Blacks want health care, not judgment

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt | 4/3/2013, 7:19 a.m.

Surprisingly, 86 percent of African Americans believe that contraception is a part of basic health care. An even larger percentage believes that publicly funded health services should provide birth control to low-income women who want it.  

When questioned about abortion, 79 percent of respondents said they support it remaining legal and that they believe it should be available in their own communities. In fact, African American support for legalized abortion is nearly identical to the overall percentage of Americans who, in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, said they support legalized abortion.

Most significant, an overwhelming majority of African Americans said that regardless of how they personally feel about abortion, it should remain legal, and women should have access to safe care if and when they need it. This belief held across political and religious lines, with 74 percent of conservatives, 88 percent of liberals and more than three-quarters of regular churchgoers saying abortion should remain safe and legal.

These findings are enlightening and can be a persuasive argument against continued efforts by some legislators and interest groups to reduce access to reproductive health-care services and vilify the women who use them.

Even today, following a national election that was won largely on the basis of how women — particularly women of color — voted, too many lawmakers are working to rescind the broadened access to birth control provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Given that African American women are more likely to experience pregnancies that result in poor maternal and infant health outcomes, we have an urgent need for our views to be accurately represented and seriously considered.

This new poll makes clear to lawmakers and groups that would target our communities with racially charged rhetoric that a majority of African Americans — like most other Americans — believe women, not politicians, should be trusted to make decisions about their reproductive health.

Getting out of the way of women and our ability to access the care we need is the best way to pay tribute to Women’s History Month.

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt is the president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative.