From left, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette staff Regan Altman, Peggy C. Ross, Midori Altamirano and Stacy M. Cross at The Skanner Foundation’s 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast. Photo by Intisar Abioto
Every February, we celebrate the achievements of the African-American community and the advances that have been made toward full racial equality, and we honor the giants of the civil rights movement whose lives still affect us today. At the same time, Black History Month reminds us that there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to equality in health care.
In the United States today, African-American women face barriers to accessing the health care that would improve both their lives and the lives of those around them. Particularly in the South, many people do not have access to affordable, high-quality health care. As a result, African-American women are dying at higher rates than their white counterparts due to breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV and other illnesses that can be detected early.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act has laid the groundwork to provide nearly 6.8 million uninsured African Americans the opportunity for affordable health insurance. African Americans are more than 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts — a staggering gap that we can reduce by making sure that people understand their options under the Affordable Care Act and have the information and tools they need to enroll in new health insurance plans.
Under the ACA, insured Americans have access to critical preventive health care services such as annual wellness exams and contraception without co-pays, and they cannot be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions like being HIV-positive, having breast cancer or being a victim of domestic violence.
Through Feb. 15, eligible Oregonians can sign up for affordable health insurance — and Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is here to help. Local, in-person experts can help you complete your application and understand your health insurance options. To schedule an appointment, please call 503-260-0682 (English) or 503-260-1630 (Spanish).
The African-American adage “each one teach one” is a call to stand together and share pertinent information to help improve the lives of every person in the black community. At Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, we take this responsibility seriously by standing with organizations like The Skanner Foundation, Urban League of Portland and Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia NW to increase opportunity and health care access in the black community. The history of the reproductive rights movement is as complicated as the nation’s, but throughout our history, Planned Parenthood and the black community have worked together to break down barriers to health care access posed by poverty, racism and politics.
Planned Parenthood believes that all people deserve high-quality, affordable health care — no matter who they are and where they live. We believe that when people are truly cared for, they make their lives, families and communities stronger.
As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” We must work together to ensure that access to quality, affordable health care is available to every person — regardless of race, resources or ZIP code.
Peggy C. Ross is the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit family planning and reproductive rights organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Since 1963, PPCW has provided a wide range of youth education programs and preventive healthcare services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment. For more information visit PPCW.org.