By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - It makes sense that since the start of the recession, the birth rate in America has been declining.
In 2011, it dipped to the lowest rate ever recorded: 63.2 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, the prime childbearing ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That plunge was led by immigrant women, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.
The birth rate for U.S.-born women declined 6% between 2007 (when the recession began) and 2010. However, the rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%, more than in the 17 years before the downturn.
Both foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanic women had larger drops in birth rate than any other group, Pew found. That correlates with larger percentage declines in household wealth for Hispanics than in white, black or Asian households. FULL POST
Editor's note: Latanya Mapp Frett is a vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and leads its international arm, Planned Parenthood Global.
By Latanya Mapp Frett, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after being denied a lifesaving abortion. If she had lived in the United States - where in two months we will mark four decades of safe and legal abortion on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling - she likely would be alive today.
I was a little girl when this decision overturned state bans across the country that prevented women from access to medically safe procedures. Unlike my mother's generation - when women often died from self-induced abortions or back-alley abortions performed by a person with no skills or training, often under unsanitary conditions - my siblings, friends, classmates and I grew up with the ability to make informed decisions when faced with an unintended or medically problematic pregnancy.
Worldwide, many women are unable to make personal health decisions. The consequences are grave. According to a World Health Organization report, about 47,000 women die each year around the world from unsafe abortions. This accounts for about 13% of all maternal deaths. Most of these women die in developing countries, where severe legal restrictions and lack of access to modern medical care drive women to seek unsafe procedures. By contrast, abortion in the United States is incredibly safe: Fewer than 0.3% of women experience complications that require hospitalization.Read Latanya Mapp Frett's full column
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN) - While breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer among American women, the number of patients dying from the disease continues to decline. That's the good news; the bad news is that those statistics do not look so good for African-American women.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that large gaps between black and white women in terms of mortality and stage of diagnosis continue to persist.
Black women still have a disproportionately higher breast cancer death rate – 41% higher than white women. This finding is based on 2005 to 2009 data, showing that even though African-American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer, they are more likely to die of this disease than women in any other racial or ethnic group.
Diagnosis of breast cancer at more aggressive stages is also more common among black women than white women. There were nine more deaths among black women for every 100 breast cancers diagnosed compared to white women.
The report says that mammography may be less frequently used among black women than white women, based on self-reported data. It's also more common for a longer amount of time to pass between mammograms for black women than white women.Read the full post on CNN's The Chart blog
Gun violence is on the rise in several American cities. Out of the nation’s 10 largest cities, Philadelphia has the highest homicide rate. This year’s death toll is up to 277.
But Scott Charles, a local educator and a trauma surgeon, has created an innovative program to save lives of potential victims even before they arrive in the operating room. CNN Correspondent Sarah Hoye has this week’s “Black in America” report, about a Philadelphia program takes youth on a journey to expose them to the real impact of gun violence.
Soledad O'Brien's documentary "Who is Black in America?" airs at 8 p.m. ET/PT on December 9 on CNN.
This is the second in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics, a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival and a civil rights icon registering voters.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - A tall, caramel-complexioned man marched across the steps of the U.S. Capitol to be sworn into office as a jubilant crowd watched history being made.
The man was an African-American of mixed-race heritage, an eloquent speaker whose election was hailed as a reminder of how far America had come.
But the man who placed his hand on the Bible that winter day in Washington wasn't Barack Obama. He was Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate.
His election and that of many other African-Americans to public office triggered a white backlash that helped destroy Reconstruction, America’s first attempt to build an interracial democracy in the wake of the Civil War. FULL POST
By Ashley Fantz, CNN
(CNN) - Eleven-year-olds sometimes have trouble sleeping through the night, kept awake by monsters they can't see.
But Malala Yousufzai knew exactly what her monsters looked like.
They had long beards and dull-colored robes and had taken over her city in the Swat Valley, in northwestern Pakistan.
It was such a beautiful place once, so lush and untouched that tourists flocked there to ski. But that was before 2003, when the Taliban began using it as a base for operations in nearby Afghanistan.
The Taliban believe girls should not be educated, or for that matter, even leave the house. In Swat they worked viciously to make sure residents obeyed.
But this was not how Malala decided she would live. With the encouragement of her father, she began believing that she was stronger than the things that scared her.
"The Taliban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat," she wrote in an extraordinary blog when she was empowered to share her voice with the world by the BBC.
She was writing around the time the Taliban issued a formal edict in January 2009 banning all girls from schools. On the blog, she praised her father, who was operating one of the few schools that would go on to defy that order.
