Mirror of Justice

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out of sight, out of mind?

Africanamericanabortion 

As reported in The New York Times, New York City's public advocate, Bill de Blasio, believes that this ad is "contrary to the values of New Yorkers."  (The abortion rate for African Americans in NYC is 59.8%.) This raises an interesting question in my mind: If de Blasio is correct, then just what exactly are the values of New Yorkers? 

UPDATE: Having spent a few years living in New York City, I have some sense of the billboards that apparently are not "contrary to the values of New Yorkers."  Needless to say, some of the billboards that have not triggered a protest from Mr. de Blasio would raise quite the values-driven ruckus in most communities.  If you don't want to take my word for it, feel free to run a google image search for "Houston Street Calvin Klein billboards."

http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2011/02/out-of-sight-out-of-mind.html

Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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I agree: the Calvin Klein billboard would probably "raise a ruckus" in many communities. But that doesn't mean those communities would be right.

As to what values de Blasio is talking about: one ad celebrates life, the other is designed to condemn and ostracize people for a decision they made.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Feb 24, 2011 12:48:46 AM

From the Times article: “Our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion,” Mr. Broden, who is black, said in a statement on the group’s Web site.

Stephen Broden is on the board of directors of LifeAlways, the group responsible for the billboard. On the LifeAlways web site it says of Broden: " He expresses grave concern that the staggering number of abortions within the African American community is threatening the sustainability of the African American race in the United States."

The idea that Planned Parenthood, or abortion providers in general, or those who are pro-choice are engaged in a campaign of genocide against blacks is an extraordinarily serious charge, and a false one. Blacks have disproportionately more abortions because they have disproportionately more unintended pregnancies. (Among white women, 35 per 1000 have unintended pregnancies. Among black women it is 98 per 1000.) However, in spite of Broden's concern about the "sustainability of the African American race in the United States," the proportion of blacks in the United States is growing. The live birth rate for blacks is higher than the live birth rate for whites.

Sexually provocative ads are one thing. Charges of genocide and encouragement of racial animosity are quite another.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 7:21:18 AM

David, you ought to read a non-sanitized history of Planned Parenthood at it foundress Margaret Sanger. Her "Eugenics Review" is an eye opener.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 24, 2011 8:28:00 AM

David, I'm not talking about everything that has been said by those who funded the ad. I'm talking about the ad itself. The ad does not charge genocide, and I don't see how it encourages racial animosity. The ad speaks to the fact that African Americans have a dramatically (and depressingly, in my view) higher abortion rate than whites. I know lots of folks involved in pro-life causes, including in NYC, and I have never heard any of them express animosity toward African Americans because of the racial disparity in abortion rates. They are more likely to feel heartbroken by the statistics.

Andrew, I'm not sure if this is what you were talking about, but I'm not sure how depicting what seems to be a teenage girl about to engage in a threesome (or foursome?) "celebrates life." It may celebrate a certain view of life, but one that encourages young girls (including my daughters, who regularly had to see some of these billboards) to start building their self-esteem based at least in part on their sexual desirability to (lots of) men.

Posted by: rob vischer | Feb 24, 2011 8:41:13 AM

Rob,

How is it possible to view the ad and its intended meaning in total isolation when it has the web address on it of Life Always, and on their web site we find:
__________
New York, New York (Feb. 21, 2011) – A billboard that reads, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb," has been placed in the heart of SoHo by Life Always™ as a part of a new national campaign to expose the truth about how Planned Parenthood targets minority neighborhoods as they perform over 300,000 abortions a year. This particular billboard is about half a mile from a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Life Always board member Stephen Broden said that Planned Parenthood has had a devastating effect on the sustainability of the African American population."
__________

I find it a false statement that Planned Parenthood "targets" minority neighborhoods, but you might disagree. (Has anyone ever actually done a study of where the 800-plus Planned Parenthood offices are located?) What is simply false is that "Planned Parenthood has had a devastating effect on the sustainability of the African American population." The African American population is growing. In 2008, Hispanic women in the US had a birth rate 98.6 births per 1,000 women. This compares with birthrates of 71.2 per 1,000 women for African American women, 71.4 for Asian American women and 59.6 for white women.

If you don't see how charges that blacks are a target of genocide as racially charged, I don't know what I can say to convince you.

