Civil rights

The use of civil rights arguments exudes white privilege


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WASHINGTON – As I walked through the crowd of protesters outside the United States Supreme Court this month, chants on women, dignity and rights struck a chord.

“No hands on my body!” “

“Against abortion? You do not have any.

“My body, my choice.”

What I still can’t help but think about are the signs and lines shouted by mostly white anti-abortion activists.

With their megaphones and portable microphones firmly in hand, I heard:

“Abortion is modern day slavery.”

“The lives of black babies matter!” “

“Abortion is the # 1 killer of black people.”

The songs stopped me dead. Again and again.

But I had traveled to Washington for this sole purpose. I wanted to speak to activists who had descended on our nation’s capital to express their views in the abortion debate, as the judges listened to oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The case stems from a Mississippi law that, if upheld, would prevent people over 15 weeks pregnant from getting an abortion – a decision according to reproductive rights advocates would essentially overthrow Roe v. Wade.

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I know the anti-abortion rhetoric, and it was in full swing outside the courthouse. They often hit below the belt by posting photos of mutilated, allegedly aborted babies and other gruesome images. They launch slogans intended to upset and demean pregnant women who make the often difficult decision to request an abortion.

But the blatant exploitation and appropriation of the racial framework of old civil rights arguments – and the more recent emphasis on the Black Lives Matter movement – exudes white privilege. Blacks do not need to be educated on the principle of bodily autonomy. We have been denied such rights for centuries. Blacks do not need to be educated on the realities of reproductive discrimination. We still experience it every day.

Listen to the unacceptable

Statistics show that African Americans account for 38% of abortions in America, compared to 33% of whites and 21% of Hispanics. Blacks experience higher incidences of unintended pregnancies, often resulting from a lack of access to health care, contraceptive education and socio-economic inequalities.

Racial disparities in health and prenatal care are no secret. Maternal mortality rates among black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, transcend education or income levels.

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Black mothers also experience the highest rates of premature birth and infant mortality among all racial and ethnic groups, especially in southern states like Mississippi. And if a child survives, adequate and ongoing postpartum medical care and insurance coverage remain elusive for black children and mothers.

Yet on this sunny Wednesday before our country’s highest court, I continued to listen and observe.

“Planned Parenthood targets black women. “

“Abortion is a black genocide! “

And then I met Katherine Adelaide.

His sign caught my attention: NO STATE NEEDS TO WAIT. BAN ABORTION NOW.

i needed to talk to her.

Adelaide, 64, is from Taneytown, Md., And is an elected member of the Carroll County State Republican Party. She was a Democrat, she said, but was recruited by Republicans because of her public anti-abortion platform.

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Almost immediately, she told me that she believed abortion should be abolished, not regulated. And then she said something so offensive that I’m sure I started blinking uncontrollably.

“Imagine if we still regulate slavery,” Adelaide said. “Every year for the past 60 years we’ve said, ‘This year you can put out the eyes of your slaves, next year you can’t cut off their toes.’ Anyone can see how bad it is. And yet we have been regulating abortion for 60 years. “You can only kill them until now. You can kill them if they are of the wrong gender. You can kill them if they “re deformed, you know, one excuse after another. So I’m pro-life from the moment of conception until natural death.”

What about rape, I asked? Incest? Poverty? Lack of paid family leave, equitable health care, insurance, or affordable housing and child care? What about the inadequate upbringing of the child? Or a stable job for their parents?

“My position is that there is no social problem – no racism, no sexism, no poverty – there is no social problem for which the killing of unborn babies is the answer,” she replied.

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I pushed her on the rape and incest incidents. I asked her if she believed that someone who has been through such trauma before should be forced to give birth to this child.

His response: We must end rape and incest.

“It’s not real,” I replied. “It’s not real right now, it probably won’t be for the next 50 years. The rape isn’t going to end anytime soon.”

His response: “OK, but what if we said that about slavery?”

“Slavery lasted a long time before it ended, and it’s not comparable,” I said. “At all.”

At this point my voice rose, but I still tried to be respectful. I have been a journalist for many years. I can’t think of a time when I challenged a stranger in an interview like this. I talk to people I disagree with every day. But I’m sure she felt comfortable saying such despicable things to me because I’m a black woman. I found it unacceptable.

Reproductive rights are civil rights

During slavery, black women were raped by their owners. During slavery, black women were forced to mate with other male slaves to increase their slave owners’ human inventory and free labor opportunities. During slavery, black women had no rights over their children. During slavery, black women were denied control over their lives, the lives of their offspring, and their bodies.

Not only is the comparison of abortion with the atrocities of slavery offensive to black people and our history in this country, it is also a racist trope that demonizes African Americans for demanding authority over their bodies. and access to their constitutional right to request termination of pregnancy.

It is beyond the insult to suggest that black people are too stupid, uninformed, and incapable of knowing what is best for them and their families. It is ludicrous that some anti-abortion supporters want to inject race into the abortion debate, but do not want to talk about the social and economic disparities that continue to plague black families.

Reproductive rights are human rights. Reproductive rights are civil rights. On the contrary, forced gestation and birth is the modern form of slavery.

National Columnist / Associate Opinion Writer Suzette Hackney is a member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter: @suzyscribe