Stop Perpetuating Myths About Black Women and Abortion

A reproductive justice advocate responds to an op-ed in the Des Moines Register repeating anti-choice myths regarding African-American women and their reproductive choices.

Editor’s note: Read all of Rewire’s coverage of this racist anti-choice campaign.

This article was originally published by,  in response to an earlier editorial.  It is republished here with permission from the author, and is part of a series of articles appearing on Rewire, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include Pamela Merritt, Gloria Feldt, Jodi Jacobson, Miriam Pérez, Maame-Mensima Horne, Susan Cohen, and Carole Joffe.

As an African-American woman, I take exception to Tom Quiner’s Feb. 7 column on African-Americans and abortion. Quiner perpetuates many of the myths pro-life groups use to attack family planning and supports misconceptions about the lack of support among members of my community.

It is striking that Quiner chooses to quote Alveda King, considering her marginalization in the civil rights movement. I think it is more appropriate to quote her elder, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, a longtime supporter of Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement: “There is striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts … Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her.”

Let me be clear: Planned Parenthood does not target minorities. When Planned Parenthood is accused of such targeting, these false claims are used to drive a wedge between minorities and reproductive health care, further limiting their choices.

The real issue is disparities in health-care access, something the African-American community experiences across the country.

Planned Parenthood focuses on ensuring that low-income and uninsured people have access to basic and reproductive health care. Our patients report that six out of 10 would go without medical care if they did not frequent our centers. Considering that less than 2 percent of our total services are abortion care, the vast bulk of our work is providing basic health care to those in need.

Reducing the need for abortions is at the heart of what Planned Parenthood does. Our goal is to promote the prevention of unintended pregnancies through education and access to reproductive health care and contraceptives.

Suggesting that the Women’s Right to Know Act would help reduce abortion in the African-American community is insulting. That implies that women of color are incapable of or unable to make this very personal, difficult decision. In reality, this bill is designed to shame women, to intimidate them when they are in a vulnerable situation. That’s not health care, and I definitely cannot equate it to the comprehensive, compassionate options counseling – which includes our adoption services and access to prenatal care – that is provided to every woman facing an unintended pregnancy at a Planned Parenthood center.

We cannot continue to allow myths about family planning to be presented as fact. The responsibility for educating and preventing unintended pregnancies lies within our neighborhoods, our families and our communities. We have to talk about family planning and start moving our reproductive health needs from the margins to the center of the discussion.