Conservative ideology is so often based on misrepresentation, half-truths, outright falsehoods, and appeals to mythical sky daddies (and where you find conservative ideology, you frequently find sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of bigotry). From their claims that Trickle Down Economics is a reasonable economic concept for anyone who is not uber-wealthy, to their opposition to public assistance programs which keep millions of people from living in far worse poverty than they already are, to their claims that marriage equality will bring about the downfall of USAmerica, to their claims that trans women are really just men who want to attack girls and women in public restrooms, to their warmongering, to their…you get the point by now.
One topic I’ve found conservatives to be consistently wrong on?
Conservative columnist J. Kenneth Blackwell of The Washington Times is no exception. In a recent column, titled ‘Aborting Black America‘, Blackwell complains that the focus of the Black Lives Matter Movement is misplaced.
“Black lives matter” has become the slogan of anti-police protests across the nation, but the target of the protests is so misplaced that the motives of the so-called civil rights leaders behind the movement must be questioned. Do they really care about black lives? Or are they cynically exploiting isolated incidents, such as the death of Michael Brown, to inflame the black population and advance their own political interests?
Today, on the somber anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, it’s time for black leaders to face up to the real danger threatening black lives in America. It isn’t the police. According to an anti-police brutality organization, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, 313 blacks were killed by “police, security guards and vigilantes” in 2013. It isn’t even black criminals, who, as Rudy Giuliani famously pointed out on “Meet the Press,” are responsible for 93 percent of violent deaths among blacks. Sources estimate that between 6,000 and 8,000 blacks are murdered each year.
Blackwell clearly doesn’t understand what the Black Lives Matter Movement is about. While not everyone in the movement shares exactly the same goals (imagine that), one of the primary objectives of the activists is the reform of the criminal justice system. Contained within that are other goals, such as:
- greater accountability of police officers
- a significant reduction in police brutality and the use of excessive force
- a end to racist policies like Stop & Frisk, Broken Windows, and jump-outs
- greater police transparency
- sensitivity training of police officers in the hope that they base fewer of their decisions on unconscious stereotypes
- an elimination of the wartime mentality adopted by many police departments across the country
- an end to the 1033 program by which police departments acquire military-grade equipment
- a retraining of USAmerica’s lawyers and judges so that they have a greater understanding of how racial biases against People of Color affect the outcome of courtroom decisions
- a fairer approach to policing that doesn’t disproportionately target People of Color
(the above is not intended to be a comprehensive list)
Note that none of those goals are anti-police. Given the sheer number of people in the movement, there are bound to be some who are anti-police. Overall though, the Black Lives Matter Movement is not anti-police. Blackwell would know this if he actually researched the topic he’s discussing. If he did, he might turn up something like, oh, this:
I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
Then of course, he trots out that tired, well-worn cliché of black-on-black violence (I notice he both conflates violence with murder and offers no sources for his 6,000-8,000 figure). It’s more of a myth than a cliché, actually. While it is true that 93-94% of Black victims were killed by Black offenders, 84% of white victims were killed by white offenders. Blackwell dishonestly focuses on black-on-black murders, possibly in an attempt to make it appear as if Black America has some unique problem, while ignoring the fact that murder is intraracial.
Not content to simply misinform his readers about violence and murder statistics in the African-American community, Blackwell decides to show he’s also ignorant about biology:
No, the greatest danger to blacks is found precisely where we ought to be safest: in our mothers’ wombs. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 138,539 black babies were aborted.
That should read 138,539 black fetuses (or embryos depending on what stage of development they were in when the pregnancy was terminated). After all, babies are born. Yes, laypeople use the term baby interchangeably with fetus, but from a medical perspective, they are not the same thing. Within the womb of a pregnant woman, the correct term (after 8 weeks of gestation) is a fetus. Once they are born and exist outside the womb (and not infringing on the bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman), they are called newborns, infants, and yes, babies.
