Exploring blacks' high rate of abortion

Among the most contentious issues in America today are race and abortion. Fuse them into a single issue and you've got a nuclear bomb.

And so, when a Texas minister last month posted pro-life billboards in African-American neighborhoods in Chicago, more than feathers were ruffled. With a picture of President Barack Obama, they proclaimed, "Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted." It's part of a national campaign that warns, "Black children are an endangered species."

The campaign is designed to draw attention to the higher incidence of abortion among African-Americans. According to the Census Bureau, the rate of abortions in 2006 among black women was 50 per 1,000, compared with 14 for white women and 22 for "other" women. Those figures fairly reflect historical trends, although rates generally have declined somewhat over the years.

Images of fetal development are here.

The rate of African-American abortions should trouble everyone and call for a calm, intelligent exploration of the causes. Not so was the response of the wedge-drivingPlanned Parenthood. It called the billboards an "offensive and condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women while attempting to limit their ability to make private, personal medical decisions."

More thoughtful was the exploration of the issue by the Tribune's Dawn Turner Trice ("Debate over black abortion disparity," April 20, 2011), and although I'm neither black nor female, I hope to join the discussion. I'll start by saying that any implication that Planned Parenthood or other pro-choice people are waging racial cleansing against black Americans is goofy in the extreme. It's also counterproductive for activist champions of life in the womb to make the claim.

Trice's survey of experts reveals complex reasons for the higher rate among African-Americans: more unintended pregnancies, substandard health care, inadequate health insurance, ineffective use ofcontraceptives, poor sex education, higher rates of sexual violence and poverty. Combined, they all crush many into believing that abortion is their only choice.

Indisputable as these explanations are -- and I agree with all of them -- looking beyond them is necessary. And here we would wade into what sociologists call "multivariate analysis" of some other factors that are not so easily defined or as clearly measurable as demographics. Like culture, which is defined as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or age group.

Political correctness and ideological dictates discourage discussion of the culture of some black communities as explanative of violence, ignorance, high rates of abortion and other dysfunctions. But for those communities, culture is described by the growth of a matriarchy, as displayed by the many grandmothers raising their daughters' children. By the absence of men in child rearing. By men who prey on young women who have never learned what to expect from decent, caring and responsible men. By the collapse of the family and the destruction of men's and women's traditional, balanced roles in making children strong enough to resist the challenges of today's broader culture of irresponsibility, casual sex,substance abuse and other plagues.

Unfortunately, such dire circumstances have encouraged the thinking that "some communities" are better off with fewer children. Such thinking is found in the writings of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and an icon of pro-choice activists. She advocated exclusionary immigration policies, sterilization of the severely mentally challenged, birth control to improve society and other policies characteristic of eugenics.

This lends a kernel of truth to the odious suggestion that abortion supporters are complicit in a conspiracy to kill off blacks. You might also get the idea from reading my mail every time I write about abortion. Claiming to be compassionate, the writers declare that some children are better off never being born. Especially if they are born into disintegrating or dysfunctional communities. Especially certain black communities.

The pro-life billboards, as "offensive" as some find them, force us to face an issue that many prefer to ignore: Is the high incidence of abortion in the black community a civil rights issue? Is it a symptom of control and suppression of women that is endemic to the community? And more profoundly: Who "deserves" to live and whether mass extermination of babies in the womb on a scale that is under way in the black community is good for anyone?

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: abortion, politics, race



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  • Dennis, another excellent column.

    Race + abortion is such a volatile combination ! I'm strongly anti-abortion, and during a discussion about abortion, my oldest friend (who is biracial, and supports legal abortion) blurted out, "You're against abortion--of WHITE babies!" I was flabbergasted. I had never considered the victims of abortion to represent any particular race, since I believe race is irrelevent to the value of life.

    It was the most hurtful statement anyone has ever made to me, because this is what it revealed: despite a 30+ year friendship that I considered solid, I was reduced to being just another white person, nothing more than a member of my ethnic group.

    So even before this billboard controversy came out, it was brought home to me that racial politics will always play a part in the abortion debate. For proponants of full access to abortions, mentioning race is the same as depriving black women of choice. For those of us opposed to ALL abortions, if we are not black we apparently have no business advocating for black children.

