This post has a rather sobering title. I’ll admit it. That was my intent. In our earlier manifesto, we here at 40 Acres and a Cubicle promised to keep the blog primarily humorous, but to also give you honest analysis of real things that affect the Black community. I hold true to that promise with this post.
This post was inspired by an insightful video posted by a previously-profiled blogger by the name of Blake Von D. A personal and honest reaction to a now-infamous billboard posted in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, listening to this insightful sistah’s reaction to the billboard got me to thinking about the topic of abortion in general, its contemporary place in the political discourse and how some would like Blacks to think about the topic.
Part of the reaction video posted on her blog contained a wonderful observation. It was that if this group really wanted to dissuade Black mothers from aborting children, why would it be placed in a neighborhood of New York that is predominantly known for its hipster [read artsy white] residents and shopping? Much of the negative reaction surrounding the billboard was its decidedly racial overtones: cute black child juxtaposed with a message about abortion. The image that is conjured in the mind is one no one wants to think about: children being killed. Black children being killed. I began to wonder how true the message of this billboard was. Let’s delve into this with some dispassionate analysis and I will let you, the reader, draw your own conclusions.
The right of a woman to procure an abortion has been guaranteed since Roe v. Wade. Briefly, the Supreme Court founded this determination on an interpretation of the Due Process clause finding an implied right to privacy, reproductive privacy, in the Constitution. Essentially, it guaranteed that no state could absolutely deprive a woman of her right to choose. This right has never been unequivocal, however. The jurisprudence has evolved since Roe and the case, though the most well-known and oft-cited of the reproductive liberty cases, is now arguably no longer the current law around the issue. The trimester framework it established as to when the government could intrude to protect the life of the unborn child has since been modified to establish the point of fetal viability as the point beyond which, developmentally, the mother can no longer exercise carte blanche power to terminate. [That was a bit much, I know, but I’m a law student and even I find explaining the subject a tad difficult]
The billboard suggests rather blatantly that many black children are being killed before they are ever born. [meta, I know] It tacitly reinforces notions of Blacks being sexually irresponsible and having to seek many more abortions than their counterparts of other ethnicities.Let’s explore this for a moment.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Abortion Surveillance report, there were 827, 609 abortions in 2007. As all data deserves explanation, I must take a moment to explain the numbers I am using momentarily. 2007 is the most recent year for this data. It is voluntarily reported to the CDC by the central health agencies of 52 reporting areas (the 50 states, DC, and New York City). However, as this is a truly voluntary system, only 49 reporting areas made up the 2007 data. Also, because there is no Federal legislation in this specific area, many of the reporting areas do not report the same demographics as others. You social-scientists out there must be cringing. No compulsory reporting, no consistent demographics, a gaping hole caused by the non-reporting of private health facilities performing abortions. Things become problematic quickly but it’s the best we got. I digress.
So, more than 820,000 abortions in 2007. Women aged 20-29 years accounted for the majority of these (56.9%). [again, not all reporting areas even provide age data] The race/ethnicity having the greatest percentage of abortions according to 25 areas reporting this demographic were . . .drumroll . . .non-hispanic WHITE women at 37.1% followed by non-hispanic Black women at 34.4%. It would seem the subtle message portrayed by the billboard is wrong once this fact is known.
Despite the fact that these non-hispanic white women had the greatest single share of the abortions, black women had a higher rate of abortion per 1,000 women of that racial group: about 33 per 1,000 black women had an abortion in 2007. Also, the ratio of abortions, the number of abortions obtained by black women per 1,000 live births, was 447. This ratio for white women as 159 per 1,000. However, according to the same data, the number of abortions was down 2% from 2006.
Despite a rather unequivocal message portrayed in a billboard, the actual data for abortions paints a much more nuanced albeit statistically flawed picture of the incidence of abortion in the United States. The billboard would have you think Black children are being massacred in-utero by irresponsible women. This proves just how problematic this sort of political propaganda can be. I say take the time to research things like this yourself and come to your own conclusions absent a group that might want you to think a certain way.
All the stats I used can be found here
The organization that created the billboard can be found here
Continue to question the world around you.