Is Being Pro-Life Racist?

There’s a longstanding discussion over racism in healthcare. The debate is all the more heated when it comes to abortion. Ever since the battle over abortion began, pro-lifers and “pro-choicers” have accused each other of racism against people of color. For example, Brian Fung of The Atlantic claimed in August of 2012 that any abortion ban would disproportionately affect non-white and low-income women. He claims this proves there is deep racism in the pro-life movement.1

While it is true that non-Hispanic Black women have more abortions than any other racial or ethnic group (as we will discuss below), banning abortion is not racist in itself. In reality, if someone is truly pro-life and values all life from conception until natural death, the idea of a pro-life racist makes no sense. If pro-lifers are racist, why are there missions in Africa to help women in poverty have the means to raise their families?

HLI's current mission field in Africa.

HLI’s current mission field in Africa.

There is, in fact, a connection between abortion and racial genocide, though this connection is dismissed by pro-abortion advocates. In 1987, Helen I. Howe of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice alleged that it is “an insult to black women to make the generalized claim that abortions performed on black women are genocide.”2

 

Black Pro-Lifers Are Ignored

Conversely, a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article articulates that black pro-life leaders are dismissed in society. It talks about Mildred Jefferson, who was the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. She was also a founding member of the National Right to Life Committee. It talks about Jesse Jackson, who referred to abortion as “genocide” before his presidential nomination in 1984.

The article also tells a story to demonstrate how black pro-lifers are ignored. The story takes place in August of 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. There was a prayer service that day for all the black lives lost to abortion, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, was one of the leaders of this service. But there was media silence on this event. Catherine Davis of the Restoration Project was also in attendance, and she noted that the estimated 20 million black abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973 are more than the entire African-American population in 1960.3

In general, pro‑abortionists say that any pro‑life effort to outlaw abortion is racist. They claim it’s racist, because women of color would not be able to exercise their so-called “constitutional rights” in the same manner as white women.

 

The Truth of Pro-Abortion Racism & Lie of a Pro-Life Racist

Despite the allegations of pro-life racism, a look at both history and statistics reveals that abortion itself has often been motivated by racism. It also shows that those who support it sometimes are highly racist themselves. Historically, the US alone has seen prominent pro-abortion racists who supported a genocide against black people.

 

Prominent Pro-Abortion Racists

Lothrop Stoddard was a prominent member of the board of directors of Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League in the 1930s. In his book The Rising Tide of Color against White World‑Supremacy, he wrote: “Black blood, once entering a human stock, seems never really bred out again. . . . This is why crossings with the negro are uniformly fatal. Whites, Amerindians, or Asiatics ― all are alike vanquished by the invincible prepotency of the more primitive, generalized, and lower negro blood.”4

In addition, Margaret Sanger herself wrote in her autobiography: “I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey… A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.”5

There are many other examples of pro-abortionists making racist statements. Tom Metzger was the 1980 Democratic nominee to the United States House of Representatives from San Diego. He was also a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. He said:

“Very little abortion should be tolerated among our White race, while at the same time, abortion and birth control should be promoted as a powerful weapon in the limitation of non-White birth. . . . Invest in ghetto abortion clinics. Help to raise money for free abortions in primarily non-White areas. Perhaps abortion clinic syndicates throughout North America, that primarily operate in non-White areas and receive tax support, should be promoted.”6

Metzger’s wishes were granted by Planned Parenthood. Is it not then hypocritical for the pro-abortion movement to talk about pro-life racism?

Young black girl

 

Planned Parenthood’s Racist History

Metzger’s words are a perfect description of Planned Parenthood, which operates most of its clinics in non-white areas. The interactive map by Protecting Black Life shows that 79% of all of Planned Parenthood’s abortion and birth control clinics are located in or near minority neighborhoods.7

And yet, it receives tens of millions of dollars of tax support each year – just as Metzger had suggested.

Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “I believe Margaret Sanger would have been proud of us today if she had seen the directions that we have most recently in this organization taken.”8

A rather controversial figure to align one’s organization with.

