Commentary: "War on Women" Debate Is Missing Black Women

Report suggests that reproductive justice initiatives need to include minorities.

Posted: 11/12/2012 03:15 PM EST

During the election, we have heard a lot about the “War on Women” and how certain reproductive health issues, such as abortion rights, access to birth control and funding Planned Parenthood, have been threatened by the conservative right and anti-abortion advocates.  Yet, despite this war being waged on all women, regardless of race, the mouthpieces of this conversation, especially on the pro choice side hasn’t reflected the diversity of woman that they say they represent.

 

And this is a problem, says the grassroots organization for black women, Higher Heights for America.

 

In their new report, Black Women’s Response to the War on Women, the group believes that African-American women’s interests and issues have been widely ignored and that’s highly problematic given how deeply impacted we are by these issues:

 

In 2010, Planned Parenthood affiliates provided family planning counseling and contraception to 280,000 Black women. Threatening to eliminate funding by preying on legitimate faith-based concerns and creating inaccurate, divisive arguments leave the lives of Black women and their children at risk. With Black women having disproportionately higher incidences of reproductive health issues, their silence in related policy debates only serve to exacerbate the statistics.

 

And while Black women have twice the unintended pregnancy rate of white and the highest abortion rates in the U.S., when it comes to the War on Black women, the report emphasizes that the battle transcends access to birth control.

 

-- Black women are 21 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than White women.

 

-- The infant mortality rate for Black women is 13 per 1,000 births, which is more than twice the rate for White women. Preterm births and related deaths account for the highest rates of infant mortality for Black women.

 

-- Black women with cervical cancer are twice as likely to die from it than white women. And from 2003-2007, Black women had a 39 percent higher death rate than white women, despite a lower incidence rate. Black women have fibroid tumors at a rate of three times that of White womenAnd the danger of not being included in the conversation is that our specific issues get ignored and pushed to the side—whether consciously or subconsciously. And with policies being constructed, strategies are being created and funds are being allocated, if no one is at the table advocating for us, we will get left behind. And honestly, we can’t afford for that to happen.

 

So what needs to be done to change that?

 

Advocates of Higher Heights for America are clear: They want for Black women to become more engaged in the political process and elevate their voices.

 

They wrote:

 

The late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering, and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” This statement rings true today and women (particularly Black women) have a pivotal role to play.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to play my part.

 

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

 

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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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