When Anti-Choicers Co-Opt #BlackLivesMatter

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 12.54.06 PMEven though safe abortion should be as much a part of women’s health care as safe childbirth, women can face attacks from their families and communities when they decide to terminate a pregnancy.

What often goes unexamined is how race can intersect with gender to create a treacherous site of oppression for Black women who seek abortion care.

Due to socioeconomic factors that stem from poverty, Black women experience much higher rates of unintended pregnancy. This results in Black women seeking abortions at nearly five times the rate of white women, and accounting for nearly a third of all U.S. abortions despite only making up 13 percent of the female population.

Black women are already culturally cast as irresponsible, and anti-choicers rely on these stereotypes to shame Black women who get abortions.

Tasha Fierce, a Los Angeles-based writer, recently underwent an abortion when her usual contraceptive method failed. In Ebony, she detailed her experience with protestors when she visited the clinic:

When my boyfriend and I got out of the car and started towards the entrance, their shouting changed from the general fare to a targeted “Did you know abortion is the number one cause of death in the African-American community?” In my mental and physical state, I really was not prepared to quietly accept a bunch of non-Black people using my race to guilt me out of getting an abortion. I snapped. How I was able to scream “Fuck you!” with as much force as I did being as weak as I was, I don’t know.

Websites like BlackGenocide.org have a lot of literature dedicated to how Black women are contributing to race extinction by terminating their pregnancies, proclaiming that “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” Anti-choice organizations have even erected billboards with this same slogan in multiple cities, often during Black History Month.

These manipulative campaigns even go as far as to repurpose the social media battle cry #BlackLivesMatter by saying a war is being carried out against Black youth, but inside the bodies of their mothers, not in the streets. They have no shame in hijacking civil-rights rhetoric or slavery imagery to suit their anti-choice agenda.

At the conservative news site TheBlaze.com, a blogger writes:

Abortion doctors kill more Black people in a week than the KKK has in the past century…It’s abortion that victimizes them more than anything… And cops are the ones dehumanizing Black people?

Anti-choicers also will co-opt Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and accuse pro-choice activists of “killing the dream,” as shown in this open letter to Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. Dr. King was actually an advocate of family planning for African Americans and was even awarded the very first Margaret Sanger Award in Human Rights in 1966, an award that recognizes “leadership in furthering reproductive health and rights.”

The male-dominated Black Power movement, on the other hand, saw birth control as genocide—abortion was completely taboo. To them, political clout came with increased population, and the role of Black women was to produce “warriors for the revolution.” Black feminists of the 1960s, such as Angela Davis, staunchly opposed this mindset, pushing for increased access to reproductive health care.

Davis wrote of that time period:

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of some nationalist groups was their determination to push women into the background. The brothers opposing us leaned heavily on the male supremacist trends, which were winding their way through the movement.

The one thing today’s anti-choicers have in common with the Black Power era’s anti-choicers is their view of Black women as incubators and not people.

Genocide is the systematic eradication of an ethnic or cultural group. To accuse Black women who get abortions of genocide and place them on the same spectrum as history’s mass murderers is the ultimate demonization. When it comes to reproductive care, Black women lose no matter what they choose. You keep the baby? Welfare queen. You choose abortion? Race traitor. Your body is not your own, and your choices are always scrutinized.

As anti-abortion laws disproportionately impact low-income women of color, it becomes increasingly important to trust Black women. We deserve to be the arbiters of our reproductive destinies.

 Photo courtesy of Flickr user Vectorportal via Creative Commons 2.0.

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Associate editor of Ms. magazine