We’ve been hearing a lot about genocide lately.
President Obama made the case for going into Libya to prevent the ‘genocide’ of innocents. Christians are being massacred in record numbers in the Middle East. Darfur is still happening, even though we’ve turned our eyes away. And ethnic minorities are being systematically targeted all over Africa, including the Ivory Coast where a corrupt former president refuses to give up the reins of power.
The word is strong, brutal, and conjures up mass graves and severed limbs.
That’s probably why pro-choice groups are outraged when it’s used to describe abortion.
Last month, Arizona outlawed race-based abortions. A pro-life organization from Texas has erected billboards throughout the country specifically targeting the black community. And a number of black leaders have echoed the view that the high rate of abortion in depressed (and usually minority) communities has been a de facto genocide of that demographic.
Not surprisingly, pro-choicers are outraged at any attempt to link a ‘woman’s right to choose’ with the deliberate annihilation of a race, gender or ethnicity, which is the common definition of genocide. (That’s why they’re also conspicuously silent about sex-selective abortions.) They bristle at the notion that black women are victims, and resent what the Chicago Abortion Fund calls a “despicable and deplorable” campaign against women of color.
They’re especially incensed by a billboard in the windy city which shows a picture of President Obama next to the words “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”
Message received. Loud and clear.
This is the First Amendment at work. The words may be offensive, but they’re protected, just like the billboard in New York that depicted a beautiful little black girl with the words “The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb.”
But just because they’re protected, does that mean we in the pro-life movement should use them? I say yes-unequivocally- because the sanitization of the abortion controversy has lasted for almost forty years, and perhaps it’s time to stop dancing around the facts.
Abortion is tragically common among young black women. Judging from figures issues by the Guttmacher Institute, well over ten (10) million black babies were aborted between 1973 and 2005. And as we have seen in Philadelphia, there is very little oversight when it comes to clinics that exist in certain, shall we say, less visible communities? It’s hard to imagine that Kermit Gosnell would have been able to get away with his house of horrors in Bryn Mawr or Gladwyne.
So while it may be distasteful to bring race into the abortion debate, it’s just as distasteful to pretend that it doesn’t play a role. The pro-choice movement is most visibly headed by middle-aged white women like Kim Gandy and , people who’ve consistently tried to claim some sort of solidarity with their sisters of color.
But one sister of color they weren’t able to connect with was Dr. Alveda King, MLK’s niece and a lifelong opponent of abortion. Dr. King has been extremely vocal in her position that abortion is as damaging to the black community as racism, creating controversy with comments like:
"Abortion and racism are both symptoms of a fundamental human error…The error is thinking that when someone stands in the way of our wants, we can justify getting that person out of our lives. Abortion and racism stem from the same poisonous root, selfishness.”
You can imagine that is not going to be a keynote speaker at the next NOW conference, even though she is a strong and independent role model for women of all colors and philosophies.
And that’s the point. In trying disassociate the politics of race from the politics of abortion, we are deliberately ignoring an important fact: classifying human life based on its empiric-as opposed to intrinsic and universal value-creates a society that accepted slavery and allowed to flourish.
Some people have a hard time making that connection, believing that it’s stretching the principle of human dignity too far. They can’t deny that the massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda is genocide. They are compelled to admit-even though the Turkish government won’t-that the systematic extermination of Armenians was genocide. They recognize without a moment’s hesitation that the destruction of 6 million Jews under the Third Reich was genocide.
But they refuse to accept that legalized abortion, even if unintended, has depleted the ranks of African Americans in a disturbingly similar manner.
Billboards might lie. Statistics don’t.