Georgia Right to Life Using Racialized Gender Narratives to Garner Support


Last week femme on the community site brought to our attention this horrific anti-choice billboard and campaign brought to us by Georgia Right to Life. She interrogates aptly,

This billboard dehumanizes both black women and children, by asserting that black children are an “endangered species,” which animalizes them, and by asserting that black women have no control over our own bodies and that we’re somehow intellectually weak enough to be controlled by the so-called eugenics-crazed poor-black-baby-eaters, aka Planned Parenthood.

Georgia Right to Life has gone too far in suggesting that black women are too quick to get abortions and should therefore “choose life.” By speaking to a feigned nationalistic sentiment suggesting that one crisis for the black community is that there are not enough black children and choosing the frame of “too many abortions,” this advertising campaign in the last few weeks has gained support from activists around the country.

The eyebrow-raising ads depicting a black child are an effort by the antiabortion movement to use race to rally support within the black community. The reaction from black leaders has been mixed, but the “Too Many Aborted” campaign, which so far is unique to Georgia, is drawing support from other antiabortion groups across the country.
“This campaign is in your face, and nobody can ignore it,” said the Rev. Johnny Hunter, national director of the Life Education and Resource Network, a North Carolina-based antiabortion group.
The effort is sponsored by Georgia Right to Life, which also is pushing legislation that aims to ban abortions based on race.

Georgia Right to Life is targeting black women because a majority of the abortions sought in Georgia were by black women. And frankly, what is more threatening than a generation of black women determining what is right for their own bodies?
And in a usual move to usurp feminist talking points, the Radiance Foundation one of the billboard sponsors claims that the impetus for the campaign is to uncover the “segregationist” agenda from liberals to essentially wipe out the black community. Right, that is exactly what the pro-choice community has been putting all their energy into, getting reproductive health and information into the hands of women that can’t get access to it is a clear shroud for segregation *eye roll*.
As femme writes in response to one of the advocates of the billboards,

The way Ms. Davis, and other anti-abortion advocates, frame this argument is both misogynistic and racist. She claims to care, but her goal is not to improve the lives of black women and children. Making abortion illegal will not improve our lives, and neither will any of the proposals anti-abortion groups support, like abstinence-only education and stricter laws regarding contraception.

Furthermore, according to the Center for Disease Control (via Essence) abortion has no impact on the population of black children, so if anything it will hurt the black community and the lives of black women to make it more difficult to access abortion. So not only is it a racist and sexist policy, but it also ignores the facts at hand. Disgusting.
UPDATE:
Please don’t miss Shark-Fu’s insightful take on the anti-choice focus on eugenics and women of color.

And today from the Guttmacher Institute,

Among women of all ages, black Americans are almost four times as likely as whites to have an abortion. Antiabortion activists use this statistic to make the groundless argument that the “abortion industry” is targeting and marketing aggressively to African-American communities. What proponents of this argument fail to recognize is that black women’s higher abortion rates are directly related to their higher rates of unintended pregnancy. Disproportionately high rates of both unintended pregnancy and abortion are symptoms of the broader health disparities faced by the black community. Fundamentally, the question we should be asking is what can be done to help black women have fewer unintended pregnancies and achieve better health outcomes in general.

Oh, right anti-choicers once again not based in quantifiable data, just their bizarre interpretation of it.

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34 Comments

  1. Suzy Q
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    These Billboards cry out to be hacked.
    Spray paint out the anti abortion site url and paste up something like ” By Racist Republican Policies”

  2. Toongrrl
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts echo to William Bennett declaring that black abortions would lower the crime rate. Disgusting. The anti choice people would point out that Planned Parenthoods are located in poor neighborhoods populated by minorities, I say that it’s because they shit like crazy if a Planned Parenthood was built in the country club area (“Oh no!!! Our good girls shall be infested by The Sex!”)

  3. LalaReina
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Black babies are aborted three times the national average, so is anyone saying not enough black babies are aborted? This is a problem and you don’t have to be for banning abortion to see it.My issue with the right and left is that outside your “issue/cause” I don’t think either side gives a real fuck about the people.

  4. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you read anything that was said. The problem is that the organization is treating Black children like animals by calling them an endangered species and treating Black women like idiots by implying that they’re easily hoodwinked into doing something that’s bad for them, instead of rational individuals who make decisions for the betterment of their lives and the lives of their families.
    Now, if you still stand by your comment after reading the major points of the post for a second time, then all I have to say is this: Abortion rates are not legal abortion’s fault. Making abortion illegal does nothing to stop it. It just makes it more dangerous for women, particularly poor women, who are disproportionately women of color. So unless you want Black women to die or have more children of color born into poverty, by all means, continue doing what you’re doing.

