Black Women on Universal Health Care Reform

Black women across the country were making their voices heard about the United State’s two-tiered health care system that left out the uninsured and underinsured.  Below is a national response from Black women to then President Bill Clinton’s proposed universal health care plan.

(Signature ad placed by Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice in Washington Post and Roll Call in August, 1994)

Dear Members of Congress:

Black women have unique problems that must be addressed while you are debating health care reform legislation.  Lack of access to treatment for diseases that primarily affect Black women and the inaccessibility of comprehensive preventive health care services are important issues that must be addressed under reform.  We are particularly concerned about coverage for the full range of reproductive services under health care reform legislation.

Reproductive freedom is a life and death issue for many Black women and deserves as much recognition as any other freedom.  The right to have an abortion is a personal decision that must be made by a woman in consultation with her physician.  Accordingly, unimpeded access to abortion as a part of the full range of reproductive health services offered under health care reform, is essential.  Moreover, abortion coverage must be provided for all women under health care reform regardless of ability to pay, with no interference from the government.  WE WILL NOT ENDORSE A HEALTH CARE REFORM SYSTEM THAT DOES NOT COFVER THE FULL RANGE OF REPRODUCTIVE SERVICES FOR ALL WOMEN INCLUDING ABORTION.

In addition to reproductive health services, health care reform must include:

  • Universal coverage and equal access to health services.  Everyone must be covered under health care reform.  To be truly universal, benefits must be provided regardless of income, health or employment status, age or location.  It must be affordable for individuals and families, without deductibles and copayments.  All people must be covered equally.
  • Comprehensiveness.  The package must cover all needed health care services, including diagnostic, treatment, preventative, long-term care, mental health services, prescription drugs and pre-existing conditions.  All reproductive health services must be covered and treated the same as other health services.  This includes pap test, mammograms, contraceptives methods, prenatal care, delivery, abortion, sterilization, infertility services, STD’s and HIV/AIDS screening and treatment.  Everyone must also be permitted to choose their own health care providers.
  • Protection from discrimination.  The plan must include strong anti-discriminatory provisions to ensure the protection of all women of color, the elderly. The poor and those with disabilities.  In addition, the plan must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  In order to accomplish this goal, Black women must be represented on national, state and local planning, review, and decision-making bodies.

We, the undersigned, are dedicated to ensuring that these items are covered under healthcare reform legislation.  As your constituents, we believe that you have a responsibility to work for the best interest of those you represent, and we request that you work for passage of a bill that provides coverage for these services.


About RJTheologian

I have worked in the women's movement at nonprofits for almost 20 years. The focus of my work has been reproductive and sexual health. I was one of the founding mothers who coined the phrase "reproductive justice" in 1994. This has become a framework that has literally taken the women's movement by storm, helping to create the space for women of color to work on issues of reproductive and sexual health from positions of leadership and expertise. After working in this movement for so many years, I decided that the time had came for me to step out of the way and support the next generation of women of color leaders in doing the work. I am on to new horizons, pursing my academic studies and women and gender and theology. I will always be supportive of the work being done in the reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice movements. However, being outside of the day-to-day workings of a nonprofit organization gives me the opportunity to be a "Peripheral Movement Sista!!"
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