Even Wikipedia gets it right:
An infant (from the Latin word infans, meaning “unable to speak” or “speechless”) is the very young offspring of a human or animal. When applied to humans, the term is usually considered synonymous with baby or bairn (Scotland), but the latter is commonly applied to the young of any animal. When a human child learns to walk, the term toddler may be used instead.
The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions may vary between birth and 1 year of age, or even between birth and 2 years of age. A newborn is an infant who is only hours, days, or up to a few weeks old. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth; the term applies to premature infants, postmature infants, and full term infants. Before birth, the term fetus is used.
Moving on, Blackwell says:
Thankfully, abortion is on the decline in America, down 3 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Strikingly, the number of surgical abortion clinics has plummeted, from 2,176 in 1991 to 551 today. Nevertheless, the CDC report that in 2010, a staggering 765,651 abortions were performed in the United States. Black women continue to have the highest abortion rate of any ethnic group, with a gruesome 483 abortions for every 1,000 live births.
Note his use of the emotionally loaded term gruesome. He’s clearly pandering to his audience, a readership that likely agrees with his views on abortion. I wonder if he’s aware that onerous regulations placed upon abortion clinics by anti-choice politicians have been the reason these clinics have closed down? In Texas alone, more than 80% of abortion clinics have been forced to close in the last few years thanks to laws ostensibly meant to protect women and children, but which, in reality make their lives increasingly more difficult. Even if he knows about statistics like that, I imagine he’s happy. After all, we’re talking about someone opposed to abortion and who doesn’t care whether a woman wants to be pregnant or not. Oh, and if Blackwell is so concerned about African-American women terminating their pregnancies (which he really shouldn’t be, that’s a medical decision between the woman and her healthcare provider, it’s none of his goddamn business), then he should look into the reasons why Black women are seeking abortions. According to a 2008 Guttmacher report:
This much is true: In the United States, the abortion rate for black women is almost five times that for white women. Antiabortion activists, including some African-American pastors, have been waging a campaign around this fact, falsely asserting that the disparity is the result of aggressive marketing by abortion providers to minority communities.
The Issues4Life Foundation, for example, is a faith-based organization that targets and works with African-American leaders toward achieving the goal of “zero African-American lives lost to abortion or biotechnology.” In April, Issues4Life wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus to denounce Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its “racist and eugenic goals.” The group blamed PPFA and abortion providers in general for the high abortion rate in the African-American community—deeming the situation the “Da[r]fur of America”—and called on Congress to withdraw federal family planning funds from all PPFA affiliates.
These activists are exploiting and distorting the facts to serve their antiabortion agenda. They ignore the fundamental reason women have abortions and the underlying problem of racial and ethnic disparities across an array of health indicators. The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. This applies to all women—black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American alike. Not surprisingly, the variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups relates directly to the variation in the unintended pregnancy rates across those same groups.
Black women are not alone in having disproportionately high unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. The abortion rate among Hispanic women, for example, although not as high as the rate among black women, is double the rate among whites. Hispanics also have a higher level of unintended pregnancy than white women. Black women’s unintended pregnancy rates are the highest of all. These higher unintended pregnancy rates reflect the particular difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively over long periods of time. Moreover, these realities must be seen in a larger context in which significant racial and ethnic disparities persist for a wide range of health outcomes, from diabetes to heart disease to breast and cervical cancer to sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV.
Holy factual information Batman!
Do you mean to tell me that if African-American women had greater and easier access to contraception the need for abortion services might not be so great? Someone let J. Kenneth Blackwell know so that he working tirelessly to ensure African-American women have access to affordable contraception, thereby reducing the number of abortions, something he is clearly worried about.
Blackwell continues with:
The bottom line? I’ll say it again: 138,539 black babies, nearly one baby in three, were killed in the womb in 2010. According to the CDC, between 2007 and 2010, innocent black babies were victimized in nearly 36 percent of the abortion deaths in the United States, though blacks represent only 12.8 percent of the population. Some say the abortion capital of America is New York City. According to LifeSiteNews, the city’s Department of Health reported that in 2012, more black babies were aborted (31,328) than born (24,758). That’s 55.9 percent of black babies killed before birth. Blacks represented 42.4 percent of all abortions.
