“Contemporary Challenges to Black Women’s Reproductive Rights”

April 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

This essay was very eye opening for me because it brought to light many issues that I was not even aware of. For example, the Norplant birth control that women receiving welfare or who were convicted of drug or child abuse were forced to use. This is such an obvious step against a person’s constitutional rights and yet I have never heard of the event until now. The essay looked at the issues today from a historical perspective and analyzed why laws concerning a mothers right to conceive and/or raise a child is so biased against non white women. Flavin stated, “Once slavery was abolished and black women’s capacity to bear children lost its economic value to dominant-class whites, black women’s childbearing was devalued and discouraged by European Americans.” Today, there are many laws and regulations that target minorities. Outreach efforts tend to ignore drug and alcohol use in white communities and alcohol use while pregnant, which is more common among white women, has a much less severe punishment than other drug use. Welfare, which has been discussed in several other essays, is also discussed here and the program’s flaws are apparent. “Studies suggest that many women are poor, not because they have children, are lazy and make bad choices, but rather because dropping wages have made it increasingly difficult for female-headed households to escape poverty.” Another institution that seems to target minority women is the foster care system. “What drives child welfare and other reproductive policies appears not to be a genuine and deep-seated concern about the physical and emotional well-being of children so much as the expression of a thinly veiled attempt to dictate what constitutes a ‘good mother’, particularly when the mother in question is poor and black.”

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§ 2 Responses to “Contemporary Challenges to Black Women’s Reproductive Rights”

  • singh0321 says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog because I thought you did a very good job bringing up a wide range of issues that Flavin had written about. While I agree with everything you wrote about, I just wanted to add a few interesting comments on the topics you addressed. For starters, I want to say that I had the same reaction about the constitutional legality of forcing women to use products like Norplant so they could not longer reproduce. We could probably ask Dr. David to further elaborate on this topic. My guess is, it probably is against the constitution but was probably overlooked.

    I also agree with everything you stated about the welfare system, but I wanted to point out one more interesting fact. One of the arguments made by the people who are trying to restrict black reproduction is that black women keep having babies so they can keep taking money from the welfare system. I find this argument to be rather ironic because statistically, the percent of white people who are on welfare is greater than the number of black people on welfare.

    The final point I wanted to bring up has to do with your comments on Foster Care. I wanted to bring up one of the statistics that Flavin uses in the text to further elaborate on how minorities are targeted by foster cares. Flavin points out that in 2003, 906,000 children were found to be victims of child maltreatment and neglect. While only 1 out of 4 were black, black children comprise of 35% of the children in foster care. This example clearly proves that there is clearly a target on the back of minorities.

  • For more information on the legality and constitutionality of these state-sponsored birth control mandates, read Dorothy Roberts’ Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty. Roberts is a prominent legal scholar and expert on these issues. Her book is a classic text that takes the issues presented in this essay and examines them fully within the context of constitutional law and precedent and American history.

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