Planned Parenthood and Its Effect on the African American Community

Tuesday, 13 September 2011 02:36 Written by  Sydney Corryn

For decades Planned Parenthood has been a savior in communities, providing low-cost health care, birth control and gynecological advice to women. It has broken down barriers and acted as a leader in the female sexual revolution. Founded in 1916 in Brooklyn by women's rights leader Margaret Sanger, there are now centers and affiliates spanning across the United States. According to Planned, "Our 83 unique, locally governed affiliates nationwide operate more than 800 health centers, which reflect the diverse needs of their communities."

However, Planned Parenthood is often considered by the right-wing of America to be a rescue shelter for citizens with no morals or the uneducated minorities. The organization is an aid to low-income families, sexually active young adults and lost teenagers who need counseling. However, the future of the century old institution is looking bleak.

Republicans are fighting to defund Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics in states like Indiana and Kansas. The House has already passed the bill, but the Senate is fighting it. Religious taxpayers are concerned about their hard-earned pennies being used to fund abortions and other forms of contraceptives to women. Congress is also pushing to officially cut off funding for the 95-year-old non-profit. However,  protesters argue that by defunding these clinics, thousands of women and children would be without decent health care, including pap smears, STD testing and birth control distribution. “Title X” is under the Public Health Care Act which provides federal funding for family planning. When President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1970, it was approved by both parties. The Democrats appreciated the control it gave to families, while the Republicans viewed it as a way to decrease dependency on welfare.

Brittany Pepolowski, who has three young children, thinks defunding the organization would make people, “less dependent," stating that "it’s just like providing food stamps or medical insurance.”

She went on to say, “It’s about time people stand on their own two feet and stop depending on the government.” However, she herself lives off of government aid as unmarried mother. “It would be easier for me in my situation—I make more money living off the government.”

Kansas lawmakers are pushing to eliminate funding for all "Title X," which means women would be unable to even get basic health services. According to The Washington Post, a judge has put a temporary hold on the law until lawmakers reach a deal. Indiana is another state that is pushing to halt funding for abortions with taxpayer money.

How does it affect the black community?

With 75 percent of black children being born out of wedlock and into low-income homes, defunding Planned Parenthood creates even more barriers in the black community. According to, Caucasians make up 60 percent of abortions, which is still low compared to minorities. Further, black females are three times more likely than whites to have an abortion. African-Americans who sometimes have more kids than money, without birth control or abortions being available, may continue the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, could this be a wake-up call that will force women to make better choices for their future?

Akyva Powell, a married mother of one, is adamant about using birth control. Her son was her first pregnancy after being in a relationship for 10 years.

"There is a lax attitude in the community about having babies,” says. “I don’t think it’s going to help us make better choices. If anything it gives people an excuse to have a baby.”

Illinois ranks third in the nation for teen pregnancies among African-Americans and the numbers continue to rise. Many of these children are born into low-income and uneducated families where the financial strain is already evident. Only 1.5 percent of these mothers earn a college degree by the age of 30. Further, it’s not just teenagers who are becoming pregnant, but adult black women are making the same mistakes. Over half of unmarried women have abortions before they hit 40.

Powell says, “Access to birth control should be mandatory for women of all ages.”

Shutting down these clinics will mean no more legal abortions or low-cost female preventative care would be available. Having an abortion is an emotionally heavy choice that often never leaves a woman's mind.

Powell, who now has a ten-year IUD, remembers when women had no choice but to “resort to back alley abortions because they couldn’t afford it.” She also explains what unplanned pregnancies meant in the black community.

“Abortions meant something completely different [back then]. My 16-year-old aunt back in 1959, was lying in a pool of blood after having a back alley abortion. The bottom line is if a woman doesn’t want to have a baby, she won’t have one,” she says.

Although, abortion is cheaper than the expenses of raising a child, people continue to have multiple kids and rely on food stamps, public housing vouchers and other forms of government assistance. These social programs often make the lives of the mother and children easier, but shouldn’t be permanent: An adult relying on aid from the pockets of taxpayers is not a foundation for success.

Instead of getting upset at the Republicans "overly-judgmental" claims, let’s take a deep look at ourselves.

Mothers should make it a habit and a priority to open the lines of communication with their daughters about sex. Often, parents wait until something happens and then get mad. It is never too early to have conversations about sex, boys and self-esteem with our daughters. Doing so empowers and educates our children.

Let’s be proactive and not reactive.

Tabitha Robinson, a Social Sciences Professor at Columbia College Chicago says, "the black community is conservative when it comes to discussing those kinds of issues. Kids learn from their peers more than anything.”

A great responsibility of a parent is to forge an open and honest relationship between parent and child. This would help parents encourage their daughters to take the pill when they start dating instead of “assuming” that she and her boyfriend are using a condom.

The thought of having sex conversations with our daughters is difficult. It doesn’t matter if she is 16 or 26, age is immaterial, its preparation that matters. Robinson, who teaches Family and Society says, “I’m more concerned about how it will affect the young people. Abortions are not covered by aid which affects low-income citizens.”

“When you limit people’s choices of health care, there will always be consequences and one could be poverty,” states Robinson, who also works at a community center.

According to the National Campaign on Pregnancy, only 60 percent of African-Americans said they used a condom during their last sexual encounter, and only 10 percent said they were taking the pill. “With all the forms of birth control available out there, there is no excuse. If you are not using any form of protection then you want a baby,” says, Powell who is an advocate for birth control.

We are in a different age now, where condoms are at every Target, Kmart and gas station, so there are no excuses. Yes, it may be the man’s job to bring the glove, but the baby ends up going home with the mothers. Women need to always be prepared. They should also be able to enjoy the same sexual liberation and freedom men do, but we just have to be forward-thinking. The debate over family planning is not merely a moral conflict, but a financial one as well.

“The test to see if these programs are beneficial are lost in a political debate,” says Robinson.

Everything is government is about money and cutting social programs. However, the victims are people who are already suffering.


Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in journalism. Her interests range from socioeconomic problems, culture, traveling, dysfunctional political campaigns, and of course, Chicago's nightlife. She hopes to use her communication skills and passion for community issues to create a career for herself.  She will be teaching English in Chile for six months starting the end of June, 2012.

Sydney can be contacted at Sydney@glossmagazineonline or