Stop Perpetuating Myths About Black Women and Abortion


Editor’s note: Read all of RH Reality Check’s coverage of this racist anti-choice campaign.

This article was originally published by DesMoinesRegister.com,  in response to an earlier editorial.  It is republished here with permission from the author, and is part of a series of articles appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include Pamela Merritt, Gloria Feldt, Jodi Jacobson, Miriam Pérez, Maame-Mensima Horne, Susan Cohen, and Carole Joffe.

As an African-American woman, I take exception to Tom Quiner’s Feb. 7 column on African-Americans and abortion. Quiner perpetuates many of the myths pro-life groups use to attack family planning and supports misconceptions about the lack of support among members of my community.

It is striking that Quiner chooses to quote Alveda King, considering her marginalization in the civil rights movement. I think it is more appropriate to quote her elder, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, a longtime supporter of Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement: “There is striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts … Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.”

Let me be clear: Planned Parenthood does not target minorities. When Planned Parenthood is accused of such targeting, these false claims are used to drive a wedge between minorities and reproductive health care, further limiting their choices.

The real issue is disparities in health-care access, something the African-American community experiences across the country.

Planned Parenthood focuses on ensuring that low-income and uninsured people have access to basic and reproductive health care. Our patients report that six out of 10 would go without medical care if they did not frequent our centers. Considering that less than 2 percent of our total services are abortion care, the vast bulk of our work is providing basic health care to those in need.

Reducing the need for abortions is at the heart of what Planned Parenthood does. Our goal is to promote the prevention of unintended pregnancies through education and access to reproductive health care and contraceptives.

Suggesting that the Women’s Right to Know Act would help reduce abortion in the African-American community is insulting. That implies that women of color are incapable of or unable to make this very personal, difficult decision. In reality, this bill is designed to shame women, to intimidate them when they are in a vulnerable situation. That’s not health care, and I definitely cannot equate it to the comprehensive, compassionate options counseling – which includes our adoption services and access to prenatal care – that is provided to every woman facing an unintended pregnancy at a Planned Parenthood center.

We cannot continue to allow myths about family planning to be presented as fact. The responsibility for educating and preventing unintended pregnancies lies within our neighborhoods, our families and our communities. We have to talk about family planning and start moving our reproductive health needs from the margins to the center of the discussion.

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  • on-the-issues-magazine

    This is a very interesting article, thanks for posting. On a similar note, check out this Maame-Mensima Horne piece on black genocide, abortion and reproductive oppression. http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/cafe2/article/72

  • meg

    I read this article… if 37% of abortions are performed on black women, 13% population, what are the truthful reasons behind this that can be used to counter the black genocide conspiracy theories? This is a high percentage, I would say disproportionately so. Something must be the actual cause(s).

  • mars

    From the research paper quoted in the above sited article:

    Behind the Numbers

    Abortion rates have been declining in the United States for a quarter of a century, from a high of 29.3 per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 1981 to an historic low (post-Roe v. Wade) of 19.4 in 2005. The overall number of abortions has been falling too, dropping to 1.2 million in 2005. Currently, about one-third of all abortions are obtained by white women, and 37% are obtained by black women. Latinas comprise a smaller proportion of the women who have abortions, and the rest are obtained by Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and women of mixed race (see chart).

    The abortion rates among women in minority communities have followed the overall downward trend over the three decades of legal abortion. At the same time, however, black women consistently have had the highest abortion rates, followed by Hispanic women (see chart). This holds true even when controlling for income: At every income level, black women have higher abortion rates than whites or Hispanics, except for women below the poverty line, where Hispanic women have slightly higher rates than black women.

    WHO HAS ABORTIONS
    Most abortions in the United States are obtained by minority women. (…) Source: Guttmacher Institute, 2008.

