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Addressing Race In The Abortion Debate

Shoko Oda |
July 14, 2013 | 7:16 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Logo for the Second International Eugenics Congress, 1921 / Creative Commons)
(Logo for the Second International Eugenics Congress, 1921 / Creative Commons)
Late Friday night, the Texas Senate passed a hotly-debated abortion measure that would put stricter restrictions and requirements on receiving abortion in Texas.

SEE ALSO: A guide to new Texas abortion restrictions

"Most people, I think, in this country—and in Texas, certainly—believe that six months is too late to be deciding whether or not these babies should be aborted" said Governor Rick Perry in defense of the measure on a CNN program

People have been closely watching how the debate over Texas's controversial abortion laws play out. Senator Wendy Davis' filibuster on June 25th intensified the American public's interest, turning one state's lawmaking into national news. 

While the debate seems to be primarily about whether or not life should be terminated, both pro-life and pro-choice activists have touched upon the topic of race to argue their case in the fierce discussion. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Abortion Surveillance Report from November 2012 compiled information from 27 states and the District of Columbia to support their findings that in 2009, race and ethnicity were a factor in 435,480 abortions. Among these abortions, 37.7% of aborted babies were non-Hispanic white babies, 35.4% were non-Hispanic black babies, 20.6% were Hispanic babies, and 6.3% were of other races or ethnicities. 

Compared to the national percentage, the report showed that 63% of aborted babies in Texas were either black or Hispanic. According to the report, out of the 77,152 babies aborted in Texas, 31.7% were non-Hispanic white babies, 24.8% were non-Hispanic black babies, 38.3% were Hispanic babies, and 5.1% were of other races or ethnicities.

Pro-life organizations like Life Dynamics, Inc. see the report as another reason that abortion should be banned. They claim that abortion targets certain ethnicities and promotes eugenics, the pursuit of improving society by restricting reproduction among those with undesirable human traits. 

"This is nothing new for us. We have documented the eugenic targeting of minorities in our film, Maafa21," said Mark Crutcher, president of pro-life group Life Dynamics, Inc. "In addition, research we produced for our report, Racial Profiling by Planned Parenthood and the American Abortion Lobby, clearly shows that most family planning centers are in minority communities." 

According to Crutcher, Life Dynamics' documentary Maafa21 explains that according to research done by three American universities, the primary consideration in deciding the location of population control facilities was the population of blacks in an area.  

Along with citing statistics from the CDC to argue that abortion promotes eugenics, Pro-life organizations have emphasized Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger's rumored involvement with the eugenics movement during the early 1900s. 

ALSO SEE: People & Events: Eugenics and Birth Control

But of course, two can play at that game. In a recent MSNBC panel, pro-choice professor Salamisha Tillet of University of Pennsylvania argued that the Republicans support such restrictive abortion laws in order to promote white supremacy.

"For the first time in American history, children born under the age of five are racial. The majority of them are racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.," explained Tillet. "So I think that there's a kind of moral panic, a fear of the end of whiteness that we've been seeing a long time in that I think, you know, Obama's ascension as President kind of symbolizes to a certain degree." 

Tillet may have concluded such argument after recent studies have shown signs of shift in demography. The U.S. Census Bureau released an estimate in May 2012 showing that 50.4% of the nation's population younger than age one were minorities. The Census defined minority as "anyone who is not single-race white and not Hispanic".

In addition, the estimate placed Texas among the five "majority-minority" states-- states where population of minorities is greater than 50%.  

Another study by the Pew Research Center in 2008 predicts that while the non-Hispanic white population will increase at a slow rate, the white population in America will become a minority by 2050, accounting for only 47% of the total population.

"White women's bodies in particular are obviously a crucial way of reproducing whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege," stated Tillet. 

Infuriated by her remarks, pro-life activists argued back that her assertion contradicted the statistics released by the CDC that majority of abortion take place among racial minorities. 

One outcome of the tricky debate is that now people are looking beyond religious or party lines, to address the many complexities—however uncomfortable they may be—so that a more informed decision may be reached. 

Nevertheless, Tillet's views have spurned criticism on both sides of the debate, most notably from Fox News.

While the abortion debate in Texas rages on, the matter of race further complicates the issue as activists from both sides argue of a racial agenda behind the encouraging or banning of abortion. 

Reach Staff Reporter Shoko Oda here.



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