Sexual Health

Race Relations

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Suspicions that racial motives lurk behind family planning efforts bias some black women against several of the most effective pregnancy-prevention methods and lead some black men to avoid birth control altogether. So suggest recently released findings of a national telephone survey.

From Belief . . . The survey, designed by Sheryl Thorburn of Oregon State University and Laura M. Bogart of RAND Corp. and sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, asked 500 black respondents aged 15 to 44 whether they agreed with such statements as, "Birth control is a white plot to eliminate blacks." Only 10 percent of men and 4 percent of women agreed, but more than a third of both sexes said they believed that medical institutions use poor and minority people as guinea pigs for testing birth-control methods.

. . . To Behavior Women who voiced distrust in medical institutions were less likely than others to use forms of contraception, such as birth control pills and implantable devices, that must be obtained through a health care provider. Instead they favored condoms or other methods, such as interrupting intercourse. The distrustful men were more likely than others to use no contraception at all, Thorburn and Bogart report in the August issue of Health Education & Behavior.

Rooted in History Suspicions about medical institutions have their basis in past "abuses, such as forced sterilizations" of black women in government-sponsored programs as recently as the 1970s, said medical sociologist Thomas A. LaVeist of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. LaVeist said that public health programs aimed at minorities may need to go "outside the hospital walls" to inspire trust through education and transparency.

-- Ben Harder

© 2005 The Washington Post Company