Will Obama Talk Black Single Parenthood?

We asked Valerie Jarrett if he'd address it in his second term. Plus: Nia Long talks family planning.

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In response to a query from The Root, an official from the Obama administration noted that black people make up 20 percent of Title X patients, who are traditionally from low-income communities, seeking affordable care from government-subsidized family planning clinics. The administration further noted that this fall, the Mobile County Health Department in Alabama will implement the family planning program SIHLE, which is aimed at young African-American females.

The administration also touted its record defending and expanding comprehensive sexual-education programs in public schools, after years of an emphasis on abstinence-only education during the last Bush administration -- an emphasis that experts blamed for a rise in teen pregnancies in the U.S. during that time. However, recent Washington Post analysis found abstinence-only programs regaining some funding and prominence over the last year.

Talking about anything even tangentially related to sex is rarely easy, particularly for black Americans, many of whom come from religious backgrounds. At her appearance as a supporter of Planned Parenthood during the group's CBCF luncheon, Nia Long credited her own free-spirited upbringing with her child-rearing approach. The actress -- who shared that scripts for sequels to two of her most beloved films, Love Jones and The Best Man, are in the works -- told The Root that her parents never shied away from discussing the birds and the bees with her, and she said she won't with her sons, either. "As soon as I think anything's going on, there will be a big sit-down and a box of condoms!"

Long, who has faced criticism for her choice to have children before marrying and appearing to celebrate it in her recent appearance on the cover of Essence magazine, was emphatic that she is a proponent of proper family planning. She noted that while she has never married, she has been conscious of making choices that are conscientious and ensure that her children are safe and secure, both emotionally and financially. She also added that she has a wonderful and involved co-parent for her children, so she is not doing it alone.

"I think women need to be responsible before making the choice [to become a parent] and do it for the right reasons. If you're going to have a baby to save a relationship, that doesn't work. If you're going to have a baby to collect a check from someone else, that's not the right thing. You have to be responsible and be able to stand on your own," said Long.

Jarrett expressed a similar sentiment about the approach to parenthood, saying that she spoke with her own daughter about being accountable and making responsible choices. Jarrett reiterated a message of responsibility on behalf of the president, saying, "I think his conversation about responsibility applies very broadly, and I think it's important that we all recognize that making a decision to bring a child into this world is a very serious decision and there should be thoughtfulness that goes into it." She was quick to note this, however: "I don't think it's for the president to tell people what choices they [should] make when they want to have children. There are many people who don't believe in birth control, and he respects their decision."

Yet the first lady has embraced a campaign to encourage Americans to eat healthier and claim more personal responsibility in their eating habits, while respecting the rights of Americans ultimately to make their own dietary choices. Mrs. Obama could have taken a more passive approach -- simply eating healthily as an example, but never giving people the actual tools or encouragement to do so. But the White House ultimately recognized that having the first lady lend her voice and political capital to the importance of a healthy diet and exercise could save lives. Having her and her husband do the same on the issue of family planning could save black families.

Perhaps, if given a second term, they will feel empowered with the political courage and capital to do so.

Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent.

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Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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