Commentary: Why Access to Birth Control Matters to Black Women

The Rush Limbaugh controversy and the ongoing attack on women's health is our problem, too. 

Posted: 03/07/2012 05:21 PM EST

It was the "slut" heard around the world.


Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made that comment about Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, who testified in front of Congress on Feb. 23 to discuss why religious institutions and universities should cover birth control for employees and students.

 

On Feb. 29, Limbaugh slammed Fluke on his show, accusing her of wanting the government to pay for and condone her sex life. He said:


What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.

 

Instantly, women's health advocates, Democrats and even some Republicans spoke out against his unfair attack against the third-year law student. And, thankfully, it has cost Limbaugh millions in advertisements. Despite apologizing, he has lost over 30 sponsors for his show and there are serious rumors that he might even get fired.

 

Too bad this incident isn't rare.

 

This is just one drop in the bucket in the perplexing attack on women's health that is being led by the GOP and Christian conservatives.

 

And while Fluke doesn’t look anything like us (nor do the majority of female talking heads on the cable news shows talking about this issue), this doesn’t mean that better access to contraception isn't our problem — it is.

 

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. Also, African-American women are three times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy, and according to a 2011 CDC report, Black women in 2007 had the highest abortion rates (32.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and account for 34.4 percent of abortions in the U.S. White women account for 37.1 percent.


So yes, having insurance cover birth control would be a great asset to our health, but it doesn’t end there.


A March 2012 report conducted by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that these women are at a heightened risk for unintended pregnancies. Researchers wrote, "the greater the proportion of women who lacked insurance or the lower the proportion covered by Medicaid, the higher the unintended pregnancy rate.” And while Planned Parenthood does offer birth control for free or even low-cost, women are still falling in the gaps.


Linking more African-American women (and Black men) to health care and better access to contraception and bolstering health literacy will also help bring these unwanted pregnancy numbers down.


As this election race (and this war against women's health) rages on, it's important for us to be paying attention and understanding what is at stake for us. Reproductive justice isn't just a white woman's issue.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

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