“They didn’t talk about the social justice issues,” she says of the flawed reporting. “They didn’t talk about poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, maternal mortality, any of the contributing factors.” She adds that in Los Angeles, for example, hospital closures have resulted in too few medical providers to meet the black community’s needs, contributing to lack of family planning.
Some states have no providers who perform abortions, and legislation pending in Mississippi would result in closure of the sole facility there. Such laws pose the greatest disadvantage to poor, underprivileged women, according to Boonstra, because they already struggle to cover the basic cost of an abortion. Fifty-seven percent of women pay for the procedure out of pocket, the Guttmacher Institute reports.
The institute’s overview of state abortion laws as of May 1 is available at: www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_OAL.pdf.
Removing local abortion providers means that poor women also must pay for travel to a state that provides abortions and likely miss work or pay for child care if they are among the 61 percent of women who have abortions and are mothers. These costs may increase if women seek abortions in states that require them to endure a waiting period before terminating their pregnancies. Women in this predicament will likely have to miss more days of work and pay for extended stays in hotels, Boonstra says.
The abortion debate isn’t the only sexual health issue making headlines. Legislation to limit the type of sexual education taught in schools has also received major mainstream media coverage. Often omitted from this coverage is that youths of color deprived of sexual education classes may be especially vulnerable.
Black teens, for example, are twice as likely as whites or Latinos to develop a sexually transmitted infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2008. That figure was consistent even when factoring in income levels and numbers of sexual partners, an indication that these teens are not taught how to practice safer sex.
After a decline in teen pregnancy from 1990 to 2005, the rates rose in 2006 for all racial groups, particularly minorities. The Hispanic teen pregnancy rate rose by 126.6 percent that year, followed by blacks at 126.3 percent and whites at 44 percent.
“There’s plenty of research that shows abstinence-oriented sex education leads to more teen pregnancy and not less,” says Dominique DiPrima, host of Front Page, a Los Angeles radio show. DiPrima focuses largely on issues of concern to communities of color and women. She recently launched the Black Media Alliance, a coalition of African-Americans in media and broadcasting, to encourage the mainstream media to represent people of color more often as reporters, sources and decision makers.
“There needs to be more [discussion] in the media where women are talking with women and not in a defensive posture,” DiPrima says. “A lot of times, you see panels where there are no women. Not to say men should be excluded, but there [need] to be more places where women can have frank dialogue.”
DiPrima says the media rely too often on professional pundits rather than people of color, who are most likely to be affected.
The Black Media Alliance has had discussions with media outlets such as Clear Channel about racism and misogyny on air. DiPrima says she hopes that communities of color learn more about attacks on reproductive rights before pending legislation becomes law and it’s too late to act.
“I believe people are waking up and realizing that Republicans have gone so Neanderthal with their attacks on women,” she says. “They’re uniting women. I think it’s going to wake people up, and the end result may just be the opposite of what they’re planning for the country.”
A graduate of Occidental College, Nadra Kareem Nittle has written about race, religion, politics and more for a wide range of print and online publications. She writes on a regular basis for About.com, the Maynard Institute, America’s Wire and Outreach magazine, to name a few. This article originally appeared on http://mije.org.