Abortion and the Black Church

Lisa Olivia Fitch | 3/9/2011, 5 p.m.

As we move deeper into Women's History Month, the status of Black women's health is a subject ripe for discussion, and there is no topic more connected to health than abortion.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 30 percent of abortions occur to non-Hispanic Black women; 8 percent of women who have abortions have never used a method of birth control, and non-use is greatest among those who are young, poor, Black, Hispanic or less educated.

The Guttmacher Institute advances sexual and reproductive health worldwide through an interrelated program of social science research, public education and policy analysis.

Historically, the Black community has been considered one of the most religious in the nation, and a key tenet of Christianity is "thou shalt not kill." Yet, the numbers speak for themselves.

And recently, anti-abortion supporters have launched an aggressive nationwide effort to eradicate abortion, and they have targeted African American women.

You probably saw the billboards last month--a picture of a beautiful Black baby stares straight at you as you drive by--"Endangered Species" written near it's forehead. It's a striking, controversial public service campaign that, if organizers have their way, you may never see again.

"I'm hoping to end abortion this year," Issues4Life Foundation President Walter B. Hoye II said.

"This campaign finished on March 6th. It had been up since January 15th, King's birthday, and through all of Black History Month. I hope we don't have to do this again next year."

The campaign was run not only in Los Angeles, but in a number of other United States cities including Atlanta. Here in L.A., 70 billboards were posted, created and directed by the Radiance Foundation, with the support of Issues4Life and other local pro-life organizations.

The stark billboards also included a website address printed in bold letters: toomanyaborted.com/CA.

"This awareness campaign has been extremely successful, and we have benefited greatly by the website associated with the campaign," said Hoye. "We've gotten a lot of hits on the site. That's where you need to go to look at all types of acts and figures.

"When the general population looks at that, it sparks debate and initiates discussion," he added.

"At that point, people are in a position to make up their own mind."

The pro-choice camp views the campaign from quite a different point of view.

"When we saw those billboards, we understood that it was part and parcel of a rightwing conservative campaign using Black people to do its bidding," Black Women for Wellness Communications Director, Thandi Chimurenga said. "We are still uncovering all the layers of people involved.

"We are concerned about the Black Christian, pro-life movement's ties to a conservative Republican movement in this country that does not care one whit about the Black babies who are already here," she said.

Chimurenga believes that the "Endangered" campaign is backed by some of the same forces that were behind a recently passed house amendment that aims to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding.

"It's not just about abortion with them," she said. "That's just one peg in their plan to destroy grassroots organizations, the poor and folks of color.