Roe v. Wade Anniversary: For Black Women, the Issue Is Contraception

On the 41st anniversary of the landmark abortion-rights case, obstacles remain for black women and their health care choices.

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Though this seems like a no-brainer (after all, it does prevent something: pregnancy), conservatives have opposed this mandate—on religious grounds—and the dispute between opponents and the Obama administration will soon head all the way to the Supreme Court. In addition, the president has found himself facing off with conservatives over access to Plan B for teen girls. The emergency contraception can be used after intercourse, and immediate access to the drug can be the difference between a teen girl finding herself considering an abortion and not.

The bottom line is that if a woman doesn’t have adequate contraceptive coverage, family planning guidance or access to safe and legal abortion—and, in some cases, access to safety-net assistance programs and Medicaid because they’ve been reduced by budgetary cutbacks—what exactly is she supposed to do?

There’s a disconnect, politically and in terms of policy, when opponents of abortion are also the opponents of greater access to contraceptive care.

In an ideal world, no woman would need to seek an abortion. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Until we do, safe and legal abortion is preferable to seeing thousands of women die from unsafe and illegal abortions, or to seeing more children die from abuse and neglect because they were born to someone who was ill-equipped to care for them.

But an even more ideal solution is for pro-choice and pro-life activists, as well as policymakers, to start treating comprehensive sex education and access to contraception as what they are: America’s most important human rights issues.

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

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