He really is worried about the number of abortions African-American women are having. I wonder how much he actually cares about these fetuses though. Does he support paid maternity leave so that pregnant women can take time off after they give birth and not stress about a lack of income? Does he support universal child care so that new mothers can reenter the workforce and provide for their children while having the comfort of knowing that their child will be cared for? Does he support a robust social safety net so that low-income mothers who are jobless can provide for their children? Does he support vaccinations for children? There is far more to supporting women and children than whining about the termination of fetuses.
If I sound a bit callous with regard to fetuses, it is, to a degree, intentional. I support the right of all women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health. That means I support a woman who chooses to carry a fetus to term (in which case, I hope for the best for both the woman and her fetus) just as much as I support a woman who wants to end her pregnancy (in which case, I’m not concerned about a fetus). My primary concern (as should everyone else’s) is with the needs of the woman in the situation. She is an existing person. She has hopes, dreams, fears, desires, emotions, intelligence, and all the other markers of being a human person, which is something that a fetus does not have. True, a fetus is biologically human, but it is not a human person. None of the qualities of personhood apply to a fetus. Nor should they. When anti-abortion advocates call for fetal personhood measures they either don’t know or don’t care (I suspect the latter) that a living, breathing human being will be forced to carry a fetus to term. They don’t know or don’t care that such personhood measures mean that the needs and desires of the pregnant woman would become secondary to the “needs” and “desires” of a fetus. Since fetuses are not self-aware and have no needs and desires (not in the sense that an extant human being does), who is going to determine what is best for them? A bunch of male politicians (and a few female ones too) who think they have the right to determine the conduct of a pregnant woman?! I find that loathsome.
Now, where were we?
Legalized abortion is working out exactly as Margaret Sanger intended. Sanger, the founder of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, was part of the eugenics movement back in the 1930s. Her goal was to use abortion to cull what she considered inferior races from the human gene pool. According to Sanger, “Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.” She opened her first abortion clinics in inner cities, and it’s no accident that even today, “79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located in black or minority neighborhoods.”
Searching for the source of the Margaret Sanger quote turns up a 2006 book (available on Amazon) called The Pivot of Civilization. Not having read the book, I can neither confirm nor deny that she actually said that. If she did, then yes, that’s pretty fucking racist. If she didn’t then this would be another case of a conservative fabricating information to fit an agenda (or perhaps taking information out of context). That comment aside (because it isn’t relevant to whether or not African-American women should have access to abortion services), Blackwell’s comments sound eerily similar to remarks made by former USAmerican presidential candidate and all around asshole, Herman Cain (actively working to make the lives of other human beings worse is a textbook definition of an asshole to me, and Cain tries very hard to do that). In a 2011 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Cain said:
Schieffer: … you said that it was not Planned Parenthood, it was really planned genocide because you said Planned Parenthood was trying to put all these centers into the black communities because they wanted to kill black babies –
Herman Cain: Yes.
Scheiffer: — before they were born. Do you still stand by that?
Cain: I still stand by that.
Schieffer: Do you have any proof that that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?
Cain: If people go back and look at the history and look at Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from. Look up the history. So if you go back and look up the history — secondly, look at where most of them were built; 75 percent of those facilities were built in the black community — and Margaret Sanger’s own words, she didn’t use the word “genocide,” but she did talk about preventing the increasing number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.
Regarding the claims by Blackwell and Cain about the locations of past (or present) Planned Parenthood clinics, well, surprise, those claims are not true:
Cain also claimed that “75 percent of [clinics] were built in the black community.” But we found no evidence that that was true in Sanger’s time, and it’s not true today.
Sanger’s first clinic, opened in 1916, was in Brooklyn in a neighborhood called Brownsville, which was 80 percent to 85 percent Jewish in 1910 and 1920, according to author Wendell E. Pritchett’s “Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews & the Changing Face of the Ghetto.” Cathy Moran Hajo writes that the neighborhood was “populated largely by Italians and Eastern European Jews” in “Birth Control on Main Street: Organizing Clinics in the United States, 1916-1939.” She says that Sanger didn’t choose to open her first clinic in Harlem, where infant and mother mortality rates were similar to those of Brownsville.
