The people of America are engulfed in a contentious discussion about racism. The recorded death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has been viewed by millions, and the public has responded by demanding an end to police brutality. Many individuals and organizations have embraced the slogan, “Black lives matter.”
Yet, as often happens in today’s politically divisive climate, some actions, such as police behavior, have been closely scrutinized, while others remain unexamined. But does our society mean what it says? Does it truly care about all black lives? Or is the present crisis merely being used to promote certain political agendas and signal “virtuous” character?
Planned Parenthood’s Eugenic Legacy
Light was introduced into a dark corner recently, when a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Manhattan announced that it was removing the name of its founder, Margaret Sanger, from its building due to her ties to the eugenics movement. It has been well documented that Margaret Sanger’s motivation for promoting birth control was to prevent births from populations she considered less desirable. Her mindset can be demonstrated by statements such as, “Eugenics without birth control seems to us a house built upon the sands. It is at the mercy of the rising stream of the unfit.” Today, Planned Parenthood is the largest supplier of abortion in the United States, and they continue Sanger’s eugenic legacy in their organizational practices.
Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion facilities are located within impoverished minority neighborhoods, and black women are disproportionately receiving abortions. Although they constitute only 12 percent of the population, they obtain 38 percent of the abortions. Black women have obtained approximately 20 million of the 65 million abortions that have occurred in the U.S. since abortion was widely legalized in 1973. Poignantly, that is more than the entire U.S. black population at the time of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Today, there are 43 million black people in the U.S. Our country would have about 50 percent more black citizens if abortion had not ended the lives of so many black children prior to birth. Was this eugenic result premeditated by those who promote abortion?
The Effect of Abortion on the Black Family
Although rarely acknowledged by those proposing expansion of entitlement programs as the solution to racial inequality, most of the pathologies affecting black Americans can be directly traced to the breakdown of the black family. Only 25 percent of black children were born to unmarried mothers prior to abortion’s legalization, but today, 69 percent are born out of wedlock. More than 50 years of government welfare programs have proven to be a poor substitute for a stable family in the lives of black children.
How might readily accessible abortion have contributed to this change in black families? The narrative of “her body, her choice” has apparently led many men to believe that the decision to bear a child belongs to the woman alone. The presence of another option may leave black men less inclined to marry the mother of their child if a pregnancy unintentionally occurs and she chooses to give birth. Additionally, many women who desire their children may be coerced into abortions by unwilling partners. Surely, black women do not aspire to raise their children alone, but their high abortion rates and unmarried childbirth rates provide evidence for the failure of many black men to fulfill their responsibilities as fathers.
Sociologic studies have consistently documented that a father’s presence in the home decreases a family’s poverty, the likelihood that the daughters will experience teen pregnancy, and the likelihood that the sons will resort to criminality. The large number of fatherless black children being raised by single mothers undoubtedly contributes to many of the problems plaguing the black community in America today: mass incarceration, gang violence, poverty, drug abuse, poor education, and unemployment. Yet, little discussion is devoted to ways in which paternal involvement in black families could be promoted and prioritized.
Much attention has been given to the increased mortality rates in black women surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. This has been simplistically attributed to “systemic racism,” but few are aware that the 3.3-fold increased rate of maternal mortality in black women compared to white women mirrors the 3.6-fold increased rate of abortion. Limiting the discussion to racism ignores other factors exacerbated by abortion that contribute to maternal mortality.
Poverty is a risk factor for failure to obtain appropriate medical care and may contribute to this racial disparity. Only five percent of married couples live in poverty, so the extremely high rate of single black mothers undoubtedly contributes to their poor outcomes. Risk factors for pregnancy complications such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes occur more commonly in black than white women. There may be genetic reasons for this, but poverty is also associated with these high-risk conditions. Pregnancies complicated by these co-morbidities are more likely to lead to C-section delivery, which has a far higher mortality rate.
Regardless of financial status, giving birth and caring for a child without a partner places a woman at an obvious disadvantage. If she should become ill during pregnancy or in the postpartum period, she may be unable or unwilling to seek emergency care due to a lack of social support, childcare, or transportation.
Black women more commonly have later abortions (13 percent) than white women (9 percent). The risk of death from abortion increases by 38 percent every week after eight weeks gestation. Thus, deaths directly related to physical complications of later abortions are increased in black women.
The Dire Long-Term Consequences of Abortion
Adverse mental health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, high risk-taking behavior, and suicide, are increased after abortion. These are common causes of “deaths of despair” in the black community. Black women are also more likely to be the victims of violence, often from their intimate partners.
In addition to the immediate physical risks of abortion, there are long-term complications that increase a woman’s risk of death in a subsequent pregnancy. Forcibly opening a cervix that is designed to remain closed until natural childbirth may result in cervical trauma and cervical incompetence in future pregnancies, often leading to preterm birth. Black women are documented to have higher preterm birth rates, leading to much suffering for their children from the complications of prematurity. Obstetric interventions for the management of preterm birth can lead to mortality from infections or medication toxicity.
And finally, instrumental trauma to the uterus, which may occur during a surgical abortion, can cause faulty adherence of the placenta in a subsequent pregnancy, leading to premature placental separation or placental invasion into the cervix, uterine wall, or adjacent organs. There has been a 110-fold increase in “Placental Accreta Spectrum” since 1950, which can cause catastrophic hemorrhage at the time of delivery, a common cause of maternal deaths.
A Disproportionate Tragedy
Clearly, abortion has disproportionately affected the black community, leading to a decrease in their population numbers as well as many adverse consequences to women and children. Many of the pathologies affecting the black community can be at least partly attributed to the breakdown in families and the absence of paternal involvement, facilitated by abortion. Mental health complications in black women, leading to deaths of despair, can be caused by abortion. Immediate pregnancy complications, especially from dangerous late-term abortions, as well as complications in subsequent pregnancies, such as preterm delivery and abnormal placentation, may also lead to maternal morbidity and mortality.
Is our country ready to have this hard conversation? Many people who claim to despise racism also believe abortion should be readily available to women in any situation. Are we ready to talk about how widespread abortion in the black population has become an “acceptable” form of racism in the U.S. today?
Ingrid Skop, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. has been a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist for 24 years. Dr. Skop is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a former Board Member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), and a Charlotte Lozier Institute Associate Scholar. She is the author of FRC’s Top 10 Myths About Abortion.