Defining “Life”: Black Women and Abortion

This week, black women once again were singled out by anti-abortion activists, when a poster placed in the Soho neighborhood of New York claimed that “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”

The abortion debate is a tricky thing. I, for one, have avoided the debate entirely, because I see abortion as a crisis-created solution, the crisis being a society where women are not afforded the same control over their bodies as men are.

Women who chose to end pregnancies are often depicted as  irresponsible, poor single mothers, a depiction that ignores the facts:

*Abortions are expensive, and therefore, are not a get-out-of-motherhood free card for most poor women.

*Married women get abortions too.

This stereotype also avoids an uncomfortable thought: Is it even more irresponsible to have a child that you do not have the means to take care of?

People who follow me on Facebook and Twitter may have seen me gush about the book, “Sex and Dawn.” The book dismantles many culturally-misguided assumptions about human evolution and sexuality, but it also critiques previous anthropological studies on topics such as how big our ancestors were and their mortality rates.

One part of the book that I found sobering was the role of infanticide in human history. From many pre-historic forager societies to “foundling hospitals” in 18th century France, it was socially acceptable to kill an infant if the child was perceived as a strain on community resources. After the child is born. In some cultures, children are not thought to be “real” human beings until they are over a year old.

Why do I bring this up? The most preposterous thing about the newest attack on the reproductive rights of black women is the absurdity of it. If Life Always (the organization behind the poster) is so concerned about the safety of African American children, why don’t they fight for safer and effective public schools, affordable housing or job creation, the very resources that are needed to raise a healthy and happy child? Instead, they are framing the symptom as the problem.

If your wondering, I am still avoiding the abortion debate. I am pro-choice, but in the real sense of the word. I’m for women having the right to have lives that do not force them to choose between expanding their families and preserving themselves. I’d like to see a group with the funding to take out a billboard in Soho dedicate themselves to a cause that would really save black children, instead of shaming black women into less-than ideal situations.

EDIT TO ADD: This powerful video of Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) breaking down the importance of Planned Parenthood. Thanks to Alicia Sanchez for the link!



2 thoughts on “Defining “Life”: Black Women and Abortion

  1. Soaring Butterfly

    Good points. Thanks for writing.


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