By Stacey Patton, Special to the NNPA from Thedefendersonline.com –
A new billboard placed in SoHo near one of three Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in New York City blared – “The most dangerous place for an African American is the womb.”
Seriously? They’ve got to be kidding, right?
If radical religious pro-lifers really want to urge Black women to be upset, why put this billboard in the demographically White SoHo? Why not Harlem or Brooklyn where more Black people can see it?
Now, after a barrage of protests, the billboard is being taken down.
The eyebrow-raising ad features the innocent face of six-year-old Anissa Fraser. When her mother, Tricia Fraser, signed her up with a modeling agency two years ago, she never thought that her daughter would become the face of a pro-life campaign targeting African Americans.
The billboard is not unique to New York City; it is just another in a string of publicity gimmicks. Similar ads designed to bait the Black community into supporting the anti-abortion movement first appeared last year in Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, also during Black History Month. Those provocative signs called Black children “endangered species.”
At a press conference held earlier this week at the Grand Hyatt on Park Avenue, local religious and civic leaders drove home the message that free abortions in the U.S. are being used as a tool to stealthily target African Americans for extermination.
“During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried through abortion,” said Pastor Stephen Broden, a board member of Life Always, the nonprofit organization responsible for posting the billboard. “We have seen the heartbreaking effects of opportunists who happen to be Black abortionists perpetrating this atrocity; it’s not just babies who are in danger, it’s also their mothers, and our society at large,” he added.
In a press release, Life Always explained that the billboard campaign is designed to raise public awareness of Planned Parenthood’s targeting of minority neighborhoods. It comes just weeks after the New York City Health Department released its annual Vital Statistics Report, which revealed a 41 percent abortion rate – nearly twice the national average.
“This campaign highlights the tragedy that abortion is the number one killer since 1973 in the Black community and the truth that we must confront in a city with a near 60 percent abortion rate for Black women,” said Life Always board member Rev. Derek McCoy.
The conspiracy theorist’s claims that most abortion clinics are strategically placed in Black neighborhoods have already been proved untrue. In 2008, the Guttmacher Institute conducted a census of known abortion providers, by race and clinic location, and found:
■63 percent of abortion providers are located in predominantly non-Latino White neighborhoods.
■12 percent are located in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.
■9 percent of abortion providers are located in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
■1 percent of abortion providers are located in other predominantly non-White neighborhoods.
■15 percent of abortion providers were located in neighborhoods where no racial group constituted a majority of the population.
It’s also odd to me that these Black ministers and other civic leaders – who are being funded by White organizations – keep declaring that Black women are either callous about their unborn children, or that Black women’s right to an abortion is a White racist conspiracy determined to annihilate the race.
And, yet they also seem to ignore that there is a stream of anti-abortion activists that are allied with those Whites who say that White people need to have more babies to offset the hordes of people of color who keep breeding in larger numbers. Those anti-abortion activists with a more respectable pose wouldn’t dare make this argument.
Yes, it is true that Black women represent a disproportionately higher rate of abortions. But, how are Black children “unusually endangered ” when data from the Center for Disease Control indicates that the fertility rate or births per 1,000 women of childbearing age among Black women remains higher than the national average and has inched up in recent years?
To suggest that Planned Parenthood or other abortion service providers are engaged in a eugenic atrocity against Blacks is simply a media ploy. It boils down to a race-based political strategy and diversionary tactic launched in the aftermath of the historic election of the country’s first Black president. It is an example of right-wing conservatives drawing on Black people’s history of discrimination and pain to garner support and numbers for their own conservative agenda.
After all, since when did radical pro-life or conservative political groups start giving a genuine hoot about Black women aborting babies? Remember, former Education Secretary William Bennett put forth that ridiculous hypothetical proposition in 2005 when he said – “If you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every Black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.”
Looking through the long scope of American history, the only time when there was any genuine concern about Black women aborting babies was during slavery when Black procreation helped to sustain a cheap labor force, giving masters an economic incentive to govern Black women’s reproductive lives. In bondage, slave women refused to bear children for their slave masters by abstaining from sexual intercourse, by using contraceptives and abortives, and sometimes murdering infants as acts of defiance. In her book, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, law professor Dorothy Roberts explores this history.
Writing in 1849, E.M. Pendleton, a physician from Hancock County, Georgia said, “The blacks are possessed of a secret by which they destroy the fetus at an early stage of gestation.”
In 1860, reading a paper before the Rutherford County Medical Society in Tennessee, Dr. John T. Morgan explained a number of techniques slave women used “to effect an abortion or to derange menstruation.” Those techniques included herbal remedies, “medicine,” “violent exercise,” “external and internal manipulation.” He recorded that one slave woman inserted “a roll of rags about two or three inches long and as hard as a stick” into her vagina.
Likewise, some slave men also relinquished their reproductive roles to keep their offspring from becoming their masters’ property. There was J.W. Loguen, who vowed that “slavery shall never own a wife or child of mine.” Henry Bibb declared, “if there was any one act of my life while a slave that I have to lament over, it is that of being a father and a husband of slaves.”
As Roberts explains in her book, slave masters did not care about the dignity and life of black children born into a lifetime of slavery. When slave women aborted fetuses or intentionally killed them, it struck the ire of their masters because those women denied White men the profit that would have been earned from the sale or exploitation later on.
But, the true cause of the many deaths of infants born during slavery, Roberts notes, had less to do with abortion, carelessness or Black women sacrificing children as acts of defiance. Black babies died at disproportionately higher rates than White children because of hard physical labor, poor nutrition, and abuse endured during pregnancy. In addition, Black slave children suffered lower birth rates and higher mortality rates than White children.
Which brings me to my last point . . .
For all the brouhaha and alleged concern about Blacks being targeted by coercive abortion doctors, the pro-lifer’s deafening silence on the problems facing Black infants is quite conspicuous. I don’t see them putting up billboards and raising cane over high infant mortality rates due to poor nutrition or inadequate healthcare. They don’t address other real threats to Black children – asthma, lead poisoning, food access, gun violence, the cradle-to-prison and school-to-prison pipelines, poverty, education discrimination and other effects of racism on life prospects. If pro-lifers are really worried about Black genocide there are plenty of other places to look besides Black women’s bellies. They’re all talk when the fetus is in the womb, but once these Black children are born, they say nothing.
It seems that all this pro-life fever is not directed toward the unborn, but towards the women. But, what is the purpose of demanding a closing down of the reproductive options of women? Why do they want to deny women the right to choose, when they don’t give a genuine hoot about their children once they are born?
Stacey Patton is a writer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.