Birth control shunned by most minority women Breakthrough survey reveals health views


WASHINGTON -- Most minority women never use birth control and erroneously believe they are not at risk for AIDS, according to a groundbreaking survey released yesterday.

In addition, fewer than half say they could easily obtain an abortion if they should choose to have one, according to the poll conducted for the National Council of Negro Women and the Communications Consortium Media Center in Washington.

The survey probed the attitudes of black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian women on reproductive health-care issues and found that they felt "undervalued, underserved, underinsured and under the gun," said Dorothy I. Height, president and chief executive officer of the NCNW.

She said the survey was one of the first comprehensive looks at minority women's health concerns.

"It is truly a gross understatement to say that very little is known about the opinions of women of color," Ms. Height said. "We believed that it was time for these voices to be heard."

Among the survey's findings:

* Fifty-nine percent of minority women say they never use birth control, with Hispanic women reporting the highest rate of non-use (66 percent). White women were not included in the survey, but in earlier studies a majority have said they use birth control.

The high figure of non-use among Hispanics may not be surprising, given the predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in that group. The church opposes the use of birth control and abortion.

* Among the minority women who never use birth control, 73 percent said the reason was, "I don't need it." That response was most frequent among Hispanic women, 86 percent of whom responded that way.

* More than 60 percent of minority women believe they face no risk of getting acquired immune deficiency syndrome even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has reported that women -- especially blacks -- are contracting the human immunodeficiency virus at a higher rate than any other group.

* Seventy-three percent of all minority women believe that abortion should be a woman's personal choice, including 55 percent of Hispanic women.

* Most minority women -- 64 percent -- say they have health insurance.

The survey found that most minority women lacked basic knowledge about reproductive health care -- a fact, say women's advocacy groups, that reflects government indifference to women's health care problems.

The National Institutes of Health last fall established an Office of Research on Women's Health and this spring initiated a 10-year study of women's health problems.

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