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


§ One Response to black women health stats

  • VandyMD says:

    Abstinence education is ideally available for everyone since everyone, boy or girl, benefits from knowing how to say “no.” No, I’m too young, no, I don’t know you well enough, no, I’d rather not tonight, no, I’m saving this special relationship for someone who wants to make a commitment to me as I commit to them…whatever no means.
    Black girls are as entitled to learn to say no as white ones. They are also entitled to know more about their health including their sexual health. Just because popular culture has sexualized black women/girls, does not mean they cannot learn and appreciate their bodies enough to hold it appart and separate from anyone who might use them. Education is important, but not enough. Behaviors depend on mentors and role-models and not enough of us adults are modeling abstinence to the next generation. They can’t learn what we don’t model. Heck, it is possible to have 100% STD infection rates at some point; mark my word. Then, we won’t be able to avoid infections if we become sexually active at all. It is clear that the sexual frequency in black girls is not different from white ones, they are just exposed to a higher prevalence of STDs in their intended sexual partners. More interracial sexual activity will just increase the prevalence of STDs. 100% prevalence is possible. It is up to us adults to teach young adults, both male and female, the benefits of self-control and intelligent sexual choices.

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