    These patterns of abortion rates mirror the levels of unintended pregnancy seen across these same groups. Among the poorest women, Hispanics are the most likely to experience an unintended pregnancy. Overall, however, black women are three times as likely as white women to experience an unintended pregnancy; Hispanic women are twice as likely. Because black women experience so many more unintended pregnancies than any other group—sharply disproportionate to their numbers in the general population—they are more likely to seek out and obtain abortion services than any other group. In addition, because black women as a group want the same number of children as white women, but have so many more unintended pregnancies, they are more likely than white women to terminate an unintended pregnancy by abortion to avoid an unwanted birth.

    The disparities in unintended pregnancy rates result mainly from similar disparities in access to and effective use of contraceptives. As of 2002, 15% of black women at risk of unintended pregnancy (i.e., those who are sexually active, fertile and not wanting to be pregnant) were not practicing contraception, compared with 12% and 9% of their Hispanic and white counterparts, respectively. These figures—and the disparities among them—are significant given that, nationally, half of all unintended pregnancies result from the small proportion of women who are at risk but not using contraceptives.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/11/3/gpr110302.html

  • prochoiceferret

    I read this article… if 37% of abortions are performed on black women, 13% population, what are the truthful reasons behind this that can be used to counter the black genocide conspiracy theories? This is a high percentage, I would say disproportionately so. Something must be the actual cause(s).

    Higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

     

    The BG theory is as silly as saying that homeless shelters are racist because they disproportionately target Blacks.

  • meg

    Something useful please, with which to stand up to the BG theory, the real “enemy” here. Not to repeat that the BG theory is silly. Silly or not, based on reality or not, apparently lots of people in the real world are believing in it. Not to say “easy peasy”, it’s so obvious. OF COURSE it’s more unintended pregnancies. But to combat a dangerous wierd theory that may sound “true” to alot of people, it takes more than “that’s just plain dumb”. Who knows? With all the other strange and backward things going on even now in the 21st century… Maybe someday we will be at where homeless shelters are called racist because they disproportionately target blacks. And we will be bewildered when people believe it.

  • prochoiceferret

    But to combat a dangerous wierd theory that may sound "true" to alot of people, it takes more than "that’s just plain dumb".

    The BG theory gets traction because it’s presented earnestly, and because the statistics superficially support the narrative. It sticks around because of confirmation bias. Facts won’t kill it, any more than they could kill the "abortion causes breast cancer" myth, or the "all women are left broken-hearted by abortion" myth. Which is why I prefer the point-and-laugh route—"not only is this wrong, you’re an idiot for believing this, and here is an example of that very same reasoning applied in a similar-but-not-abortion-related context that makes clear why it’s idiotic."

     

    Oh, and you can also cite Martin Luther King Jr. for good measure. Especially fun if they then turn around and say that even MLK Jr. supported Black genocide!

    Who knows? With all the other strange and backward things going on even now in the 21st century… Maybe someday we will be at where homeless shelters are called racist because they disproportionately target blacks. And we will be bewildered when people believe it.

    If people ever get that dumb, we’ll neutralize them by shining headlights in their eyes.

  • meg

    Will flashlights work?

  • theblackbottom

    We at theblackbottom.com reposted your blog http://theblackbottom.com/?p=3343. We appreciate your forthrightness in tackling health care and black women’s reproductive rights as being one of the central issues that face all black communities, especially low-income and poor black women. We challenge those in the "Pro-life" communities to address the issue of health care of black women first. We also challenge you to strongly consider Ms. Kelly’s thoughtful position. We think the Pro-life argument can appear to be disingenuous if the only concern is to simply end abortions without responding to the broader needs of health care and education for black communities. The real question is the life chances of black people in the United States, which has always been abysmal. We think there is an important moral discussion to be had about abortions in the United States, but not as the Pro-Life organizations have currently fashioned it in black communities. We want to thank Ms. Kelley for her willingness to address this issue. We like her spirit.

  • jim8277

    Last time I researched from the goverment web site the abortion rate for women was around two percent and black women did not have the most abortions. It depends how you read the data, point is, it does not matter what race a women is, I look at these politacal statements as racist, and I am  white male!