Because of increased pressure, Planned Parenthood has just recently begun to admit and battle some of the widespread racism in its organization. In July 2020, PP of Greater New York issued a statement that said, in part:

“Today, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced its plans to remove Margaret Sanger’s name from the Manhattan Health Center as a public commitment to reckon with its founder’s harmful connections to the eugenics movement. PPGNY also announced it is working with the Community Board, City Council and community to rename an honorary street sign that marks the ‘Margaret Sanger Square’ at the intersection of Bleecker and Mott Streets in Manhattan.

The announcement reflects the first of many organizational shifts to address Sanger’s legacy and system of institutional racism, which negatively impacts the well-being of patients, staff and PPGNY’s broader communities.”9

boy in poverty

Abortion Kills More Black Babies than White Babies

Planned Parenthood should just ditch Sanger altogether. Sanger aside, PP today is still practicing her racist ideology, though they’ve learned well to veil it. When pro-lifers suggest that most abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods, abortion advocates are outraged.

Yet, it is true that the number of abortion clinics in a city generally correlates closely to the size of that town’s minority population. In comparing cities that have large minority populations to those with smaller minority populations, there are nearly twice as many abortion clinics per million people. 10, 11

A September 2021 LifeNews article gives evidence of this. It examined abortion facilities only in South Carolina. According to the article, South Carolina reported 5,468 abortions in 2020. The Planned Parenthood location in Columbia, SC, reported 1,681, and the Planned Parenthood in Charleston, SC, reported 1,478 – equaling 56% of all South Carolina abortions in 2020.

These numbers disproportionately affect African-Americans, who make up 28% of South Carolina’s population. However, 48% of the children killed in abortions in 2020 were black children.12

Further, the nonprofit group Abort73.com used abortion statistics from both the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute. It found that “black women were more than 3.6 times more likely to have an abortion in 2019 than white women (CDC).” Not including unexpected miscarriages, it found that 28% of pregnant black women had an abortion in 2019, while only 10% of pregnant white women had an abortion.13

 

Abortion Is Fulfilling a Genocidal Dream

Early racist eugenicists would be pleased with these results. According to the CDC’s latest abortion surveillance report (2020), among the reporting areas, “non-Hispanic Black women…accounted for the highest [percentage] of all abortions…39.2%.”14

There are some who are calling out these injustices. Dick Gregory, a civil rights activist, argued: “Government family planning programs designed for poor blacks which emphasize birth control and abortion with the intent of limiting the black population is genocide. The deliberate killing of black babies by abortion is genocide ― perhaps the most overt form of all.”15

As everyone knows, the future of any country or racial group lies with its children. Therefore, the most effective way to decrease – or eliminate – a race is to target the children. What better way to do this then to kill them before they are born? Certainly, the pro‑abortion movement has been devastatingly effective. It took 83 years for the unspeakable crime of lynching to claim 3,445 black lives.16 But every 83 hours, that same number of black babies are killed with abortion.

HLI training in NFP in Kitwe, South Africa, 2019. HLI trains all year round in NFP.

HLI training in NFP in Kitwe, South Africa, 2019. HLI trains all year round in NFP.

 

Abortionists Harm and Kill Black Women

The racism of the past rears its ugly head even today.

The world’s leading general medical journal, The Lancet, described “institutional racism” as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origin.”17

Certainly, that description applies to the abortion industry. Butcher abortionist Kermit Gosnell (who is himself black) was asked why he treated white abortion patients better than black patients. His startling answer was that it was “the way of the world.”18

An article on the site Refinery29 resounds the claim that abortion restrictions will disproportionally harm black women. It says these restrictions are a “reminder of how long-standing systemic racism is built into every facet of our society; it’s why black and brown lives are not safe, and never have been.”19

Yet, that article overlooks the fact that every abortion kills a baby. And more black children are being killed than white children.

 

Abortion Kills Black Women and Children: Case Studies

Belinda Byrd was a black woman who died from a “safe and legal” abortion in 1987. Her mother, Mattie Byrd, mourned her dead daughter in a letter to a friend:

“I cry every day when I think of how horrible her death was. She was slashed by them and then she bled to death. . . . Where is [the abortionist] now? Has he been stopped? Has anything happened to him because of what he did to my Belinda? . . . People tell me nothing has happened, that nothing ever happens to white abortionists who leave young black women dead.”20

Stephen Pine of the Inglewood Women’s Hospital was the abortionist who killed Belinda Byrd. That was his 74th abortion of the day!

