Anti-Choicers’ Fake Concern for Racial Equality

Amanda Marcotte

Out of many examples of anti-choicers' deeply cynical willingness to pretend to embrace any cause in the fight against women's rights, the ugliest might be the fake concern for racial equality.

For all that your average anti-choicer comes across as a simple-minded sentimentalist, enraptured with his own sense of purity brought on by a searing contempt for sexuality, the reality is that the movement can be shockingly cynical in its tactics, willing to exploit any avenue of argumentation, no matter how empty and disingenuous. Out of many examples of their deeply cynical willingness to pretend to embrace any cause in the fight against women's rights, the ugliest might be the fake concern for racial equality.

To be perfectly fair, the hand-wringing concern over black fetuses while ignoring the needs of black people and especially the rights of black women fits right into the larger anti-choice frame of being pro-life until you actually have a life. My rough formula with anti-choicers is this: The amount of concern they express over an individual embryo is directly proportionate to the amount of rights they want to strip from the woman carrying it. So when you see anti-choice websites that focus on the concept of "black genocide," read that as them taking a special interest in depriving black women of their reproductive rights. And make no mistake, you'd be accurate in this reading. Every restriction that's passed on access to abortion or contraception disproportionately hurts black women, who disproportionately live in poverty and therefore disproportionately don't have the means to get around the law to take charge of their own fertility.

Don't take my word for it; look at the facts. Just recently, the CDC released a report demonstrating that one in four teenage girls has an STD, a shockingly high number that's linked also to rising teen pregnancy. Why aren't kids using condoms? Well, it's probably in part because they're being told that condoms don't work in the abstinence-only classrooms set up for them by the anti-choice movement. But where women overall pay a high price for this anti-choice nonsense, black women pay a much higher one–half of black teenage girls has an STD.

It's well known on both the pro- and anti-choice sides of the debate that black women have abortions at a higher rate than white women. What you won't find in your average anti-choice literature addressing this issue is acknowledgement that pro-choicers find this fact to be appalling, because it points to a larger, systematic oppression of black women that needs to be addressed before the numbers even begin to hint at evening out. Poverty, lack of education, lack of access to contraception, and a lack of support for raising wanted children all feed into this situation. Banning abortion won't solve any of those problems, but it will raise the rate of death and injury from women trying to perform abortions on their own. And you can certainly expect that to hit black women as a group harder than white women, who will be more likely on average to be able to travel out of state to get legal abortions, or to pay doctors to perform off-the-record abortions at home.

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What are anti-choicers doing to help lower the abortion rate for black women that concerns them so much? Lobbying Congress to improve welfare benefits and early childhood education? Protesting schools and businesses that maintain institutionalized discrimination? Protesting the recent Supreme Court decision rejecting school diversity programs? Demanding that free condoms be passed out on every block to anyone who wants one? Blocking school doors instead of clinics, refusing to move until all students, regardless of race or income level, receive a good grounding in sex education? Protesting economic policies and the prison-industrial complex that create the poverty trap that disproportionately snares our black citizens? Marching for universal health care? Lobbying against economic policies that drain our country of the good jobs that help working class people establish middle class lifestyles?

No, of course not. But they are making "gotcha" calls to Midwestern Planned Parenthoods in hopes that they can lure someone into saying something racist. Now, this is no apology for Autumn Kersey, vice president of development and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Idaho, who needs to be fired, if the call she received went down as it was played on the Internet. As soon as the caller broached the subject of racially-targeted donation, she should have yelled, "How dare you!" into the phone and hung up. I recommend this course of action for all future Planned Parenthood workers, since you'll be getting these calls non-stop from here on out.

But it's worth noting that talking about "aborting babies" of any race erases the woman who is actually getting the abortion in question. It makes it sound like abortion providers run around just killing embryos that are floating in outer space, or hanging out in pods outside the Matrix. Or maybe hanging out in the cabbage patch. But abortion is not a confrontation between a free-floating embryo and cartoonish villain-cum-abortion-doctor. It's a choice made by a woman, for reasons of her own that need to be respected. The fundamental lack of respect for black women's lives, and choices, and very existence at the heart of this prank call should appall any person of good faith who opposes racism.

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