Solutions Through Reproductive Health: Why Family Planning Matters to Climate Change

The final session will investigate the roles that access to reproductive health and family planning, as well as girls’ education, play in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Using data compiled by both climate and social scientists, the course will explore how increased access to education and family planning is key to reaching sustainable development goals and addressing climate change. There will be time at the end of this session for an open-ended discussion of the course as a whole.





It is hard for me to understand how the population of some areas of Africa can double when the carrying capacity of the region is already so stressed. How is this addressed in the population projections?
Population projections from the UN are typically derived from current demographic dynamics, such as a large percentage of the overall population that is of replacement age (15-49), and by analyzing relevant historical trends. The fact that sub-Saharan Africa’s population is growing faster than its ecological resources can sustain is not included in future projections. We did have someone in the audience who is working on including ecological outputs and climate impacts into population studies. We’re looking forward to seeing more research on this!

Can you talk about the availability of vasectomies in LMICs and, where they are available, how open men are to considering them?
Vasectomies are an important part of family planning, but not very widely used in LMICs in comparison to tubal ligations (female sterilization). Efforts by NGOs and in some cases government-led programs that provide education and direct service have been helpful both in introducing the procedure and shifting cultural norms, but such a significant disparity in male vs. female sterilization signals the need for further outreach. Vasectomies are safer, less invasive procedures than tubal ligations, and should therefore be emphasized everywhere, including in the U.S.!

The UN Population Division has a recent publication, World Fertility and Family Planning 2020, that contains information about fertility and family planning around the world, if you want to dig into the data on your own! Here’s a chart from that publication that helps to answer your question about availability and men’s openness to vasectomy in each major world region:

Do you feel that the organization Pathfinder International is part of the solution?
Pathfinder is a wonderful organization that is unique in its attention to PHE (population, health, and environment). Here’s a rundown of the PHE programs Pathfinder operates.

Do you think a Biden-Harris election win will improve funding for family planning worldwide?
Biden and Harris have both stated that they would repeal the Global Gag Rule if elected president and that they would support Congress ending the Helms Amendment. Here is a section from the 2020 Democratic Party Platform regarding the reproductive health of Americans:

Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. We will repeal the Title X domestic gag rule and restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides vital preventive and reproductive health care for millions of people, especially low-income people, and people of color, and LGBTQ+ people, including in underserved areas.

Democrats oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights. We will repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom. We condemn acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, income, disability, geography, and other factors. Democrats oppose restrictions on medication abortion care that are inconsistent with the most recent medical and scientific evidence and that do not protect public health.

We recognize that quality, affordable comprehensive health care; medically accurate, LGBTQ+ inclusive, age-appropriate sex education; and the full range of family planning services are all essential to ensuring that people can decide if, when, and how to start a family. We are proud to be the party of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex and requires insurers to cover prescription contraceptives at no cost. These efforts have significantly reduced teen and unintended pregnancies by making it easier to decide whether, when, and how to have a child.

We believe that a person’s health should always come first. Democrats will protect the rights of all people to make personal health care decisions and will reject the Trump Administration’s use of broad exemptions to allow medical providers, employers, and others to discriminate.

I would like to read more about an analysis how Iran, a patriarchal theocracy, was able to so drastically reduce the birth rate. Are any of their steps adaptable to other countries? Would have a good reference to start reading up on this?
We’d recommend the research paper Fertility, Marriage, and Family Planning in Iran/ Implications for Future Policy for more information on Iran’s demographic transition. Some of the major steps the Iranian government took in order to slow its population growth include making contraceptives free and available to the public, conducting large-scale PR campaigns to advertise the advantages of smaller families and the use of family planning services, and using religious leaders as spokespeople in support of reproductive health. Understanding the links between population dynamics and economic development holds value for every country and the fact that high fertility rates overlap with unmet needs for contraceptives should be addressed as a matter of safety and security. From a demographic perspective, lowering fertility rates signals an increase in overall health and education as well as increased livelihoods. All good things.

Here’s an article on Iran’s recent policy shift on family planning, in case you’re interested: Iran ends provision by state of contraceptives and vasectomies.