range of physical and mental health consequences, including increases in intimate partner violence. The new analysis looked at the economic repercussions of the denial. The group of women who were turned away saw a 78-percent increase in past-due debt from their pre-pregnancy group average and had 81 percent more “public records” (evictions, tax liens, and bankruptcies) than they did pre-pregnancy.

The effect was not merely due to the added expense of a child. The researchers found that women who had abortions and then later went on to have a child remained financially better off than those who were turned away.

New Zealand Decriminalizes Abortion

New Zealand’s Parliament passed the Abortion Legislation Act of 2020 by a vote of 68–51, removing abortion from its national Crimes Act of 1961 and making the procedure available through the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Previously, abortion at any point in pregnancy was considered a crime punishable by up to 14 years in jail, though officials say there is no record of anyone having been prosecuted under the statute. Exceptions were available for those whose physical or mental health were endangered. New Zealand’s Justice Minister, Andrew Little, said the restriction “require[d] women seeking an abortion to maintain a fiction about their mental health. They ha[d] to consult multiple practitioners, multiple health professionals. And what that has done in New Zealand is caused women, those who get an abortion, to get it much later in the pregnancy than is desirable.” Another legislator, Amy Adams, hailed the change, saying that the old rules were “outdated and incredibly paternalistic.”

Advocates Warn COVID-19 Crisis Will Disproportionately Impact Women

Global health advocates are worried about the ways the coronavirus pandemic will impact women and girls around the world. Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), warned that the coronavirus outbreak has “severely disrupted” access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services “at a time when women and girls need these services most,” along with forcing many victims into lockdown with their abusers.

Marie Stopes International (MSI) warns that the loss of its services due to the pandemic could lead to up to 9.5 million women and girls going without contraception and safe abortion services this year across the 37 countries MSI serves. As many as 3 million additional unintended pregnancies, 2.7 million unsafe abortions, and 11,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be the result.

An MSI representative in Sierra Leone said the 2014 Ebola epidemic demonstrated the effect of such service disruptions. Researchers estimate that in that country in 2014–2015, clinic closures and reduced access to services resulted in 3,600–4,900 additional maternal, neonatal, and stillbirth deaths.

Pandemic Could Increase Global Poverty

COVID-19 is likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1990. Researchers at the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research in Finland looked at a wide range of possible economic outcomes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. They say that in the worst-case scenario (a 20-percent decrease in income or consumption around the world), as many as half a billion people worldwide could fall into poverty. More than four out of five of these people would be in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Even the lowest impact scenario (a 5-percent decrease) would mean an additional 85–135 million poor people. In some regions, the pandemic could erase 30 years of economic progress.

Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion Lowered Maternal Mortality

A study published in the journal Women’s Health Issues indicates that states that expanded Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act saw significant reductions in maternal deaths compared to states that did not. A researcher from Columbia University’s School of Social Work looked at data from 2006–2017 and found that expansion states saw 7 fewer deaths per 100,000 live births than states that did not adopt the expansion. The largest decreases were among non-Hispanic black women, a group that has persistently higher levels of maternal mortality.

Medicaid coverage is typically available to women for 60 days after delivery. Women’s health advocates like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that extending the coverage period to one year postpartum would further lower mortality rates.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the maternal mortality rate was 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, for a total of 658 maternal deaths that year.