On November 10, 2020, Robert Walker, President of the Population Institute, a subsidiary of Population Media Center (PMC), spoke with PMC’s Giving Circles members about the U.S. presidential election, and what comes next.
Bob has over four decades of experience in Washington, including 15 years on Capitol Hill working on both sides of the aisle and working for two presidential campaigns. Off the Hill, Bob has been an advocate or lobbyist for campaign finance reform, sensible gun laws, and numerous other issues about which he is passionate. A progressive leader and a globally recognized expert on population trends and their implications, Bob has made appearances on PBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and NPR; he has contributed to Huffington Post and has been interviewed by New York Times, Newsweek, The Guardian, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Vice, and Voice of America, among others.
This robust experience is the reason PMC invited Bob to address what we can expect now that the momentous election day has passed. You can watch an excerpt of Bob's presentation here, and the following is a transcript...
Along the way, I have learned the hard way, that elections have consequences. That was certainly true in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president of United States, and it’s true now more than ever. The votes in some states are still being counted. The Trump administration may seek to challenge this election in the courts, but the election is effectively over. In January, a new Congress will be sworn in and, on January 20th, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office. And a new day will commence.
This election will have major implications for:
- For the health and vibrancy of American democracy;
- For women;
- For equality and racial justice;
- For reproductive health and rights;
- For the environment;
- For peace;
- For prosperity;
- For future generations of Americans; and
- For the health and wellbeing of people all around the world.
Today, I want to talk about what this election means for Population Media Center and the issues that it works on, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality, and the environment.
And let me begin, by thanking all of you, for caring, for voting, for participating in the democratic process, and for all the support that you have given Population Media Center. You are the lifeblood of this organization and critically important to its success.
During the past four years, the cause of sexual and reproductive health and rights has suffered several severe setbacks. And that’s true at home and abroad.
Here at home, the Trump Administration has:
- Cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other organizations providing family planning services to low-income households in America under Title X.
- It has shifted federal dollars away from sex education programs that have successfully reduced teenage pregnancy rates and helped to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Instead the Trump administration has funded failed, ineffective, “abstinence-only” programs.
- The Trump administration has sought to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, which expands health coverage to 20 million people and requires that health insurers cover contraception without requiring a co-pay from patients.
- While the Trump administration may fail to overturn the ACA, it succeeded in altering the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, by giving employers the ability to deny contraceptive coverage to their employees by citing a “moral” or a “religious” objection.
- It has laid the groundwork for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and abortion rights by appointing 161 Federal District Court Judges, 53 Appellate Court Judges, and 3 Supreme Court justices. Trump appointees now account for 1 out of 4 district court judges; 3 out of 10 Appellate Courts Judges, and 1 out of 3 Supreme Court justices.
- All of these conservative judges have lifetime appointments They will be rendering decisions affecting a broad range of federal programs, not just the question of abortion rights. ACA, Title X, sex education. They will render decisions affecting the status of LGBTQ individuals.
Internationally, the Trump Administration has:
- Suspended all U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides family planning and reproductive health services to women in developing countries, including millions of women living in refugee camps.
- It has sought to eliminate all U.S. support for international family planning.
- It has re-imposed and expanded the Global Gag Rule, which denies any U.S. foreign assistance to a foreign health care provider if they counsel patients on abortion rights or refer them to an abortion provider.
- The Trump administration has walked away from Obama administration initiatives aimed at reducing gender inequality in developing countries.
- It has sought to ban the United Nations from expressing any support for gay rights or reproductive rights.
The Trump Administration has undermined global support and cooperation on climate change and other environmental threats.
- The US has officially withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord.
- It has done far too little to combat deforestation, depletion of fisheries, and other environmental threats, including extinction of plant and animal species. Biologists now warn that human activity is triggering what they call the “sixth mass extinction” of plant and animal species, the last mass extinction occurring 65 million years ago.
So what does this mean for Population Media Center and its work?
- The serial dramas produced by Population Media Center for use in the developing world are funded, in part, by:
- UN agencies like UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women or UNDP.
- Or grants provided by USAID or other US agencies.
When the funding for these organizations is cut, it means there is less money to support PMC’s work in developing countries.
- Just as importantly, PMC works in collaboration with providers of family planning. When a PMC serial drama educates couples about the importance of family planning, it’s important that there are family planning clinics capable of meeting the increased demand for family planning services.
- Similarly, if PMC serial dramas are working to change the social norms that prevent girls from attending school, it’s important that other organizations are working to build schools or educate more teachers. If their funding is cut, it undermines PMC’s success.
As the president of the Population Institute, I work closely with Population Media Center on a number of issues.
I may be biased, but I fervently believe, that PMC’s work is vital. It’s a big world, and there are plenty of other organizations, good organizations, working to make the world a better place, but PMC occupies a special niche.
In so many places, so many countries, PMC’s work is making a critical difference. But PMC cannot do it alone. It requires other partners, other organizations, fulfilling other needs, doing other jobs.
Governments must play a role. The United States of America, in particular, must do its part.
But it’s not just organizations or governments. It’s about us, doing OUR job. Doing our job as donors, supporters, workers, volunteers, voters, and, yes, citizens.
If we believe in social and racial justice. If we support the rights of women and girls. If we want to protect the planet and preserve other species. If we strive to banish hunger and abolish extreme poverty. If we care about future generations…we have to do our part.
We have to stay involved. Joe Biden and Kamala worked hard and won a great victory, but great victories, like great inheritances, can be squandered. What is gained, can easily be lost.
I want to thank you for all that you are doing…and will do in the future.
I look forward to talking with you about these critical issues. The stakes are high. Thanks so much for inviting me.
It is clear from Bob’s presentation that the fight to protect women and girls' rights and environmental sustainability is far from over here in the U.S. We echo the sentiment to stay active in local communities through volunteerism, advocacy, voting, donating and other ways that keep these critical issues top of mind.
Join PMC Giving Circles. This event was made possible because of the support of PMC’s Giving Circles program, a community committed to supporting environmental sustainability.
Population Institute advocates for gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services to improve lives, save the planet, and build a better tomorrow. Robert Walker, President of the Population Institute, a subsidiary of Population Media Center, is a graduate of Rockford College and the University of Illinois School of Law. He recently celebrated his 10th year with the Population Institute.