The billboard in Atlanta

The first time I had heard of turning abortion into a racial genocide issue was during the run up to the 2008 election. I was at an Obama event in Miami that was centered around Women’s Issues, and a small group of African Americans staged a disturbance / protest during the event, unfurling signs they had apparently hidden among their clothes and belongings, with slogans like “abortion is black genocide” and comparing Obama to the KKK due to his (lukewarm) support of a woman’s right to choose.

Renee at Womanist Musings wrote about billboards in Atlanta that is essentially blaming black women for aborting too many of their children. I find this troublesome on so many levels, not the least of all that I feel like the black community is being manipulated, and black women are being shamed and blamed.

I do understand that some White women may be reticent to enter this debate because it is framed as saving a Black child, who we know to be universally undereducated and invisible. Even when Black women place their children for adoption, they are less likely to be adopted and so it would appear that Black women are really reduced to two choices, abort or raise the child themselves. Even if we validate that point, there is still the issue of placing a priority on women’s agency when it comes to reproductive rights. We do not have the right to question these women on their decisions. No one chooses to abort without putting great thought into the matter and if we truly respect the right to choose, it must apply to ALL women.

Finally, as scared as White women may be to interact because of the racial undertones of this argument, I must ask don’t Black women matter?

Please read the entire post. And, please read Rachel’s post about it, which is where I saw it first.

14 Comments

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14 responses to “The billboard in Atlanta

  1. Interesting post. In this case, I would firmly be on the side of women’s right to choose, as a generally am.

    A little bit OT, but one area where it becomes tricky, in my opinion, is in cultures where female babies are disproportionately aborted. I understand and support a woman’s right to choose, but when a culture/society says that a female baby is worth less than a male baby and a woman then chooses (or is coerced into choosing) to abort a female baby, it seems to pit women’s rights against women’s rights.

    In British Columbia, women are no longer allowed to find out the sex of their baby via ultrasound (at least publicly funded ultrasound), the argument being that if they want to have an abortion it should be because they want to have an abortion and not because they don’t want a girl.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a huge advocate of choice, but I’m not sure I’m 100% behind choice when it is patriarchy-inspired choice.

    • MomTFH

      I agree. I am not a fan of sex selection abortions. I didn’t know about that policy in BC. I know it is true in India.

      I think in areas where women have autonomy over the number and timing of their births there will be less pressure to have babies of a certain gender. And, the less sexism and second rate status given to women, the less pressure for gender selection.

    • natalie

      It’s not entirely true that women cannot find out their baby’s sex via publicly-funded ultrasound in BC, although that is the official policy. I was asked at mine whether I wanted to know, and all of my friends who have wanted to know have found out at publicly-funded ultrasounds (except when the genitals were not visible and they had to have private followup ultrasounds). Neither I nor any of my friends is visibly of a racial minority, however. I suspect that a South Asian woman might find that the official policy is applied to her where a White woman does not.

      • MomTFH

        Absolutely. I found that to be the case with repeat HIV testing, too. Married white women were pretty much handed the “opt out” paper to sign, while single mothers and mothers of color were advised to take the HIV test.

        Often, health care policies that balance autonomy versus public health issues end up putting more of a burden on women of color than white women.

  2. Black women have 35% of abortions in this country, while they only make up about 12% of the population. Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood as a way to control and eventually eliminate those she called “human weeds,” which included people of color, as well as those she thought mentally inferior. At first, she was a vocal eugenicist (see The Negro Project), but after the Holocaust toned down her rhetoric, but her hatred and desire to stamp out non-whites continued. She really was a vile person.

    • MomTFH

      I am not a fan of eugenics, and was not discussing Margaret Sanger nor Planned Parenthood.

      However, black women have more abortions for many, complex reasons. They have higher birth rates in general and more unplanned pregnancies, more poverty, etc. It is really not productive to condemn them after the fact for the higher abortion rate. Rather, we should try to lower all unplanned pregnancies.

      Groups like Planned Parenthood are essential for providing contraception to minorities.

  3. As the first post said, the “abortion as black genocide” narrative seems like an argument of convenience… a “let’s try this tactic” mentality, that poorly disguises any actual concern for black infants. I don’t see any billboards on health disparities in infant mortality.

  4. saynsumthn

    This is not about “Blaming” African American Women- but it is about “Targeting” them and if you do not believe that is what is going on – than watch the film: Maafa21 Black Genocide in 21st Century America. This 2 hour documentary is full of documentation as to how abortion is targeted to reduce black populations. Get Maafa21 here: http://www.maafa21.com

    • MomTFH

      I am not going to defend Margaret Sanger, but a black women, Faye Wattleton, ran Planned Parenthood from 1978 to 1992. They are not running a secret organization to kill all black people.

      The issues of birth rates, unplanned pregnancy, and abortion rates in women of color are more complicated than this so called right to life group out of Texas wants to examine. Making abortion illegal would affect black women more, since they would be less likely to be able to pay a qualified private physician to do one quietly, and would be more likely to resort to a back alley abortion or another desperate and possibly harmful technique for inducing abortion.

      Woman of color are vastly disproportionately affected by illegal abortion globally. The numbers of 70,000 + dying a year, leaving 200,000 children orphaned are real numbers of real people, not manipulated numbers of first trimester pregnancies like those used in the film linked to above. Making abortion illegal and unsafe, what the makers of this film support, will not decrease abortions. It will just make them more likely to kill the women who get them, and most of these women are already mothers.

      Even if you believe a first trimester abortion is killing babies, then you should support Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood prevents abortions.

  5. I’m really disappointed about these billboards, but I want to emphasize the point that Planned Parenthood does more than provide abortions. The clinics provide low/no cost contraceptive management, STD testing (for women AND men) and annual GYN care, as well. By the same logic that their ‘placement’ in minority neighborhoods targets minorities for abortions, do they also ‘target’ minorities for GYN care? I don’t see how offering health care services that might otherwise be out of reach to a community is a bad thing.

    Then again, I don’t really get how anyone thought these billboards were a good idea.

    • MomTFH

      Absolutely. That’s what the post I link to explains. In fact, many Planned Parenthood locations don’t provide abortions. All of them provide contraception, many of them free or reduced price contraception.

  6. Pingback: Race, pregnancy and birth, link round up and reply turned post « Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

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