.. one sin for which the penalty is national death, race suicide” (Davis 19). It is no wonder that reproduction in America is grossly stratified, especially when our great leaders reflect and reinforce the racist, eugenic, classist notions of acceptable reproduction. Interestingly enough, Roosevelts race suicide arguments drew more people to support the birth control movement, as well as exposed the racial divisions within the movement (Davis 19).
The birth control movement reflected and reinforced some of the racial divisions surrounding reproductive rights. Angela Davis explains that birth control..
. is a fundamental prerequisite for the emancipation of women. Since the right of birth control is onvisonols advantageous to women of all classes and races, it would appear that even vastly dissimilar womens groups would have attempted to unite around this issue. In reality, however, the birth control movement has seldom succeeded in uniting women of different social backgrounds, and rarely have the movements leaders popularized the genuine concerns of working-class women.Moreover, arguments advanced by birth control advocates have sometimes been based blatantly on racist premises. The progressive potential of birth control remains indisputable. But in actuality, the historical record of this movement leaves much to be desired in the realm of challenges to racism and class exploitation (15).
The abortion rights campaign was hindered by racial barriers that can be linked back to issues surrounding birth control. White women failed to grasp their black sisters concerns about genocide, and black women failed to recognize the urgency of both abortion and birth control campaigns (Davis16). Women of color were further separated from their white sisters by the popular practice of white reproductive rights leaders advocating programs that were directly aimed at limiting the reproductive rights, and human rights of black and colored women. Many women in the abortion movement advocated sterilization as a form of birth control for women of color (Davis 16).Davis further elucidates how issues around birth control split what could have been a cohesive movement for reproductive rights.
The voluntary motherhood slogan under which the birth control movement was organized “. . . was rigidly bound to the lifestyle enjoyed by the middle class and the bourgeois.The aspirations underlying the demand for voluntary motherhood did not reflect the conditions of working-class women, engaged as they were in a far more fundamental fight for economic survival. Since this first call for birth control was associated with goals that could only be achieved by women possessing material wealth, vast numbers of poor and working-class women would find it rather difficult to identify with the embryonic birth control movement” (Davis 18). Current birth control issues do not present as devastating problems as original testing and eugenic practices, though current problems surrounding birth control are extremely important to many women, especially poor women.
As stated before, poor in America generally equates black, or other minority status, and discussion of poor women is a discussion of colored women. Poor women of color, even though they bore the original burden of hazardous contraceptive tests, were denied, through various measures, access to oral contraception when it became available to the general public.Costs of producing and further developing the Pill were inflated by the unprecedented [and unnecessary] multi-tier testing requirements imposed on female contraception by the Food and Drug Administration (Djerassi The Pill 133). Expensive testing requirements coupled with sensational press coverage of the Nelson Hearings, held in 1970 to investigate whether people were properly informed of the Pills alleged hazards, lead pharmaceutical companies to cut spending on contraceptive research and development (Djerassi The Politics 100) thus thwarting improvement of the Pill and further inflated oral contraceptive costs.
Although a monthly cycle of contraceptives costs $0.15 to produce, consumer prices range from $15-35, and with the medical examinations requisite for securing contraceptive prescriptions, minimum annual costs of oral contraception is $250 to $640 (Brown). Added to the financial burden, is that while 97% of large-group insurance plans provide prescription drug coverage, only 33% pay for birth control pills (Guttmacher), and for women on Medicaid, contraceptives are harder to obtain, as only 50% of gynecologists accept Medicaid reimbursement for contraceptive visits (Samara and Forrest). Women of color are at a distinct disadvantage in securing viable birth control options.Some access to reproductive health services is offered to young and/or low income women through Title X.
Title X, part of the Public Health Service Act of 1970, was designed to increase accessibility of family planing services to women who are not eligible for Medicaid and has been defunded access (NFPRHA 6/24/1997). Title X clinics are also facing face ever increasing governmental regulations expressly designed to limit access to contraception and abortion (NFPRHA 6/24/1997). Financial burdens are intensified with the increasing Catholicization of public hospitals. With restriction or elimination of family planing services following increased mergers and acquisitions between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals, many poor women are denied access to contraception because they cannot find a provider, nor can they afford to travel to an area where they can receive these integral services. Bibliography Works Cited Alexander, Jacqui. “Mobilizing Against the State and International “Aid” Agencies: “Third World” Women Define Reproductive Freedom.
” From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement. Edited by Marlene Gerber Fried. South End Press, Boston:1990. Pp 49-62. Brown, Sarah and Leon Eisenberg.The Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families. National Academy Press, Washington DC: 1995. Chesler, Ellen.
Margaret Sanger: Woman of Valor. Doubleday, New York: 1992.Davis, Angela. “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights.
” From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement. Edited by Marlene Gerber Fried. South End Press, Boston:1990. Pp 15- 26. Djerassi, Carl. The Politics of Contraception. W.
W.Norton & Company, New York: 1979. Djerassi, Carl. The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas Horse: The Autobiography of Carl Djerassi. Basic Books, New York: 1992. Forrest, J.D.and R.
Samara. “Impact on Publicly Funded Contraceptive Services and Implications for Medical Expenditures.” Family Planning Perspectives 28 (1996): 188- 195. The Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Uneven and Unequal: Insurance Coverage of Reproductive Health Services.Washington DC: n.p., 1995. La Operacion. Directed and produced by Ana Maria Garcia. McLaren, Angus.
A History of Contraception: From Antiquity to the Present Day. Blackwell Inc., Cambridge, MA: 1990. NFPRHA Report (National Family Planning and reproductive Health Association).
“Title X Family Planning News.” 24 June 1997. Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack.
Abortion and Womans Choice: the State, Sexuality and Reproductive Freedom. Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA: 1990. Reynolds, Moira Davidson. Women Advocates of Reproductive Rights Eleven who Lead the Struggle in the United States and Great Britain.McFarland & Company, Jefferson, NC: 1994.