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.


Read the latest news about blacks and abortion on The Root.

Ryan Bomberger was born of a rape nearly 30 years ago. He is alive today because his biological mother made a choice, he says, to put him up for adoption rather than have an abortion.

He is grateful, though he realizes the choice was not easy. For one thing, the young white woman lived in a mostly white community in Pennsylvania, and her attacker was a black man. As a result of the incident, she became emblematic of the moral politics of reproductive rights in a battle that erupted after the passage of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 37 years ago, and rages on today.

Now her son, a pro-lifer who is chief creative officer of the Radiance Foundation, stands on the front lines of a battle in Milwaukee. Bomberger and members of Pro-Life Wisconsin say that African-American women have a disproportionate share of the abortions performed in their state. About 6.2 percent of the population is black, yet 24 percent of all state abortions are performed on African Americans, according to Pro-Life Wisconsin.

The groups are engaged in a campaign against abortion, similar to one launched in Georgia earlier this year. It includes 13 billboards, each featuring one of two messages: “Black Children Are in Danger” or “Black & Beautiful.” Each billboard is emblazoned with an image of an African-American child and lists in bold letters the name of the website, toomanyaborted.com, which is part of the Radiance Foundation.

“The ad campaign really does stem from my own background of having been adopted,” Bomberger told The Root. “It’s also based on the history of eugenics that [decided] certain people weren’t fit to live because they would only serve as a detriment to society. I defy that whole sort of mentality, which is why certain groups don’t like  … us.”

The national disparity in abortions is even more staggering. Overall, African-American women account for 36.4 percent of all pregnancy terminations in the United States, although blacks make up only 13 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency attributes the higher abortion rate among blacks to a higher incidence of unintended pregnancies.

But is that the whole picture? Consider this: Nearly two-thirds of African Americans polled believe that abortion should never be legal or should be legal only in cases of rape or incest or when the woman’s life is endangered, according to a 2004 poll by Zogby International. (This compared with 56 percent of respondents overall and 78 percent of Hispanics.)