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.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

For sure, the president has been specific about the social and economic ramifications produced by absentee fatherhood, which is a common result of a lack of family planning. “We know the statistics: that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison,” he said in his 2008 Father’s Day speech.

Likewise, President Obama’s administration has not shied away from fighting on behalf of Planned Parenthood, a position that has resulted in one of the greatest political battles of recent years.

So it is odd that his administration would shy away from making a specific case for why the family planning services that groups like Planned Parenthood provide are so vital to the black community. The latest data confirm that there is a knowledge gap in the black community regarding family planning, with black women having the highest rates of unintended pregnancies of any group in the country. 

A Perception Problem Persists

All of this is happening while Planned Parenthood has struggled to improve its image and outreach within the black community in recent years. Jarrett does not agree with that assessment and told us, “I wouldn’t concede that Planned Parenthood is viewed negatively. There are many, many people in the African-American community who rely on the services of Planned Parenthood day in and day out, and it provides an essential service to so many low-income women who can’t afford them on their own.”

But Jasmine Burnett, a consultant who has worked with family planning organizations, including Planned Parenthood, on their outreach to black women, said that the group “absolutely” has a perception problem. “There is a perception in the black community that Planned Parenthood only provides abortions,” though such services account for only 3 percent of what the organization does.

Burnett added that Planned Parenthood has also struggled to confront its past. Its founder, Margaret Sanger, expressed some racist ideology that nearly a century later is still being exploited by conservative opponents of Planned Parenthood and still scares some black Americans into believing that the organization is a tool for harm within the black community rather than a tool for providing essential women’s health services such as breast-cancer screenings.