Saturday, February 27, 2010

NYTimes: Anti-choice movement trying to racialize aboriton debate

Yesterday's New York Times contained an article about how a Georgia anti-choice group is trying to bring more African-Americans into their fold:
For years the largely white staff of Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, tried to tackle the disproportionately high number of black women who undergo abortions. But, staff members said, they found it difficult to make inroads with black audiences.

So in 2009, the group took money that it normally used for advertising a pregnancy hot line and hired a black woman, Catherine Davis, to be its minority outreach coordinator.
Ms. Davis traveled to black churches and colleges around the state, delivering the message that abortion is the primary tool in a decades-old conspiracy to kill off blacks. 

Which is nice, except it's not true.  When your case fails on logical grounds, try lies!  Much like when, in California, Prop 8 supporters used imaginary tales of homosexuality being taught in schools to scare conservative parents, these groups are selling an insidious racial-war conspiracy theory to get black women to argue against their own reproductive rights.  Some "facts" to support their case:
Abortion opponents say the number is so high because abortion clinics are deliberately located in black neighborhoods and prey upon black women. The evidence, they say, is everywhere: Planned Parenthood’s response to the anti-abortion ad that aired during the Super Bowl featured two black athletes, they note, and several women’s clinics offered free services — including abortions — to evacuees after Hurricane Katrina. 
Except that what this really shows is a conspiracy to give women options and provide them with medical care.

I admit, birth control and abortion have a troubled history, and have been advocated by some people who support eugenics.  Margaret Sanger allied herself with the eugenics movement in order to draw support for wider access to contraception.  Ruth Bader Gingsburg has pointed out that she initially thought Roe v. Wade was able to come down in favor of abortion access because conservative groups favored limiting growth among certan populations, thereby allying themselves on this issue with liberal groups who supported women's rights.  However, when Harris v. McRae upheld the Hyde ammendment, which banned the use of Medicaid funds for abortions, she realized the Roe ruling was more about access than eugenics.

There is ugly potential in either the absolute support or condemnation of abortion.  I, myself, found the Levitt and Donohue article that showed abortion liberalization led to decreases in crime distasteful in its casual conflation of risk factors with demographic characteristics.  I would challenge anyone who would say that we need more abortions, or encourage women to get abortions, or view abortion as a boon to society instead of a much-needed option for women.  But promoting abortions is a very different thing than promoting access to abortions.  The Planned Parenthood response ad talked about trusting women to make their own choices, and that's where the "conspiracy" argument falls apart.  If women have the right to choose what's best for them, and have the access that allows them to actualize that choice, there can be no nefarious scheme.  It's up to women to choose their own path.

1 comment:

  1. This has some good information, though I'm not keen on the condescending tone. I think negotiations with partners and power disparities probably also have a lot to do with the unintended pregnancy rate. A woman's partner is the #1 thing determining whether she will use a condom during a given sexual encounter.


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