"My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was," Malala wrote. "My father said that he smiled, but could not even say that it was written by his daughter."
Now that active and imaginative mind could be gone.FULL STORY
By Randi Kaye and Scott Bronstein, CNN
Phoenix (CNN) - Mike Rioux can't go to the grocery store without making a list, even for a single item.
He can't drive without gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turn white. And he can't stand any longer than 30 minutes because of severe back pain.
This is Rioux's life after Afghanistan, where firefights and a roadside bomb blast left him with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
His ears still ring from the explosions. He suffers from vertigo, headaches, insomnia and nightmares. He has terrible anxiety, evident in an interview with CNN - Rioux could hardly sit still, and his memory loss and inability to concentrate meant questions had to be repeated at times.
"I need to discover who I am again," he said.
As a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, Rioux most recently was deployed in 2010 to one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan. There he survived firefights and blasts and witnessed much carnage in Paktia province, near the volatile Afghan-Pakistan border.
After returning home, Rioux faced a much different battle, one that neither he nor his wife, Maggie, expected.
Confusion is 'monumental'
The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is on track to process 1 million disability claims this year.
With the war in Iraq over and the one in Afghanistan winding down, the VA is sorting through a backlog of more than 860,000 disability claims from American veterans. More than a quarter of those vets - 228,000 - have been waiting for a year or more.FULL STORY
Editor's note: CNN conditions expert Dr. Otis Webb Brawley is the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, a world-renowned cancer expert and a practicing oncologist. He is also the author of the book "How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America."
(CNN) - Cancer has surpassed heart disease to become the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States, according to an American Cancer Society report released Monday.
Every three years since 2000, scientists at the cancer society have published Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics/Latinos. Such studies provide data that help develop an efficient science-based cancer control plan.
Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States. Approximately 16.3% of America's population (50.5 million out of 310 million people) is Hispanic. It is estimated that 112,800 people of Hispanic ethnicity will be diagnosed with cancer and 33,200 will die of the disease in 2012.
The finding is due in part to the younger age distribution of Hispanics. Approximately one in 10 Hispanics is age 55 or over, compared to one in three non-Hispanics.
Among non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans, heart disease remains the leading cause of death, according to Monday's American Cancer Society report, the fifth.
While cancer is the most common cause of death for all three populations under the age of 85, there are fewer Hispanics in the United States over the age of 85, where heart disease is predominant.FULL STORY
By Rusty Dornin, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Roberto and Amanda Melecio share many of the same nightmares.
They don't like crowds, rarely trust anyone and both suffer serious bouts of depression. Married since 2005, they are both Iraq War veterans, and each has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
When Amanda Melecio came back from Iraq in 2005, she struggled to be the person she once was. "When I came home I couldn't socialize," Melicio says. "I have a lot of anxiety."
Her husband Roberto served as a scout and an Army combat engineer and disarmed bombs. "I was a human bulletproof vest," he jokes. He rarely sleeps and suffers from horrific nightmares. He struggles with his temper.
"We're not the normal couple. My wife and I are a rare breed." he says. "We happened to meet in the war."
While studies show women in the general population are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress as men, the rates for returning veterans are about the same - 20% for both men and women.
"We're definitely seeing more duel PTSD cases with returning vets," says Candice Monson, a clinical expert on how post-traumatic stress disorder affects couples. "It's largely a product of the changing policy of women in the military. While women are not supposed to be in combat, the reality is they are."
Editor's note: The identity of some of those quoted in this piece has been kept confidential.
By Sarah Brown, CNN
(CNN) - Lynne was driving home late at night after a trip out of town when it hit her. She had to share her story of surviving rape, to reach out and reassure other women who had been through the same traumatic experience that they were not alone.
CNN iReport asked people to send in their personal testimonies of surviving rape after the recent controversy over comments made by U.S. congressman Todd Akin, who said in an interview that women's bodies could naturally prevent pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape."
The request led to a flood of soul searching and often passionate responses from women such as Lynne who have survived such an assault.
More than 40 people sent in stories from across the U.S. and beyond. Some had not spoken of what had happened to them, even to their own families; others used the traumatic experience to go public to inform and reassure others. Many were angry; others were reflective over what had happened. Some spoke of, inasmuch as it was possible, coming to terms with what they had survived, while for others, emotions were still as raw as the day they were assaulted.
Because some perceive negative connotations in the term "victim," many of those affected, and the organizations and individuals who support them, prefer the term "survivor."