A joint effort of Georgia Right to Life and the pro-adoption, pro-abstinence Radiance Foundation, the campaign ostensibly calls attention to the fact that black women have a disproportionately high number of abortions. But there is a deeper, more disturbing claim at work as well.
An increasingly vocal segment of the antiabortion community has embraced the idea that black women are targeted for abortion in an effort to keep the black population down.
The billboards direct people to a website called toomanyaborted.com, which claims that “Under the false liberty of ‘reproductive freedom’ we are killing our very future.”
Some black antiabortion activists call the phenomenon “womb lynching.” One prominent black cleric, the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr. of New Jersey, often says the most dangerous place for a black child is the womb.
No one disputes that black women have more abortions, proportionately, than women of other races. Nationally, African Americans make up about 13% of the population and have about 37% of all abortions, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Radiance Foundation founder Ryan Bomberger, a 38-year-old former ad man, came up with the idea for the billboards. Adopted as a baby, he said he was conceived when his white biological mother was raped by a black man.
“I am definitely not a white Southern bigot,” he said, alluding to an accusation hurled his way since the ads went up. “I am as black as President Obama.”
He has also been accused of shaming black women who seek abortions. Not so, Bomberger said: “It’s about exposing an industry that is stealing potential from our community.”
Catherine Davis, minority outreach director for Georgia Right to Life, visits black college campuses, bringing the message that abortion is a destructive force for blacks. She often screens a movie called “Maafa 21,” made by Texas antiabortion group Life Dynamics, alleging that blacks have been targeted for abortions since the end of slavery by white elites fearful of uncontrolled population growth.
“Let me put it this way,” Davis said, “18,870,000 black babies have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade. If those babies hadn’t been aborted, we would be 59 million strong–over 19% of the population.”
“I know for sure that the black community is being targeted by abortionists for the purpose of ethnic cleansing,” said King [Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr.], a Georgia Right to Life board member who had two abortions before a religious conversion in 1983. “How can the dream survive if we are willing to sacrifice the futures of our children?”
In a scenario popularized by abortion foes, the culprit is Planned Parenthood, whose clinics are often located in poor communities where the need for subsidized healthcare is greatest.
The roots of the antipathy toward Planned Parenthood come not just from its role as the nation’s largest provider of abortions and other reproductive healthcare, but from questionable social policies embraced by its founder, Margaret Sanger, the mother of the American birth control movement.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Sanger was an advocate of eugenics, a movement that posited the human species could be improved with selective breeding and the forced sterilization of the poor and “feeble-minded.” That often was believed to include blacks.
Black leaders of the day–including W.E.B. Du Bois and Adam Clayton Powell–supported Sanger. “All these people wanted her to put clinics in African American communities because we then, as now, see fertility control as part of the racial uplift strategy,” Ross said.
Historian Ellen Chesler [a professor at Hunter College], a Planned Parenthood board member and Sanger biographer, said that Sanger’s eugenics views were applicable to sterilization, not abortion, which she generally opposed.
In 1920, Sanger wrote, “While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion is justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.”
Also, Chesler noted, eugenics is still with us: “Its most enduring legacy is IQ testing,” she said. “Every woman who has amniocentesis is a eugenicist.”