Anti-Choice Activists Have Been Co-opting the Black Lives Matter Movement for Years
By Priya Hay-Chatterjee
At NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, we believe Black lives matter and reproductive freedom is a human right. It is imperative we as pro-choice activists consider and articulate issues at the intersection of anti-racism and reproductive rights — notably Black maternal mortality, targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP laws), and parenting in healthy and safe environments — that greatly impact those who have historically been marginalized. To believe in reproductive health, rights, and justice is to be knowledgeable and intentional in our advocacy.
Black people across our country have fought for centuries for their most basic human rights. This fight continues today as activists push for the simplest of resources in Black communities, like clean water in Flint, Michigan, and against cruel and senseless violence at the hands of law enforcement and white supremacy. But in the same way that anti-choice activists have co-opted feminism, they have done the same with Black Lives Matter.
In his 2017 book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, Dr. Willie Parker explains the warped concept of “black genocide” as a result of abortion care.
Launched in its current iteration in 2009 by white anti-abortion activists in Georgia, [the black genocide movement] is a craven and cynical effort to get black people to regard the clinical practice of abortion — as well as the whole abortion rights movement — as an assault by white America on blacks…. The black genocide movement is nothing more than a conspiracy theory pretending that abortion is a white plot to kill black babies and that by raising ‘awareness’ in black communities, it is protecting millions of black lives from slaughter. (161)
The guise of the “black genocide movement” is shameful. Its predatory messaging targets those who are Black and pregnant — Dr. Parker himself has seen billboards saying, “Black children are an endangered species” and “The most dangerous place for a black baby is in the womb” in New York and Atlanta. These messages “prey on black women’s traditional sense of responsibility to their community and imply that they have some kind of higher duty — higher than themselves — to continue a pregnancy” (163).
But this racist and misogynist rhetoric isn’t limited to billboards–it’s also online. On Twitter, one anti-choice activist tweeted:
It’s illegal to murder George Floyd. / It’s legal to murder pre-born George Floyd. / It’s illegal to murder black people. / It’s legal to murder pre-born black babies — happens 400,000 times a year. / The most pervasive and sanctioned murders shouldn’t receive the least attention. (@SlowToWrite)
This user has 17,000 followers, and this tweet received over 870 retweets and over 3,200 likes. That’s a large platform and a lot of engagement for an unfounded movement which deliberately pits Black women against themselves and their communities. Further, the tweet appropriates a catalyst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the heinous murder of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin, and weaponizes this murder to impose bans on abortion care. Another tweet from the official March for Life page reads, “Science tells us human life begins at the moment of fertilization. So why don’t our laws protect the youngest and most vulnerable of us in the womb?” (@March_For_Life). At a moment when Black abolitionists are pushing for protection of Black lives, the March for Life is skewing science to deflect attention from Black abolitionists and toward the implementation of abortion bans.
We should also note that bans on abortion care and TRAP laws disproportionately limit access for poor and low-income people of color seeking abortion care. TRAP laws impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics, often resulting in clinic closures. When clinics close, those seeking abortion care are forced to travel longer distances — sometimes out-of-state — which may necessitate higher childcare, transportation, and hotel costs (Guttmacher).
Anti-choice activists are twisting the sacredness of Black lives and the language of Black abolitionists a to generate a sexist debate about abortion. As a biracial and white-passing pro-choice activist, it is my duty to stand in solidarity with Black abolitionists in their struggles for justice, whether in parenting, education, or the right to walk down the street unafraid and unharmed. I hope anti-choice activists follow the lead of Black abolitionists in seeking justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others who died needlessly at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them.
Guttmacher: Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws https://www.guttmacher.org/evidence-you-can-use/targeted-regulation-abortion-providers-trap-laws