Bernie Sanders, a top contender for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, said Wednesday that he would support U.S. taxpayer-funded programs in developing countries that administer abortions as well as help give women access to birth control.
The independent U.S. senator from Vermont made the remarks during a CNN town hall telecast in which Sanders and other Democrats running for president discussed plans to combat climate change.
"Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth," an audience member said. "I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it’s crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?"
"The answer is yes and the answer has everything to do with the fact that women — in the United States of America, by the way — have a right to control their own bodies and make reproductive decisions," Sanders replied.
"And the Mexico City agreement, which denies American aid to those organizations around the world that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control, to me is totally absurd. So I think especially in poor countries around the world, where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to limit the number of kids they have -- something I very, very strongly support," he said.
In theory, family planning programs would help combat climate change by stemming population growth, effectively limiting the amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and human impact on Earth.
Julián Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, also responded to an audience member who asked if it was fair to expect children to “continue the cycle of family” in a perceived apocalyptical world of climate change.
"Is it fair for us to expect our children to continue the cycle of family and generation in a world whose chaotic climate future we knowingly create and so far have done little to address?" John Ingram, a climate activist and retired teacher from New York City, asked Wednesday.
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Castro responded: “Right now, if we don’t act, we’re passing off to our children, grandchildren, and future generations a problem that we can solve. I know as a parent I want to make sure that my children don’t have to grapple with the challenge on climate that we’re having to grapple with.
“We don’t have any time to waste. This generation has to act. This is the call of this generation,” he continued. "If I’m elected president, I will make sure for my first day in office that we take this existential threat seriously, that we do that for the benefit of our children and future generations."
He added that the government has an “extraordinary opportunity to unleash tremendous economic potential, good jobs, for people that need them in our country,” if it acts to address climate change.