Free Contraception Is Great for Black Women

Federally funded birth control is great for all women, but Black women especially have reason to celebrate.

Posted: 08/05/2011 07:29 AM EDT
Filed Under health care

In a landmark decision this week, the federal government has decided to define “birth control” as “preventative health care.” In the past, the U.S. put a distinction between the two, forcing women to shell out a lot of money for what some considered a very basic need. But soon, starting in 2012, private insurers will be forced to provide free contraceptives. And free means no fees or copayments whatsoever.

This is great news for all American women, but Black women in particular have reason to celebrate. For years now African-American women have been excluded from getting really important sexual health services for years. In a piece from summer 2008, the Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit research organization dedicated to sexual and reproductive policy, noted, “Black women's unintended pregnancy rates are the highest of all. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the particular difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively over long periods of time.”

In a survey cited on the Huffington Post, 51 percent of African-American women aged 18 to 34 reported having trouble purchasing and consistently using birth control due to its high cost. And because birth control is expensive, many Black low-income women are forced to forego it, choosing instead to have risky unprotected sex. As the Guttmacher Institute notes, that can lead not only to illnesses, but also to plenty of unwanted pregnancies, and thus abortions.

The logic is pretty simple: Provide Black women with access to birth control and you lower the abortion rates in the Black community. And yet conservatives are already coming out against the free birth control. Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, even suggested that the measure could endanger the human race.

If you think all the crowing is ridiculous, you’re right. The fact is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand the hypocrisy and weird logic of the conservatives in America. On the one hand they want to erect billboards in African-American communities condemning Black abortion rates, and on the other they want to prevent low-income Black women from having easy access to contraception. It makes no sense. Then again, neither does a lot of politics anymore.

(Photo: Jim Sulley/Newscast)

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