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Black Pro-Lifers Should Stop the Scare Tactics

Date: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

By: Tonyaa Weathersbee

On one level, Catherine Davis is right.

Davis, who serves as minority outreach director for Georgia Right to Life, recently told the Los Angeles Times that too many black women’s pregnancies end in abortion.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women have 37 percent of all abortions. Davis told the Times that if 18,870,000 black babies hadn’t been aborted since Roe vs. Wade, black people “would be 59 million strong – over 19 percent of the population.”

It’s a tragedy that so many black women’s pregnancies end in abortion. But it’s an even worse tragedy that black people like Davis, as well as a growing number of black clerics and activists, are trying to frighten black people about abortion borrowing from the same playbook that Sarah Palin used to frighten old people about death panels.

They’re painting it as a racist conspiracy.

All over Atlanta, billboards have been appearing with the face of a black baby and the claim that black children are an endangered species. More black anti-abortion activists are saying that abortionists are targeting black women in order to keep the black population down.

I’d say that young black males, with the nation’s highest homicide rates, are doing a good enough job of that on their own.

But the black anti-abortion forces, it seems, believe they have found the right button to push to frighten black people into joining the fight to limit abortion rights and to ultimately overturn Roe.


They’ve taken to repeating pro-life talking points about Margaret Sanger, an early feminist and birth control advocate who advocated eugenics. In the 1920s, that often meant selective breeding and weeding out of undesirables, which often meant blacks.

But regardless of Sanger’s beliefs – and back then, she wasn’t alone – last I checked, no one was slapping undesirable stickers on pregnant black women and forcing them into cattle cars to be shipped off to abortion and sterilization camps.

Women who get abortions choose to do so – and it’s quite patronizing to believe that black women need to be protected from themselves.


Besides that, Sanger’s prejudices are nothing compared to the racism that, for hundreds of years, denied black women control of their bodies – and would surely reemerge if Roe was overturned.

During slavery, black women were forced to be breeders so that their children could be sold for profit or worked to help the white masters make a profit. They were also forced to bear the children of white masters who had raped them.

Black women had to endure that when the government – in that case, a government that sanctioned slavery – had the last say in whether they would bear children.

Then, in the years after slavery and before legalized abortion, black women who were able to persuade a real doctor to perform one were often subjected to racist bargaining; i.e., they’d get a safe abortion in return for agreeing to be sterilized.

Countless others, however, died from botched abortions – a fact that Davis overlooks in assuming that all of those 18,870,000 black pregnancies would not have ended in back alleys.

But to stem the high black abortion rate, people like Davis ought to be working to see to it that more black women are blessed with the circumstances that would empower them to continue their pregnancies.

Things like health care, day care, jobs and education are the things that black people who dislike abortion ought to be fighting for – not giving political cover to a mostly-white movement whose purpose is, at the end of the day, not to save black babies as much as it is to preserve white advantage.

It’s too bad that the black anti-abortion racist conspiracy theorists don’t see that – and have instead allowed themselves to be duped into fighting for a cause that gives the state the ultimate say in a woman’s right to reproduce.

Especially since the last time that happened, for black women, it didn’t turn out too well.