In the wake of two rounds of racially-charged anti-abortion campaigns: “Black Children are an Endangered Species” and “The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American is in the Womb.” These campaigns are built around the fact that pregnant black women are more likely to have abortions than pregnant white women. The one getting attention at the moment, sent in by Laura E., is a set of billboards from That’s Abortion in the South Side of Chicago:
I’ve said this before, and it’s being said elsewhere, but I think it deserves to be said again, and strongly.
Many women have abortions because they cannot afford to raise a(nother) child. They would bring the fetus to term if only they weren’t all-but-crushed under the burdens of under-served neighborhoods, shitty public education, a dearth of jobs that pay a living wage, a criminal justice system that strips inner cities of husbands and fathers, a lack of health care, and stingy, penalizing, and humiliating social services (when they can get them). So telling black women that they are bad; telling them that they are killing their race alongside their babies, is twisting a knife that already penetrates deep in the black community.
Not to mention the fact that as soon as those poor women have children, they’re demonized for irresponsibly bringing babies into the world that they cannot support. It’s called a double bind; damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And no they cannot “wait until they’re in a better place financially” or “not have sex until they can afford to raise a child” because many, many women will never be in such a place in their entire lives. And they can’t just “practice responsible contraception” because half of all pregnancies are unintended, at least a third among even the most well-educated and resource-rich women. So pregnancies will and do happen, even to people who don’t want or can’t have a child.
If pro-life groups want to stop abortion, they need to stop accusing black women of moral bankruptcy and start putting those billboards up across from the Capital Building. What black women need isn’t an ethics lesson, they need resources. They need those very same people who tsk tsk them to stand up for them, to fight for a living wage, investments in their schools and communities, protection instead of criminalization, more available and better subsidized child care, and guaranteed parental leave benefits for all (it’s not a fantasy). If black women had those things, then they might feel like that had a choice to keep their baby, just as they have a choice to abort their fetus.
It’s not the parents who fail to care-about-the-children in America, it’s a government and it’s citizens that allow 1 in 5 to languish in poverty.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.