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Abortion Rights Issue Regains Momentum

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(Debra Sweet/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

(Debra Sweet/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When she was five months pregnant, past the point where she could obtain a legal abortion, 23-year-old Kenlissia Jones of Albany, Ga. ordered prescription abortion pills from a Canadian website. When Jones started feeling pain, she was rushed to the hospital.

En route, she delivered the fetus in the backseat of her neighbor’s car. The fetus died 30 minutes later. Instead of being comforted in her hour of loss, Jones was arrested at the hospital and charged with murder.

With agonizing stories such as Jones’ in the news, reproductive rights issues are again coming to the forefront of public attention and are certain to be an issue in the upcoming presidential election.

That battle is already being played out at the state level. Since 2010, legislators in 31 states have passed almost 300 abortion-related laws, more than 50 of them in this year alone.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, White women accounted for 55 percent of all legal abortions in 2011. Black women accounted for 37 percent. Still, reproductive policies disproportionately affect African Americans. They report more unintended pregnancies, have a maternal death rate three-times that of White women, and often lack the health insurance that fully covers women’s care.

“These new restrictions are changing the circumstances under which abortion is provided and how abortion is accessed. We also seeing real access issues, depending on socio-economic status and racial status,” said Elizabeth Nash, who analyzes state policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit advocating for reproductive rights.

“Low-income women have fewer resources on which they can rely, and these restrictions are having more of an impact on them,” she continues, adding that middle- and upper-income women can afford the procedure, which typically costs around $500, have flexible jobs that allow for time off, and have the resources to travel if need be.

Data from the Pew Research Center supports the notion that Black people tend to be socially conservative on causes such as gay marriage and abortion, out of religious belief. But according to surveys conducted by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a national policy organization, there’s another overlooked factor.

“Overwhelmingly Black Americans, by numbers of 80 to 95 percent, support a women’s right to determine for herself when she will have children, and how she will have those children,” says Dazon Dixon Diallo, founding partner of the In Our Own Voice agenda and founder and president of SisterLove, an Atlanta-based reproductive justice organization.

“Regardless of religion, regardless of political ideology, regardless of education level or income level, and age…Black folks overwhelmingly support statements that, when it comes to abortion, ‘We should trust Black women to make the important decisions about themselves and their families.’”

As part of a new effort to challenge women’s care provisions built into the Affordable Care Act, 31 states have enacted Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers policies, or “TRAP laws,” which set requirements for abortion clinics and/or medical professionals who perform the procedure.

The laws share a few commonalities across states. For example, physician offices and clinics must obtain a license from the health department, which makes the licensee subject to random searches of their offices and client medical records.

But in general, the requirements vary widely. In Missouri, for example, doctors cannot work in a clinic unless they are also on the staff list at the nearest hospital. In North Carolina, a clinic must meet specific standards for the air quality, flow, and vent placement in recovery rooms. Some laws require clinics to meet hospital standards. Some require medically unnecessary ultrasounds or mental health services before an abortion, while other states shrink the window of time a woman can obtain one.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the lone clinic in Mississippi that offers abortion services, has become the stage for a possible U.S. Supreme Court battle. One of the state’s 2012 TRAP laws requires abortion physicians to have privileges at a local hospital. The Jackson center would not be able to meet that requirement and would be forced to close. The court case argues that this closure violates the 14th Amendment rights of women in Mississippi.

The case is on hold until at least the fall, when the court will reconvene and decide whether to consider it.

“When we’ve seen TRAP laws go into effect, we’ve seen clinics close for no good reason. That law does no good for any woman and is not justified in any sense of the word,” said Nash, referring to the Mississippi law in question and others like it. “What would make a lot of sense is for this law to be repealed so the clinic can remain open.”

Abortion is often only one of a range of services physicians and clinics provide, including providing contraceptives, prenatal care, sex education, affordable or free STD testing, and infertility services. Laws targeted at abortion also disrupt access to these services when they threaten clinics’ existence.

Kenlissia Jones’ murder charge was later dropped; although Georgia has TRAP laws, terminating a pregnancy is not a criminal act. As the Supreme Court and state legislatures recess for the summer, various advocacy and social justice groups are mobilizing and educating citizens on the issue in preparation for the election and legislative seasons this fall.

“We have to be a lot more engaged, and especially among Black women as leaders…that we’re able to articulate these issues from within our own communities and on our own behalf,” Diallo explained. “And that when we know these kinds of issues come up – like with Kenlissia – we are proactively ready for any legislative work that needs to be done, before we have to react to punitive legislation that may be working to close any kind of opportunities for women to be self-determining and have autonomy in their own bodies.”

