WASHINGTON (BP)–Abortion is a civil rights issue that requires African American opposition, including at the ballot box, black pro-life leaders said at a recent Washington news conference.
Speaking near the end of Black History month, representatives of several pro-life organizations described abortion as “black genocide” and said it should be a primary issue for African Americans.
“We can talk about poverty; we can talk about the war; we can talk about teen pregnancy; we can talk about incarceration. However, if we’re not allowed to live, we’ll never encounter those issues,” said Alveda King, coordinator of African American outreach for Priests for Life and niece of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“Abortion is a racist, genocidal act.”
African Americans should not ignore abortion when they vote, said Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-life Union.
“Abortion is the number one killer of black Americans — killing more black people than all other deaths combined,” she said. “Yet there are black men and women who stand in support of the vicious killing of our smallest children — all in order to win popularity contests or for the coveted prize of becoming the first black president of the United States.”
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who leads in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, strongly supports abortion rights.
“In this political season, we must drive home the fact that it doesn’t matter when it comes down to it what party you belong to,” Gardner said at the Feb. 28 news conference. “The focus must always be foremost [on] the children who are killed by abortion and the women who suffer through the ordeal. And we must make sure that political figures know this fact — if you are for abortion, then we are not for you, no matter what color your skin is.”
Some speakers at the news conference cited abortion’s disproportionate impact on the African American community.
Black women were 4.8 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have abortions in 2005, according to a January report by the Guttmacher Institute. African Americans made up 12.3 percent of the United States population, according to the 2000 census, but black women had 36.3 percent of the abortions that same year, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
Harry Jackson, chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, described the problem as a “kind of hegemonic, racist structure that’s been set in place to begin to create a process of death in our community.”
“I’m not discounting the fact that white babies and other kinds of babies are important,” Jackson told reporters. “But I am here to say that for the African American community, we need to raise our voices and talk about what needs to happen next.”
Blacks are beginning to take action, said Johnny Hunter, national director of the Life Education and Resource Network.
As “black people begin to find out about what’s going on, there’s a change coming …,” Hunter said.
As he travels around the country and speaks to black pastors, Arnold Culbreath, director of Protecting Black Life, said he discovers “the vast majority of them are already pro-life. They just haven’t, A, had a drum major and, B, had practical action steps [on] how to implement their pro-life views.”
Levon Yuille, director of the National Black Pro-life Congress, said, “If there is an evil that has ever bedeviled this country greater than the institution of slavery, it is abortion…. [W]e pray God that for all of the 50 million babies that have died and for our 15 million black babies that died, that America will come to the place where she will hear the baby cry and say, ‘No more.'”
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.