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Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices
By Charlene Muhammad ,Contributing Writer
Published July 6, 2017

A new report linking reproductive, racial, and criminal justice challenges facing Black women highlights what they stand to lose with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

“Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice,” draws from national briefing sessions held by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

The overall health and well-being of Black women was the dominant issue, said Marcela Howell, In Our Own Voice’s founder and executive director.

“What we looked at was the wide range of all the intersections of Black women’s lives in terms of accessing reproductive health care and what factors went into that,” Howell stated.

Under the Affordable Care Act, passed by former President Barack Obama, so many Black women obtained access to quality health care, and in many cases, for the first time in their lives, she said.

“Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices” looked at breast cancer and maternal health issues, violence against women, both in terms of intimate personal partner violence as well as police violence against Black women, Howell stated.  She said all have been addressed by the ACA, and are at risk with any repeal by President Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

“Obamacare had a list of essential health benefits.  That is, your plan should cover maternity care.  It should cover pediatric care.  It should cover emergency rooms.  It should cover mental health care, all of these different things,” Howell said.

“What both the House and the Senate Bill did was eliminate those things, so if you want maternity care, you have to buy an extra rider.  You have to pay more,” Howell stated.

“Since ACA enrollment began in 2013, the uninsured rates for Black people has declined by more than 50 percent. Fifteen million Black women got coverage through the ACA, and the uninsured rate for Black women fell by nearly seven percent,” indicated “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices.”

The report indicated, “In a majority of states, more than 80 percent of women of color ages 18-64 now have health insurance; and 3 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) have achieved almost universal coverage (95 percent or greater) among women of color.”

Further, the document noted, having access to health insurance and services is not enough to ensure that the care Black and low-income women received is high-quality and culturally effective.

Factors like racism, sexism, and provider bias remain challenges that hamper women of color’s access to care that is delivered in a respectful and appropriate manner, researchers reported.

They indicated:

  • A wealth of evidence shows that ‘members of socially disadvantaged groups perceive that they receive inferior or biased treatment within the health care setting;
  • Black women are less likely to receive timely and aggressive medical treatment, compared to their White counterparts;
  • The negative impact on their long-term health is significant, and is clearly seen in Black women’s outcomes on indicators including breast cancer, hypertension, and maternal death, among others;
  • The impact of racism, sexism, and provider bias runs deep and specific efforts are needed to improve the health care system above and beyond mere access to health insurance.

The report looked at factors like economic justice and criminal justice issues, as well.  It dealt with the idea of Black women writing their own narrative, their vision for their future, and different reproductive health issues.

The document features a 50-state fact sheet, which looks at how policies in each state impact the health outcome of Black women.

In Our Own Voices’ next steps are to probe mental health and Black immigration issues, according to Howell.  They are currently writing those two chapters to put into the report online, and will include them in the next run of the actual report, she said.

The organization is planning a 10-city tour with the policy report, which will include roundtable briefings with Black women leaders to determine what the data means and how to use it, Howell said.

 

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