Interview with John Seager – President, Population Connection

by | April 10, 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

John Seager is the President of Population Connection. Here we talk about his life, work, and views.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: To provide a brief background, anything personal or familial not reachable through a Google search about you? Perhaps, something relevant to the pro-choice advocacy and work now.

John Seager: I’ve been with Population Connection (formerly known as Zero Population Growth) for 23 years.

I came from a progressive political and legislative background having worked briefly for the US Environmental Protection Agency and having served as Chief of Staff for a member of the US House of Representatives who worked on behalf of international family planning as well as the rights of women to choose abortion. 

Jacobsen: As the President of Population Connection, what tasks and responsibilities come with the position? 

Seager: In addition to the usual management responsibilities, I’ve delivered hundreds of lectures and other presentations on 84 college campuses and in many other venues. I’d welcome invitations from our Canadian friends. I’ve spoken at many atheist, agnostic, and secular humanist events.

Jacobsen: Population is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Since the organization works from the United States, since 1968, what have been major victories in its work for global access to family planning and reproductive health care?

Seager: Since our founding, we’ve seen ups and downs and major shifts. The good news includes the fact that there are now nearly 100 nations around the world, including the US and Canada, that are at or below “replacement rate” in terms of family size, as compared with about four such nations at the time of our founding.

We don’t by any means claim direct credit for this progress, but we’ve been a consistently strong voice on behalf of voluntary family planning.

One of the unfortunate developments has been the rise here in the US of strident opposition to sexual and reproductive rights and health. It is a major battleground.

Jacobsen: Who have been the central oppositions to the work of Population Connection for family planning and reproductive health care? What are their tactics? How can we combat them? 

Seager: The evangelical Religious Right in the US is the locus of opposition. They certainly oppose the right of women to access abortion, but also stand in the way of virtually every effort to maintain and expand fact-based sex education and reproductive health services.

They are single-minded, well-funded, and politically savvy with a strong ally occupying the White House. The situation with regarding to Catholicism is more complex.

While the hierarchy follows Vatican dictates in opposing abortion and modern contraception, practicing Catholics in the US actually have smaller families than Protestants. 

Our side needs to assert the inalienable right of every person to a clear zone of privacy. This includes freedom of – and from – religion and the freedom to decide if, when, and how many children to bear.

The latter depends on people having unfettered access to sound information and affordable services including contraception and abortion. Elections matter.

We must outwork the opposition. And we must be relentlessly upbeat and optimistic, if we’re to prevail.

Jacobsen: What are some common misunderstandings by the public about family planning and reproductive health care? What truths dispel those misunderstandings? 

Seager: What’s key here is that every woman everywhere needs to have the education, information, and access to the full array of reproductive health services.

It must always be focused on her own personal needs and circumstances as she views them. Rights are rights. There is room for compromise on many issues, but not when it comes to individual rights.

Jacobsen: Since the Global Gag Rule took effect, what has been the impact on the international population? How has this gag affected the efforts of the international pro-choice community in the advancement of women’s reproductive rights? 

Seager: The Global Gag Rule imposed by President Trump is causing much pain and hardship since health providers in some of the poorest places on earth have lost funding since they cannot in good conscience agree to be silenced by this edict.

It is directly responsible for increases in unplanned pregnancies, unplanned births, and abortions (mostly unsafe) due to unplanned pregnancies.

It will result in the deaths of many women and infant children. It’s a mean, miserable act. The US Congress can and must take this power away from the President.

Jacobsen: With its 50-year anniversary passing, what will be its efforts and plans for the future? 

Seager: While families have gotten smaller in many places around the world due to increased access to reproductive health services, we’re still adding about one billion people to our overcrowded, overheated planet every dozen years.

We need increased investment in family planning, and we need to ensure that the next generation is aware of the population connection to other critical global issues.

Jacobsen: Any recommended authors or speakers? 

Seager: Robert Engelman’s book, More, is excellent as is Alan Weisman’s Countdown. For a rebuttal of the false notion that we need more people to have a healthy economy, our book, The Good Crisis, is available as a free download.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Seager: We need to trust, support, and empower women everywhere so they can achieve full reproductive autonomy.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, John.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott:

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

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