    Which is a shame, because every kid deserves to be welcomed into this world.

  • In reply to icefalcon58:

    The valuable portion of this "shocking experience", when black friends react to a perceived pro-white circumstance is the discovery of this enormous reservoir of hidden endemic anti-white sentiment. This was an opportunity to speak to your friend and explain yourself. Your hurt feelings indicate that you are unaware of how damaged are the psyches of most black Americans and how careful you must be to avoid this type of unfortunate interaction. I hope you were able to smooth things out with your friend.

  • In reply to icefalcon58:

    1. Your link to Dawn Turner Trice story points back to you, I wonder why?
    Here's the correct link: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-19/news/ct-met-abortion-trice-0420-20110419_1_abortion-rate-black-abortion-abortion-providers

    2. Your opinions are definitely skewed and by omitting a link to the original article you conveniently ignore the discussion of why it might APPEAR that blacks, I prefer African Americans, suffer a high rate of abortion.

    3. I could speculate on a number of reasons why the abortion rate is high some of which you've listed above. What might scare you is the reasons for abortion are not race related which would be the reasons of women who are making six figure incomes, suspect their husbands are cheating, on the fast track at work or maybe just don't want to add another unwanted child to our society because they can't afford nannies! I could go on.

    4. Where are your solutions/suggestions to address the high abortion rates among blacks? I have some.
    a) No health insurance = Need a Job!
    b) On drugs = No hope, see no future in this society
    c) No father figure = What is the % of African American working with you? How many are male?
    d) Lack of contraceptive methods = Feeling invincible?

    5. Growth of matriarchy, where did you get that? Grandmothers raising their daughter's children was a good thing. The problem today is that today's grandmother is yesterday's teen pregnancy that went unchecked. Now grandma is too busy to parent and may not know how. Now that's something we can work to solve today.
    Your last two paragraphs ring true, something you can work on.

    I was once told if you're not part of the solution... I want to be part of the solution, you just want to join the discussion.

  • In reply to gerrim:

    Poverty isn't the reason for black women having kids; it plays a part. What plays the largest part is the breakdown of the family unit and their culture, and our welfare systems enables this. It's all in there and this goes for all races in different degrees. Without a family there is no discipline, no support, no money, no love, and education just goes to the wayside. This leaves children with no self-esteem and the inability to say no. The males don't learn women aren't just there to be used for sex and money, but are equals.

    Read more: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/dennis-byrne-barbershop/2011/04/exploring-blacks-high-rate-of-abortion.html#ixzz1Kp1y0Rvr

  • In reply to mrondoni:

    Well said.

  • Most abortions are performed on poor women, and blacks have a higher rate of poverty. If we all did our part to end poverty, abortion would be rare.

  • In reply to StephenSchade:

    Poverty isn't the reason for black women having kids; it plays a part. What plays the largest part is the breakdown of the family unit and their culture, and our welfare systems enables this. It's all in there and this goes for all races in different degrees. Without a family there is no discipline, no support, no money, no love, and education just goes to the wayside. This leaves children with no self-esteem and the inability to say no. The males don't learn women aren't just there to be used for sex and money, but are equals.

  • In reply to mrondoni:

    Well said, I agree completely!!

  • Maybe Black people are the only ones with any common sense and really understand what limited resources mean--and I'm not only talking money here, I'm talking environmental repercussions of humans on the environment. Maybe all other races and religions can take a lesson from them and try to limit their own populations, not necessarily with abortions but with other birth preventative measures.

  • In reply to Lubp:

    are you referring to Latino's? Say it loud say it proud. You are free to have your own opinion. I agree with you if you are. The numbers are there it's not a secret many others feel the same way just are afraid to look racist. The thing is everyone has racist feelings and if they say they don't they are in denial or lying.

  • "wedge-driving" Planned Parenthood??? You showed where you stand by using that pejorative phrase to describe that organization....

  • In reply to amstutz:

    I use the phrase because that's what Planned Parenthood does.

