Emergency Contraception and African American women

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval for over-the counter sales of emergency contraception (EC) a year ago was just a beginning victory for women in this country in terms of reproductive justice. Why? Because when the fault lines of race, class, and geographical location contribute to some of the existing discriminations and disparities marginalized populations of women confront, the politics of “choice� are never as simple as the perception of it being merely a matter of public versus private domain. Accessibility to the drug also becomes a factor where obtaining EC is as difficult as obtaining an OB/GYN appointment.

In African-American communities – urban and rural – across the country, information about EC and its accessibility is negligible. Those women and communities that do know about EC face an uphill battle either finding pharmacies in their communities that carry EC, or finding informed and culturally competent pharmacists and staff that dispense the drug.

African-American women, who are besieged by a cultural iconography of black female sexuality that is wild and wanton, face a distorted reality. As a consequence, they have high rates of sexual abuse and assaults (but low rates of reporting them), have the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies, and have the highest number of uninsured and underinsured population of women in the country.

EC would greatly reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the African-American community by affording women reproductive autonomy to invest in their health intervention and prevention care.

Reproductive justice is about access to information and the choices afforded to women. But without a multicultural and multifaceted EC awareness campaign to educate women about the drug and make it more easily accessible to them, a marginalized population of women will not have the choice to decide when they will or will not bear children. This has always been of crucial concern for African-America women, from slavery to present-day. Having control of their bodies and decisions that would provide them with the best self-care makes African-American women savvy health-care consumers and powerful health advocates for the entire community. Over-the-counter EC made accessible in black urban and rural communities across the country would be one commitment in the health care system to closing the health care gap that exists for African-American women.

Published on August 23, 2007 on  NARAL Pro-Choice America website at

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