Black Americans and Abortion: The Real Racial
By Anne Hendershott
National Review; January 31, 2003
[Pro-Life Infonet Note: Anne Hendershott is a professor of Sociology
at the University of San Diego and author of the recently published
The Politics of Deviance.]
Undeterred by data demonstrating otherwise, Democratic leaders
like Reps. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and John Conyers (Mich.) continue
to complain that the black community will suffer disproportionate
casualties in a war with Iraq. Their erroneous claims that blacks
are more likely than whites to come home from war in body bags
have led them, and others, to support the return of the draft
for reasons of "racial equality."
The truth is, although blacks enlist in the armed forces at slightly
higher rates than whites, and stay longer (bringing their overall
participation in the military to 21 percent), they have historically
suffered casualty rates far below their participation rates. Contrary
to the claims of Conyers and Rangel, 12 percent of Americans killed
in Vietnam were black -- a figure that is proportionate to their
numbers in the overall U.S. population.
Sadly, however, Conyers, Rangel, Sharpton, et al. continue to
miss the real story of racial disparity in casualty rates: the
disproportionate numbers of black casualties in the war on the
unborn. While Sharpton and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls
celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade at NARAL's gala,
the black community continued to be decimated by abortion rates
that are nearly three times the rate of whites.
The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate
that while 56 percent of all women who obtained legal abortions
were white, the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000
women aged 15-44 per year) for black women was 2.9 times that
of white women. For every thousand black women, 32 have abortions,
as compared with 11 for every thousand white women. Likewise with
numbers of abortions per 1,000 births: The abortions/births ratio
for white women was 184 abortions per 1,000 live births; for black
women, it was 543 abortions per 1,000 births. This means that
abortion ratios for black women were 2.8 times greater than those
for white women. Sadly, black women were also more likely to obtain
riskier abortions late in their pregnancies, while white women
were significantly more likely than black women to obtain abortions
before 16 weeks.
While these data most likely reflect inequality in access to health
care, data also indicate that the racial disparities in abortion
rates have increased steadily since 1989. 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 and in the entire state of New Jersey receive
more than 47 percent of all abortions performed there.
Comparisons by race cannot be made in California, because the
state -- unlike any other state -- refuses to comply with requirements
to report statistics on abortion. California's reporting requirement
was enacted in 1967 as part of a larger abortion law called the
Therapeutic Abortion Act. Yet even with the threat of losing federal
funds, California has consistently refused to report its abortion
data. Michael Quinn, the chief of California's office for health
information, was recently quoted in a Catholic newspaper account
as saying that "California does not actively collect abortion
statistics because they are highly sensitive and highly political.
Abortion data -- like all casualty data -- are indeed sensitive.
They reveal life-or-death decisions for women and unborn children
and for this very reason should be disseminated widely. California
needs to be encouraged to provide data on abortion.
For policymakers to address the real casualties among blacks would
take courage -- far beyond the grandstanding on the military draft
by Sharpton, Conyers, and Rangel. They might begin by listening
to the poignant lyrics of hip-hop artist Nas in his recent mega-hit,
"One Mic." Nas knows that his community has been devastated by
abortion and in a courageous plea, the rapper simply asks women
to stop abortion because "we need more warriors here."
National Right to Life will host its 2003 national convention
in St. Louis. Come celebrate the 4th of July with pro-life speakers,
workshops and much more. For details, see http://www.nrlc.org/convention/index.html