Star Parker penned an op-ed for Newsday recently that demonstrated a stunning lack of understanding about the real meaning of “choice” and attempted yet again to blame the abortion rate in the Black community on Planned Parenthood and Black women.
As I read her piece, I was initially heartened. She’s the only anti-choicer I can recall actually absorbing the pro-choice argument that women who lack access to safe abortion care will resort to unsafe abortion care—because if a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, she’ll find a way to not be pregnant, by hook or by crook. Parker seems to get that. She writes:
The abortion lobby claims that as long as we have tight regulations on abortion, a black market will exist. Abortion, they argue, is like any product or service that consumers want and government prohibits or overregulates. If they can’t get what they want legally, they will get it illegally.
We also hear that we get Gosnells when government refuses to pay for the abortions of poor women. The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid compensation for abortion, makes unsafe abortion inevitable, they say.
According to this reasoning, poor women — desperate because of an unwanted pregnancy, pressed because regulations and costs make abortion difficult to get — turn to sleazebag doctors who will do it cheaply, with no regard for the woman, the law or safety.
Yes! That’s precisely right. The horrors that took place in Gosnell’s clinic are a direct result of policies that have been chipping away at the abortion rights established in Roe v. Wade. Gosnell’s sadistic and illegal abortion practices are the result of injustice in reproductive health care—women who have the right to abortion care but lack safe access.
Despite what anti-choicers would like you to believe, Gosnell is not the norm. He does not represent the type of care that anyone who is pro-choice advocates. He was a murderer and an opportunist who preyed upon the most vulnerable women who chose to terminate a pregnancy, but because of lack of health insurance, lack of public funding for abortion, and prohibitively stringent regulations that have forced abortion clinics to shutter their doors, found themselves with no place else to go. So yes, desperate women will turn to “sleazebag doctors” like Gosnell who have no regard for women’s health, the law, or safety.
By George, I think Star’s got it! But, no, not really. Parker continues:
But it is ironic that those who call themselves “pro-choice” argue that the only alternatives facing low-income women are unsafe abortions done by sleazebags or government-subsidized abortions.
There is another choice, but those who call themselves don’t want women, particularly poor women, to consider it.
This option is called birth.
So close, Star. So close. But, alas, close doesn’t cut it when it comes to respecting women’s right to bodily autonomy.
The point of the term “pro-choice” and the work that pro-choice activists do is to ensure that “choice” encompasses all choices. The choice to have children. The choice to have children when you want to have them. The choice to stop having them after you already have them. It’s the choice to decide for yourself.
Indeed, it’s the same choice Parker made when she chose to have four abortions. Whether or not she regrets those abortions, the fact of the matter is: pro-choice advocacy and the laws which Parker seeks to overturn enabled her to make those choices. And now she would deny those choices to other women because she’s had a change of heart. Now she thinks all women should be forced to give birth against their will. That’s not right. It’s not right and it’s not fair.
Moreover, it’s not reality-based. Women who don’t want to be pregnant will find a way not to be pregnant. Women in Texas are already heading across the border to Mexico to obtain RU-486. “DIY” abortions are on the rise. Simply telling women to “choose birth” ignores that some women simply don’t want to have babies, and no amount of regulations or counseling will change those women’s minds. Choice doesn’t mean “choose birth or choose birth.” That’s not a choice. That’s a mandate. That’s a directive. And that’s a violation of women’s rights as humans.
In the middle of her op-ed, Parker makes a valiant attempt to convince readers that conservatives are the party of personal responsibility, and they care deeply for “the individual in trouble” (the unhappily pregnant woman, presumably). To read the sentence out loud is to understand its sheer ridiculousness:
When conservatives talk about a culture of responsibility, we’re not just talking about the personal responsibility of the individual in trouble. We’re talking about the responsibility the rest of us have toward that individual.
Render unto me a break, lady. The members of your party—the people who you have chosen to serve on the advisory board of your organization, the goal of which is purportedly to jump-start a national dialogue on race and poverty—don’t feel any responsibility to individuals in trouble. If they did, they would maintain the same level of concern that they harbor for the goings-on in Black wombs until well after the contents of those wombs have exited and become members of society.
