It is obvious that for both political parties, the debate regarding abortion is significant. The Democrats and GOP both think they’ve figured out how to win the abortion debate, which is to keep it as bland and generic as possible. This may be good for getting votes but not for tackling the under lying socio-cultural factors involved that pertain to abortion.
Most women who get abortions — 83 percent — are unmarried; with women who have never married obtaining two-thirds of all abortions. Moreover, the abortion rate among women living below the federal poverty level is nearly four times that of women above 200 percent of poverty. In concert this means that most women receiving abortions are likely be poor, single and African American.
About 69 percent of pregnancies among blacks are unintended and 37 percent of all abortions are to black women. Thus from the numbers alone, abortion, is a racist institution, seeing that it occurs among African Americans more than three times the rate of non-Hispanic, whites. Yet when politicians discuss the matter, they don’t provide any details relating to the factors that contribute to this disparity, similar to the manner in which they fail to discuss details pertaining to crime and incarceration. Although black women only comprise 12.3 percent of the female population in the U.S., in 2006 they accounted for 36.4 percent of all U.S. abortions although the white population in the U.S. outnumbers the black population five to one.
It is clear that Margaret Sanger’s vision of social purification and eugenics, rooted in birth control and sterilization is still avoided in the discussion of abortion and the present day impact it has in the black community. True, one can debate the racial intent of Planned Parenthood, but we cannot debate the racial disparity.
In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks were living in poverty compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians. Plus, poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black.
From graduation rates, which among African Americans is 61.5 percent compared to 81 percent for whites, to the observation in the U.S. that one of every three African American children lives in poverty— two times higher than the rate for white children also needs to be addressed when speaking about abortion. Recently the Guttmacher Institute reported that from 2000 to 2008, the percentage of women getting abortions under the poverty line jumped 60 percent, from 27 percent of women getting abortions to 42 percent.
The fact is that in the U.S., poverty is still tied to race: 24.7 percent of the African American population lives below the poverty line, and disparities in incarceration, employment, economics and education are to be considered if a reasonable discussion, politics aside is to manifest. By avoiding a cogent discussion and reducing it to women’s rights and being either pro-choice or pro-life, we do not address the root causes of abortion — in particular that poverty rates for blacks greatly exceed the national average. Until we do, abortions will continue to happen at disproportionate rates due to the cumulative disadvantage of all of the factors proffered above.