According to The Guttmacher Institute, a leading sexual and reproductive health research organization, black teens have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States.
When researching teen pregnancy statistics for this blog entry I simply entered "black+teen+pregnancy" into a google search to see what I could find. A link to the Guttmacher site in which all reproductive and sexual health statistics in the US are given contained some brief but alarming insights into young women of color and the state of their overall reproductive and sexual health. I kept scrolling down the google page and was shocked and disappointed to find that although teen pregnancy rates have declined over the years the still disproportionately high teen birth rate for black women was not covered in a single major American online news source.
There is one exception to my bold and bolded assertion. The Washington Post, in their article entitled, A Statistical Portrait That Puts Black America In A Hopeful Light, written in 2007 suggest that the decline in teen pregnancy coupled with a number of other statistics is,
"Nothing particularly earth-shattering. But it’s progress — a quiet, almost imperceptible transformation that is all too easily overlooked amid the more-sensational list of racial failures."
Oh Washington Post how you offend me so…
The article unfortunately only addresses the pregnancy rates in DC and does not focus on the high pregnancy rates nationwide. Furthermore, the article couples the DC teen pregnancy statistics with nationwide statistics about black America’s educational and professional achievements to suggest that
“black America: [is not simply] a place of hopelessness, forever in despair”
True, but I am wondering where are the news articles urging Congress to end funding for failed ab-only programs that put all youth at risk but clearly disporportionatly harm young black women? Where are the news articles calling for the health education community to take an increased interest in developing programs designed with women of color’s specific needs in mind? Where are the articles that try to address and account for why the teen pregnancy rate is so high in communities of color? Where are the articles outlining grassroots initiatives to empower young women of color to practice healthy sex behaviors. Remember, pregnancy is the result of unprotected sex and unprotected sex also puts women at increased risk for contracting STI’s.
I did find a couple articles that dared to take up these important questions. Blackwomen’s health highlighted and analyzed important factors such as poverty and sexual abuse that may contribute to the high teen pregnancy rate. The article concluded with strategies for empowerment designed to decrease teen pregnancy. My google query also returned an article about the black teen pregnancy published online by the BBC, a leading British news source. The BBC article, opens
“Black teenagers need to be targeted to reduce the high number of pregnancies, the government says…. The government said the local agencies needed to adopt sensitive, culturally appropriate ways to cut the rate.”
The glaring inconsistency in how black teen pregnancy is covered in the US and the UK is incredibly frustrating. The UK clearly places black teen pregnancy at the center of the reproductive and sexual health discussion. In the US, black teen pregnancy remains at the margins (in black-centered news and poorly included in mainstream news) only to be adequately discussed by the effected community.
To me, the message is clear: black women and our health concerns, issues, and needs in the US remain a world apart.
To be continued…