What does this campaign by Life Always say to the black community? Does it say that there is an extraordinarily high rate of unintended pregnancies among black women? Does it say that approximately 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock? Exactly how does this campaign intend to lower the abortion rate among black women? It is one thing to charge Planned Parenthood with genocide. It is another to actually do something to lower the abortion rate. It seems unlikely to me that black women who become pregnant unintentionally will decide to keep the babies because they are convinced abortion is a racist, genocidal plot.

Of course, there is a certain brilliance to the charges, because if conservative Republican, Tea Partier, Fox News commentator, and recipient of the Ronald Regan Gold Medal Award Brodin says the high abortion rate among blacks is attributable to the abortion industry, how are liberals supposed to respond? By saying it's the fault of black women?

I really don't see how charges of genocide are going to help the pro-life movement in the long run. They are false, and they attempt to play on the victim status of blacks. And they also illegitimately bring the hot-button issue of race into the hot-button issue of abortion.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 10:10:44 AM

Michael,

Margaret Sanger, who opposed abortion and believed that women of all ethnic groups should make their own decisions about how many children to have, is irrelevant to this discussion. Her racial view (and those of many of her contemporaries) may be troubling in retrospect, but so are those of the Founding Fathers, and we do not seem to believe that reflects poorly on America today.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 10:16:18 AM

To be clear, I do not believe that labeling abortion a "genocidal plot" is a productive contribution to the project of Life Always (absent further evidence of which I am unaware), but I do believe that bringing attention to the impact that abortion has on communities of color is an important and productive contribution.

Posted by: rob vischer | Feb 24, 2011 10:40:13 AM

Read Jesse Jackson's 1970s article against abortion. He thought it was a racial issue, before he changed to become a "national Democrat."

I don't think it's helpful to charge every pro-choicer with being in a racist plot, as that's absurd. But the racial angle should be a measured part of the discussion, and as with any issue, if responisble people refuse to address it in a responsible way, the gap will be filled with less restrained voices.

For another eye-opener, look at Justice Ginsburg's comments last year. She thought that Harris, the case seeking a constitutional right to have the government pay for abortion, would come out the other way, because everyone knew that we wanted certain populations to have fewer babies. The most charitable reading was that she meant the poor, regardless of ethnicity, but it still smells.

Posted by: Bob Smith | Feb 24, 2011 12:16:45 PM

David Nickol says: "they also illegitimately bring the hot-button issue of race into the hot-button issue of abortion."

I'm not sure, though, that these two hot-button issues are separate. Indeed, I think they're very closely related. Perhaps this is one of those instances where CST (or just compassion or religion or empathy or whatever) can cut across party (or "pro-choice" or "pro-life") lines. When smacked in the face with the 59.8% number, my heart cries out for the black community and the missing black children. It makes me think: "Why would nearly 60% of a certain community choose to kill off their own children in the womb?" Which in turn brings to the forefront compassion for those black women who have to make that choice, which in turn makes me think HARD, in a personal way, about our policies regarding welfare, public support, etc. And yes, I'm "conservative" and "pro-life."

In short, this appears to me to be an attempt to convince people to do just what David Nickol thinks people never do: think about the implications of their strongly-held religious beliefs on policy. And, vice-versa: convince people to consider the implications of their strongly-held pro-choice beliefs upon policy. E.g., should a "right" that has such a disparate impact on black communities be celebrated? Grudgingly accepted? Rejected altogether? And, is it enough just to say: well, those durn folks on the religious right should support increases in welfare?

I dunno, I see this as a very helpful contribution to "the discussion." That 59.8% number has some real sticker shock to it that I think should be out there in a very real way.

Of course, it won't be seen as such to those who are only seeking to score political points, or who are too insecure to re-examine their positions and instead instantly seek to point out the hypocrisy of the other side...but that's the case for ALL points!

Posted by: casual reader | Feb 24, 2011 12:47:20 PM

Casual Reader,

I would certainly not say race and abortion should not be discussed together. I said they ILLEGITIMATELY bring in the hot button issue of race, and they do so by charging genocide. There may be many important things to say about race and abortion, but saying that Planned Parenthood is trying to exterminate the black race is not one of them. Why *is* the rate of abortion and out-of-wedlock birth so high among black women?

You say, "In short, this appears to me to be an attempt to convince people to do just what David Nickol thinks people never do: think about the implications of their strongly-held religious beliefs on policy."

I disagree that charges of genocide are attempts to convince people to think about the implications of their religious beliefs.

