Black women account for 40 percent of the abortions in America while only being 13 percent of the population:
For years the largely white staff of Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, tried to tackle the disproportionately high number of black women who undergo abortions. But, staff members said, they found it difficult to make inroads with black audiences. So in 2009, the group took money that it normally used for advertising a pregnancy hot line and hired a black woman, Catherine Davis, to be its minority outreach coordinator.
Ms. Davis traveled to black churches and colleges around the state, delivering the message that abortion is the primary tool in a decades-old conspiracy to kill off blacks. This month, the group expanded its reach, making national news with 80 billboards around Atlanta that proclaim, “Black children are an endangered species,” and a Web site, http://www.toomanyaborted.com.
Across the country, the anti-abortion movement, long viewed as almost exclusively white and Republican, is turning its attention to African-Americans and encouraging black abortion opponents across the country to become more active. Black abortion opponents, who sometimes refer to abortions as “womb lynchings,” have mounted a sustained attack on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, spurred by a sting operation by young white conservatives who taped Planned Parenthood employees welcoming donations specifically for aborting black children.
“What’s giving it momentum is blacks are finally figuring out what’s going down,” said Johnny M. Hunter, a black pastor and longtime abortion opponent in Fayetteville, N.C. “The game changes when blacks get involved. And in the pro-life movement, a lot of the groups that have been ignored for years, they’re now getting galvanized.”
The factors fueling the focus on black women — an abortion rate far higher than that of other races and the ties between the effort to legalize and popularize birth control and eugenics — are, at heart, old news. But they have been given exaggerated new life by the Internet, slick repackaging, high production values and money, like the more than $20,000 that Georgia Right to Life invested in the billboards. Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black women get almost 40 percent of the country’s abortions, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Nearly 40 percent of black pregnancies end in induced abortion, a rate far higher than for white or Hispanic women.
Day Gardner, now the president of the National Black Pro-Life Union in Washington, said those figures shocked her at first.
“I just really assumed that white people aborted more than anyone else, and black people would not do this because we’re culturally a religious people, we have large families,” Ms. Gardner said.
Many black anti-abortion leaders, including Ms. Davis and Alveda King, a niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the director of African-American outreach for Priests for Life, often recount their own abortion histories (each woman had two).
Abortion opponents say the number is so high because abortion clinics are deliberately located in black neighborhoods and prey upon black women. The evidence, they say, is everywhere: Planned Parenthood’s response to the anti-abortion ad that aired during the Super Bowl featured two black athletes, they note, and several women’s clinics offered free services — including abortions — to evacuees after Hurricane Katrina.
“The more I dug into it, the more vast I found that the network was,” Ms. Davis said. “And I realized that African-American women just did not know the truth, they did not understand the truth about the abortion industry.”
But those who support abortion rights dispute the conspiracy theory, saying it portrays black women as dupes and victims. The reason black women have so many abortions is simple, they say: too many unwanted pregnancies. “There’s an assumption that every time a girl is pregnant it’s because of voluntary activity, and it’s so not the case,” Ms. Ross said.
But, she said, the idea that abortion is intended to wipe out blacks may be finding fertile ground in a population that has experienced so much sanctioned prejudice and violence.
Black opponents of abortion are fond of saying that black people were anti-abortion and anti-birth control early on, pointing to Marcus Garvey’s conviction that blacks could overcome white supremacy through reproduction, and black militants who protested family planning clinics.
But that is only half the picture, scholars say. Black women were eager for birth control even before it was popularized by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and black doctors who provided illegal abortions were lauded as community heroes.