  5. Pencils
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    The issue is that we need to improve the lives of these African-American women and girls, so that they either don’t end up with unwanted pregnancies in the first place, or so that they have the resources to continue their pregnancies if they so choose. So, yes, I do care about “the people.” What I don’t care about are the imaginary “babeeez” that the anti-choice brigade are always going on about. Oddly enough, you don’t mention women at all in your post.

  6. Athenia
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    “…ban abortions based on race”
    Huh??? How in heavens would THAT work???

  7. JoanOfArc
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Well, why are black women choosing to have abortions at a higher rate? I suspect it is because they have a higher rate of unplanned pregnancies, due to the lack of comprehensive sex education and lack of access to birth control. None of which so called ‘right to life’ groups are willing to address.
    Every woman deserves sex ed that is comprehensive. Every woman deserves access to birth control. Every woman deserves the right to a safe and legal abortion. The first two will lessen the need for the third. If so called ‘right to life’ groups want to reduce the abortion rate, how about supporting comprehensive sex ed and access to birth control instead of comparing black children to animals and demonizing women for making a choice they feel is right for them?

  8. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I know. I don’t even get how a woman would be in such a situation, let alone this situation being a common problem that’s so terrible that there needs to be a law prohibiting it. If a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant by a man of a different race, she surely wouldn’t have sex with a man of a different race. And if she becomes pregnant after being raped by a man of a different race and decides to have an abortion, I’m pretty sure the fact that the father’s a rapist would factor more into her decision than the color of the his skin. Makes no sense.

  9. cattrack2
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry I’m black but these “racist” & “animalizing” charges just make no sense. There is a pervasive sentiment within the black community that this is precisely true. I’ve heard black people make this statement any number of times. You know widely this statement resonates on the “beauty shop and barber shop circuits”? Moreover, there is in fact a long history of the Eugenics movement using abortion & birth control to in fact control the black population The fact that a conservative organization taps into this sentiment to make their claims does not make them racist or “animalizing”. Listen I think pinning the blame on abortion for the plight of the black community is preposterous, but tailoring a pro life message to the black community does not make them racist, nor us animals.
    You don’t think I feel like an endangered species whenever I get stopped by the cops? There’s a reason Mos Def says the police are targeting “Big Game” in going after black folks.

  10. Akheloios
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Poverty raises the abortion rate. Black people are more likely to be in poverty, therefore The abortion rate for Black women is higher.
    The solution, end poverty, not ban abortion.

  11. Dawn.
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Samhita – I am formerly femme, the community member who wrote that article, so thank you for bringing more light to this situation!
    Every woman deserves sex ed that is comprehensive. Every woman deserves access to birth control. Every woman deserves the right to a safe and legal abortion. The first two will lessen the need for the third. If so called ‘right to life’ groups want to reduce the abortion rate, how about supporting comprehensive sex ed and access to birth control instead of comparing black children to animals and demonizing women for making a choice they feel is right for them?
    JoanOfArc, you said what I was going to say, but much better. I completely agree. Georgia Right to Life and other groups like it are not interested in “saving black babies,” because if they were they would support policies that actually reduce abortions. IMO, this glaring hypocrisy is evident in the anti-choice movement as a whole.
    I’m sorry I’m black but these “racist” & “animalizing” charges just make no sense. There is a pervasive sentiment within the black community that this is precisely true. I’ve heard black people make this statement any number of times. You know widely this statement resonates on the “beauty shop and barber shop circuits”?
    A racist statement is still racist when spoken by a person of color, cattrack2. I’m a black woman and I am well aware of how many black people agree with the “endangered species” claim. But that doesn’t make it an acceptable thing to say. Furthermore, it makes Georgia Right to Life’s actions even more insidious because I’m sure they are aware of how many black people agree with it. They are intentionally manipulating some POC’s anxieties. I find that to be just as infuriating as the billboards themselves.

  12. JesiDangerously
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    You don’t see how it’s animalizing to refer to a specific race as a different species? Really?
    Southern blacks are disproportionately affected by poverty. It’s safe to say, then, that black women who cannot afford to raise children will seek other alternatives, be that abortion or adoption. If anyone can find any proof that Planned Parenthood or any abortion provider is targeting black women, I’ll be first in line to condemn that practice. But it simply isn’t the case.
    This anti-choice group is making a claim that black children are being killed en masse because they are black. That is, of course, untrue. No one is killing black children because they are black. Women are choosing to terminate pregnancies that they do not wish to have. The group then goes an extra step by equating black children with elephants and leopards, which are endangered due to poaching. No one is poaching black kids.
    Should something be done about the abortion rate among black women? Absolutely. Comprehensive sexual education and affordable birth control options should be available to everyone on the planet. Billboards calling black babies a “species” are not helping anyone.

