After more restrictive abortion laws have been approved in six states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri, the New York Times sent a reporter to Missouri to talk to the people who may be most affected by the restrictions: black pastors and black women.
Black communities are more affected for the simple fact that black women have a disproportionately higher percentage of abortions. The rate of abortions has dropped over the last 15 years among all racial groups. But black women continue to have the highest abortion rate at 27.1 per 1,000 women compared with 10 per 1,000 for white women, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. That means black women have two and a half times as many abortions as do white women.
It would seem an obvious that the reason why black women have more abortions is that they are sexually active outside of a committed marriage relationship, and so do not have the support of a man who is committed to the mother of the child. (This article is based on a New York Times article).
The facts bear this out: black women are less likely to have children in a marriage relationship, since they are less likely to be married. Only 25 percent of black women are in a committed marriage relationship.
This is not an issue for the New York Times, since in general, the newspaper reflects the attitude that people should not necessarily get married, and even if they do it does not have to be a traditional marriage, between a man and a woman. Sex outside the bounds of marriage is not a bad thing either. So both of these issues are ignored, when it is actually at the crux of the problem among the black population.
What is emphasized is that blacks are being victimized because their sexual and reproductive freedom is being restricted.
But the fact is that in inner cities, black families are in a state of fracture, of brokenness, which results in a higher rate of out of wedlock births, and with it, a higher rate of abortion. It is relatively rare for one to see a black woman with a wedding ring on her finger, signifying that she is married to a man, in inner cities in the United States.
But instead of confronting or even acknowledging this problem, some black pastors prefer to talk about the race of the legislators enacting the abortion restrictions.
In St. Louis, Mr. Clinton Stancil of Wayman A.M.A. Church, said the high rate of abortion was related to external problems, including urban schools, the high rate of unemployment in black communities, and racial disparities in health care.
But Stancil goes further, and suggests that the effort to restrict abortions should depend on the race of the legislators enacting the legislation, and whether or not they focus on fixing problems in inner cities.
“As much as I believe with all my heart about the killing, the taking of innocent lives, I also believe that I will never support giving white legislators who have no interest in our community the ability to tell our women what they can do with their bodies.”
Here is pastor Rev. Dr. Luke Bobo, a minister from Kansas City, Mo., who is opposed to abortion:
“Those who are most vocal about abortion and abortion laws are my white brothers and sisters, and yet many of them don’t care about the plight of the poor, the plight of the immigrant, the plight of African-Americans. My argument here is, let’s think about the entire life span of the person.”
Of course, this is not the case. White legislators and white congregations are concerned with what is happening in black communities. The problem is that people who don’t live in a community have far less impact on it that people who live there, like Mr. Stancil and people in his congregation. But even if there is no attention paid to all of these problems, should the value of human life depend, and whether abortions are restricted depend on the race of the legislator?
One problem related to abortion in inner cities is that the population continues to elect black Democrat legislators, like Rep. Lacie Clay, in St. Louis, who do not believe in the sanctity of life. In fact, all members of the Black Congressional Caucus support abortion rights and continued funding for Planned Parenthood during House Oversight Committee hearings. So black inner city pastors usually believe in the sanctity of human life, but members of their congregation still vote for legislators who defend abortion rights.
To maintain the focus on racial disparities, the New York Times attempts to frame the discussion as racial, as though white people who are opposed to abortion don't understand people living in inner cities, or their struggles:
“In many black communities, the abortion debate is inextricably tied to race in ways that white communities seldom confront. Social and economic disparities that are particularly challenging to African-Americans, from mass incarceration to maternal and infant mortality, are crucial parts of that discussion. The best way to reduce abortions, many black people both for and against the practice argue, is to address the difficult circumstances that lead so many black women to end their pregnancies.”
“Those intent on protecting women’s constitutional right to make their own decision on terminating a pregnancy — and even some black abortion skeptics — see a contradiction in the great concern some lawmakers and activists show toward the fetus versus the limited focus on policies that uplift black communities.”
“Religious teachings may have convinced some African-Americans that life begins in the womb. But having seen firsthand how their communities have been hurt by high incarceration rates, economic disinvestment and a lack of educational opportunities, some have a hard time embracing what they see as one-size-fits-all abortion bans.”
