The Real Danger in Black Communities: Maternal and Infant Mortality


For the last month, there has been increasing national coverage of the controversial and offensive billboards dispersed throughout Atlanta’s black communities asserting “black children are an endangered species.” The Radiance Foundation proudly sponsored this message out of its purported concern over high rates of abortion and “genocide” in black communities. In interviews, they recycle propaganda highlighting Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood’s eugenicist history, fueling conspiracy theories of plots to eliminate black people, even though only four of the 15 abortion providers in Georgia are in predominantly Black neighborhoods. They neglect to mention that Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to women and families who would otherwise not receive any healthcare including physical exams, diabetes screenings, and flu shots, in addition to sexual health services.

If the Radiance Foundation is truly concerned about black children, then they should be focused on eliminating the undeniable dangers of maternal and infant mortality. According to Amnesty International’s newly released report on maternal mortality, among high risk pregnancies, African-American women are 5.6 times more likely to die than white women. The United States Office of Minority Health found that African-American infants were almost four times as likely to die from causes related to low birth weight, compared to non-Hispanic white infants. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports that Georgia’s pregnancy-associated mortality rate is sixth highest in the U.S. and that black women are 3.7 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. These numbers are just as stark as the number of black women having abortions. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to the black community to support the women who are having babies?

One way to improve outcomes of black mothers and children is to ensure proper pre-natal care and pregnancy support. African American mothers were 2.5 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the third trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all. Amnesty International asserts that women of color are less likely to have access to adequate maternal health care services and more likely to experience discriminatory and inappropriate treatment and poorer quality of care.

Shafia Monroe, the founder of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, is a midwife and birth activist of 25 years who asserts that midwives can reduce maternal and infant mortality in black communities. She points to a 1998 study by the Centers for Disease Control in which nurse midwives had a 19 percent lower risk of infant death than physicians, even among higher risk populations such as African Americans, American Indians and teens. Although the study compared vaginal, low-risk births delivered by nurse midwives and physicians, providing evidence that midwives are part of the solution. In her training of birth assistants around the country, she emphasizes the disparate rates of maternal and infant mortality in communities of color, and discusses how to work with expectant mothers on their overall health, particularly nutrition counseling and stress relief. These statistics highlight the need for holistic and culturally sensitive health care models to reduce growing disparities.

Creating ads that describe black people as an endangered species is no different from promoting eugenicist beliefs about population control. It’s looking at women from a merely biological standpoint, as vehicles for reproduction. It equates black women with animals rather than humans. This campaign has exploited the painful history of black womens’ bodies, when we were used during slavery to birth the country’s workforce under inhumane conditions. The creator of these campaigns insists he has spent most of his adult life working to improve conditions in the black community. Since high rates of maternal and infant mortality are a reality for black women and children, why not work for affordable pre- and post-natal care? Or for increased access and affordability of high quality foods in urban neighborhoods? Or for parenting programs for expecting and new mothers? Addressing these issues can give babies a healthy start in utero while assisting mothers in having healthy pregnancies.

It is seductive to believe in vast conspiracy theories because American history is steeped in reproductive control from slavery to the eugenics movement to contraceptive testing in communities of color, at home and abroad. Various racial and ethnic groups have been targeted, Mexican women in California, women across Puerto Rico, Mediterranean and Eastern European immigrants, black women in Louisiana, and it continues. Reproductive control is a reality, and thus is the need for real reproductive justice. Eliminating Planned Parenthood will not end abortion and will not help black women’s health. Allowing women access to all reproductive options–most critically effective contraceptive information and supplies–can reduce abortion rates. Ensuring women have unfettered access to testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, breast and cervical check-ups, well-woman care, and other forms of care provided by Planned Parenthood will improve the health of Black women and in turn their families. Increasing access to midwives and can help reduce maternal and infant mortality. Advocating for affordable pre-natal health care can benefit mothers and their babies. Addressing high rates of violence–including sexual violence and coercion–will vastly improve both health and the quality of life, and reduce mortality. Putting in place effective programs to address poverty and social isolation will create immeasurable synergies in all of these areas.

Instead of plastering incendiary rhetoric on public highways, let’s focus on taking concrete steps towards supporting our mothers and mothers-to-be as means of ensuring strong and healthy communities of color for future generations.

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  • toomanyaborted

    This campaign was created by one who is as black as Obama and led by other passionate black civic leaders.  Vernacular is important and basic understanding of the definition of words is key.  ‘Species’ doesn’t mean animal. Of course we’re all the human species.  So the feigned outrage at the language is merely obfuscation. Black children are more endangered, than any other racial demographic, to die by induced abortion.  Too many are aborted.  Period.  This is the message of the billboard. Simple. Factual.  Shockingly true.

