Tag Archives: Contraception

What I Admire About RBG

Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg succumbed to complications of pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020 but Justice Ginsburg will be alive in the annals of American law. She paved the way for American women, one case at a time.

Ginsberg co-founded the Women’s Right Law Reporter, a pioneering law journal at Rutgers where she taught. She advocated as a volunteer attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Union. In the mid 1970s she argued half a dozen gender discrimination cases before the high court winning all but one. Ginsberg was appointed as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Her appointment as the second woman on the US Supreme court in 1993 (guided by Hilary Clinton) was one of the best undertakings by President Bill Clinton.  

The Supreme Court justice who gave an unbiased ear to every argument had a famous quote: Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf!

From the vast ocean of evidence, she created her life. She is a beacon of hope for every woman and is a true American hero. She changed history through her landmark cases and built precedence by methodically arguing for gender equality based on the Fourteenth Amendment. 

And now, every woman can claim equal access to education, equal pay, equal military allowance, access contraception, take maternity leave, cut a man’s hair, buy a drink, administer an estate, serve on the jury, and get equal social security benefits. The list is formidable and speaks of her equally intimidating stance on these issues! She wiped close to 200 laws that discriminated against women off the books. She believed that “women would have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

The personality traits I admire of hers:

  • A brilliant mind always at work
  • A rational minimalist
  • Her slow deliberate speech 
  • Measured sentences spoken with thought
  • Total dedication to work 
  • Her commitment to get the law right
  • Steel trap of a memory and ability to recall every word
  • Profound personal dignity 
  • An innate sense of justice
  • Her “ cool” connection with the Millenials as the “notorious” RBG”
  • Her crusade on gender equality
  • Her sense of humor “Ginsburned”!
  • Her warmth towards her staff, colleagues, friends
  • Her determination to remain healthy despite  multiple cancers
  • She showed up to work every day and handled her full load
  • She was a crusader for gender equality 
  • Her zeal to work with her trainer

When I look upon the black and white photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a two-year-old, I can tell that she will be one of the most influential women of this century. I think the best costume for girls this Halloween and for years to come will be RGB in her black robes and white beaded collar!

The death of Justice Ginsburg at this tumultuous time is a phenomenal loss to America. There never will be another like her. Her death leaves a great political void. Chief Justice John Roberts no longer holds the controlling vote in cases cleaved right in the middle of liberal-conservative lines. RGB ruminated on this and her last fervent wish was, “not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

It behooves the people of the United States to make their views heard before the election and uphold her wish! There are too many transformative cases like Obamacare that lay precariously in the hands of the new Supreme Court. Our “notorious” RBG was curious, laborious, and glorious in her life. Let’s work hard to honor this courageous Supreme Court Judge.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Do Indians want more children?

Among many issues PM Narendra Modi raised from the ramparts of Red Fort on 73rd Independence Day, the issue of “Population Explosion” was very critical. He emphasized “small family is good for the society, nation… High time the nation debates this and brings a law if needed…Else we will soon run out of resources”. It is because virtually all major problems that confront India today relate in some critical way to the galloping population. It leads to a massive diversion of national  resources to consumption which could otherwise be used for increasing investment and productivity and for improving the quality of public services like education, health, sanitation, provision of safe drinking water, etc.

Some 45 years ago, in the late seventies, India embarked on an ambitious population control program  to curb the growing population pressure on the nation. It was the brainchild of the then PM, Indira Gandhi, and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, who oversaw the execution. But its implementation was faulty so Indians did not support the program after the demise of Sanjay Gandhi in 1980.

PM Modi has to understand that the situation has changed dramatically in the last four decades or so and there is no need to implement coercive methods or laws to control the population. The number of Indian women including Muslim ones wanting to have another baby is falling fast, as per National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16). Only 24% of the married women between 15 and 49 years want a second child. For men, the corresponding proportion is 27%, down from 49% a decade ago.

However, India’s demography is mind-boggling. India’s population in 1947 was 33 crore and in 2018 it was 135 crore. In last seventy years it has quadrupled. India now contains about 18% of humanity (i.e. every sixth person in the world is an Indian). China is the only country with a larger population – in the order of 7 crore  million more in 2018 as compared to 30 crore   in 1990. The Indian population grew at an annual rate of 1.24% during 2010-15. On the other hand, China registered a much lower annual growth rate of population (0.61%) during the corresponding period.  Based on the analysis of recent data, it is estimated that India will overtake China in the next 3-5 years that is before 2025.

The current population growth in India, however, is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them and these births trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 430 million people out of 1350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building? The consequences of unwanted pregnancy are being reflected in widespread malnutrition, poor health, low quality of education, and increasing scarcity of basic resources like food, water and space.

While India’s population continues to grow by 1.6 – 1.7 crore annually, and while 1.4 crore women, especially in the lower economic strata including Muslims, seek to postpone childbearing, space births, or stop having children; they are not using a modern methods of contraception. This is also known as the ‘unmet need’ for contraception. Often, women with unmet need for family planning services  travel far from their homes to reach a health facility, only to return home ‘empty handed’ due to shortages, stock outs, lack of desired contraception and/or unavailability of doctors and paramedical staff or poor quality of services. When women are thus turned away, they are unable to protect themselves from unwanted/unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. And this type of incomplete control over the reproductive process reduces the prospects for an early decline in the rate of population growth.

Incidents of unwanted pregnancies can be dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, within a next five years  by simply providing reproductive services as per the needs of clients, as had been done in Andhra Pradesh during the nineties. If Andhra, with little outside help, could manage its population growth under relatively low literacy and high poverty (Literacy Rate of AP in 2011 was 67.7% compared to 67.1% in Rajasthan, as per 2011 Census), there is no reason why other states especially Four Large North Indian (FLNI) States of Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP, with lesser problems and with increasingly generous support from the Centre, should fail so spectacularly in managing unwanted fertility.

The people of the FLNI states are not against small family norms. While general knowledge about family planning is almost universal, access to modern methods of contraception services and products is a big problem in these states.

India must ensure that every child is a wanted one. The government must provide client-centered reproductive health services with special reference to poor performing states. It will help in meeting women’s needs for family planning and that would help in avoiding numerous reproductive health-related issues. Women who are able to delay or stop childbearing when they wish to are more likely to meet their children’s educational goals, earn a living and support their families, and manage changes in their environment and natural resources. Reducing incidence of unwanted pregnancies will help in achieving the national goal of population stabilization at the earliest.

The need of the hour, thus, is to create confidence among policy makers and program managers especially in the poor performing states that a breakthrough is possible. There is no need to implement coercive measures like one-child norm or to provide incentives and disincentives. The real need is to provide services in un-served and underserved areas by realigning the capacity of health system to deliver quality care to suit the needs of clients. A failure to stabilize India’s population will have significant implications for the future of India’s economy, that was the concern, one can see on the face of PM Modi while he was talking about this issue from the rampart of Lal Qila. 

 After obtaining formal degrees in population sciences from Harvard and Australian National University, Dr. Devendra Kothari has been working on population and development issues. He writes regularly on this at: Kotharionindia.blogspot.com