While the rest of the policy world is going a bit crazy arguing about the debt ceiling or trying to restrict women’s reproductive health access, how about a bit of good news for young women? Today a groundbreaking bill was introduced in Congress with a first-ever policy approach that combines teen dating violence prevention and teen pregnancy prevention in communities of color.
The “Communities of Color Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Act,” HR 2678, recognizes that a broader approach is needed to address teen pregnancy in communities of color, including the role coercion and violence plays in unintended pregnancy, and invests in getting young people of color the information and skills they need to build healthy relationships. It further addresses the need among racial or ethnic minority and immigrant communities for culturally appropriate information and education on issues of reproductive and sexual health.
The bill will be introduced today by U.S. Representative and Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force, Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Both are long-time champions of efforts to reduce health disparities and violence among Latinos and other ethnic communities.
Young women of color in general, and particularly immigrant young women, often experience a multitude of barriers to essential health care and information and this bill is a good start in providing new resources.
In 2009 the teen birth rate for Latinas, African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives was more than double the teen birth rate of non-Hispanic Caucasians. However, disparities in contraceptive use are closely connected to social and economic inequities in communities of color; for example, a Latina girl is three times more likely to be without health insurance than her white counterpart.
Dating violence is a growing crisis among our teens: 1 in 4 adolescents reporting emotional, physical, or sexual violence each year. Teens in abusive relationships are at significantly higher risk for unintended pregnancy, poor pregnancy outcomes, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Adolescent girls in physically abusive relationships are three times more likely to become pregnant than non-abused girls.
These can be reduced if we give young people more resources to recognize, avoid, or get out of unhealthy relationships.
Not only is the bill unique in its integrated approach to pregnancy prevention, but it also recognizes the need to help teens develop healthy relationships. The Communities of Color Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Act would:
- fund demonstration projects for new and existing teenage pregnancy prevention program interventions with a focus on supporting community-based organizations that are well-positioned to serve youth in ethnic and racial groups with the highest teen pregnancy rates;
fund multimedia public education and awareness about teen pregnancy and related social and emotional issues, such as violence prevention;
study factors that contribute to disproportionately high rates of teenage and unintended pregnancy in communities of color, and the role that violence and abuse play in the decisions young people make about relationships, sex, pregnancy, and childbearing.
The legislation has been advocated by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Futures Without Violence (formerly the Family Violence Prevention Fund), and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy .
This groundbreaking legislation will give our young people support to build healthy relationships and improve their overall health and well-being.