You might get the impression that I am a crusader on this issue, and you would be right to some degree. The recent blow-up over support for Planned Parenthood brought to mind an article which I had filed away some time ago that speaks to the current issue so forcefully.
At the Good Counsel shelters for homeless pregnant women in New York, yesterday was business as usual: pregnant moms getting ready to deliver, other mothers feeding their children, still others going off to school or training for new jobs
There is a striking fact about these women: most are African-American. “These moms are attracted to Good Counsel because they know they will be in an environment where their baby is considered as beautiful and as worthy of life as any other,” says Executive Director Chris Bell.
Yesterday was not business as usual at the 99th annual conference for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. For one thing, the first African-American to head the presidential ticket of a major party was on hand. Yet there was another interesting appearance that went mostly unmentioned. This was a protest by African-American pro-lifers – many NAACP members – who can’t understand why America’s most venerated civil rights organization turns a blind eye to what they say is the abortion industry’s practice of targeting poor minority neighborhoods.
These folks include the Rev. Clenard Childress, a New Jersey pastor who runs a Web site called blackgenocide.org – the same language the Rev. Jesse Jackson used before he threw in his lot with the Democratic Party. These folks include Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, and Levon Yuille of the National Black Pro-Life Caucus. And these folks include Dr. Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King who says she knows what abortion does to a woman – because she had two of them before her change of heart.
“I remember when I was pregnant and considering a third abortion,” she says. “I went to Daddy King [her grandfather and Martin Luther King's father]. He told me, ‘that’s a baby, not a blob of tissue.’ Unfortunately, 14 million African-Americans are not here today because of legalized abortion. It’s as if a plague swept through America’s cities and towns and took one of every four of us.”
What Dr. King is alluding to is that abortion disproportionately affects African-Americans. A fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute puts it this way: “Black women are 4.8 times as likely as non-Hispanic white women to have an abortion.” The Centers for Disease Control further report what this means: While about one out of every five white pregnancies ends in abortion, it’s nearly one out of every two for African-Americans.
The debate can get uncomfortable. Pro-lifers point to Planned Parenthood’s origins in the eugenics movement. Indeed, these unpleasant associations recently resurfaced after pro-life students at UCLA hired actors to call up Planned Parenthood clinics posing as donors. In one call, the actor expressed his dislike of affirmative action, and said that he just felt that “the less black kids out there, the better.” The woman responded, “understandable, understandable” and went on to say she was “excited” about the donation. Other calls yielded similar embarrassing results.
On the other side, of course, are the maternity homes and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Planned Parenthood and their allies accuse these centers of posing as medical clinics, offering religion instead of science, and of “traumatizing” pregnant women by showing them things like sonograms. It’s an odd complaint from a group that runs a Web site called Teenwire – which offers adolescents tips on everything from anal sex to a crude, animated condom game. Given that the overwhelming majority of women who have abortions are over age 20, showing one a sonogram or telling her “Jesus loves you” seems pretty tame stuff.
Planned Parenthood has every legal right to pursue its business. But if – as our pro-choice friends like to say – we really want a world where abortion is more rare, could not the NAACP help?
Just imagine if this institution used its voice and resources to ensure that, beside all those Planned Parenthood clinics located in our minority neighborhoods, African-American women could find another kind of place. A place not unlike Good Counsel – where a scared young pregnant woman could carry her baby to term, complete her education, train for a new job, and be treated with the love and respect that a mother needs and deserves.
In other words, could not the NAACP work for a society where pregnant African-Americans had two doors open to them? Planned Parenthood’s not going anywhere, so the first would still lead to America’s largest abortion provider, a business that has already eliminated millions from America’s population. But the other would lead to people whose business is of a vastly different order: welcoming these children into the world, and getting their moms the help they need to live lives of purpose and dignity.
Then again, that would give women a real choice.