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Increased Sexual Education Improves Reproductive Health Of Black Women

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Recent opinion pieces and other statements that imply racism is behind higher numbers of black women having abortions miss "the point and distrac[t] from the real issue: the persistent health disparities faced by women, and men, in the African-American community," Melissa Gilliam, an associate professor of ob-gyn at the University of Chicago and chair of the Guttmacher Institute, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. According to Gilliam, black women have higher abortion rates than whites because they have higher instances of unintended pregnancy. In addition, blacks often have worse sexual and reproductive health outcomes than other groups in part because of a history of discrimination, lack of access to care and other issues, she says. There is "no need to resort to far-flung conspiracy theories to explain the higher abortion rate among black women," she writes.

She adds that "those professing concern for the well-being of African-American women have an obligation to put the issue of abortion in its proper context, and to support evidence-based policies that would have a positive impact." There are a "number of specific steps policymakers can take right now that could dramatically improve the sexual and reproductive health of African-Americans and Americans in general," she writes.

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She calls for comprehensive sex education, help for black women to better plan their pregnancies, increasing funding for Title X family planning programs, expanding Medicaid eligibility for family planning services and supporting working parents through paid sick leave, subsidized child care and affordable health insurance.

Gilliam concludes, "My challenge to antiabortion activists is to stop throwing around inflammatory terms like genocide and instead channel their considerable energies and resources into supporting policies that reduce the need for abortion. Let's get serious about helping women and their families, including women in the African-American community" (Gilliam, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.