The problem seems to me to be that black women have an extraordinarily high rate of unintended, unwanted pregnancy. If black women terminate nearly 60% of pregnancies, unless a way is found to help them not get pregnant in the first place, the task of the pro-life movement is to somehow persuade and enable black women to have and raise more than double the number of children they are now having. Where is the money going to come from? And if there is to be more money, who is going to be more willing to pay the cost, liberals or conservatives?

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 2:04:39 PM

By the way, the abortion rate in New York City is high because the population here consists of more of the various groups that have abortions—minorities and poor people. The rate of abortion for minorities is about the same in the city as it is elsewhere in the country, and the rate for whites is lower than elsewhere in the country. That doesn't make the statistics any less shocking, but it does demonstrate that New York City is not dramatically different from the rest of the country when you take into account the makeup of its population.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 2:15:13 PM

David Nickol-

Thanks for the clarification. I agree that charging genocide is illegitimate here...but my point is that I think the billboard---which doesn't, in and of itself, charge genocide---does legitimately link abortion & race. Would you agree that IF one interprets the poster as NOT charging genocide, it's a legitimate attempt to convince people to "cross their lines in the sand," so to speak?

And, as a side-note, I also agree with your identification of the problem: that black women appear to have an extraordinarily high rate of unintended, unwanted pregnancy. And I also agree with your identification of its implication: how does the pro-life movement enable black women to have & raise more than double the number of children they are now having?

That, of course, is the problem, and where conservatives & liberals diverge: they offer different solutions to the same problem. BUT, at least (I think) they can identify that there's a PROBLEM here. And that's what the billboard (NOT the charge of genocide) does: identify a problem. That invites open-minded people to seriously discuss the implications of their strongly-held beliefs.

Posted by: casual reader | Feb 24, 2011 3:13:56 PM

Casual Reader,

Take the web address off the billboard and I *think* it's okay. I suppose some people might take it as a criticism of black women for having too many abortions, as it seems the young black woman in the article did. I think that may have also been the public advocate's reaction, too, although he didn't actually state in what way he found it offensive.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 24, 2011 3:31:12 PM

David, Margaret Sanger was a racist and she intentionally directed Planned Parenthood to target black pastors as a way to reach and limit the black population.

Posted by: Michael | Feb 24, 2011 8:28:57 PM

That Margaret Sanger was "opposed" to abortion needs qualification.

See: http://www.bartleby.com/1013/10.html

The link provides the text to a chapter from her 1920 book “Woman and the New Race.” Sanger makes the case in that chapter that contraception is the best means of birth control and that anti-contraception laws should be repealed. She does say the following:

“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 sums up as follows:

“There is the case in a nutshell. Family limitation will always be practiced as it is now being practiced—either by birth control or by abortion. We know that. The one means health and happiness—a stronger, better race. The other means disease, suffering, death.”

Taken out of the context of the chapter, it might appear that Sanger believes abortion is a “disgrace” because of concern she had for the embryo or fetus. That’s not the case, however. The clear focus of the chapter is that abortion is very often a medically unsafe procedure for the mother, and that the use of contraceptives obviates the need for the risky procedure.

It would be more correct to say not that Sanger was “opposed” to abortion, but that she believed contraceptives were the better means of birth control. I got no sense from reading the chapter that Sanger had any legal or moral opposition to abortion as the termination of unborn human life or that she had any concern at all for the embryo or the fetus.

Posted by: Bill Collier | Feb 24, 2011 9:28:59 PM

I heard this evening on NPR that in response to complaints about "offensiveness," the organization responsible for the billboard has agreed to remove it. According to the story, the Reverend Al Sharpton generously retracted his plan to protest the billboard's message.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Feb 24, 2011 9:51:17 PM

Bill,

According to Wikipedia, "Nonetheless, in her 1938 autobiography, Sanger notes that her 1916 opposition to abortion was based on the taking of life: 'To each group we explained what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way—no matter how early it was performed it was taking life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way—it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun.'"

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 25, 2011 12:45:15 AM

Marc,

It was not Life Always, the anti-abortion group that created the image on the billboard, that agreed to take it down. It was Lamar Advertising, the company that manages the billboard.