  13. snowpiece
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    An org called the Human Life Alliance does the same thing. I think that ordering their free materials is a fun way to waste their resources.
    http://www.humanlife.org/index.php
    The HLA claims that “abortion is the leading cause of death among African Americans.” If you don’t feel like having this hilariously messed up newsletter in your home, it’s also a pdf available here:
    http://www.humanlife.org/did_you_know.php

  14. cattrack2
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    “A racist statement is still racist when spoken by a person of color, cattrack2. I’m a black woman and I am well aware of how many black people agree with the “endangered species” claim. But that doesn’t make it an acceptable thing to say.”
    You have to do an awful lot of twisting here to render the endangered species metaphor racist. There’s a plain meaning of the metaphor & then after enough leaps to win an Olympics long jump, there’s a racist meaning.
    I think the fact that so many black people say this themselves as you yourself admit just proves the point that its not racist. I mean if this was a case of white people saying the “N-word” ‘cuz black people say it I’d agree with you, but “endangered species” ain’t the N-word. Jus sayin.

  15. TheWhiteRaven
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking about that, too. The best I can figure is that Black women or other women of color would not be able to have abortions under their desired ban, which is so e’ffed up in so many ways.
    Also, I read once that the statistics regarding abortions were taken from community health centers and clinics like Planned Parenthood, not hospitals. I am not sure if this is true, but this would probably skew the statistics about the races of women who procure abortions. Does anyone know anything about this?

  16. Unequivocal
    Posted February 16, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    I think that the rhetoric of “becoming an endangered species” is more prevalent and probably less racially motivated and “othering” than is being assumed. The term seems to be in increasingly frequent usage with the connotation being “this [fill in the blank] is less safe/common/protected/prevalent than common perception would have us believe.”
    For example, take a look at http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=%22are+becoming+an+endangered+species%22&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&aqi=&oq=
    The first page results indicate that computer geeks, black children, newspapers, natural blonds and ideas are all being described as “becoming an endangered species.”
    This doesn’t make the billboard less objectionable, but I do think that making the claim that this turn of phrase animalizes black people may be inaccurate given the modern usage of the term.

  17. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    Speak for yourself.
    I’m a member of the African American community too, and I have heard no such outcry.
    If you have a problem with African American women exercising their constitutional right to abortion, that’s your opinion and you have a right to it.
    But please don’t try to front like you speak for the entire African American community – there are 44 million of us, and you do not speak for all of us, only for yourself.

  18. Ariel
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I think you need to catch up on your Race theory. Equating race with animals is common practice, i.e. calling a black man a “black buck.” This is just more subtle by implying animal references through the use of “endangered species.”
    Also, being black doesn’t make you an expert on Race theory any more than being a woman makes you a feminist. Racism is racism regardless. You may as well be throwing the classic trope of “well a woman said something sexist, therefore it’s not sexist.” Same logic.

  19. Dawn.
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Damn straight, Ariel. Black people are entirely capable of making racist statements. Black people are entirely capable of internalizing racism and of being racist themselves. Equating black children to animals is dehumanizing, plain and simple. Equating black women to weak-minded baby-makers is dehumanizing, plain and simple. It doesn’t take much “twisting” to come to that conclusion and it doesn’t matter how many black people say it or agree with it. That billboard is both racist and false. If you don’t believe me, Samhita provided more than one link for your perusal.

  20. Phenicks
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Alright, I hate to go there but COME ON!! Seriously people if we are going to address this poster without addressing the fact that the founder of planned parenthood DID want to target “undesireables” to get abortions for the purposes of eugenics then we need to just be honest about where we stand on race relations. Seriously.
    There are MANY black women who get abortions because of poverty but think of how many more are persuaded into one. Being poor means its easier and cheaper to go somewhere to get pregnancy related services cheap or free. Being poor also means if you don’t abort you’ll be on the system- what do you think they are encouraged to do to make life easier for everyone else?
    If poor white women were getting abortions at the same rate as black women I think SOMEONE would stare the pink elephant in the eye and wonder if they were targeted for those abortions and feel free to ponder that without making it some sort of deluded attack on a right to CHOOSE an abortion. Because being talked into an abortion you didn’t want to have is just as bad as being talked into continuing a pregnancy that you don’t want.
    Black women WERE forcibly sterilized and for a long time faced discrimination that cost them WANTED fetuses due to a lack in good prenatal care based on race.