  • In reply to amstutz:

    I thought this was over and I wasn't going to respond but . . . geez you white folks (and I am one) all talking about black folks like they're all the same. get over it, what are you all irish? Look at the picture of the bimbo that writes this column, good catholic irish boy (old but still a boy) just saying what's good for everyone, he's irish he knows what's good for the minority dujour (that's what ever group the irish is exploiting this week to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings) get over it ya' micks!

  • You know what I find offensive? White conservatives in America -- who've spent the last 30 years vilifying every social program attempting to mitigate the poverty-level conditions endured by a huge percentage of African-Americans -- suddenly pretending they give a damn about little black babies. If you start talking about redistributing the wealth you hoard to help provide for the general welfare of people you claim you to want to exist, I'll start taking you seriously, Whitey.

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    ^^^Whitey probably won't give you any of Whitey's money if you keep calling them Whitey.

  • In reply to gwill:


  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    The single mother without a caring supportive husband and father is the source of these excess abortions. Solid families rarely abort.
    Most black Americans and many others as well are trapped in a pernicious mindset often inherited as a rallying point of a particular victimhood culture that has little chance of family success. In some ways it is an addiction more serious than drugs as it infects children with a bias that is super-sensitive to unintended or misperceived possibly racial slights from thoughtless individuals, all too common in everyday life. There is a more serious source, those who evidence real anti-black racism by sly words or comments opportunisticslly delivered to young, trusting black children who do not "get" the innuendo til later. I'm white but have black neighbors and friends and occasionally see this even as far north as Wisconsin. It was common when I lived in Atlanta and North Carolina years ago but is rare now when I visit my old haunts.

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    Your link to images of fetuses is garbage. In the last 2 years I have had two miscarriages after 11 weeks. The fetuses were developing normally prior to week 11. Both times there was a slight heartbeat one week - and the next it was gone.

    I have had weekly ultrasounds during each pregnancy - your images of a week 7 fetus? Nope. Not even close. At week 7 you can barely see the shape of a fetus - it looks more like a kernel of rice that's slightly curved. There's certainly no recognizable human traits there.

    And honestly, I'm not even going to get started on the racist aspect of this entire discussion. When the anti-choicers start promoting policies that help women through pregnancy, childbirth, and afterward, then they can get started telling women what choices they can or cannot make - regardless of race.

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    Rich white people are also the race that help minorities get on their feet, the highter taxes they pay go to those social programs !!!

  • In reply to mrondoni:

    Everybody is paying higher taxes including the unemployed when they buy food and pay utility bills.

    Should I assume from your reply that minorities are the only people that benefit from social programs?

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    You are blaming white people for the deterioration of social programs? Dude, corporate america. So many corporations are not only paying taxes, but are getting free money from the government. They hire armies of lobbyists to get the law to either turn a blind eye to the corruption they are doing or has the law favor them. Conservative citizens have been brainwashed to believe that tax cuts and deregulation is a good thing, and we ALL end up suffering for it. Anything having to with race on this issue is circumstantial.

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    Another well stated response!

  • In reply to mattmchugh:

    Actually, there are many black people--including conservatives--who are achieving the American Dream without having to rely on social welfare programs. They, instead, rely on hard work and wise choices to become successful. As for redistributing wealth (Robin Hood-esque rob from the rich/give to the poor) that's nothing more than stealing. It's part of the mentality, " Why do you have that? I want it, I'll take it!" (Whine whine, boo hoo. Childish.) Instead, try, "Oh--you're doing well, tell me what you did so I can follow in your footsteps and do well too!" The first approach is destructive, the second constructive... and benefits everyone. And you should try to overcome your jealousy of Whitey. It's unhealthy to not love yourself as you are.

  • Interesting you leave out any discussion of the absurdity and hypocrisy of religion and its part in this issue.

    Your pathetic attempts to smear Planned Parenthood by regurgitating the inadequacies of Margaret Sanger's worldview (a woman, btw, who's been dead for nearly 50 years) add absolutely nothing to your credibility. And how dare you refer to PP as "wedge driving?" Apparently you subscribe to the Jon Kyl school of reality.

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