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Why a new president may slow population growth

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The Mexico City Policy was announced by President Reagan in 1984. It was repudiated by President Clinton the day after his inauguration, and it was reinstated by President Bush on Day 1 of his administration. There's little doubt in Washington that a new Democratic president would repeal the gag rule again.

Some family-planning advocates see the current tribal conflicts in Kenya as one indication of the need for greater efforts to provide poor women with the ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus limit the size of their families.

When President Truman was in office, Kenya's population was 6 million. Today it is six times that and growing rapidly. Women in Kenya have on average 4.9 children today, up from 4.7 in the late 1990s, but down from the 7.5 or 8 in the 1960s.

Rapid population growth in itself is not necessarily a direct cause of conflict, says Elizabeth Leahy, a researcher at Population Action International (PAI), a Washington advocacy group. "But it can exacerbate underlying conditions of conflict."

In Kenya, the government has difficulty educating and finding jobs for hordes of young people. Some 73 percent of Kenyans are under 30. In two years, Kenya will have 70 people per square kilometer, up from 10 in 1950. Though one-fifth of Kenyans now live in urban areas, up from 6 percent in 1950, there is competition for farmland. Some of the worst tribal battles have occurred in rural areas.

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