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).