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05 / 03 / 2010 - Row as anti-abortionists target African Americans with US racist history - THE GUARDIAN
A Georgia campaign is accused of drawing parallels between abortion and slavery and using the phrase 'womb lynchings'
Anti-abortion activists have been accused of exploiting America's tragic racial history with a growing campaign to persuade black women that the high rate of terminations among African Americans is a racist conspiracy on a par with slavery and lynching.
The campaign, launched in Georgia, is targeting the black community with rallies, meetings in churches and colleges, and billboards around Atlanta that describe black children as an endangered species and accuse abortion providers of targeting African Americans for what are described as "womb lynchings".
The strategy has also focused on the fact that a leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, was founded by a woman who was a leading proponent of eugenics, a belief that the human gene pool could be improved by selective breeding and sterilisation, and who heavily promoted birth control among black people.
Georgia Right to Life launched the campaign after realising that while black women are three times as likely to have an abortion as other Americans in the state, its attempts to counter terminations were having little impact among African Americans. Almost 40% of pregnancies among black women end in terminations, according to government figures.
The organisation hired a black woman, Catherine Davis, who visited college campuses and churches to push the message that abortion is a successor to slavery and lynching. Davis accuses abortion providers of establishing a "vast network" of clinics in black neighbourhoods.
"The abortion industry is targeting the black woman," she said. "There is no lynch mob wearing white sheets and hoods. What they've done is take off the hoods and put on suits and say: let's go and kill the black people. It's cloaked itself by talking about choice. But the industry has targeted the black community. If people were put on the endangered species list then certainly black children would be there because more are aborted than at any time in history."
Davis also shows a film, Maafa 21, made by a Texan anti-abortion group that alleges the white elite has used terminations since the abolition of slavery as a means of containing black population growth.
It is a message that plays well in parts of a community that remains suspicious of the intent of parts of the white establishment, including the medical industry, after revelations of experiments on black people as well as the second rate care they sometimes received in the past.
Other black leaders are backing the emotive message. Johnny Hunter, an African-American pastor and president of the Life Education and Resource Network, a Christian coalition, told a rally in Georgia last month that opposition to abortion is the new civil rights struggle.
"The civil rights activists did not fight to make lynching safe, legal, and rare. They ended it. We must fight to end the ugliest form of racism: abortion," he said. "More black children die every four days from abortion than the Ku Klux Klan killed in 144 years … All the civil rights gained in education, voting and equal job opportunities mean nothing to a dead black child."
The campaign also has the backing of Martin Luther King's niece, Alveda King, who described abortion among black women as "ethnic cleansing" and "this last bastion of racism".
The group has placed 80 billboards in Atlanta declaring: Black children are an endangered species. They refer people to a website – www.toomanyaborted.com – which accuses Planned Parenthood of a long history of support for curbing the birth of black children.
The organisation's founder, Margaret Sanger, was a vocal supporter of eugenics, including sterilisation of those deemed "profoundly retarded". Historians say Sanger's views were not racially targeted, and that eugenics was a mainstream movement at the time. Planned Parenthood said Sanger did not believe in abortion.
More recently, Planned Parenthood was embarrassed by a sting by conservative activists who secretly recorded a worker for the organisation agreeing that a financial donation would specifically be used to abort the foetuses of black women.
Davis says the campaign has been a dramatic success: "I've had woman after woman saying they didn't realise what was behind this, particularly women who are post-abortion. On the ground, black women are not viewing this as an attack on them or victimising them, as the pro-abortion campaign puts it."
Organisations campaigning for reproductive rights agree that the campaign is having an impact.
Heidi Williamson of SisterSong, an organisation aimed at women from racial minorities, said: "They are taking facts and misrepresenting them to make people be fearful. They are playing on fears already in the community, the mistrust because of the history. Every day we get calls about how women find these ads offensive and manipulative."
She accused anti-abortion groups of ignoring the real causes of the higher rate of terminations among black women such as poverty, poor education and lack of access to birth control.
Source: Chris McGreal - The Guardian