One of the familiar features of a political rally in any urban area in Michigan is the recitation of ills and injustice that befall many black citizens.
They are, of course, legion. Dysfunctional schools. High crime. Low employment. More African-American men in prison than college.
But there is another that almost never gets mentioned by politicians black or white. Some are even reluctant to call it an ill or an injustice. But it is hard to think of it as anything other than a tragedy.
It is the shockingly high number of African-American women who have had abortions. In Michigan last year alone, black women had 10,911 abortions. (For the sake of comparison, 1,283 Michiganders of all ages and races died in traffic accidents in 2003).
The numbers are highlighted in a new report produced by Right to Life of Michigan from state Department of Community Health data, which is broken down by race for the first time this year.
The report shows that African-American women of childbearing age were three times as likely to have had an abortion last year as were women of other races. Black women, who comprise less than 16 percent of the female population in Michigan, obtained more than 38 percent of all abortions.
According to the RTLM report, if African Americans in Michigan had abortions at a rate comparable to women of other races, the number of abortions overall in Michigan would be 25 percent lower.
One can argue that the high rate of abortion among African Americans is not an ill unto itself, but a symptom of underlying problems like poverty and family breakdown.
Thus, if young, black, pregnant women had the kind of financial and family support available to women of other races, they would be no more likely to terminate their pregnancies.
In its report, Right to Life, the state’s leading abortion opponent, cites economic pressures as the likely culprit for a slight but steady rise in the overall number of abortions since 1999, and its officials concede that those pressures are more acute for urban blacks.
But we can cite the same underlying causes for high rates of violence or illiteracy among urban African Americans. No one uses that as an excuse to ignore either (that we seem to make so little progress with remedies is a separate issue).
One explanation is the increasingly partisan nature of the abortion debate.
As it stands now, Democrats are overwhelmingly opposed to limits on abortion. African Americans are overwhelmingly Democratic.
Hence, the people most likely to share Right to Life’s view that there is an “abortion crisis in the black community” don’t speak at political rallies in the inner city.
Maybe that will change over time. Right to Life is scheduled to open its first Detroit office soon.
More and more young people describe themselves as pro-life.
In the meantime, the number of unborn black babies speaks for itself.