Why Is the Black Abortion Rate So High?

It's puzzling when poll results show that blacks tend to view abortion through a conservative lens. A Wisconsin ad campaign likening the black abortion rate to genocide throws the contradiction into stark relief.

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"When you are under 26 or in your 20s, your brain is dominated by emotional directives," says Bell, who treats youths and has been in practice for more than 40 years. "At that age, you're all gasoline with no breaks or steering wheel, so your hormones are in control."

However, not only are the pollsters talking to 20-somethings; they are also talking to older churchgoing, middle-class conservatives, some of whom likely had abortions or supported their partners' abortions as youths and are against them today because of the moral backlash. For these older people, there are also physical and psychological repercussions, including the hurt and anguish of having aborted a child.  

"They aren't polling 20-year-olds in the hood," Bell surmises. "I'd like to see that happen. And some of these saved, black churchgoing people can be even more tyrannical than members of the Tea Party. What were they saved from? I would venture to guess from the very same behavior they so ardently oppose today. That's why you see the conflict in the poll numbers. People always say one thing and do another. And when they get to a certain age, they expect people to do as they say."

Some black pro-lifers, such as Bomberger, believe that the conflict has a more nefarious cause. "I've done research that could not be explained by socioeconomic factors," he says.

"For 75 years we've been providing the health care, education and advocacy people need to prevent unintended pregnancy," said a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, who spoke via e-mail on condition of anonymity. "Our patients and supporters know what Planned Parenthood stands for: equal access to health care, education and advocacy that women and families need to plan healthy pregnancies."

The spokeswoman lambasted the Radiance Foundation and Pro-Life Wisconsin, saying that if they were truly concerned about the women and families in Wisconsin, they would work with Planned Parenthood to reduce unintended pregnancies in the state by supporting access to affordable birth control and comprehensive sex education. 

"Instead, Pro-Life Wisconsin is a political organization that works to eliminate prevention-based health care for Wisconsin women and believes all abortion and all birth control should be illegal -- no exceptions," the spokeswoman said.

Pro-Life Wisconsin's website does indeed state that the group opposes "all artificial forms of contraception," as well as "the notion of 'unwanted' children that the contraceptive mentality fosters." But more than anything else, the termination of unintended pregnancies among black women is in Bomberger's crosshairs. "Black children are more endangered by abortion than any other demographic in America, and three times more likely to die by abortion," he says.

Lynette Holloway is a Chicago-based writer. She is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor of Ebony magazine.

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