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Abortion Rate Among Black Women Sparks Debate in Community

Monday, March 14, 2011

WNYC

A controversial anti-abortion billboard that went up — and was taken down — in Soho last month targeting the black community with the tag line "The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American is in the Womb" sparked debate about the city's abortion rate.

 

Fifty-seven percent of black pregnancies in the city end in abortion, according to 2009 data from the city's Department of Health. For white women, the number is 20 percent and for the city overall it is about 39 percent. Though the number of abortions among black women remained steady for several years, the statistic startled some within the community.

It became the topic of a morning public affairs show on hip-hop and R&B station Hot 97 last Sunday.

"Why are so many women in this situation to begin with?" posed host Lisa Evers. "I mean, having unprotected sex and then letting it get to an unplanned pregnancy?"

Blogger Jamilah Sister Toldja Lemieux chimed in: "Culturally, we're almost suicidal. ... We don't place a certain value on our own lives," she said.

The number of 15- to 19-year olds giving birth or having abortions overall has for the most part trended downward for the last 10 years. And some teenagers in the city are having meaningful conversations about self-control, self-esteem and respectful relationships — but putting those into practice isn't always easy.

Sixteen-year-old Anthony Murray, who is part of Brooklyn Teen P.A.C.T. (Positive Actions and Choices for Teens), has been trained as a sex educator for teens. He said among his group of friends wearing condoms is mandatory.     

"We’re actually working on a PSA, a public service announcement, trying to raise awareness on using condoms and having protected sex," Murray said.

But Melody Ovalle, also 16 and trained as a sex educator, said girls may find it difficult to ask boys to wear condoms: "It's kinda disrespectful in a way to tell a teenager, 'Oh, you have to use a condom,' because they’ll take it as an insult that you asked them to wear a condom when it's really just about sexual health," she said.

The teenagers said their peers can be afraid to go to health clinics and may feel like they have to hide their sexual activity. Lack of communication about sex can lead to believing in myths about sex, they said.

Abortions are highest among women between the ages of 20 and 29 across all ethnicities.

Dr. Gail Blakley, director of Women’s Health Services at Community Healthcare Network, said she believes the abortion rate among black women should be seen as another health disparity.

Blakley, who oversees three clinics that serve primarily low-income black and Latina women, said those who are uninsured and not going to the doctor regularly are less likely to discuss different contraceptive methods and ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Blakley said she regularly sees women of all ages who are not well informed and who pick contraception they can't keep up with. The pill, for instance, must be taken around the same time everyday.

Blakley also said negotiating condom use isn’t just a problem for teenagers.

"If you're not very confident and have the self esteem to say,' No, this is what I would like to do', you may find yourself succumbing to their demands," said Blakley.

Other healthcare providers say putting your foot down is even harder when a young girl's partner is much older or when a woman is in an abusive relationship. 

Taja Lindley, 25, volunteers as an abortion doula for an organization called The Doula Project and said she hasn't noticed a trend that's different for black women. Like a birth doula, Lindley said she provides compassion and support for women, which means she does simple things like bring them water and crackers. She also there to provide emotional support for those who seem anxious or look like they need to talk.

"I talk to them a little bit about what’s going on ... and ask them about how they might have ended up in that situation and what kind of form of birth control are you going to use after today or what kind of contraception do you use," said Lindley.

Lindley said not everyone wants to open up about their situations but at least one woman who was married and already had kids said she couldn’t afford another child. While she doesn’t know the income level of the women she’s seeing, she also believes the abortion rate is tied to poverty and health disparities and she questions the intentions of anti-abortion groups trying to draw attention to the black abortion rate.

"At the end of the day I don’t think it's about a concern for black babies or about black women I think black women are being used as pawns for another agenda that’s not that concerned about the health and well being of black women in our families and our communities," said Lindley.

At a recent press conference, Pastor Stephen Broden from the Texas based group Life Always -- the group behind the Soho billboard -- said he expected that black women would respond negatively to the ad "in large part it’s because they have only heard one side of the argumentation," he said.

Broden said more women need to know they can keep their babies because he believes the survival of the black community is tied to the mother’s womb. Meanwhile, women's groups across the country are continuing to organize and protest the billboard campaign.

 

Abortions in 2009 broken down by age. Information courtesy of the New York City Department of Health. Read the full report here.

 

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Comments [14]

William R. Craft

every black church should operate an orphanage to feed, cloth and house black babies from mothers who don't want them.

Nov. 22 2013 05:09 PM
tonya from Louisiana

you can't teach black women to keep theirs babies they still think that republicans that are racists pigs when its the democrats that are keeping them down. Like comment is this story{At the end of the day I don’t think it's about a concern for black babies or about black women I think black women are being used as pawns for another agenda that’s not that concerned about the health and well being of black women in our families and our communities," said Lindley.}We damn if we do and we damn don't!

