The anti-abortion movement tries many tactics — guilt, misinformation, assuring women they’re smart and capable enough, more guilt — but one of the latest permutations has been framing abortion as a racial issue. Some anti-abortion activists are framing legal abortion as a way to deter black women‘s reproduction. The latest example is this billboard hanging in New York City’s highly trafficked SoHo neighborhood which reads, “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” The billboard was posted by the Texas-based anti-abortion group, Life Always, The New York Times reports, conveniently timed for Black History Month.Race-related abortion billboards are not new: Groups, like the one behind BlackGenocide.org claim that pregnancy termination is kept legal so as to weed out society’s so-called “undesirables.” As I reported last summer, other anti-abortion billboards targeting blacks have appeared in places like Georgia and Arkansas reading “Black & Unwanted” and “Black Children Are An Endangered Species.”
To be sure, the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, has been tied to the 1900′s eugenics movement, which you can read about generally on this blog, Feminists For Choice. The Sanger/eugenics connection — which, to be honest, I know a bit about but am not well-educated on — is often touted by anti-abortion extreminists and anti-birth control extremists. So, yes, there is some ugly history there. But personally, I’m of the opinion that you can still be my friend even if your great-grandpa was a Nazi.
2011 is a different century and a different society. So let’s review the facts of 2011, shall we? The assertion on the website for That’s Abortion — the group responsible for the NYC billboard — that “Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods,” is simply not true. The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that collects statistics on reproductive health information, released a study (PDF) with findings that broke down the facts (as reported by Amanda Hess, blogger at TBD.com) about racial demographics where abortion clinics are located once and for all:
- 63 percent of abortion providers are in predominantly non-Hispanic white neighborhoods
- 12 percent are in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods
- Nine percent of abortion providers are in predominantly black neighborhoods
- One percent of abortion providers are in other predominantly non-white neighborhoods
- 15 percent of abortion providers are in neighborhoods where no racial group is the majority population
So there you have it, billboard people. If legal abortion is a black genocide and abortion clinics are targeting blacks, why are almost two-thirds of clinics located in predominantly white neighborhoods? Maybe, just maybe, that argument is exploiting blacks’ well-deserved sensitivity to racism in American culture. Just maybe!
One more thing: I would be remiss if I didn’t post this video from ColorLines, an online magazine about race issues, in which Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), a black woman who had an unplanned pregnancy when she was 18, addresses the “abortion is black genocide” myth. Rep. Moore spoke out last week when the House of Representatives voted 240-185 to defund Planned Parenthood clinics because they provide abortions. The meat of Rep. Moore’s argument is here and it gets a hundred thumbs-up from me:
“I know of what the previous speaker, the gentleman, referred, to all those well-meaning people who want to speak about the value of life and not fund contraceptives and not make abortion, which is the law of the land, available if people chose that: I am really touched by the passion of the opposite, to want to save black babies. I can tell you I know a lot about having black babies. I’ve had three of them. And I had my first one when I was 18 years old—at the ripe old age of 18, an unplanned pregnancy.
I just want to tell you what it’s like not to have planned parenthood. … You have to give your kids ramen noodles at the end of the month to fill up their little bellies so they won’t cry. You have to give them mayonnaise sandwiches. They get very few fruits and vegetables because they’re expensive. It subjects children to low educational attainment because of the ravages of poverty.”
You can watch the whole video of Rep. Moore’s remarks on defunding Planned Parenthood below — and I heartily recommend you do.