Racial Injustice and Abortion
By: Anne Hendershott
While support for President Obama remains strong among African Americans, it is difficult to understand why so many seem to overlook the fact that the expansion of abortion rights under this President and the current Democrat Congress continues to contribute to a daily death toll of nearly 1,500 black children lost to abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than one-third of all African American women end their pregnancy with abortion. Since 1973, the number of abortions by African American women has totaled more than thirteen million. Although African Americans represent only 12 percent of the American population they account for more than 35 percent of all abortions. As a result, the abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 per year) for African American women is nearly 3 times that of white women.
In some localities, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Maryland, and Georgia, more than half of all abortions are performed on black women. Black women in New York City receive nearly half of all abortions performed there. This national disparity in death toll for African Americans is likely to increase as President Obama recently signed legislation which will provide public funding for abortion for those living in Washington, DC—a city with a majority population of African Americans. Legislation is pending that will provide federally funded abortion on military bases—and soon we will be confronted with the new legislation on health care reform–replete with funding for abortion.
Still, Catholics must be encouraged that their bishops are not silent on what Bishop Joseph N. Perry, Chicago’s Auxilary Bishop recently called “the decimation of the black community.” Bishop Perry has taken the lead in addressing what many in the pro-life community believe is the targeting of the black community for abortion.
Bishop Perry, an African American, published a statement on his home archdiocesan website entitled “Abortion and Its Impact on the Black Community.” In the statement he encouraged parish pro-life activities to “raise awareness about alternatives to abortion, particularly, to let women in trouble be aware that they have other options.”
Unfortunately, some of Bishop Perry’s own co-workers in the Archdiocesan Office of Racial Justice have been working against his pro-life goals. Last Spring, the Archdiocese honored Fr. Michael Pfleger, one of President Obama’s strongest supporters, with the Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement Award. Fr. Pfleger, a member of the “Catholics for Obama” advisory board, has a long history of using his parish to host various pro-abortion figures including the Rev. Al Sharpton. In 2003 Lifesite News reported that Pfleger violated archdiocesan rules forbidding pro-abortion individuals to speak at the pulpit by inviting the singer and political activist, Harry Belafonte to speak at Sunday Mass at St. Sabina. At the Mass—from the pulpit—Belafonte criticized President Bush for “threatening a woman’s right to choose.”
Sr. Anita Baird, who is African American and the founding director of the Office for Racial Justice in the Chicago Archdiocese, denies that President Obama is “pro-abortion” and told a Lifesite News reporter that “to be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. I don’t think you will find that the president has ever said that…the president is not pro-abortion, he is pro-choice. I think they are two very different things.”
Until Bishop Perry begins to address the pro-abortion politicians promoted by those within his own Archdiocesan staff , it will be difficult for him to make a difference in addressing the real racial injustice—the racial disparities in abortion rates.
Anne Hendershott is head of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program at The King’s College in Manhattan.