Margaret Sanger was a extreme Racist

Jun. 29 2013 06:33 PM
Too Low from Africa

The abortion rate among africans is far too low it needs to be 100%

Jun. 23 2012 01:40 AM
Doranna McClendon from Phoenix, Arizona

Hello. Please watch the very short film Maafa21,as it very much concerns you. And if you are a young Black girl or woman,please "DON'T" have an abortion,do anything,if you can't take care of your baby,or don't want that king that is inside of you give it up for adoption,as abortion is "BLACK GENOCIDE." Margaret Sanger was a extreme Racist who was White,and she often gave speeches,at Klu Klux KLan rallies,the most "RACIST" organization,and gang. And she is the person that started Planned Parenthood,which is the main abortion provider. soon there will be no more African-Americans left in this country.

Apr. 11 2012 05:42 PM
Mrs.Dont Point from CANOGA PARK CALI

First of all i grew up in Canoga Park ,Ca and i was about the 20 black female at Noble Jr High Majority of the were anglo's and they we'er like 16 17 i had ove a hundred anglo friend and at least 85 girl in 1995 had had an abortion,,,,,,, how do i know i was the Friend no boys like but was cool with everybody and each one of them Told me some of the snuck and had two abortions>>.>>> FROM THE HORSES MOUTH!!!!!!!!!!!

Mar. 02 2012 07:40 PM
pookie from ga

U PEOPLE ARE FREAKINGPSYCHOS FOR KILLING YOUR UNBORN CHILDREN!! AND UR GOING TO HELL!!

Apr. 27 2011 07:36 PM
Rex from PGH PA

Keep your legs crossed or wrap that rascal until you are married and can afford to raise a child correctly. This should be implemented everywhere in the world.

The answer to the adverse plight of any ethnic minority is through education not population. If you can’t feed all the babies that you already have, making more will make it worse.

Did MLK preach that you should get an education and a job and rise to the level of your abilities? (that would be a big yes)

Or did he preach to the contrary? (I don’t think so)

Somebody has to earn the money in order for the welfare system to work.
If everybody is on welfare and no one is earning the money, the whole system will collapse and everyone will starve equally.
Hey it is equal and fair when every one starves together.
That’s where communism goes wrong.

Apr. 06 2011 09:28 AM
Ed Pendleton, Esq. from New York, New York

The problem is not getting preggers but it is in not keeping the babies. In the 60s Black folks had children when they were 17, 18, 19, 20 etc. They married and formed families. That does not happen today. There is a need for more Black babies and Black people in this country.
We will never have any political power if we remain at 30-40 million people. We need at least 50 million Black people in this
country to make a further impact. Stop killing Black babies. Have the babies and have a future in America.

Mar. 20 2011 07:04 PM
Dr. La Verne Tolbert from CA

Condoms and contraception are not the solution obviously. The 40-year experiment of school-based clinics proves that giving condoms to kids only increases the level of sexual activity, which results in increased levels of pregnancy, abortions, and STDs. Why aren't our children taught abstinence? Because Planned Parenthood sex "experts" don't think black kids are capable of self-control! It's time for us to wake up.

Mar. 15 2011 01:22 AM
Paul J. Bosco from MANHATTAN

The article almost contends that, among pregnant women, black women are three times as likely to have an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy as white women.

Really? Is it just possible there is more to this story?

What are the comparisons between black women in NYC and those across the USA?

How do rates compare, by race, among MARRIED WOMEN?

Maybe this story was rushed into print. There are many issues here, with most of them fodder for considerable debate, on questions related to race, maternity, abortion and medical ethics.

By WNYC standards, this was not an informative article.

-Paul J. Bosco
Manhattan

Mar. 14 2011 12:28 PM
bernie from bklyn

@rapsnum-
that's totally ill-informed and reckless things that you are insinuating. it's so simple- a very high % of black women get abortions BUT A VERY HIGH % OF BLACK WOMEN GET PREGNANT! WHY? that's the real truth in these stats. can you answer that question? do you really think these stats represent a black to lessen the black population?

Mar. 14 2011 10:45 AM
Rapnsum

You might want to investigate the VERY racist and Eugenics foundings of abortion organizations if you are to claim to be even remotely "unbiased" in your "report". Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger admitted gleefully that she gave KLAN speeches, she allowed racists to be published in her BC Review and she was a card carrying member of the VERY RACIST American Eugenics Society. Check out the documentary Maafa21 which is 2.5 hours of proof of how abortion is being used to exterminate the black race ! This issue is to important to Black people to be "White Washed" by a bias ! http://www.maafa21.com

Mar. 14 2011 10:27 AM
Jackson from Woodstock, GA

Thank God for the internet otherwise people outside of NYC would never hear of the death culture going on in that city and it would have free reign to kill without hindrance. People will now see and do something - outsiders will call the evil to task.

Mar. 14 2011 09:23 AM
bernie from bklyn

the biggest source of violent crime in this city are the housing projects that are filled w/ kids who have had kids. it's an endless cycle that has to end.
sure, these stats may say that black women have more abortions % wise but what these stats really say is that black women and men, girls and boys more specifically, don't use contraception. not only is there a lack of self-control but coupled with the dismissal of the responsible use of contraception, there is no end in sight for this problem. PLEASE don't draw the conclusion that black women need to bring more children to term because they do not. condoms anyone? birth control pills?

Mar. 14 2011 09:18 AM

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