The CNN Town Hall discussions on climate change had a little something for everyone. When it came to the poorest places in the world, Bernie Sanders was thinking birth control.
In response to a question about human population causing climate change, Sanders pushed beyond the questioner’s point of education, to introducing the notion that abortion is a solution which the United States should aid, particularly among the poorest countries, saying:
“the Mexico City agreement, which denies American aid to those organizations around the world that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control to me is totally absurd. So I think especially in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have, is something I very, very strongly support.”
There is one place in the world which is not only poor and crowded with high birth rates but has thousands of United Nations feet on the ground already managing the health of the population: Gaza.
Poverty: According to a Palestinian Authority report, the 2016 GDP per capita in Gaza was $1,822. That would place the region as number 147 of 194 countries. The unemployment rate for people over 15 years old was 43.9 percent, around the same rate as the failed states of Venezuela and Yemen, the highest in the world.
Crowded: There were 1.9 million people in Gaza in 2017 in an area of 365 square kilometers, or 5,205 people per sqkm. That would rank the strip as number 6 behind the wealthy enclaves of Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong and Gibraltar.
High birth rates. In Gaza, approximately 41.7 percent of the population is under 15 years old and the average household has 5.6 people. The high percentage of young people is a phenomenon found in poor African countries (Gaza rank #24) while the large average family size is found in the Middle East, North and western Africa. The fertility rates of the women in these countries are the highest in the world, in sharp contrast to the lowest fertility rates found in the small, densely-populated wealthy countries of Singapore and Hong Kong mentioned above.
Gaza has the poverty and birth rates of large African countries in a compact area that is typical of wealthy capitalistic enclaves. But Gaza has the advantage relative to the African countries of having a large United Nations presence – 13,189 in UNRWA staff as of January 2019 – to service them.
UNRWA provides free health services to the Gaza population which identify as refugees, and services close to 100 percent of all pre-natal and post-natal visits. Yet the use of contraception in the West Bank and Gaza stood at only 56.5 percent according to the UN, even though UNRWA has complete access to the population and provides free services. Additionally, as abortions are banned by the Palestinian Authority, women would have to seek regular means of seeking birth control as provided by UNRWA, or travel to Israeli hospitals for the procedure.
Which all brings us back to Bernie Sanders’ comment about allowing US funds to flow into poor countries to facilitate abortions and actively promote birth control.
Sanders is known as a foreign policy lightweight, never delving much into the issue during his decades in Washington, D.C. Now, for his presidential-run education, he has surrounded himself with pro-Palestinian voices like James Zogby and Linda Sarsour who have made Gaza a central theme in his short script.
So, will Bernie spend US dollars on getting the Palestinian Authority to legalize abortion and actively push birth control in one of the poorest and compact regions? Does his allegiance lie with with his climate change clientele or with his Arab activists?
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