lisa gould rubin

April 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Sarah Buttenwieser: You’ve been in the world of childbirth for a long time; tell me what you notice about how the world has changed or stayed the same.

Lisa Gould Rubin: Culturally, we seem to assign value judgments to birth, ascribing words like “normal” or “natural.” In Utne Reader, there are a few articles about childbirth, including one called “Drugs, Knives, and Midwives” that looks at the current struggles midwifery faces, and the rise in infant mortality in this country as we head toward more interventions rather than fewer. But what’s also striking to me is that through all different movements surrounding birth, we still come up with the same old dilemmas or issues that put a value upon birth as if there’s a good or bad, right or wrong way to give birth.

SB: How does this tendency toward judgment affect women?

LGR: Lots of women feel crappy about their births. There was a big survey in 2005 — Listening to Mothers II — and it revealed that many women report feeling dissatisfied with their birth experiences. Some are guilty because they didn’t have a “natural” birth; others wanted vaginal births and ended up with cesarean sections. To me, guilt shouldn’t need to be part of their experience. Guilt is punitive.

–from mothers movement online

black women health stats

April 17, 2008 § 1 Comment

why are so many more black girls receiving abstinence education?  that is what i want to know…incredible medical neglect.  although i know that conservatives do consider this to be a result of ‘bad choices’ and ‘poor morals’.  and that is the incredible downside of puritan ethics and the emphasis on reproductive choice, rather than justice or other more socially/community-centered principles.  in that we have convinced ourselves that peoples lives are determined primarily by the choices that they make with little consideration to how culture inscribes and circumscribes and limits the choices that are available.

it is amazing how society valorizes purity and abstinence.  it is a form of cultural genocide and ostracization.

and why are black women four times more likely to die in childbirth?  it is not solely economic.  although the ways that poverty circumscribes lives is relentless.  but because of stereotypes and what we expect of black women.  what we assume about black womens bodies, life experiences, education, social vulnerability etc.


The easy answer for us to lock our girls in their respective rooms until they are 30-years -old. I am happy to help you find a home- schooling tutor. Much as I would like this, I know that eventually young people have to go out into the world.

The second easy answer is to assume this issue is solely about bad choices and poor morals and to believe that we can protect our kids by enforcing abstinence until marriage. I certainly hope that my daughter makes that choice, but given the difficult and crazy choices teenagers face, I also have to believe there are ways that policy can make a difference.

African American girls are at particular risk for a lifetime of maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies leading to higher abortion rates, and the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Black women are nearly four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Black women are 23 times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS and 14 times more likely to die from the disease. The numbers of black girls receiving abstinence-only instruction instead of comprehensive sex education has significantly increased as compared to white girls. This means young black women are not being taught about contraceptive use for preventing pregnancy and protecting against sexually transmitted diseases.

These statistics scare and paralyze me. But I have a few suggestions of things we can do

1) Write or call our U.S. Representatives and Senators and demand they make sure women of color have access to health care.

2) Work aggressively in our public schools and on our campuses to make sure that free condoms are widely and easily accessible.

3) Contact the Center for Reproductive Rights and get the facts about sexual health. Share the information with all the young women in your life: nieces, daughters and neighbors.

4)Send suggested questions and topics to the cable networks hosting presidential debates and make sure that the racial disparities in reproductive health care are part of any discussion on health care reform.

5) Write letters to the editor to major newspapers such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post, demanding more coverage of maternal mortality in the U.S., the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS among Black women, and how abstinence- only education is affecting black girls.

–melissa lace harwell

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