In related news:
HEADLINE: Mother of girl featured in shocking anti-abortion billboard is outraged by ad: 'I want an apology'
http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/02/25/2011-02-25_agency_caves_in_removes_soho_antiabortion_billboard_after_mas_ad_nausea.html

From an editorial in the Amsterdam News:
---------------
And using the Black community as a tool against Planned Parenthood is the latest approach by conservative anti-reproductive rights activists. Their tactics include publishing articles on the internet that give a supposed history of racism in the Planned Parenthood movement, claiming that it was originally an attempt at eugenics — the elimination of the Black race. But the visual of the Soho advertisement is sick and quite disturbing, and has been noticed by some public officials. . . .

[The billboard] is an affront to women everywhere and a direct attack on Black women in particular. The ad itself is ill-conceived and downright outrageous. It lends itself to many interpretations, the first being that if you are a Black woman you are more likely to have an abortion if you become pregnant. But, subliminally, it is also saying that the fetus of a Black woman is not safe because we have no idea what she is going to do to herself and therefore to the unborn child.

Anti-abortion activists have no shame when it comes to attacking women on choice, but they seem to prey upon African-Americans at a higher rate. I think some of this has to do with the traditional belief that it is okay to objectify Black women; to use our image, our bodies and souls in any way folks deem fit. This has all too often been what the larger American society has felt comfortable doing, and as a woman and a recent mother — a mother of a girl — I take particular offense to it.
-------------
http://www.amsterdamnews.com/articles/2011/02/23/opinion/editorials/doc4d6577bdda485166290562.txt

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 25, 2011 9:39:14 AM

David, thanks -- I appreciate your identifying the organization. Just a little note that I did not say that it was "Life Always" or anyone else which was responsible for the billboard.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Feb 25, 2011 9:56:27 AM

Marc,

I did not say you did. :-)

But actually, I did think you meant Life Always. I wonder if an advertising company that accepts an image for a billboard has the right to take it down. Life Always has expressed their displeasure, but there is no indication that will seek to get the image put back. Lamar Advertising has not been very consistent in explaining their reasons for taking the image down, but they claim they had no objection to its content.
http://gothamist.com/2011/02/25/video_anti-abortion_billboard_taken.php

This billboard, according to Life Always, marked the kickoff of a national campaign. It will be interesting to see what comes next. I can only imagine they got more publicity than they expected.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 25, 2011 10:43:16 AM

The Amsterdam News editorial states that the billboard ad is "ill-conceived and downright outrageous" because "[i]t lends itself to many interpretations, the first being that if you are a Black woman you are more likely to have an abortion if you become pregnant. But, subliminally, it is also saying that the fetus of a Black woman is not safe because we have no idea what she is going to do to herself and therefore to the unborn child."

If, as Rob Vischer states in his original post, "[t]he abortion rate for African Americans in NYC is 59.8%" (and that's the number I've seen quoted, too), then how is the ad "ill-conceived and downright outrageous" on the basis of the two reasons listed in the editorial? If you are a Black woman in NYC, then you are statistically more likely to have an abortion than not to have an abortion if you become pregnant, and we do have a statistical basis for knowing what 6 out of 10 Black women will "do to [themselves] and therefore to the unborn child."

Posted by: Bill Collier | Feb 25, 2011 10:44:17 AM

Bill,

Here's a question. When controlled for all other plausible factors (income level, education, etc.), do black women have a much higher abortion rate than whites and Hispanics just because they are black? (Actually, I do know that when income is controlled for, black women still have a higher abortion rate than white women.) Is an increased propensity to have unwanted pregnancies and abortions actually a racial characteristic?

What are we actually saying about black women when we quote statistics about their high abortion rate? Life Alway apparently wants us to believe that the high abortion among black women is a result of them being "targeted" by Planned Parenthood. But the reason the abortion rate is so high among black women is more plausibly explained by their very high rate of unintended pregnancies. Planned Parenthood is not making black women get pregnant. If you want to explain the high abortion rate among black women, you must explain why black women get pregnant far more frequently than white women. Isn't that the really important task?

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 25, 2011 11:22:00 AM

That's not what the Amsterdam News editorial says, David, and I limited my comments on the editorial's "ill-conceived and downright outrageous" charge to the specific supporting statements made in the editorial. If the issue is as you say more complex, then the editorial certainly did not reflect those nuances. Instead, it relied on statistically-invalid "interpretations," the old canard that "[a]nti-abortion activists have no shame when it comes to attacking women on choice," and the completely unsupported charge that "they seem to prey upon African-Americans at a higher rate." All in all, I find the editorial poorly written and unconvincing.

