Monday, June 7, 2010

Want to talk about black women and abortion? Here, have some facts. (Or, I Can't Believe We Have To Say This Again.)

Edit 2: I made a couple late-night errors (swapping "birth rate" for "pregnancy rate" and writing 180% when I meant 87%) which have now been fixed, at lines marked with **. Thanks to @mjbyars for prompting a re-check. 

Hey everyone, happy Monday! How was your weekend? Mine was great, except then I read about something stupid. So, remember those Atlanta billboards reading "BLACK BABIES ARE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES"? The ones that caught the attention of the nation for being so fucking dumb and offensive?

Apparently, the first round of ads were "so well received" that the Radiance Foundation and Georgia Right to Life have decided to roll out Phase 2, namely, Operation Yet More Offensive Billboards!

You know, "Black and Unwanted" is the kind of slogan that should accompany a campaign against employment discrimination, or racially-biased adoption practices*. Do these valiant anti-racist crusaders really want to waste a good catchphrase on fallacious insinuations that black women have abortions because they don't want their children to be black? The claim is absurd.

As Anti-Anti wrote last week, people who make this argument are also making a number of inaccurate and offensive errors. Most clearly, they're saying that by having reproductive rights, black women are colluding with racists to harm "black people" (which i suppose really leaves only black men). Or that they are harming themselves, too, and that someone else knows how best to handle their lives and particular situations. There's lots of wrongheaded stuff in their position, in terms of philosophy and rights, all of which were said before; but for a fun change why don't we take a look at its factual underpinnings this go-round?

Yes, let's talk real-live, grownup statistics for a minute. The Radiance Foundation's website claims its work is needed because of the fact that 13.5% of the US population is black, yet 38.5% of the abortion-having population is black. So black women have abortions disproportionately; fair enough! But they omit several other statistics that add a lot more complexity to the situation. I even made you some pictures, so have a look:

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 21% of the pregnancy-having population is black.

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 30.9% of the unintended-pregnancy-having population is black.

-13.5% of the US population is black, yet 26.6% of the unintended-birth-having population is black.

-Among women facing an unintended pregnancy, 60% of black women had an abortion, compared to 50% of white women, which is not necessarily a huge difference (I couldn't calculate statistical significance from the figures available):

-Among women who gave birth, black women were 1.87 times as likely (87% likelier)** to consider the birth unintended compared to white women:

-Black women have both a higher total pregnancy rate (1.65 times as high, or 65% higher) and a higher unintended pregnancy rate** (2.79 times as high, or 179% higher) than do white women. Their intended pregnancy rate is 20% lower:

And here's a view of the overall distribution of pregnancy outcomes by race (excluding miscarriages since I didn't have that info -- though black women are at higher risk for miscarriages than white women, something like twice as much [!], so it'd be nice to get miscarriage data too for completion's sake):

So you know, I calculated all these figures using data from a 1998 Guttmacher spreadsheet, simply because it was something I already have on my computer, but today's rates and proportions are similar. (I've been having internet connection problems, but if I can get the latest data sometime this week, I'll update this post.)

The fact is, although black women have more abortions on average than white women, they also bear more children on average than white women. PLUS, they also carry more unintended pregnancies to term on average than white women do. So...maybe black women are actually extremely pro-baby!

Or -- and this is just a crazy thought, I mean really it could be anything else, it could be that black women are stupid and slutty and hate black babies and enjoy seeking abortions, it could be that Zombie Poltergeist Anthony Comstock is flushing black women's pills down the toilet, but let's just consider this idea for one moment -- maybe black women have less power on average to control their own reproductive destinies than white women do. (Maybe it's related to having worse access to safe and reliable methods of birth control, maybe it's related to being more at risk for sexual coercion, maybe it's related to having diminished resources and external support for raising a family, maybe you should have done your homework and included these on your website.) And maybe (just bear with me here), maybe THAT'S a symptom of racism that everyone should be billboarding against. Fuckers.

Edited this morning because I had more to say (if you don't want to see me ranting, pretend that was the end of the post):

About six months ago, the Radiance Foundation's website even claimed that "14 out of 14 clinics in Georgia are located in majority-black neighborhoods," which they must have gotten by counting up 14 clinics in majority-black neighborhoods and then stopping at 14, because the implied truth (that the same goes for 100% of the state's clinics) is categorically untrue and I can disprove it in a heartbeat. But I can't find it on the website anymore, and it's been replaced by less categorical sentences like this one: "The majority of Georgia’s abortion clinics are located in urban areas where blacks reside, which reflects the national trend (94% of all abortion clinics are located in urban areas)." This "accusation" strikes me as hilarious: do they think clinics should be located only in suburban areas? Or only in whatever urban areas are home to no black people? No shit you're going to locate your clinic in a place where many people need access to a clinic, like maybe a densely populated area! It would be fucking unjust to do otherwise. (And that's why we need clinics in the country AND the city. And in the suburbs too, of course.)

Then they say some bullshit about how therefore, the Guttmacher Institute and the rest of us are lying when we claim there's a disparity in access -- the clinic is right down the street, you'd have to be stupid not to be able to "access" it! Har har. Then they say it's "intellectually insulting" to say that women have a hard time affording birth control, since they have "more than enough money to pay the $400-5000 for an abortion."

Fuck them. Fuck them fuck them fuck them. I dare them to spend a day observing the calls that come in to an abortion fund's hotline, stories about how you're pregnant because you couldn't not buy diapers for your baby girl and you thought maybe for one month you could get her dad to wear condoms when he came around. Or whatever. Shit that people shouldn't have to deal with. Fucking Radiance Foundation and Georgia Right to Life think that just because they've got one biracial man in their midst who was lucky enough to be adopted and survive into (presumably) a healthy adult, they know just how everyone else's life is. Fuck them for not even taking the time to truly listen to people who aren't just like them. Speaking of which, here's the first news report I've seen about the new ads. It actually interviews a real live black woman who isn't on the payroll of fucking Georgia Right to Life. They should try that!

*Actually, I think there's a lot of complexity that gets erased when people talk about adoption practices, including when some pro-choicers say that antis "should adopt black children languishing in foster care" if they are so gung-ho about adoption. (A) it would suck for a kid to get adopted by an anti just to prove they were totes anti-choice enough; and (B) the majority of families in a financial position to formally adopt are white, and transracial adoption can be extremely difficult for adoptees; and also (C) it's really not as simple as whisking away a foster kid and calling him yours, or at least it shouldn't be. For a much more comprehensive perspective on this thorny issue, you can start at Harriet Jacobs' blog.


  1. I love this post...I can feel your anger..I feel it myself...their claims are so ridiculous they're not even worth addressing...ugh

  2. Let's Put Real Words on the Billboards---Word that ring true for men and women and children who are born with dark skin....
    Black and unwanted in the neighborhood, black and unwanted in the classroom, black and unwanted in the 'nice' parts of town, black and unwanted in the department stores, black and unwanted walking in the streets at night, black and unwanted driving in cars, black and unwanted in the judicial system, black and unwanted in the doctor's office, black and unwanted in the presidency, etc, etc

  3. A-everything. Thoughtful and ongoing. I hear you. I hear It.


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