In 2007, Laura Hope Smith, a healthy 22-year-old, went to a Massachusetts abortion clinic to abort her 13-week-old baby. While the clinic’s records state that Smith died of a hemorrhage from the abortion, her mother says: “There was no bleeding. She stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.” According to the Life Institute, the abortionist “admitted to Smith [Laura’s mom] that her daughter died as a result of the abortion but refused to accept any culpability.”21

In March 2014, a 22-year-old Ohio woman named Lakisha Wilson went to a Cleveland abortion clinic. After the abortion procedure, she stopped breathing. The clinic called an ambulance, but Lakisha died several days later.22

These are just a few of the many women who have died23 as a result of an abortion. Many more suffer injuries.24 And many more live to regret25 their abortions.

Male hands cradling a small fetus

 

Abortion Is Antithetical to Racial Justice and Representation

If the black race continues to abort at its current rate, it will shrink in comparison to other races. In general, groups of people have a degree of political and social influence that is roughly proportional to their population. Therefore, as a group slowly shrinks, its influence will shrink, as well. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.”26

Despite this startling reality, only the future will tell how abortion will affect black representation. All we can do now is speculate. But we do know one thing: as Faye Wattleton surmised, Margaret Sanger would certainly have been proud!

 

Eugenic Racism Is International

The pro-abortion movement is certainly not limited to the United States. There is a huge and powerful network of organizations that is responsible for countless abortions internationally. This network has a particular focus on the southern hemisphere, which is disproportionately poorer than the northern hemisphere.

The organizations within this network include rich Western governments. Together, they spend billions of dollars annually. Their money goes towards pressuring poor countries to adopt population control measures.

It would be unfair to label the entire “reproductive health” industry as racist. But it is not unfair to ask why they have simply buried the often-obvious racism of their movement’s founders. Meanwhile, they claim their mission is about “women’s health” and “reproductive rights.”

Just in 2020, nations around the world poured hundreds of millions of dollars into population control activities for poor nations. If we count only the wealthy Western nations, their donations alone total $769. Separately, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $6.6 million, and the United Nations and inter-organizational transfers donated $272 million.

A staggering $415 million was spent on population control activities in African nations.27

These quota-driven programs have led to massive corruption and repeated violations of basic human rights. Examples include forced abortion, sterilization, and contraception programs. For instance, Marie Stopes International has admitted to performing illegal abortions all over the world. Its workers have confessed to injecting women with Depo-Provera shots (a type of birth control) while telling them that they are malaria treatment.28

Despite all of this, abortion advocates say that pro-lifers, who are trying to save black babies, are the racists. It’s time to unveil the lies about supposed pro-life racists and to tell the real story. It’s time to save lives.

Georgina and her new baby

This little one is alive today because HLI missionaries taught Georgina and her husband to be open to life.

 

This article was most recently updated in April 2023.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] Fung, Brian. “The Quiet Racism of Abortion Bans.” The Atlantic, August 28, 2012.

[2] “Abortion and the Holocaust: Twisting the Language.” “Religious” Coalition for Abortion Rights, Washington, D.C., 1987.

[3] McGurn, William. “Opinion | White Supremacy and Abortion.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, September 2, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-supremacy-and-abortion-11567460392.

[4] Stoddard, Dr. Lothrop. The Rising Tide of Color against White World‑Supremacy. New York City: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921. Reprinted in 1971 by Negro Universities Press, Westport, Connecticut. For an electronic copy of this book, e-mail Brian Clowes at bclowes@hli.org.

[5] Comment by Margaret Sanger on her speech to the Women’s Branch of the Silver Lake, New Jersey Ku Klux Klan in 1926. Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography. New York City: W. Norton & Company, 1938, and Dover Publications, 1971, pages 366 and 367.

[6] Metzger, Tom.  “What We Believe as White Racists.” Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right [Jeffrey Kaplan, editor]. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, pages 547-555.

[7] “Planned Parenthood Targets Minority Neighborhoods.” Home – Protecting Black LifeProtecting Black Life. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://www.protectingblacklife.org/pp_targets/index.html.

[8] Wattleton, Faye, former President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), at PPFA’s annual luncheon in St. Louis, on May 2, 1979.