  21. lucierohan
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it reaching to far to say that the phrasing on this billboard is racist, or at least distasteful, considering that our country has a history of animalizing black people.
    I also think people should read the comment Phenicks made and think about it long and hard.
    Pro-lifers aren’t friends to poor, black women. But historically, abortion providers haven’t been the greatest allies either.
    So essentially, I think this is a billboard that tackles the very important but uncomfortable issue of black women being coerced, by economic conditions and perhaps even by abortion providers, into aborting wanted pregnancies (which is brave and admirable) and then wrong-mindedly suggests that an anti-abortion policy is the solution to the problem (which is simplistic and actually pretty cruel).

  22. cattrack2
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, who said anything about me speaking for all blacks??? And I definitely didn’t say anything about not supporting abortion rights. All I said was that a lot of blacks say things like this themselves and that I didn’t think it was racist or animalizing. The OP on this topic on the Community page was by an African American so I know I don’t speak for all blacks, but I surely have the right to point on that this is a common statement & pervasive fear among blacks, if not in your neighborhood, then certainly in the many neighborhoods & cities in which I’ve lived. You can be pro-choice without making out pro-lifers to be crazy, evil, animalizing, racists. Sometimes feminists & leftists can be guilty of the same over heated tactics of the Right. Geez, get a grip.

  23. cattrack2
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    “I think you need to catch up on your Race theory.”
    Really??? I’ve been active in black politics for over 30 yrs. I started walking door-to-door doing voter registration drives with my parents when I was 7. I picked up course credits in racism being falsely arrested by the police, discriminated by school officials, and harassed by public housing authorities. At university I led several organizations in a wide variety of civil rights causes. I’m black, you don’t think I’m aware of the history of animalizing minorities??? You must be kidding me. I’ve been personally animalized by teachers who said I act like a monkey. Why do you think its ok to personally critique someone you’ve never met? That would be like me saying you need to ‘catch up’ with the real world. And I wouldn’t do that.
    I’m well aware of US history, I’m also objective enough to recognize the plain usage of something. For our activism to have significance our racism charges must be credible. Hey, its a Rorschach test: You take from it what you bring to it. Being pro-life may make you anti-feminist, it doesn’t make you racist.

  24. adag87
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Margaret Sanger did espouse some principles of eugenics, yes. But you’re making kind of a logical leap to assume that Planned Parenthood bases its practices off of the eugenics movement, almost 100 years later.
    A lot of movements have changed over the years. I’m sure there is racism within the pro-choice movement, just as there is racism within the pro-life/anti-choice movement, and many others. But that doesn’t mean that women can’t think for themselves, which, ultimately, is what the pro-choice movement is supposed to be about.
    I don’t know. I don’t have enough of the facts, but just what exactly is banning race based abortions anyway? Is it banning coercion? Because I’m pretty sure crisis pregnancy centers have been known to coerce a woman or two in their day, as well as protesters outside abortion clinics.
    I’m not saying women have never been coerced into having abortions, but I’d be wary of saying that this particular PR strategy is anything on the pro-life movement’s side other than wanting to restrict access to abortion care.

  25. LalaReina
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, white liberals really don’t “get it”. In fact this week on Al Sharpton’s radio show he promised to do a show on the topic because so many callers were raising it.

  26. LalaReina
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    You’re kidding?

  27. Phenicks
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    First, banning abortions will not solve the problem it will only make matters worse for women. I’m pro-choice so the decision is up to the pregnant person. But I’m also a woman of color and I can’t ignore the disparity and just say oh well black women just like abortion more than white women and call it a day. There IS a problem and racism DOES play a part.
    I’m not assuming that PP is still operating under the guise/desires of Margaret Sanger’s eugenics views, but I did find a problem with the PP that recently accepted a “donation” from a man who clearly said he wanted his money to go to “killing black babies” so “this affirmative action stuff would have less of an effect on [his] son when he grows up.” His donation wasn’t even that significant for them to go ahead and take it anyway but they did and it WAS earmarked specifically for some black woman/girl specifically to help lower the numbers of black people. Why go along with that? I wonder if someone called and said they wanted poor white women to have as many free abortions as possible to help rid the world of them if that caller might have gotten hung up on as opposed to being egged on to donate and being told “I understand.”
    No one is saying the women and girls getting abortions CANT make the choice, but the fact remains that a system of racism in this country has ensured that many black men and women remain in poverty and uneducated and unable to care for a child on their own without assistance. Then you add in the fact that those on assistance are constantly villified what other choice is there?