     

    There are a number of things that we agree upon, primarily, empowering women and ensuring that they can make the best health decisions for themselves.  The difference is in what we view as empowerment.  I believe abortion, no matter the race, is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances (which less than 2% have to do with any health-related issues/complications).  Planned Parenthood spends millions upon millions of dollars “educating” people with misleading, incomplete and distorted information.  A simple review of their Stages of Pregnancy on their website reveals inexplicable omissions of any pictures of pregnancy, and more importantly, at least 40% of the significant developmental milestones (all of which go toward the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.)  We spent a mere $20K educating the public, particularly the black community, about where Planned Parenthood’s propaganda is downright false. 

     

    Sadly, you accuse of us providing propaganda (without indicating a single instance of erroneous information) by doling out false stats to prove your point.  Every abortion clinic in Georgia, as we state on our site, is located in urban areas where blacks reside.  Some neighborhoods are far more densely populated by African-Americans than others here in GA where these clinics are located. With stats and demographic mapping providing by the US Census Bureau, the facts belie your uninformed assertions. In Columbus, GA one clinic is located in a 50-60% black neighborhood while the other is in a 70-80% black neighborhood.  In Savannah, GA, the clinic is located smack dab in the middle of a 90%+ black neighborhood.  In August, GA the only clinic in that city is located immediately adjacent to 60-75% black neighborhoods.  In Metro Atlanta, there are two clinics that are located downtown in 90%+ black neighborhoods.  Of the remaining clinics in metro Atlanta, 4 are located in 30-40% black neighborhoods, 2 are located in 50-60% black neighborhoods leaving 3 clinics that are located just minutes outside of Atlanta in neighborhoods that are only 20-30% black.  The only clinic located in an all-white area of Georgia closed last year, even though more whites lack health care coverage (631,100) than African-Americans in GA (uninsured at 603,700). 

     

    It’s hard to believe the pro-abortion strategy is to continue to deny historically documented events, which is just a component of TooManyAborted.com/Endangered Species campaign.  Your apparent lack of knowledge could be easily corrected simply by visiting a pro-abortion resource:  NYU’s Margaret Sanger Papers Project.  The Negro Project (named because it’s focus was on Negroes and not Jews, or white women, or Asians) was created to severely reduce the birth rates of poor black women.  Even the woman venerated time and time again on RHReality, SisterSong’s Loretta Ross, confirms this.  So, it’s tiresome to address historical fact.

     

    But here’s the kicker.  The Radiance Foundation is all about illuminating the truth.  Jaz, you hit the proverbial nail on the head with the Preterm birth rates.  Do you want to know what 49 medical studies have revealed as the cause of the alarmingly high preterm and extreme preterm birth rates among African-American women?  Yup.  Induced abortion.  According to Stanford University’s Institute of Medicine in 2006-2007, “prior first trimester induced abortion” is an “immutable medical risk factor associated with preterm births”.

     

    But you won’t get this information from Planned Parenthood.  The very act of induced abortion that brings them a revenue stream of nearly $200 million per year is the causal factor in preterm and extreme preterm births, causing higher infant mortality rates in the black community. And if you want to talk prenatal healthcare.  Planned Parenthood offers that too, but according to their own 2007-2008 Annual report, they offered less prenatal care in 2007 (10,914 clients) than 2006 (11,058), but the number of abortions increased significantly with 305,310 abortions in 2007, up from 289,750–an increase of 15,560 more “clients”. 

     

    The truth matters.  Facts matter.  Life matters.  And for The Radiance Foundation, we care about what truly empowers people–men and women (born and unborn).  Destroying innocent life as a solution doesn’t empower anyone.  And allowing propaganda, like that espoused here in your article, has to be challenged with the Truth.

    • jaz

       

      I almost wrote a lengthy response but then I realized that it’s a waste of my time to argue with someone who would rather question my intelligence and twist my words than debate my arguments. Since you were kind enough to “illuminate” us with the “Truth,” I’d like to offer you some food for thought to put this discussion in context:


      Key definitions: 

      propaganda: information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

      Astroturfing: an English-language term referring to politicaladvertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but designed to mask its origins to create the impression of being spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior.  

       

      Reading Suggestions:

      “Killing the Black Body” by Dr. Dorothy Roberts…a chapter on Margaret Sanger and the eugenics movement outlining her relationship to WEB DuBois (a man also “as black as Obama”!).

      A Right to Life For the Living by Melissa Harris-Lacewell (a woman as black as Obama!)

      http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100405/harris-lacewell


      Discussion questions:

      Since this campaign was created by a seasoned black advertising executive, why was the word “species” used despite the connotation it holds especially when talking about black women’s bodies? Was the best way to bring attention to your cause to offend the community you aim to protect?

       

      Don’t you feel unscrupulous to keep playing the “black like Obama” race card in your messaging when the foundation is run by a white woman? Don’t you think that black people can still be offensive and out-of-touch within their own communities? (i.e. Michael Steele, Clarence Thomas, etc.)


      Have you considered that pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion?