Posted by: Bill Collier | Feb 25, 2011 11:53:26 AM

Re: There may be many important things to say about race and abortion, but saying that Planned Parenthood is trying to exterminate the black race is not one of them.

David Nickol,

The billboard isn't saying that, and I doubt most pro-lifers believe that. They are saying that that's the _effect_ of Planned Parenthood's behaviour, whether or not it's the intention. It is simply a fact and a truth that abortion disproportionately impacts black people, that we have many fewer black people in this country than we would have without Roe vs. Wade, and that the high rate of abortion among African Americans is a symptom of a society that values the lives of poor black people- including poor black unborn children- less than it values the lives of rich white people.


I am not Catholic, nor am I particularly conservative on most issues, but I have no problem with the billboard. What I do have a problem with is the unwillingness that people on the pro-abortion side have with talking about some plain and simple facts. If the facts are less than flattering to the pro-abortion cause, then perhaps the problem is with the pro-abortion ideology, and not with the facts.

Posted by: Hector St Clare | Feb 26, 2011 11:05:28 AM

Hector,

The billboard in isolation is open to many interpretations, but the message of the organization (Life Always) that sponsored the billboard is that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of Planned Parenthood to exterminate black people. Stephen Boden, one of the board members of Life Always argues that not only is there a eugenicist plot to exterminate black people, but that black leaders are betraying their own people and taking part in this plot. Here is some of what he says:

_________
The premise of the eugenics movement may in fact be the driving cause behind this blatant black betrayal. Inherent in Darwinism is elitism. It is the notion that some are more evolved and therefore have greater intellectual capacity than others. Could this be the reason why our leadership in our community is complicit in what appears on the surface to be a morbid betrayal of our babies and women? Could it be that the attractions of Darwinian elitism cause our leaders to believe they are more evolved intellectually than the average brother or sister in the “hood” and therefore are more allied with the elitists who happen to be eugenicists?

Otherwise, how do we explain the unwavering support given to the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood by the Congressional Black Caucus? How do you explain the silence on the part of black medical professionals in the face of more than 1,500 black babies who are aborted each day? That translates into 10,500 in a week and 546,000 in a year. Why haven’t black pastors organized in every black neighborhood across this nation to push Planned Parenthood out of our communities? Why haven’t we, as a community demanded that the Democratic Party stop pushing their support of black genocide through a pro-choice agenda and expect us not to question how choice is killing off our community and vote for our own destruction?

Those who study demographics tell us that it takes 2.1 kids per family in order for a population to replace itself. Since Roe v. Wade blacks are having 0.9 kids per family. The eugenicists and Planned Parenthood are winning the day. When will we push back against these elitists and stop our extermination?
__________

http://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/pastor-stephen-broden-blatant-black-betrayal/

I don't know where Mr. Boden gets his information on demographics, but black people are not being exterminated. Here is the estimated black population for the United States (in millions)

YEAR . . . .BLACK. . . .BLACK MIXED
2010 . . . 39,909 . . . 42,163
2015 . . . 42,137 . . . 44,906
2020 . . . 44,389 . . . 47,748
2025 . . . 46,594 . . . 50,626
2030 . . . 48,728 . . . 53,519
2035 . . . 50,810 . . . 56,453
2040 . . . 52,868 . . . 59,454
2045 . . . 54,911 . . . 62,534
2050 . . . 56,944 . . . 65,703

Far from being exterminated, the percentage of blacks in the American population is increasing.

You say: "It is simply a fact and a truth that abortion disproportionately impacts black people, that we have many fewer black people in this country than we would have without Roe vs. Wade . . . "

Is it a truth that abortion disproportionately *impacts* black people? Or is the fact that black people disproportionately take advantage of the freedom to procure an abortion? Remember, as I keep saying, the rate of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies is twice as high among black women as white women. Planned Parenthood may perform a lot of abortions on black women, but Planned Parenthood is not the one getting them pregnant. The high rate of abortion among black women is caused by the fact that black women get pregnant much more often than they intend to (and more often than women in any other group do), and they do not want the children. You may think Planned Parenthood is evil for performing the abortions, but Planned Parenthood is not creating the situation that causes the unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

There may be inconvenient truths about the high rate of abortion in the black community, but one of them is NOT that abortion is a eugenicist, racist plot against black people.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 26, 2011 3:19:13 PM