  28. Gesyckah
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    WTF???
    Oooohhh, right, anti-choicers don’t understand that if a woman chooses to have an abortion in her teens, she can still have children later in life when she can actually afford them. That must be the reason for this crazy-ass billboard claiming that Black people are going extinct.
    Note to self: anti-choicers also seem to believe that Black people are a different species.

  29. Kathleen Hagerty
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Even if Planned Parenthood does fail to fully educate women about their reproductive choices (and they do,) that fact doesn’t justify this pro life org putting up these oppotunistic billboards. they might not be racist per se but there is no question that they capitalize on racial/ ethnic issues to push their agendas. just outside of Pittsburgh one will see a reprehensible billboard relating abortion to the Haulocaust (imagine how that would affect a young Jewish woman.) They just want to push an anti abortion agenda, ethnic group by ethnic group.

  30. vaseline
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    “the founder of planned parenthood DID want to target “undesireables” to get abortions for the purposes of eugenics”
    Actually, no. Margaret Sanger believed in providing all women with birth control (unlike most eugenicists who only believed in forcing the “unfit” to take birth control), but she was never a proponent for abortion. She discussed her opposition to abortion in much of her writing, including her autobiography. You can even read some quotes taken from her books on Wikipedia that quote her views on abortion, saying that it’s taking a life.
    You can read a lot of books on the history of eugenics, such as War Against the Weak, that talk about Margaret Sanger and how she is portrayed today. She was a eugenicist, yes, but she supported BC for all women, not just black women, and she didn’t support abortion.

  31. Tracey T
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I think this is racist for several reasons in addition to the “species” comment. I seriously doubt this group cares:
    if black women are more likely to have hysterectomies reccommended to them in situations where everything possible would be done to save the uterus of a young white woman.
    if black children get equal access to education
    if black people get pre and post-natal health care
    if the higher rates of premature birth among black children is addressed
    if black children have access to adequate nutrition year round
    etc,etc. They are using this meme for their own self-serving purposes without actually caring whatsoever that women of color actually are targeted more for hysterectomies and other procedures that limit/destroy their chances of giving birth. They don’t care about reproductive rights and freedom, only making abortion illegal ( because they sure as heck don’t care about limiting unwanted pregnancies.)

  32. Tracey T
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    The only species we should fall under is human, the statement they use implies that we are other than human. In addition, their message isn’t about stopping unplanned pregnancies, it is about making them illegal. In addition, you seem to be suggesting that we look at why black women aren’t keeping their babies as suppose to why they are having unplanned/unwanted pregnancies to begin with. The goal of this add isn’t to stop pregnancies, and the concern of people worried about the high numbers of abortions among black women seems to be more focused on why they don’t keep the kids as opposed to why they get the unwanted pregnancies to begin with.
    And also, I spend a whole lot of time in beauty shops and for great periods of time and have for the last several years (getting braids is a long process). I have never heard that discussed, so maybe I’m not there on those circuit days.
    The movement defiantly has had bad intentions and still fails to address a number of things ( women of color being targeted for hysterectomies as an easy solution to whatever problem), but I just see all to clear that the people who pretend these things are a concern to them are often completely full of it. They don’t care about black children, only fetuses. And when they do discuss it, what will the focus be? Zo my goodness black women need to get married as virgins and then keep whatever babies they get wanted or not? Or will it be that poverty, self-esteem, self-worth, respect for their life and health (both men and women), planning for the future, access to and information on birth control, personal empowerment, a sense of meaning and importance independent from their relationship to men/motherhood status needs to be addressed and addressed in such a manner that it gives women the power to decide their own sexuality, care for their body, recognize that not using protection is a sign of disdain and disregard on the parts of them and their partner,etc? Or will it be, as I suspect: keep your legs closed so men will think you are respectable (reinforcing the idea that worth is dependent on relationship to a man), get married and have whatever kids may come?

  33. Tracey T
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    And another thing, how exactly does eliminating the number of black fetuses aborted change the number of black babies born if the goal is to stop unwanted pregnancies? So that can’t possibly be the focus, because preventing the unwanted pregnancies in the first place would have the same affect on the number of black kids as lowering the abortions. The only change would be from those who may choose to have kids if they can afford to and under the right circumstances (which has nothing to do with abortion).
    Another reason I think people who pull this line are so blatantly full of it. An unborn black baby is an unborn black baby regardless of if unborn because of abortion or never having been conceived.

  34. LalaReina
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Well said and thank you. And this is why WOC need more spaces where we can talk about these things amongst ourselves because I don’t see allies I see agendas.

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