       

      Is your fight against Planned Parenthood or abortion for the sake of black women and children? From my investigation, not all of the abortion clinics in Georgia are owned by Planned Parenthood. Have you even considered the role of men in helping create unintended pregnancies?

       

      Is induced abortion really the sole cause of the majority of pre-term births? If so, send me the links to all 49 of those studies.

       

      Aren’t there conditions that could have caused the increase in abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood in 2007-08? What about a spike in unplanned pregnancy due to lack of access to contraceptive services?Unemployment or financial strains within communities of color? The truth as I know it is that abortions are a result of unplanned pregnancy.

       

      Have you considered that your “Truth” is a lie to many women?

       



       

       

       

       

  • prochoiceferret

    This campaign was created by one who is as black as Obama and led by other passionate black civic leaders.

    Wow, so there are half-Black anti-choicers too! Who would’ve thought?

    ‘Species’ doesn’t mean animal. Of course we’re all the human species.

    So it’s the human species that’s endangered, then? I thought y’all were doing pretty well at six billion or so… too well, in fact, if you look at that whole “sustainability” thing.

    So the feigned outrage at the language is merely obfuscation.

    So I guess “obfuscation” means “us telling you that you are presenting Blacks as non-humans, which is really racist and not-nice of you.” Oh, and it certainly wasn’t feigned.

    Black children are more endangered, than any other racial demographic, to die by induced abortion. Too many are aborted. Period. This is the message of the billboard. Simple. Factual. Shockingly true.

    Actually, it’s not. There are no children (Black or otherwise) who die by induced abortion, unless you’re talking about someone like a pregnant nine-year-old girl who dies in an illegal abortion because she can’t get a legal one. Now, if you’re talking about Black fetuses, you may have a claim that at least looks reasonable on its face.

    I believe abortion, no matter the race, is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances (which less than 2% have to do with any health-related issues/complications).

    So you are in favor of comprehensive sexual education and subsidized availability of contraceptives?

    Planned Parenthood spends millions upon millions of dollars “educating” people with misleading, incomplete and distorted information.

    What? Where?!?

    A simple review of their Stages of Pregnancy on their website reveals inexplicable omissions of any pictures of pregnancy, and more importantly, at least 40% of the significant developmental milestones (all of which go toward the undeniable humanity of the unborn child.)

    Oh, you mean they’re not saying, “Look at this beautiful fetus!! How can you ever even THINK of KILLING this beautiful little unique human being-person inside of you?!?” Yeah, I guess the information PP gives out isn’t complete… they left out the crazy.

    We spent a mere $20K educating the public, particularly the black community, about where Planned Parenthood’s propaganda is downright false.

    Um… I don’t think you got a lot of bang for your buck there.

    Every abortion clinic in Georgia, as we state on our site, is located in urban areas where blacks reside.

    Are there any homeless shelters in urban areas where Blacks don’t reside? GASP! The racist homeless-shelter industry is targeting Blacks!!!

    It’s hard to believe the pro-abortion strategy is to continue to deny historically documented events, which is just a component of TooManyAborted.com/Endangered Species campaign.

    Yes, just like people who like Ford automobiles continue to deny that Henry Ford was a Jew-hater.

    Your apparent lack of knowledge could be easily corrected simply by visiting a pro-abortion resource: NYU’s Margaret Sanger Papers Project.

    Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award in 1966? Read the speech that he wrote, that was delivered by his wife Coretta.

    Do you want to know what 49 medical studies have revealed as the cause of the alarmingly high preterm and extreme preterm birth rates among African-American women? Yup. Induced abortion.

    Actually, what I’d like to know is citation information for the 49 studies that you misread (assuming they even exist). What, you’re not going to say induced abortion is the primary cause of breast cancer in the Black community, too?

    According to Stanford University’s Institute of Medicine in 2006-2007, “prior first trimester induced abortion” is an “immutable medical risk factor associated with preterm births”.

    By what percentage does “prior first trimester induced abortion” increase the incidence of preterm births? And how does this risk factor compare to poor nutrition and the widespread lack of access to quality pre-natal care in the Black community?

    And if you want to talk prenatal healthcare. Planned Parenthood offers that too, but according to their own 2007-2008 Annual report, they offered less prenatal care in 2007 (10,914 clients) than 2006 (11,058), but the number of abortions increased significantly with 305,310 abortions in 2007, up from 289,750–an increase of 15,560 more “clients”.

    I guess those abstinence-only programs didn’t work out so well after all. Why not help PP get comprehensive education programs into the schools?

    The truth matters. Facts matter. Life matters. And for The Radiance Foundation, we care about what truly empowers people–men and women (born and unborn). Destroying innocent life as a solution doesn’t empower anyone.

    And according to you, railroading poor Black women into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term does.

    And allowing propaganda, like that espoused here in your article, has to be challenged with the Truth.

    Man, it sure didn’t put up much of a fight.