Culture, income, and age all can be factors in determining whether a person has access to good family planning and reproductive health care.
Recognizing this, the Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program recently announced a cluster of grants totaling more than $1 million to organizations whose mission is to broaden the base of support for reproductive rights issues to include women of color, low-income communities, and teenagers. Individual grants ranged from $150,000 to $400,000.
Research shows that these groups are significantly affected by health care policy, but often have the least say in its formulation. Yet differences in culture, age, and economic status each can block universal access to voluntary family planning and good reproductive health care, a goal of the Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program.
In general, women with the least access to services are young, low-income, and non-white. For example, low-income women comprise less than 40 percent of California’s women of reproductive age, but account for 60 percent of births in the state. And of the more than 1.5 million women in need of state-subsidized contraceptive services, more than a third don’t get them.
Similarly, accurate information about reproductive health issues can fail to reach teenage audiences. While rates of sexually transmitted infections are reaching historic lows in California, chlamydia rates in the for youth ages fifteen to nineteen have increased 45 percent. And despite declines since 1991, researchers expect birth rates among California teens to accelerate, particularly among Latinas, because of growth in the youth population.
The Foundation’s grants are designed to address such problems by broadening diversity in the reproductive health movement.
One such grant will help Latino Issues Forum-in collaboration with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice-build a network of advocates and public support for reproductive health and rights of Latinas in the state. Latinos are the nation’s fastest growing minority group.
The Foundation also provided grants to the Oakland-based organization Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice and to SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice educates and mobilizes low-income Asian women and girls and their communities throughout the U.S. SisterSong is the only national coalition of women of color working on reproductive health and rights in the country.
The Women’s Policy Institute of the Women’s Foundation of California received a grant to help sponsor a series of fellowships each year for the next two years, with the goal of training more women in California for leadership roles to advocate for reproductive health.
Choice USA will use its grant for three activities, all of them designed to develop a younger and more diverse base of public support for reproductive health.
In the Bay Area, the Foundation approved grants to health clinics in Daly City and San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, two areas where young people have few places to turn for reproductive health services.
The grant to the Daly City Youth Health Center, a project of the Jefferson Union High School District, will support its comprehensive approach to teen pregnancy prevention, including family planning, mental health services, support groups for teen mothers and fathers, and school-based sex education. The Bayview Hunters Point Healing Arts Center, a full-service adolescent health and youth development center, will use its grant to focus on teen pregnancy and related challenges among some of the Bay Area’s most disadvantaged youth.