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Bay Area

Spoken Word Offers Aid to Black Men Facing Hardships

Their mission statement highlights that through sharing their lived experiences, members of Black Men Speaks and Men of Color “promote self and communal wellness, recovery, and freedom”.

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Image provided by Black Men Speak website

According to a National Health Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2019 for the African American community, 6.5 million African Americans had a mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder.

These numbers don’t compare to the more in depth statistics on those who receive treatment and who do not and how, specifically, Black men are affected. For a lot of Black men and men of color, access to resources that may aid in mental health or substance abuse treatment are slim because of the influence within their own communities and outside of it to turn their backs on things that are perceived as anything less than the strength they should possess as a man, especially a Black man.

Black Men Speak, INC.(BMS), an international speakers bureau, was founded in 2009 through the Alameda Pool of Consumer Champions with this very notion in mind, that the best way to connect to other Black men who were struggling with mental health and substance abuse was through storytelling of their own struggles.

Three years following Black Men Speaks’ foundation, Men of Color(MOC) speaker’s bureau was established, which allowed them to expand their reach in the community.

Their mission statement highlights that through sharing their lived experiences, members of Black Men Speaks and Men of Color “promote self and communal wellness, recovery, and freedom”.

The stories that are told are set in the present day and feature unique challenges of loss, trauma, social and family issues and community violence and the importance of faith on the road to overall wellness & recovery.

Besides aiding their fellow men through connection in storytelling, BMS offers resources that help with employment, housing, homeless prevention, mentoring and peer support and training for presentation and public speaking.

Alongside these resources and mentoring, they make sure to do their part in advocating and assertively addressing other issues within their communities that have a direct impact on the African American community.

Black Men Speak is located in Oakland at 303 Hegenberger Road in Suite 210. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 510-969-5086 or email 1blackmenspeak@gmail.com.

 

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Community

4 Best Life Organization Services Homeless Youth in the Stockton Community

You can visit their website at https://4bestlife.org/ to learn more about the programs and resources. You can also contact them by phone at 209-645-0496 they’re located at 7554 Pacific Avenue #1383 Stockton,Ca 95269

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photo by www.4bestlife.org

4 Best Life Organization mission is to collect and distribute clothing, while also providing hope, help others, inspire children to break the cycle of homelessness by pursuing education and goals. They also offer resources to those in indefinite need and experiencing hardship. 4 Best Life, are actively seeking volunteers in the Stockton area and are always taking donations. You can visit their website at https://4bestlife.org/ to learn more about the programs and resources. You can also contact them by phone at 209-645-0496 they’re located at 7554 Pacific Avenue #1383 Stockton, Ca 95269

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African American News & Issues

NAACP Student Members Can Apply for $15,000 Scholarships Until June 18

Students interested in the scholarship can apply on the NAACP site. The deadline is June 18. The winners, who the NAACP’s N-SPIRE committee – a group that “focuses on the creation, development and awarding of scholarship programs” –will be announced August 9.

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photo courtesy of kimberly farmer via unsplash

The NAACP and SmileDirectClub, a Nashville-based oral care company specializing in teeth-straightening technology, have partnered to offer scholarships to African American and other students of color.

They must maintain a 3.0 grade point average or above.

; The $15,000 awards will be granted to young people studying science, technology, engineering or math and must be used for tuition and fees. Payments will be annualized at around $3,500 each year.

Winners must also be high school seniors or undergraduates and members of the NAACP, the country’s oldest civil rights organization, which was founded in 1909 and has over 20,000 branches across the country.

“The SmileDirectClub Scholarship will help empower students in the Black community studying STEM with financial support so they can pursue their education with less of an economic burden,” said Yumeka Rushing, chief strategy officer, NAACP.

“This partnership is one of the ways the NAACP is working to secure educational equality of rights to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone,” Rushing added.

Students interested in the scholarship can apply on the NAACP site. The deadline is June 18. The winners, who the NAACP’s N-SPIRE committee – a group that “focuses on the creation, development and awarding of scholarship programs” –will be announced August 9.

“Through the SmileDirectClub Scholarship with the NAACP, we’re investing in the next generation of innovators and supporting the growth of diversity in STEM, a field that affects almost all aspect of our everyday lives,” said Cheryl DeSantis, the chief People & Diversity officer of SmileDirectClub.

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