Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pro-Life Race Card: Anti-Choice Activists Blow a Gasket Over Lifting of "Global Gag Rule"

I feel compelled to tell anti-choice activists to relax now that President Obama has revoked the so-called Global Gag Rule. This measure prohibited foreign organizations that receive U.S. financial assistance from performing or counseling women concerning abortions and from lobbying for the enactment of less restrictive abortion laws in their home countries.

Conservative outrage over Obama's decision is a bit surprising because this measure has been the subject of a very predictable game of political football since Reagan issued the order in 1984. In 1993 Clinton revoked it, but Bush reenacted it in 2000. Now, Obama has lifted it. Ah, progress.

Nevertheless, anti-choice activists are complaining loudly in response to Obama's decision. And, despite my disagreement with them on the issue of choice, I still find many of their arguments melodramatic and (therefore) entertaining. In particular, an article on TownHall.Com reaches new heights of melodrama by proclaiming that Obama is "exporting" abortion.

The author, Laura Hirschfeld Hollis, does not entertain me, however, when she pulls an anti-choice race card. According to Hollis, Obama's lifting of the gag rule is ironic because black women in the United States are overrepresented among recipients of abortion. Taking a page from Rick Warren's playbook, Hollis describes abortion as a black "holocaust" and comes across as a rightwing black nationalist as she condemns choice. Hollis argues that:

The single largest cause of death was heart disease, which claimed over 74,000 lives. By comparison, the 1400 abortions of black babies daily in the United States is over 438,000 African-Americans destroyed every year. Upwards of 13 million abortions have decimated the African-American population in this country. This is a holocaust, and one that cannot be prettied up under the rubric of “reproductive freedom.” Why does the man who hearkens back to the words of Martin Luther King not heed the call of some of King’s descendants who lead on this issue today?
Assuming that her factual claim concerning the demographics of abortion is true, Hollis, nevertheless, fails to discuss several important factors that undermine her race card. First, no one is forcing black women to obtain abortions. Hitler did not operate out of a health clinic. Instead, he used the power of the state to implement a genocidal agenda of white supremacy.

Second, Hollis distorts the demographics of women who receive abortion by focusing solely on race. But data also show that poor, unmarried women are disproportionately represented among the class of individuals who seek abortions. This fact, not race, explains the overrpresentation of blacks among women who terminate their pregnancies. Given the economic impact of parenthood, the fact that poor women might seek to terminate their pregnancies more often than wealthy women does not seem irrational. Although I believe that the relationship between race and class is an important social issue, Hollis exploits this relationship in order to portray abortion providers as racial terrorists.

Conservatives have long argued that "racial cards" anger them, but Hollis plays the "game" more dramatically than even Johnny Cochran. And while I believe that race remains an important social issue despite Obama's election, racial justice cannot mean that governments get to control the reproductive decisions of poor women (of all races).


Cranky Girl said...

Thanks for this!

Me and my partner go the Supreme Court every year to celebrate the anniversary of Roe v Wade. We stand there with signs reading "Keep Abortion Legal" while thousands of anti-choice folks stream by--and usually yell at us. They have an annual march on that day.

My partner is Black, I am white, (and both women). I can tell you that about 80% of the people who speak to her make crazy arguments that abortion is like slavery, it is genocide, the Choice movement is racist... They, incredibly can say this stuff then talk about "crack whores" either milking the welfare system or using abortion as birth control. It is insanity! It's all I can do to keep her from slapping them sometimes.

We had hoped Obama was going to lift the rule on the anniversary, but a day later wasn't bad. What saddens me is that he removed money for reproductive health care organizations from the bail-out. I'm not for the bail out in general, but if we're gonna give money out, let's also make sure that folks who need services can get them (and that folks working women's health organizations don't lose their jobs either). Lest we forget, unplanned pregnancy threatens women's economic survival.

thanks again for this post,

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi, Polly. You're welcome and thanks for visiting the blog.

This discussion reminds me of a book written by Peggy Davis - a professor at NYU Law School. It's called "Neglected Stories." Without getting too technical, she argues that in order to define our c"fundamental rights" secured by the 14th Amendment (others would add the 13th), we have to remember that the amendment was designed to help get rid of the abuses of slavery and its aftermath.

One of the most pernicious aspects of slavery was the lack of reproductive freedom. Both men and women were coerced to reproduce during slavery because it was profitable for owners. When pro-lifers liken abortion to slavery they invert and distort history.

Slavery denied women's autonomy to choose the terms of mothering. That's exactly what the anti-choice movement attempts to do.

msakel said...

This is an important commentary by Hutchinson. Of course, one would expect that both the ideologically rigid neocons as well as religious fanatics would call abortions a "holocaust". What I do not appreciate is that Obama chose Rick Warren to head off his Inauguration--giving a slapt to the face of all progressive women and gay men and women at the same time! Hillary Clinton has given countless speeches on the need for women to have control over their reproductive health and she was far ahead of Nicholas Kristof in traveling to Thailand and other Asian countries in l996 (year after her good work gave the U.S. the "Human Trafficking Act") and report on the shameful treatment of women's reproductive and general health. This lack of autonomy of women in those countries led to their being enslaved in brothels at the young age of 10, 11 or 12 and Hillary's interview of a young girl who was 12, dying in an AIDS Hospice due to her parents' and the brothel's rejections was heartwrenching. Imagine a young 12-year-old little girl working as a prostitue in a brothel, contracting AIDS and, returning to her parents' home, being kicked out to die! Naturally, these moronic neocons and religious fanatics like Warren's pathetic flock, would call these girl-prostitutes "Nazis" for resorting to abortions to survive...even barely!...SHAME ON THESE HEARTLESS, REGRESSIVE SEXIST/HOMOPHOBIC FANATICS!

Alice said...

Thanks for the article! I just read Hollis' column in my local paper and I was hoping I could find a voice of reason to keep me from throwing up. Keep up the good work!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Alice - glad I could help!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Msakel: Thanks for your post. Reproductive autonomy is such an important global issue. A number of studies have shown that education and family planning help elevate women and children from poverty. Rather than representing a Holocaust, this is an important intervention for women of color. The affordability issue is salient here in the US too. A few reproductive rights groups have sent an open letter to Obama requesting that he seek the repeal of the Hyde Amendment which prohibits indigent women who have federally financed health insurance from obtaining abortions. This is a great question for health care reform. I have not heard much discussion of the subject, however.

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