U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore

Abortion Clinics Don’t “Target” Blacks

Only one of 10 abortion clinics are in majority black neighborhoods.

By - Feb 17th, 2016 10:30 am
Sean Duffy

Sean Duffy

A few weeks ago, Rep. Sean Duffy took to the House floor to scold black lawmakers like me. Citing high abortion rates among African American women, the Wisconsin congressman accused abortion providers of preying on minority communities.

“I’ve heard many of my liberal friends and a lot of friends from the [Congressional Black Caucus] talk about how there is targeting and unfair treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system,” Duffy said. “But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion.”

Groups like the Guttmacher Institute — an independent reproductive health research organization — have debunked this assertion with data showing that fewer than 1 in 10 abortion providers are in majority-black neighborhoods.

But no matter. That allegation has been uttered by countless conservatives. Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson accused Planned Parenthood of building “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods” so they could “control that population.” At last month’s March for Life, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a prominent religious voice on Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, described the targeting of African American and Latino women as “unbridled and unfettered racism.” Extremist groups like Protecting Black Life exist to disseminate this lie.

These comments are part of a massive disinformation campaign, one that seeks to dismantle the progress made by the pro-choice movement, shaming African American women and attacking the reproductive health providers they rely on. Their goal is to intimidate and inflict trauma while limiting the health care choices for pregnant women in need.

These anti-choice activists also exploit the high rate of abortion among black women as further (and somewhat circular) evidence that minority communities are targeted for abortion. For example, during his remarks on the House floor, Duffy said that the “African American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but account for 40 percent of the abortions. … In New York City, the most recent stat, African American women had more abortions than live births.”

Insisting these numbers represent a targeting of minority communities is flawed and misleading, and it perverts this debate with deceptive implications of causality. No one denies that the abortion rate in black communities is higher than in white communities, but failing to mention the underlying context behind those numbers demonstrates a disturbing lack of awareness of the impact of poverty and the realities faced by black women in America.

From 2008 to 2010, researchers from UCSF’s Bixby Center on Global Reproductive Health conducted 3,000 interviews with over 1,000 women across the country who had either had abortions or were denied care because of the timing of their pregnancies. The report uncovered that economic security was one of the primary reasons women pursued abortion care in the first place. Forty-five percent of the women were on public assistance, and two-thirds had household incomes below the federal poverty level.

The inability or outright refusal to recognize the barriers black women encounter in accessing quality prevention services and reproductive care walks the line between sheer blindness and malice. However, what infuriates me, and so many African Americans, is the shameless misappropriation of “Black Lives Matter” as a vehicle to demean women of color for exercising their right to make their own private medical decisions. Anti-choice lawmakers are using it as a political tactic to further their own ideological agenda.

Black Lives Matter is a critical component to our shared struggle for reproductive rights. It extends far beyond the realm of deadly interactions with police and economic inequality. It is a means to amplify our voices against injustice and to empower our communities. It provides an opportunity for those to shape a future worthy of their highest aspirations, free of political paternalism and discrimination.

This social justice movement means something to us.

I will not remain silent while Republican lawmakers publicly feign concern for women and children of color, while simultaneously attacking the very social programs that lift them out of poverty. Spewing such divisive rhetoric masked in moral concern exposes a stunning insensitivity for our community’s collective pursuit for dignity and equality.

This column originally ran in the Washington Post.

U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore represents Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District.

Categories: Health, Op-Ed, Politics

7 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Abortion Clinics Don’t “Target” Blacks”

  1. AG says:

    Come on Gwen, are you this blind or purpose trying to convince yourself?? Using “studies” that are as poorly designed as the Guttamacher activist organization (actually expertly designed, they knew what they were doing) doesn’t change reality.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    AG you are relentless with your attacks on women and choice. Do you protest outside of clinics too, shove sings in women’s faces as they walk past? And what a condescending post. I’m willing to bet she knows a lot more about this than you do. You’re a real jerk sometimes.

  3. M says:

    I’ve never fathomed the obsession many have with restricting both access to abortion and access to services that support children, including child care and early education. Race baiting and shaming tactics serve only right-wing fund-raising.

    The slogan comes to mind: Against abortion? Don’t have one.

  4. AG says:

    Vincent, I’m not relentless on my attacks on women, but I’ll gladly accept the mantle of relentless on my attacks on “choice” when the choice is life or death for an unborn child. I am all about support rights of all citizens… but not at the expense of the rights of others (in this case, the unborn child). The life carried by a mother in her whom are no less special than any other, including the mother’s. I don’t understand why killing these babies is so acceptable to so many people, unless one fails to view them as a life, which also does not make sense to me.

    M is a perfect example… I’m going to assume this person does not view the growing child a life until some point late in the pregnancy or after the mother gives birth. How/when that decision is made seems rather arbitrary and I’d love to get some input on how that is decided.

    Finally, it’s a red herring to say that being against abortion is somehow against supporting children, including child care and early education. That’s a ridiculous statement and not related to the issue at hand at all.

  5. AG says:

    Sorry, you got me off topic there. The point was that Gwen Moore is saying that since abortion clinics are located in zip codes where blacks are not the majority, that abortion clinics don’t target their communities. That’s a straw man argument since many black communities are in zip codes where they are not the majority. It was a poor method of defining where/how/who they are targeting by an organization that is trying to disprove something that hurts their cause. There are two choices, she is either ignorant of the fact that it was misleading or she knew it was misleading but went along with it because it supports her position.

  6. M says:


    “I’m going to assume this person does not view the growing child a life until some point late in the pregnancy or after the mother gives birth. How/when that decision is made seems rather arbitrary and I’d love to get some input on how that is decided.”

    I defer to the U.S. Supreme Court on this question.

    “Finally, it’s a red herring to say that being against abortion is somehow against supporting children, including child care and early education. That’s a ridiculous statement and not related to the issue at hand at all.”

    I reffed “many,” certainly not all, anti-choice people as being unsupportive of services to help families. It’s esp. notable among some politicians. Gwen Moore could surely speak to that. On the other hand, there are also many who are against abortion rights who are supportive of policies that are conducive to raising children.

    Regardless of current statistics on race/ethnicity, the latest research is that one in three women have had an abortion by about age 40. The rates were also high before it was legal, only more women were injured or died as a result. For those who want to reduce abortion, access to effective, affordable birth control is an excellent deterrent, as are quality sex-education programs.

  7. David says:

    I have to say that I’m taken aback by the stat that in NYC, abortions among AA outnumber live births. HIV and other STDs are also very high among African Americans. I don’t believe AAs are being targeted by abortion providers. However, let’s not blame “poverty” for the lack of condom awareness and use. Seems as though abortion is a birth control option for some.

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