But what are those circumstances? Since the ‘60s, black churches and pastors have been unable to avert the decline of the family in the inner city. Young boys do not have men in their home who are committed in marriage to their mothers. Instead, young boys look to gang members and guns for their affirmation.
Life is often full of problems, troubles, for people of all races. Neither are mass incarceration, social and economic disparities, or maternal and infant mortality factors that are necessarily linked to the high rate of the abortion. In fact, all of these conditions, social and economic disparities were probably worse before the ‘60s. Blacks were poorer, had fewer economic advantages, had worse living conditions. And yet, the family remained in tact.
Should society have a quotient that determines their right to get an abortion based on the circumstances in their life? And what if the main reason for having abortions for other women is a matter of convenience? Should their abortion rights be more restrictive because they are suffering less from things that black women are?
Although the New York Times would like to make this a racial issue, abortion and how it affects women, before, during and after an abortion has largely been ignored by liberal news outlets like the New York Times because they support abortion rights. Deaths from abortions done at the Planned Parenthood in St. Lous and other clinics are rarely covered or investigated. And there have been many.
As a result, we have situations like the Dr. Kermit Gosnell incident, where an abortion doctor was found guilty of numerous crimes, including first degree murder and manslaughter, at his abortion clinic in Philadelphia. He had been operating his clinic in an unsafe and inhumane manner for decades. Many of the deaths at the clinic might have been prevented if news outlets had simply reported on conditions at abortion clinics, or the state had checked on the health and sanitary conditions at the clinic.
The sad reality is that major news media are more concerned with deaths and inhumane facilities that treat and hold animals, than they are with how women are treated at abortion clinics. In fact, before the movie Unplanned came out this year, the general public probably knew (or cared) more about how animals were slaughtered than how human lives were killed and women were being treated in abortion clinics.
Still, the NYT marches on in its quest to associate abortions with civil rights and blacks:
“Underlying the debate is the rich heritage of the black church, at once a liberal center of civil rights activism and an institution that preaches religious conservatism.”
The problem is that the rich heritage of the black church has no power to affect a black culture that values sexual expression and activity above marriage between a man and a woman. Each of these pastors interviewed deal with a culture that does not reflect the beliefs of the Bible, or what they would like for their communities. And they are powerless to change it.
The NYT also talked to a black woman working at the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, Kawanna Shannon, the director of surgical services at the clinic. Here is her complaint about the new law in her state:
“And now I have to still deal with the state and the governor now passing laws and telling me what I can and can’t do with my own body,” she said. “It’s just burdensome.”
Yet, it’s the job of both the federal and state governments to protect human life, to determine if a parent is a danger to a child, to pass laws that protect human life, including making it a crime to drive drunk, a condition that typically causes the death of other motorists. Laws that protect human life may be considered burdensome to people who have to abide by them. But that’s the point of laws that are intended to improve life, to protect life, even if the person it affects does not agree with it.
The Rev. Michael Jones, the pastor at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, said that he believed in preserving life, but that he did not “have the power to take away that choice” a woman makes on an abortion.
“That position is comforting to Briana Bobo, 30, a staunch supporter of abortion rights who is a member of Friendly Temple and Dr. Bobo’s daughter."
‘Black folks,’ she said, ‘are just a little bit softer and more able to understand, perhaps, different views on abortion and on life.””
This opinion is clear evidence of how pastors in inner cities have lost control of culture in their communities. All of these pastors would agree that it's their job to preach and encourage Biblical thinking, thinking that values all human life. But that's not what we see here. There is no doubt that the new abortion restrictions will affect black communities in inner cities more than other races of people.
But instead of caving to cultural pressures that talk about the race of the mother, pastors should acknowledge that every mother and unborn child, no matter the race, should be valued the same. Instead of not respecting white Republican legislators because of the color of their skin, they should instead encourage members of their congregations to support and vote for candidates who reflect the same Biblical values that they preach from the pulpit.
There are external problems that affect the high rate of abortion for black women. But that cannot decrease the value of the life of the mother, or the life of the baby she is carrying.
© 2019 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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