With Planned Parenthood under attack in this country and the abortion debate at an ultimate high in our community, a new study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to sexual and reproductive health, underscores the need for better family planning and contraception education.
Researchers found that while across the board, unplanned pregnancies have remained steady; they have increased dramatically among women of color and low-income women. According to HealthDay, researchers found the following:
In 2006, 49 percent of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States were unintended, and 43 percent of those unintended pregnancies ended in abortion. However, the rate of unplanned pregnancy among women ages 15 to 44 with incomes below the federal poverty line increased from 88 per 1,000 in 1994, to 120 in 2001 and 132 in 2006 — a 50 percent rise.
At the same time, the rate among better-off women — those with incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty line — fell from 34 per 1,000 in 1994, to 28 in 2001 and 24 in 2006, a 29 percent decrease.
The increase in unintended pregnancies among poor women is associated with rising rates of abortions (52 per 1,000) and unplanned births (66 per 1,000) among those women, the study found.
Along with poor women, higher rates of unintended pregnancies also occur among women ages 18 to 24, minority women and cohabitating women, the Guttmacher report found. Lower rates occurred among higher-income women, white women, college graduates and married women.
An interesting finding was that being married did not solve these issues or help women control their fertility better. According to the study's authors, “Poor women who are married have unintended pregnancy rates more than twice as high as those of higher-income women who are unmarried or cohabiting.”
In the early ’80s to the mid ’90s, there was a steep decline and even stalled for five years, but this study, which used government data from 2006, shows a trend in the opposite direction.
Earlier this month, BET.com reporter Cord Jefferson wrote about why the federal government's decision to make birth control free is good for Black women. He wrote:
For years now African-American women have been excluded from getting really important sexual health services. 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.
And while I understand that there is a tension between our community and the reproductive health movement, better access to birth control and adhering to those contraceptives is crucial for us.
To learn more about birth control options go here.
(Photo: Commercial Appeal/Landov)