Pregnant (Again) and Poor

May 13, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Jim Brous and others for sending me this editorial. Below the Kristof OpEd, see the response letters the New York Times published. Also see John Bermingham’s response to the New York Times.

For all the American and international efforts to fight global poverty, one thing is clear: Those efforts won’t get far as long as women like Nahomie Nercure continue to have 10 children.

Global family-planning efforts have stalled over the last couple of decades, and Nahomie is emblematic both of the lost momentum and of the poverty that results. She is an intelligent 30-year-old woman who wanted only two children, yet now she is eight months pregnant with her 10th.

For full article, visit:


April 12, 2009
Multiplier Effect: Help Women First

To the Editor:
Re “Pregnant (Again) and Poor,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, April 5):
In 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the world recognized “the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so.”
This pledge has been honored more in the breach than in the implementation.
You have to look at the small print of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, “Improve Maternal Health,” under Target 2, to find this language: “An unmet need for family planning undermines achievement of several other goals.”
These “several other” goals include reducing poverty, providing universal access to education, reducing infant and child mortality, empowering women, attaining environmental sustainability, and developing in such a way that improvement is not eaten up by population growth.
Giving women choices and access to education and health is the key to any acceptable future.
Jane Roberts
Redlands, Calif., April 5, 2009

To the Editor:
Those of us who are devoting our careers to improving women’s and children’s health were delighted to read Nicholas D. Kristof’s endorsement of our effort. But Mr. Kristof could have been clearer on two points.
First, family planning saves lives. Nahomie Nercure and her children, whom Mr. Kristof writes about, are lucky that they have all survived. Over the time Ms. Nercure had her nine children, several million women died from pregnancy-related causes, often because they lacked access to family planning and safe abortion services. Infant and child mortality are also higher in poor, high-fertility families like Ms. Nercure’s.
Mr. Kristof also points to Ms. Nercure’s problems using current contraceptive methods. He should also say that we need more research to develop new contraceptive methods for women and men. Such work should be a priority for the National Institutes of Health and others.
Peter J. Donaldson
President, Population Council
New York, April 5, 2009

To the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof made my day; no, he made my week and my month.
His message should be plastered across all the billboards, all the bridges and buildings, not only in the third world, but all across the globe. Every country has its own third world, and very often it is a sizable and significant one.
The population explosion we are witnessing on our planet is the driving force behind the ills that are undermining our lives on every front and that we are trying, pitifully, to combat without battling the prime culprit.
Not only will we lose the battle against poverty if we don’t combat population growth. We also stand to lose the fight to preserve our forests, our seas, our remaining drinking water and all the endangered species.
Yehudah Ashkenazi
Kibbutz Barkai, Israel, April 5, 2009

To the Editor:
What Nicholas D. Kristof says is all too true. An additional dimension to the problem is the worldwide cultural message that equates manliness with the ability to impregnate women, but this, of course, does not translate into responsibly caring for them.
If there were universal consequences for men related to the number of children they fathered, the birthrate would decrease. As long as women are literally left holding the baby, men will continue to father children indiscriminately.
Susan A. McGregor
North Kingstown, R.I., April 5, 2009

To the Editor:
Nicholas D. Kristof offers a welcome reminder about the urgency of the population-growth issue. But the problem is not limited to unwanted pregnancies and the unmet need for family planning.
There are numerous countries — like Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon — where married women commonly want and have six, seven and more children. There, the issue is not only the provision of family-planning services but also the more complex set of traditional values favoring high fertility.
C. F. Westoff
Princeton, N.J., April 5, 2009
The writer is emeritus professor of demographic studies at Princeton University.

To the Editor:
Thanks to Nicholas D. Kristof for his frightening reminder that without attending to the population explosion, “international efforts to fight global poverty” will be ineffectual.
To global poverty, we should add global warming and even the global financial crisis. Though overpopulation is a principal cause of both, it is rarely mentioned in relation to them. How is it that the fundamental source of so much human suffering is so often ignored by those who study its repercussions?
Lawrence Shainberg
New York, April 5, 2009

John Bermingham Letter to the Editor

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