Thursday, February 10, 2005

More on "black genocide" and abortion

So I've been thinking more about the charge of "black genocide" against the abortion industry. Here's the relevant empirical fact: American black women have abortions disproportionately more than other American women. Certain elements on the Right want to use this fact to characterize the abortion industry as committing a genocide against black people -- after all, every fetus that is aborted by a black woman would turn into a black person if it survied. If abortion involves killing people, then abortion kills a disproportionate number of black people. (Even if it doesn't, it still leads to a disproportionate decrease in the black population.) Here's a question: why characterize black people as victims of abortion in a case like this? If you believe that abortion is murder, then why aren't you condemning the black women who are more likely than other women to murder their unborn babies? It seems to me that the data in question does suggest that abortion can be thought of a civil rights issue, but in the opposite direction than the one the "black genocide" crowd is pushing. Here's an utterly uncontroversial claim: an outlaw of abortion would limit the freedom of women. The position of the Right is that such an outlaw would only limit women from murdering children, which is a perfectly appropriate thing to limit them from doing. But it should be agreed to by all half-reasonable parties that a ban on an abortion would limit women's freedom, recognizing that it may still be an open question whether that's appropriate or not. Black women choose to have abortions more than other women do. So a ban on abortion would disproportionately limit the freedom of black women. (Maybe instead of victimizing black infants, the Right should be enquiring into why so many black mothers are murdering their babies.) Seriously, if I were the Right, I would want to downplay the high incidence of black abortion, not emphasize it. Weird.


  1. Actually, I think a very strong argument can be made that most abortions are coerced, if what counts as coercion is the same sort of thing that many people count as coercion. Many feminists count emotional pressure as coercion in date rape cases. Many bioethicists count poverty together with the ability to make lots of money off organ sales as coercion when they oppose allowing people to sell their organs due to people in worse-off situations being unduly taken advantage of because of those situations. I think the lottery counts as similar taking advantage of the poor. Some people say the same thing about euthanasia and assisted suicide, that family expectations might count as coercion, and therefore it shouldn't be legalized because we'll never know if the person would genuinely consent. The same sort of thing is what happens with teacher-student sexual relations.

    If you consider the expectations of parents, boyfriends, husbands, and society in general for what should happen in such situations, I think many choices to have an abortion are simply not entirely uncoerced, for similar reasons as in all those cases. That's why I see those who have abortions as (at least to some degree) victims in many cases, and the blame falls more on those in the person's life whose expectations or perceived expectations are that she will have the abortion. The industry itself contributes quite a bit through tactics entirely consistent with the desire simply to make as much money off abortion as possible, as well as those who perpetuate the masquerade (not that all pro-choicers perpetuate, I should note) that it's really just a matter of a woman choosing and weighing the various options, something completely unlikely given the emotional pressure of the situation.

    The statistic that most strongly supports this is that pregnancy counseling centers that have nothing to gain by someone's choosing to have an abortion, because they don't perform them themselves, report that someone genuinely unsure about an abortion who agrees to wait 24 hours before making a decision will generally not have one. I'm not talking about those who have clearly made up their minds. Among those who are unsure, reflection over a short time would prevent the abortion, and Planned Parenthood and other organizations that stand to gain from a greater number of abortions tend to increase that number by counseling people in such a way that abortion is the favored decision. That's why Planned Parenthood strongly opposes laws that require waiting periods with the sort of vehemence that the NRA opposes gun waiting periods. It has a similar effect as waiting 24 hours does with suicide cases.

    I don't know how much of this is deliberate, but given that former Planned Parenthood counselors say they've been told to try to get people to have the abortion they're not sure they want to have, I have a hard time not attributing to them a deliberate rather than unintentional role in the forces that combine to count as some degree of coercion.

  2. Thanks for that perspective, Jeremy. I don't know much about the actual inner workings of Planned Parenthood, but if you're right about the facts, then yes, that is a problem. I certainly favor more responsible and objective counselling for women considering abortions. And I don't really have a strong knee-jerk reaction against a waiting period, if that would help in situations like this.

  3. With all due respect, I don't believe Planned Parenthood coerces women to have abortions. When I was working on minimum wage and had no health benefits, Planned Parenthood was the only place I could receive basic gynocological checkups. I did become pregnant at age 19 and chose to have an abortion when I was 6 wks pregnant. They didn't try to talk me into an abortion, or try to talk me out of it either. I was told the medical facts.

    I resent the idea that women who choose abortion are, by default, "victims" of some kind. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that women do a disproportionate amount of childcare...and that having children makes it much more difficult for her to find ways to be financially secure. Glomming onto a man so he can be a cash cow isn't exactly responsible either. Anyway, I was no victim...and actually, I AM a rocket scientist now...I put myself through college and obtained a PhD in mech engineering from the #2 eng college in the country. Sooo...if I chose to have kids NOW, I'd be in a much better position than I was at 19. I also resent the idea put forth from the Right that I'm obligated to give birth and give it up for adoption. If I had chosen to continue my pregnancy, I would have lost my job AND, remember, I had no health care. Still, that doesn't make me a victim. It makes me...and other women like me...realists.

  4. take it from a black woman who has had two abortions. it IS genocide. it is not a right or a freedom of women. no matter how terminology is manipulated, it is what it is - it's wrong. and i don't need anyone from the right to tell me that it is or anyone from the left to convince me that it is okay. look at an abortion video and tell me that it is a woman's right. talk to former abortion workers who have nightmares about reassembling the body parts and tell them that it is right. let's stop the lies masquerading as politics. let's stop being philosophers and be real.


  5. Katrina, nobody here has argued that abortion is a good thing, or even a morally permissible thing. You're the first person in this thread to bring up the idea that abortin is a right. My point is that even if abortion is terrible, it's very strange to look at it as a civil rights issue.