Hey Georgetown, Your Conference is Racist!

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Damon Clarke Owens, a breakout speaker who is leading the Theology of the Body: Building a Culture of Awe and Wonder discussion at this Saturday’s Cardinal O’Conner Conference on Life, is the current Executive Director of the Theology of the Body Institute and has also served as National Spokesman for L.E.A.R.N. (Life, Education, and Resource Network) — the largest African-American, evangelical, pro-life ministry in the United States.

Rev. Clenard H. Childress, Jr., the National Director of LEARN, stated that it’s purpose is to “enlighten — through activism and literature — the African-American churches and other community groups to the horrors of abortion and how it is decimating the African-American community.” Their site blackgenocide.org offensively equates abortion to both the Holocaust and slavery in the US.

The “Black Genocide” movement conspiracy theory advocates the belief that African-American populations are targets for population control at the hands of abortion providers who strategically place clinics in low-income neighborhoods, leading to higher rates of abortion among African-American women compared to white women.

This “planned genocide” of African-American babies was popularized by the former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who stated that “[w]hen Margaret Sanger … started Planned Parenthood, the objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities so they could help kill black babies before they came into the world.” Other groups, like Georgia Right to Life and the Texas-based, anti-abortion group Life Always, use terminology like “Planned Parenthood’s Negro Project” and billboards like the one depicted below to selectively co-opt civil-rights rhetoric in order to make abortion seem like a racist, eugenic plot designed to decimate the African-American population. Instead of giving thought to the historical, societal, and cultural influences that affect the heightened rates of abortion among women of color, these groups veil their movement behind racist claims and incorrect facts.

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Cain’s claim that abortion clinics are disproportionately located in lower-income or predominantly African-American communities is flat-out wrong. The Guttmacher Institute found that, actually, only 1 in 10 clinics are located in these neighborhoods. Although the claim that abortion rates are higher among women of color is true (the same study found that African-American women account for 37% of all abortions in the US, despite only making up 13% of the population), when underlying racial and ethnic factors are taken into account, the claim of an orchestrated genocide falls apart completely.

It isn’t only Black women who are having more abortions than white women — the rate of abortion among Hispanic women is double the rate among Whites, and Hispanic women are more than twice as likely as White women to experience an unintended pregnancy (the rate is three times for Black women). Is the reproductive-rights movement also trying to get rid of Hispanic babies? Probably not.

Logically, the women who tend to experience the most unintended pregnancies are also the same women who tend to get abortions. What the statistics show isn’t a White conspiracy designed to kill Black babies, but instead that women of color are getting pregnant unintentionally disproportionally more often than White women. Instead of trying to determine what racist plot is causing these women to get abortions, anti-choice policymakers should actually question what they are doing that is causing such a high rate of unintended pregnancies — and what can be done to prevent them in the future.

The Guttmacher report also found that many women of color face significant difficulties when it comes to health-care access. Many are unable to afford highly effective birth control methods that require a steep upfront cost, like the IUD. Those who do obtain contraceptive services generally get them at family planning centers, which are funded by Medicaid — a common target for Republicans. In addition, it found that “life events such as relationship changes, moving or personal crises can have a direct impact on method continuation.” When these disruptive life events occur more frequently among a certain population, the population experiences a higher rate of unintended pregnancy.

By continuing to reduce access to contraceptive services and by making it harder for the most at-risk populations to obtain the reproductive healthcare they need to stay healthy (and not pregnant), anti-choice policymakers are actively contributing to increased rates of abortion.

The anti-choice movement needs to stop painting abortion providers as racist eugenicists; it needs to stop co-opting populations’ historical struggles in in an attempt to fulfill its own agenda. Doing so is racist and offensive — Georgetown, with all its Jesuit values, should actively oppose these actions.

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Sophia Kleyman (COL ’16) is Events Coordinator of H*yas for Choice. 

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