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These measures include post abortion healing; male responsibility; comprehensive sexual/reproductive health education; all voluntary pregnancy prevention methods, plus rape and incest prevention & treatment; and life-affirming ways to get through crisis pregnancy and beyond.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Black Genocide?

Antiabortion billboards in Atlanta are occasioning controversy. They declare: "Black children are an endangered species."

That gets my attention. I am white, and there is only so much I am qualified to say on the matter, I cannot and never will be able to speak as a Black person myself. At the same time, my family is interracial, my grandbaby is of African descent... And everywhere in our majority Black neighorhood, children are indeed endangered, in more ways that I can describe here. So I do have something to say, for whatever it's worth.

The people behind these billboards speak of Black women's significantly higher abortion rates as part of a deliberate, carefully targeted genocide, one that they sometimes link to contraception.

Loretta J. Ross of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective counters: “The reason we have so many Planned Parenthoods in the black community is because leaders in the black community in the ’20s and ’30s went to Margaret Sanger and asked for them...Controlling our fertility was part of our uplift out of poverty strategy, and it still works.”

So, who's right here?

Loretta Ross points out something quite vital but so often lost on antiabortionists who makes these claims. Although there is a long shameful history of fertility control coerced upon Black women, there is a world of difference between that and personal and community-driven demands for voluntary family planning.

Coerced contraception is violence, yes, but the violence is in the forcing. Voluntary contraception prevents a prenatal life rather than stopping one--so what quarrel should prolifers have with it?

Prolifers are far better prepared to reduce the abortion rate if they recognize and honor these demands for voluntary birth control, instead of just denying them or dismissing them as outside impositions.

Dooming Black women to pregnancy every nine months regardless of what they would choose for themselves, given the chance--how is that not genocidal, how is that not reverting back to the systemic abuse of enslaved women as "breeders"? And how does that save their children's lives or help the children in any way?

Now, I do regard abortion as unjust lifetaking, and am concerned about the higher rates in the Black community. But not in the sense of blaming and scapegoating women who do their best to deal with often very difficult circumstances. In the sense of identifying and challenging the role of systemic racism here.

One cannot genuinely, practically challenge abortion as "genocidal" without also naming and challenging the social realities involved in the higher rate of Black abortion: institutionalized poverty, poor housing, lack of educational and job opportunities, lack of quality health care including family planning and prenatal services, family and community violence, the criminalization of young Black men...

All of these harsh realities, implicated in so many abortions, are the ongoing legacy in large part of a white-supremacist society that ran on slavery and then eugenics.

So there is this element of truth to the "genocide" charge...but please nobody invoke it to throw further burdens onto the shoulders of Black women--which cannot be good for Black children either, unborn or already born.

1 comment:

Social Change Fairy said...

Hi Marysia,

I'm a black woman, and Sistersong is not telling the truth. Sanger suggested that there should be birth control clinics in the black community - and she approached black ministers for support. It wasn't the other way around. Black women have recognized Planned Parenthood and abortion as a genocidal force ever since Fannie Lou Hamer. The idea that abortion is genocidal comes from within the community -- and it attacks the abortion industry -- not black women. No one is saying black women should always be pregnant -- black pro-lifers support contraception. Furthermore, we're the ones providing true choices in our community - afterbirth homes, literacy class, financial planning -- the kind of things Planned Parenthood will not help black women with. Furthermore, most poor people are white -- so the idea that lack of money or education or other social goods can explain the disproportionate presence of clinics in black neighborhoods is false. I love your blog - just wanted to clarify a few things.