How crisis pregnancy centers are trying to “save” black babies

Last week, Sesali reported on the latest racist anti-choice bullshit making its way into state legislatures. And today, Feministing favorite Akiba Solomon has a must-read piece at Colorlines about how this kind of rhetoric is playing out at crisis pregnancy centers.

The piece explores the anti-choice movement’s broader race-baiting efforts. (And, as we’ve covered, black women aren’t the only group targeted by such tactics.) Through propaganda films like Maafa 21: Black Genocide in the 21st Century and billboards like the ones that popped up a few years ago declaring “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb,” the movement has tried to turn “the complex reality behind black abortion rates into a single, fictional story.” Akiba explains:

“In that story, poor black women who have abortions are the unwitting victims of feminists and morally deficient reproductive healthcare providers, embodied in sadists such as Gosnell. Crisis pregnancy centers, in this fable, are the best place those women can go to be saved.”

Enter Rachel’s House, an anti-choice non-profit that recently opened a new crisis pregnancy center in a predominately black, poor neighborhood in downtown Kansas City.

The mainly white suburban women who run Rachel’s House and want to help “urban” pregnant women seem to have juuuuust enough racial awareness to know that that they should probably not just waltz into this community and start lecturing about the evils of abortion. President Kathy Edwards explains, “If we were just, frankly, a bunch of suburban white women coming into the black community saying, ‘We know what’s best for you, and you don’t know,’ that would be a little bit degrading.”

So what’s the solution? Maybe consult the black and women’s health organizations that have been combating disparities and working to improve maternal health in the area for decades? Nope. Team up with some conservative black men from Black Americans for Life, of course.

The most powerful thing about this piece, in my opinion, is how expertly Akiba shows–not just tells, like I am doing right now–that, no matter how well-intentioned it may be, the anti-choice rhetoric offered by CPCs is utterly inadequate when contrasted with the hard, complicated realities of people’s actual lives. 

For example, here’s Ivan Griffin, the president of Black Americans for Life, talking about his ideal CPC for the black community in Kansas City.

“Would you offer contraception?” I ask.


After an awkward pause, I continue. “Why not?”

“Well, we believe in abstinence until marriage.”

“So if a married woman were to come in seeking counseling, would you still have the same idea about contraception?”

“That isn’t something I’ve ever thought about because these centers are set up primarily to deal with single women.”

Compare that to this exchange with a few mothers living at a domestic violence shelter about what they’d like to see from a CPC.

Katy, 44, is silent for most of our impromptu meeting. Women like her don’t often come up in the abortion debate, although her circumstances have certainly made her “vulnerable” to it. Two years ago, the married, working mom had a surprise pregnancy, which she decided to maintain. She doesn’t spell out the traumatic events that landed her and her children at a domestic violence shelter, nor does she talk about when or how she lost her job. I don’t press her on it. What she makes clear, however, is that she’s raising a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old alone—and she’s in no mood to talk about the rights and wrongs of abortion.

My concern is after you have the baby. He’s 1 years old,” she says, pointing to the little boy crawling under the table. “So where do my resources come in at? I know there’s a million places for pregnant women. I’m past that stage. I’m no longer pregnant, ain’t trying to get pregnant, and hope God is through with me and there won’t be no more babies. But after you have the baby, where do you go? Who is gonna help me raise the two children that I do have?”

After discussing these kinds of hard, real material needs—which have made them all “at risk” for abortion—I ask the women how they’d respond if someone at a crisis pregnancy center called the procedure black genocide.

“I’d be like, ‘Woman, I didn’t come in here and ask you to preach to me. I have my own preacher and pastor!” says Ashley. “You can either help me or you can’t. If you can’t help, goodbye.”

Goodbye, please.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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