African American Women and Family Planning Services

Perceptions of Discrimination

Published in: Women and Health, v. 42, no. 1, Jan. 2006, p. 23-39

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2006

by Sheryl Thorburn, Laura M. Bogart

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OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine perceived race-based discrimination in obtaining family planning or contraceptive services among African American women in the U.S. METHODS: The authors conducted a 30-minute telephone survey with a random sample of 500 African Americans (aged 15-44), which included questions about race-based discrimination when obtaining family planning services. The present analyses were limited to the 326 women who completed interviews. RESULTS: The majority (79%) of women reported having seen a health care provider for family planning or birth control services. Of those, 67% reported race-based discrimination when obtaining such services. Half of the women reported more general experiences of discrimination when obtaining family planning services (e.g., poorer service), and 52% reported experiences that reflect stereotypes of African American women (e.g., doctor or nurse assumed they had multiple sexual partners). Most indicated that experiences of discrimination occurred infrequently. Generally, background characteristics were not significantly associated with perceived discrimination. However, in multivariate models, stronger Black identity, younger age, and lower income were associated with reports of discrimination. CONCLUSION: African American women may be vulnerable to prejudice within reproductive health care contexts, including family planning.

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