Republicans Racialize Abortion Debate

Rep. Trent Franks
Rep. Trent Franks

The Washington Post reports that Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks (who once argued that because of high abortion rates in black communities, African Americans were better off under slavery) chaired a Tuesday House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on legislation he is introducing that would make it harder women to have abortions — especially black women.


He calls it the "Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011" and is spinning it as a part of the "civil rights struggle that will define our generation."

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), an African-American veteran of the civil rights movement, had a different perspective, noting, "I've studied Frederick Douglass more than you; I've never heard or read him say anything about prenatal nondiscrimination.”

Today the Post's Dana Milbanks reflects on the clever, if troubling, hijacking of the language of civil rights and social justice ("This morning, you can walk into a clinic and get an abortion if you find out your child is African American," said Patrick Mahoney, a conservative activist; Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said, "How can we expect God to keep blessing America when we're treating brothers and sisters this way simply because of their race?") by those who have never exactly been concerned with these things in any area outside of the abortion debate:

Orwellian naming aside, the House Republicans’ civil rights gambit (which follows passage of a similar bill in Franks’s Arizona and marks an attempt to get an abortion bill to the House floor before year’s end) points to an interesting tactic among conservatives: They have taken on a new, and somewhat suspect, interest in the poor and in the non-white. To justify their social policies, they have stolen the language of victimization from the left. In other words, they are practicing the same identity politics they have long decried.

These conservatives raise a good point about the troubling implications of abortion based on gender selection — although the problem exists mostly in places such as China, beyond the reach of the House Judiciary Committee. Harder to follow is the logic behind the argument that African American women are racially discriminating against their own unborn children.

The logic is hard to follow, but what's easy to understand is that some politicians will stop at nothing — including throwing black women and the entire history of civil rights under the bus — when it comes to their efforts to limit reproductive freedom.


Read more at the Washington Post.