On Race and Abortion: Be Gentle
“If Black lives matter, why are you aborting your children?” Over the past years I’ve read that question online more times than I can recall. I remember when the hashtag Black Lives Matter began surfacing after the death of Trayvon Martin. When I saw the hashtag I thought it spoke a powerful truth. The message that black lives are valuable was one I identified with and believed in. As a member of the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, I worked to let my people know how our high abortion rates had devastated our communities. I educated others on the racist history of Planned Parenthood and how its founder Margaret Sanger sought to decrease the black population.
When the Black Lives Matter movement begin I knew their activists were communicating a truth I believed in but for a different purpose than mine. I remember feeling conflicted that I couldn’t reconcile our different messages around a mutual desire to preserve and value life. I too was grieving over the tragic deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and 12 year old Tamir Rice among others. As someone who is married to a black man, I understand the unique pressures and challenges they face in society. At the same time I was broken over the 16 million black preborn children aborted since Roe v. Wade became legal. I wondered why so many of my people cared about our people dying at the hands of cops, yet seemingly didn’t care about our children dying in the womb. I knew abortion was the number one cause of death in the black community. I longed to see the black community taking to the streets in protest for the lives of the most vulnerable among us. I can admit I got frustrated and even judged my people, questioning if their compassion for others was incomplete without a similar passion for our preborn children.
However as the Black Lives Matter movement continued, I began to listen more attentively. I remembered that listening to another person doesn’t mean I must agree with everything they say or do. Listening is an act of love, an opportunity to be humble and hear the heart cry of another. As I listened to both friends and strangers I heard stories of discrimination, decades of pain, and legitimate fears. In the process of listening a thought came to me. I realized I wanted my people, the black community to hear my pain over the children dead through abortion, but they wanted others to hear their pain over the loss of their own sons and daughters through police brutality. That powerful realization led me to understand in a deeper way that the black community as a collective group was mourning. This new level of empathy inspired me to commit to speaking to my people with compassion and hope.
I believe writing, ‘If Black lives matter than why are your abortion rates so high?’ in the comment section of an online article about police brutality is hurtful to the black community. As pro-lifers we need to be careful to not use the black community’s abortion rates as a battle ax, to go to war against them. We have to guard our hearts from using shame as a tactic to try and change others. The question of ‘Why are you killing your children?’ is especially offensive when it comes from a pro-lifer who knows the history of Planned Parenthood. Abortion is sadly seen as merely a legal right which is protected by the government. Anyone born after 1973 has always lived with this reality. Our president blesses Planned Parenthood and celebrities endorse it. I think many black individuals support abortion simply because they’ve been deceived into thinking it will benefit them. The founder of Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger even had a ‘Negro Project’ that was aimed at convincing the black community to take birth control. In light of the history of them being targeted (which is unknown to many in the black community), accusing or mocking the black communities over their high abortion rates is not kind. I’m not saying the pro-life community should deny the responsibility of the mother and father who chose abortion. I am saying that pro-lifers who know 70% of abortion clinics are located in low income minority neighborhoods should have a better understanding as to why the black community has high abortion rates. In addition the pro-life community shouldn’t just point out a problem, they should work to find a solution. When the black community is declaring there are systematic injustices the pro-life community should pay attention because these injustices happen with abortion and they aren’t limited to that issue.
Today many black Americans view the pro-life movement through a lens of distrust. The movement is mostly white, Republican and some of its leadership has not been very successful in reaching the black community. That is changing but it takes time. When people who identify as pro-life dismiss the black community’s desire for justice in regards to racial equality it brings division. Many people in the black community and the nation see police brutality and abortion as separate issues. When the pro-life community cares about babies killed by abortion but seemingly doesn’t care about men killed by police brutality the message the black community receives is that the pro-life community doesn’t care about the everyday issues they face. The pro-life movement can come off as disconnected and lacking in empathy. In addition I’ve heard from my black pro-life friends who’ve felt alone when issues of race are discussed. Black pro-lifers who’ve united with the movement for life are at times rejected and accused when they speak out against racism. They are told to move past it, to not ‘see’ color and to focus on more important issues like abortion or ‘black on black’ crime.
How do we bridge the divide? How do we all regardless of race stand for the pro-life message and communicate it to the black community with love? First we must seek to truly listen and care. We must refuse to use tools of shame and instead uplift people with hope. Many in black America already know the issues that ravage our communities. They are not looking for a lecture, but desiring compassionate people who will work for change. I believe when the black community sees the pro-life movement acting in ways that show they care about them as people, then they will believe they care about the fate of their children. Black lives do matter from the preborn child to the elderly person. As pro-lifers we of all people should be making that message clear by the way we care for others.