The Problem with PRENDA: Reproductive Justice and Women of Color
I have been hearing murmurings to the effect of “I’m prochoice, but race and sex selection is morally repugnant.” So, I thought I’d address that concern briefly.
The Republicans have tried very hard to make this issue about “black genocide” or the sort of sex selection that occurs in countries like China and India. It is important to understand that such policies are not driving the Republicans’ (failed) effort to pass PRENDA. PRENDA (and, indeed, all anti-choice bills) is about divesting women of their rights as humans. PERIOD.
In the reality-based world, Republican policies on women’s health (like efforts to ban contraception) disparately impact low-income women, thus resulting in the high abortion rate among women of color.
From the Guttmacher Institute:
This much is true: In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women. Antiabortion activists, including some African-American pastors, have been waging a campaign around this fact, falsely asserting that the disparity is the result of aggressive marketing by abortion providers to minority communities.
The Issues4Life Foundation, for example, is a faith-based organization that targets and works with African-American leaders toward achieving the goal of “zero African-American lives lost to abortion or biotechnology.” In April, Issues4Life wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus to denounce Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its “racist and eugenic goals.” The group blamed PPFA and abortion providers in general for the high abortion rate in the African-American community—deeming the situation the “Da[r]fur of America”—and called on Congress to withdraw federal family planning funds from all PPFA affiliates.
These activists are exploiting and distorting the facts to serve their antiabortion agenda. They ignore the fundamental reason women have abortions and the underlying problem of racial and ethnic disparities across an array of health indicators. The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. This applies to all women—black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American alike. Not surprisingly, the variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups relates directly to the variation in the unintended pregnancy rates across those same groups.
Black women are not alone in having disproportionately high unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. The abortion rate among Hispanic women, for example, although not as high as the rate among black women, is double the rate among whites. Hispanics also have a higher level of unintended pregnancy than white women. Black women’s unintended pregnancy rates are the highest of all. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the particular difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively over long periods of time. Moreover, these realities must be seen in a larger context in which significant racial and ethnic disparities persist for a wide range of health outcomes, from diabetes to heart disease to breast and cervical cancer to sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.
Let’s not forget that Roy Blunt sought to subject the availability of health insurance coverage for those precise health outcomes (diabetes, heart disease, breast and cervical cancer, etc.) to the
personal beliefs whims of employers, healthcare providers, and health insurance companies.
See what I mean?
Republicans cannot, on the one hand, defund Planned Parenthood thus cutting off many low-income women’s access to healthcare, including family planning counseling and contraception, yet on the other hand lament the abortion rate among that same group of women. It is blatant hypocrisy. It is also egregious cruelty and a devaluation of women as humans.
Not one to leave you on an entirely sour note, I’ll end with this amusing quote from Loretta Ross, who is the national coordinator of Sister Song, a reproductive justice organization for women of color in Atlanta, Georgia:
“It’s kind of hard to find evidence that a black woman is going to have an abortion because she’s surprised to find her baby is black. It just strains credulity to think that’s a problem. I mean, she wakes up in the morning and says ‘Oh my god! My baby’s black?'”
Exactly. This isn’t about concern for the well-being of black mothers. Their anti-woman policies (voting against the Violence Against Women Act, voting against the WORK Act, voting for the Blunt Amendment, demanding that Planned Parenthood be fully defunded, requiring women with children as young as two years old to work even if that may not be best for their family) speaks volumes about the GOP’s concern for all women.
So when it comes to their faux concern about black babies, I’m calling bullshit.
Now if only bullshit would answer the damn phone.
[h/t Mother Jones]