Parker and her supporters love fetuses but could care less about babies, as evidenced by the conservative free-market principles that Parker claims will “renew the urban core,” but which actually will do nothing to help Black babies, Black women, and Black families.
Furthermore, that Parker lauds crisis pregnancy centers—anti-choice propaganda centers that exploit and deceive women—belies any claim that she cares about the Black community.
There are now thousands of crisis pregnancy centers operating nationwide. More than 2,000 are affiliated with either Care Net or Heartbeat International. I maintain a regular active speaking schedule for, and consult with, these centers.
They work with pregnant women in trouble and provide them the services they need to have their children. They provide ultrasound, parental counseling, life-management counseling, help with the physical needs of the mother and child and, if need be, help with adoption services.
Unwanted pregnancies often are the result of loneliness, fear and a lack of information. Crisis pregnancy centers deal with all this.
Setting aside the ridiculous notion that unwanted pregnancies are the result of loneliness, or that women are too stupid to make choices about their own bodies, ultrasounds, counseling, and help with adoption services do not necessarily help Black women. The implication that Black women should just suck it up, carry a fetus to term, and give it up for adoption ignores the sad fact that Black babies in this country are generally unwanted. Black babies don’t get adopted at the rate that white babies do. Indeed, as of 2010 couples were paying an extra $38,000 for babies that were non-Black.
So Parker is advocating that Black women who choose abortion because they are not financially able to care for a child, and don’t want to raise a child in an environment in which that child won’t be cared for, should give birth to children who will likely end up languishing in a foster care system that doesn’t give a damn about them—a system that lacks the funds to properly care for foster kids because of the policies that Parker and conservatives support. Here are some of those policies:
- Conservatives advocate abstinence-only education even though it doesn’t work. They oppose fact-based sex education and access to contraception even though those are scientifically proven methods of reducing unplanned pregnancy rates.
- Conservatives are obsessed with repealing Obamacare, even though lack of health insurance makes it impossible for Black women to get the preventive health care that they and their children need to live full, healthy lives.
- Forty-two percent of women who obtain abortions live below the poverty line, yet conservatives advocate slashing billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (thanks Paul Ryan!) and drug testing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients (thanks Florida, Texas, Michigan, and the 29 other states considering such legislation this year!) because they believe Black Americans abuse food stamps and government entitlements so they can use taxpayer money to buy Cadillacs and weed.
The brutal truth is this: The far right wing politicians and individuals so obsessively “concerned” about the abortion rate in the Black community are the reason that the abortion rate in the Black community is so high.
Quite simply, Star Parker and her ilk give Black women no indication that they give a damn about what goes on in the Black community, even as they persist in pushing their anti-choice narrative on our backs. And because they think we’re stupid, they enlist members of our own community to lie to us, as if we would be more inclined to believe their lies if spewed out of the mouth of a fellow Black person.
They toss out nonsense platitudes about how the most dangerous place for a Black child is a Black woman’s uterus. They call Black people an “endangered species”—because comparing us to animals will convince us that you care about our rights as human beings. They erect offensive websites pithily called “Klanned Parenthood” to spread the already debunked claim that Planned Parenthood is the devil (because, they of course contend, Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist who wanted to spread birth control and abortion in the Black community in order to ethnically cleanse us out of existence, of course).
They continue to lie and claim that 80 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are located in minority communities (they’re not). They liken abortion to slavery and the KKK, and generally degrade the experience Black Americans have had fighting for civil rights in this country by comparing a woman’s choice regarding her own bodily autonomy to forced labor and lynching.
Listen up, Star. If you want us to believe that you care about the Black community, stop lying to us. Stand with us, not against us, as we fight for reproductive rights and justice. Trust Black women to make their own reproductive choices—like you trusted yourself to make your own choices.
And most importantly, stop letting the white anti-choice lobby use you as a puppet for their conservative anti-woman and racist agenda. It’s so unbecoming.