Are black children an endangered species? The answer is yes, according to billboards posted throughout Atlanta by anti-abortion groups. Although their answer is correct, their reasoning behind that answer is completely wrong.
The anti-abortion organizations Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation have placed 65 billboards throughout the city of Atlanta, with more to come. The signs feature a sad-faced black boy with a caption that reads “Black children are an endangered species.” The billboards have caused controversy because, as critics would suggest, they single out black women and unfairly paint them as criminals who kill their children.
According to the groups’ website, toomanyaborted.com, legalized abortion is a crisis in the black community, with 40 percent of pregnancies among African-Americans ending in induced abortion. In their eyes, abortion in the African-American community is an evil like Jim Crow segregation and eugenics, with abortion clinics placed in “urban areas where Blacks reside.” They claim that Planned Parenthood’s founder wanted to reduce the black population. Further, the groups suggest that the Roe v. Wade decision—which legalized a woman’s right to choose— has led to the deterioration of black families, sexual promiscuity, child abuse and urban decay.
The two organizations also point to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that 57.4 percent of abortions were performed on black women in 2006, although blacks only make up 30 percent of the state’s population. Georgia is second only to New York and Texas in the number of black women who have abortions. Meanwhile, the CDC data provides no evidence that black children are an endangered species because of abortion.
Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation take issue with the ways in which their campaign is being characterized. “Contrary to the statements being made, the Endangered Species Campaign is not designed to target black women, but is designed to educate. The toomanyaborted.com website has documented information to support our contention that the number of black babies aborted in the U. S. and in Georgia are at holocaustic levels,” Catherine Davis, minority outreach coordinator of Georgia Right to Life, told theGrio. “Since 1973 more than 18,000,000 black babies have been aborted. Georgia, in 2008, set a record in the numbers of abortions performed on black women, almost 21,000. We are not targeting black women, but are fighting for black babies.”
Georgia Right to Life, the state’s primary anti-abortion group, opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. The organization announced it would support legislation that would make it a crime to “solicit a woman to have an abortion based on the race or sex of the unborn child.”
It is more than reasonable to say that black children are an endangered species. Some would argue that they have held that status for 400 years. The proof is evident, but not because of abortion, as the so-called “pro-life” advocates would suggest. Rather, black children today are in a crisis because of poverty, hunger, and a lack of opportunity. At some point in their childhood, 90 percent will require food stamps. An increasing number of black children, 3.7 million, do not know when or where they will find their next meal, according to a USDA report. They are subjected to an inferior education in crumbling schools. Although they are 15 percent of American children, they are 32 percent of the 510,000 children in foster care, and are less likely to be adopted than white children. In many depressed urban communities, they face a cradle-to-prison pipeline. And poor children of color are more likely to face health challenges. Perhaps the most recent example of the endangered status of black children is 9-year-old Zumante Lucero, who died of a severe asthma attack in July 2009 after his family was mistakenly cut from Medicaid.
The problem is that the pro-life groups are never around to speak up on behalf of children such as Zumante, so forgive me if I think these eleventh-hour cries of black genocide ring hollow. In fact, the Christian Right never stood up for African-American children, and always supported the gutting of social safety net programs that would help them. Focused singularly on fetuses, abortion opponents give the impression they care little about the well-being of children who were already born, and who struggle to survive in the midst of deprivation, hopelessness, and unresponsive public policy.
So yes, African-American children are an endangered species, but clearly there is a difference of opinion as to why. We must focus on the welfare of vulnerable and at-risk youth who slip through the cracks, as we safeguard the health of women, and protect their right to control their own bodies.