[9] Parenthood, Planned. “Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Announces Intent to Remove Margaret Sanger’s Name from NYC Health Center.” Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, July 21, 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-greater-new-york/about/news/planned-parenthood-of-greater-new-york-announces-intent-to-remove-margaret-sangers-name-from-nyc-health-center.

[10] Frey, William H. “2020 Census: Big Cities Grew and Became More Diverse, Especially among Their Youth.” Brookings. Brookings, March 9, 2022. https://www.brookings.edu/research/2020-census-big-cities-grew-and-became-more-diverse-especially-among-their-youth/, Table B.

[11] Crutcher, Mark, et. al. “Racial Targeting and Population Control.” Life Dynamics, 2011. Report: Racial Targeting & Population Control – Life Dynamics.

[12] Gatling, Holly. “Planned Parenthood Kills 57% of All Babies Killed in Abortions.” LifeNews, September 22, 2021. https://www.lifenews.com/2021/09/17/planned-parenthood-kills-57-of-all-babies-killed-in-abortions/.

[13] “U.S. Abortion Statistics: Facts and Figures Relating to the Frequency of Abortion in the United States.” Abort73.com / Abortion Unfiltered. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/.

[14] “Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/ss/ss7110a1.htm.

[15] Civil rights activist and pacifist Dick Gregory. “My Answer to Genocide.” Ebony Magazine, October 1971.

[16]  O’Neill, Aaron. “Annual Lynchings by Race in the U.S. 1882-1968.” Statista. June 21, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1147507/lynching-by-race/.

[17] “Institutionalized Racism in Health Care.” The Lancet, March 6, 1999, page 765.

[18] Report of the XXIII Grand Jury in the Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Criminal Trial Division, No. 0009901-2008, page 7.

[19] Long, Stephanie. “Abortion Bans Pose a Danger to All Mothers. for Black Women, They’re Especially Damaging.” Why Abortion Bans Are Racist & Threaten Black Women, 2022. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/10/10015405/abortion-ban-racism-black-women-effects.

[20] From a letter from Mrs. Mattie Byrd (mother of Belinda Byrd, who died from a “safe” and legal abortion on January 27, 1987), quoted in Feminists for Life of America amicus brief in the case of Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services, No. 88‑605.

[21] “Women Who Died.” Life Institute. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://thelifeinstitute.net/learning-centre/abortion-effects/women/women-who-died.

[22] Cleveland 19 Digital Team. “Medical Examiner Releases Cause of Death for Woman Who Died Following Abortion.” https://www.cleveland19.com, 2014. https://www.cleveland19.com/story/25656873/medical-examiner-releases-cause-of-death-for-woman-who-died-following-abortion/.

[23] Sullenger, Cheryl. “Archive of Documented Abortion Patient Death Reports by Operation Rescue.” Operation Rescue, August 19, 2016. https://www.operationrescue.org/archives/archive-of-documented-abortion-patient-death-reports-by-operation-rescue/.

[24] Sullenger, Cheryl. “An Evasive Caller, a Defective Elevator, and a Crashed Ambulance Delayed Help for Woman with Botched 2nd Trimester Abortion at Troubled Cleveland Facility.” Operation Rescue, October 21, 2021. https://www.operationrescue.org/archives/an-evasive-caller-a-defective-elevator-and-a-crashed-ambulance-delayed-help-for-woman-with-botched-2nd-trimester-abortion-at-troubled-cleveland-facility/.

[25] “Home Page.” Project Rachel – HopeAfterAbortion.org. Accessed April 4, 2023. https://hopeafterabortion.com/.

[26] King, Alveda. “Dr. Alveda King’s 2012 March for Life Testimony.” Silent No More Awareness Campaign, 2012. http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/testimonies/testimony.aspx?ID=2473.

[27] United Nations Population Fund. “Delivering Progress amid World-Shaking Adversity.” United Nations Population Fund, 2020. https://www.unfpa.org/annual-report-2020#!/expenses.

[28] Interview of Marie Stopes International workers at the Tororo, Uganda MSI clinic by Brian Clowes on December 15, 2010.

Did you find this useful?

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.

Marisa Cantu has an MS in political science and international affairs with a BA in political science and has also studied international studies and French. She has a strong background in nonprofit work, research, writing, and policy proposal and analysis.

In her free time, Marisa enjoys painting, writing, cooking, spending time with her husband and playing with her dog.

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