In fact, early birth control clinics didn’t welcome black women with open arms, Hajo writes: “In the 1920s and early 1930s, African Americans had far more limited access to birth control than did white women. Not only did many clinics discriminate against black women, but the regions with the largest black populations had fewer clinics.”
Sanger opened a clinic in Harlem in 1930, and, as mentioned, the “Negro Project” began in the late 1930s.
That doesn’t support Cain’s implication that Sanger’s “objective was to put these centers in primarily black communities,” or that “75 percent” of clinics were in such neighborhoods. It should also be noted that these early clinics were focused on providing birth control, and Sanger herself warned of the dangers of abortion. “While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization,” she wrote in her 1920 book “Woman and the New Race.”
Cain’s claim also isn’t true today. Tait Sye, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, told us in an email that “73% of Planned Parenthood health centers are located in rural or medically underserved areas.” Not all of those would be predominately black communities.
Also, the Guttmacher Institute reported this year that 9 percent of abortion clinics in the U.S. are in neighborhoods in which 50 percent or more of the residents are black. That’s according to the group’s “census of all known abortion providers.”
Blackwell could have easily dug up this information rather than parroting more right-wing talking points, but well, he is a conservative asshole with an agenda. Let’s continue looking at that agenda:
We mustn’t forget that babies aren’t the only victims of abortion. Sadly, more and more of the mothers are suffering and dying as well. Though many people continue to deny it, the link between abortion and breast cancer has been amply documented, and this deadly consequence of abortion is plaguing greater and greater numbers of black women.
Oh golly, the dreaded link between breast cancer and abortion. Note that despite this “ample documentation”, Blackwell provides no credible source for this assertion. In point of fact, he is WRONG. There is no causal link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. This is a flat-out lie. J. Blackwell could have found this out easily if he actually did his homework.
His article continues its descent into a feces filled toilet with the following distortion:
Sanger relied on black ministers to act as Judas goats leading their sisters to abortion mills. According to LifeSiteNews, Sanger wrote in 1939, “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
When placed within the correct context (rather than removed from it as Blackwell has done), one can easily see that Sanger had no intentions of “exterminating the Negro population”:
Sanger, who was arrested several times in her efforts to bring birth control to women in the United States, set up her first clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. In the late 1930s, she sought to bring clinics to black women in the South, in an effort that was called the “Negro Project.” Sanger wrote in 1939 letters to colleague Clarence James Gamble that she believed the project needed a black physician and black minister to gain the trust of the community:
Sanger, 1939: The minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Sanger says that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.” She didn’t say that she wanted to “exterminate” the black population. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University says that this quote has “gone viral on the Internet,” normally out of context, and it “doesn’t reflect the fact that Sanger recognized elements within the black community might mistakenly associate the Negro Project with racist sterilization campaigns in the Jim Crow south, unless clergy and other community leaders spread the word that the Project had a humanitarian aim.”
It goes on to characterize beliefs such as Cain’s as “extremist.” The project says: “No serious scholar and none of the dozens of black leaders who supported Sanger’s work have ever suggested that she tried to reduce the black population or set up black abortion mills, the implication in much of the extremist anti-choice material.”
Funny how removing the proper context transforms the quote to suit Blackwell’s needs. Such dishonesty on his part.
Blackwell concludes with:
Abortion is the greatest threat to black lives in America today. People who claim to represent the black community while also abetting the black holocaust — abortion — are hypocrites. Any “civil rights leader” who genuinely believes that “black lives matter” should be working to see that every black baby is accorded the very first civil right — the right to life.
As I said above, if he is so concerned with African-American women terminating their pregnancies, then he needs to support efforts to bring affordable contraception into the hands of the Black women who want and need it, rather than complaining about all the dead fetuses. In doing so, and in using distortion or outright lies to support his position, Blackwell demonstrates he has no interest in dealing with facts and reality. Which pretty much sums up the GOP.