This morning while doing my workout of the day, I left my television on CNN. The topic of discussion was free birth control starting August 1, 2012. According to the report, not only is the government making birth control free (meaning no co-payments in addition to the insurance one already has), but also free screenings for gestational diabetes, free screenings for HPV (the human papillomavirus), breastfeeding support, and counseling on sexually transmitted diseases. Read the article at CNN here or see the PDF document of the entire Compilation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act here.
I attended a religious institution and do have friends of certain groups that do not endorse this provision. However, I have always been an advocate of methods that I believe help women exert agency over their lives in some way or another. While practicing abstinence is the absolute best way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy (and a sexually transmitted disease), I do feel that women in our country today, should also have a right to the type of life they choose to lead. If this involves being sexually active, then being able to do so without the worry of becoming pregnant with a child that one does not want, is better than the lack of choice in carrying the pregnancy to term, potentially seeking an abortion that could jeopardize one's health and/or ability to conceive at a later time in life, putting one's child up for adoption, or in an already overcrowded foster care system.
Because I am black-woman-identified (BW First), my initial reaction to the broadcast was to think about how this new Act would affect the millions of young black woman living in the United States. As we are all aware, there is a disproportionately large number of children being born out of wedlock in predominantly black residential areas. I would venture to say, a lot of these children were not carefully planned, and perhaps were not wanted by their mothers in the first place, given their respective circumstances. Now, there is no way you or myself can determine conclusively whether or not these young black women had access to birth control at the time they were sexually active, but let us look at what we do know:
- Birth Control currently costs money, for the insured and the uninsured.
- Young BW, on a whole, do not comprise a financially stable or wealthy portion of the African American population
- Young BW are often living in areas where they are exposed to sexual images, language, and advances from male groups that are often hyper-sexual in nature.
- Young BW live in predominantly black residential areas where the idea of a girl or young woman getting pregnant after a few sexual encounters (consensual or not) is not uncommon and in some cases regarded as a normal and perfectly acceptable occurrence in life.
- Young BW who do get pregnant and carry the child to term often become and remain single-mothers for a very long time (in other words, the male who took equal part in creating the child, does not stay around on a consistent basis to help raise the child with the mother)
- Young BW (and other groups of women) who are single parents, often lead a life of financial burden and limitations (with or without the assistance of government aid)
CAN WE SEE A CONNECTION HERE...
An unwanted pregnancy is not a joyous affair for a young mother, irrespective of race, because it can be extremely taxing on the woman for the rest of her life. For this to happen to a Young BW is deeply unsettling to me. If these Young BW are able to acquire health insurance that will allow them access to birth control, coupled with a 0 copayment according to what this new Act is declaring, the lives of Young BW have the opportunity to fully pursue their interests and endeavors without the hindrance of raising a child. Can one even begin to imagine how much free access to birth control on a consistent basis for a Young BW could serve to remedy the high rates of black children raised in already strained households, government spending on programs, even our image as Young BW living in the U.S. The sky is the limit for Young BW who are able to dedicate 100% of their effort and time toward self-improvement, education, etc. How about how this could affect their health and that of older black women who often help their daughters in raising the out of wedlock child. This is definitely food for thought.
About Young BW Determined to Live Well
After being a faithful reader of various blogs dedicated to positively influencing black women, I recognized quite a few young black women in their teens, 20's, and 30's who were touched by the message as much as myself. This blog is my attempt to reach out and connect with young black women on issues we may be facing at a very transitional time in our lives. I encourage all, irrespective of age, class, origin, etc. to participate in the discussions and brainstorming sessions we have. I look forward to the potential of this blog and hope to hear from Young Black Women Determined to Live Well like myself!