Tag Archives: reproductive care

Gwen Moore: Abolishing the myth that abortion clinics ‘target’ blacks

A few weeks ago, Rep. Sean Duffy took to the House floor to scold black lawmakers like me. Citing high abortion rates among African-American women, the Wisconsin congressman accused abortion providers of preying on minority communities.

“I’ve heard many of my liberal friends and a lot of friends from the (Congressional Black Caucus) talk about how there is targeting and unfair treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system,” Duffy said. “But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion.”

Groups like the Guttmacher Institute — an independent reproductive health research organization — have debunked this assertion with data showing that fewer than 1 in 10 abortion providers are in majority-black neighborhoods.

But no matter. That allegation has been uttered by countless conservatives. Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson accused Planned Parenthood of building “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods” so they could “control that population.” At last month’s March for Life, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a prominent religious voice on Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, described the targeting of African American and Latino women as “unbridled and unfettered racism.” Extremist groups like Protecting Black Life exist to disseminate this lie.

These comments are part of a massive disinformation campaign, one that seeks to dismantle the progress made by the pro-choice movement, shaming African American women and attacking the reproductive health providers they rely on. Their goal is to intimidate and inflict trauma while limiting the health care choices for pregnant women in need.

These anti-choice activists also exploit the high rate of abortion among black women as further (and somewhat circular) evidence that minority communities are targeted for abortion. For example, during his remarks on the House floor, Duffy said that the “African American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but account for 40 percent of the abortions. … In New York City, the most recent stat, African-American women had more abortions than live births.”

Insisting these numbers represent a targeting of minority communities is flawed and misleading, and it perverts this debate with deceptive implications of causality. No one denies that the abortion rate in black communities is higher than in white communities, but failing to mention the underlying context behind those numbers demonstrates a disturbing lack of awareness of the impact of poverty and the realities faced by black women in America.

From 2008 to 2010, researchers from UCSF’s Bixby Center on Global Reproductive Health conducted 3,000 interviews with over 1,000 women across the country who had either had abortions or were denied care because of the timing of their pregnancies. The report uncovered that economic security was one of the primary reasons women pursued abortion care in the first place. Forty-five percent of the women were on public assistance, and two-thirds had household incomes below the federal poverty level.

The inability or outright refusal to recognize the barriers black women encounter in accessing quality prevention services and reproductive care walks the line between sheer blindness and malice. However, what infuriates me, and so many African Americans, is the shameless misappropriation of “Black Lives Matter” as a vehicle to demean women of color for exercising their right to make their own private medical decisions. Anti-choice lawmakers are using it as a political tactic to further their own ideological agenda.

Black Lives Matter is a critical component to our shared struggle for reproductive rights. It extends far beyond the realm of deadly interactions with police and economic inequality. It is a means to amplify our voices against injustice and to empower our communities. It provides an opportunity for those to shape a future worthy of their highest aspirations, free of political paternalism and discrimination.

This social justice movement means something to us.

I will not remain silent while Republican lawmakers publicly feign concern for women and children of color, while simultaneously attacking the very social programs that lift them out of poverty. Spewing such divisive rhetoric masked in moral concern exposes a stunning insensitivity for our community’s collective pursuit for dignity and equality.

This column originally ran in the Washington Post.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, represents Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District.

Standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently selected the Wisconsin Gazette as recipient of the group’s Voices award. No honor we’ve received makes us prouder than this one, particularly now.

Despite the unrelenting campaigns of propaganda, PPWI’s 22 clinics provide quality, affordable reproductive health care, including honest sex education, birth control, adoption referrals, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment to 60,000 women and men. That’s even after being forced to shutter five clinics because Gov. Scott Walker cut off state funding for the organization.

But anti-choice activists have demonized Planned Parenthood in recent years, whipping up the level of hysteria that accompanied Joe McCarthy’s red scare of the 1950s. And conservative politicians are capitalizing on it, just as they did on McCarthyism. 

Although abortion represents only about 3 percent of PP’s services, that’s enough for anti-choice fanatics to put a bullseye on its doors.

Foes have whittled away at women’s reproductive freedom for decades, but abortion is still legal and its legality is supported by a majority of U.S. citizens. It’s also a deeply personal choice that can only be made by a woman whose body and future are involved. Women are not human incubators.

We fully respect the countless women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term under adverse circumstances, including conception through rape or incest. But it’s their right to make that choice, not the right of a bureaucrat. Individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot exist if strangers can force a woman to bear a child against her will.

The current frenzy against abortion is the result of years of brilliant propaganda by anti-choice leaders. Their heart-tugging campaigns of deception featuring fully formed thimble-sized fetuses and bloody, disembodied parts of infants are complete fabrications. Recently it was revealed that activists were using the picture of a stillborn baby in their propaganda and claiming it was an aborted fetus.

A recent “sting” operation added fuel to PP’s critics. Selectively edited tapes that were secretly recorded by activists made it appear as if PP was doing a booming business in selling fetal tissue to medical researchers. But investigations launched by conservatives in several states have yielded no evidence of wrongdoing.

Fetal tissue, which can be donated by women to science just as people can donate their organs, has yielded medical advances that have saved lives — including those, undoubtedly, of anti-choice activists. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., under Walker’s direction, made a $750,000 loan and gave $2 million in tax credits to Flu-Gen, a Madison biotech firm that’s using kidney cells derived from fetal tissue to create a more effective flu vaccine. Biotech companies like Flu-Gen not only save lives, but also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. 

But now, capitalizing on the fury over PP, state Republican leaders want to criminalize the sale of fetal tissue.

Activists have turned the debate about abortion from a women’s issue into one over the “personhood” of fertilized eggs and fetuses. That’s not a scientific view, but rather a religious belief that has no place in the secular world. 

When a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay got pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, the government there ruled for the rights of her fetus over hers, forcing her to carry the baby to term at great risk to her health. The baby was delivered through C-section, because a natural delivery would have killed her. Mike Huckabee praised the decision. He and most of the other Republican candidates, including Walker, want to criminalize abortions under any circumstances, including those in which the mother’s life is in danger. Bizarrely, Walker denies that such situations exist.

More than ever, we need organizations that cherish women’s lives over embryonic cells. PP is at the forefront of such organizations. Its doctors and staffers work under constant harassment, including death threats that have led to at least nine murders in recent years. They refuse to yield to fanatics who believe that women’s bodies are public property. 

We are proud to stand with them and the essential health services they provide. Unlike Walker, they are truly unintimidated.