U.S. — Implications of abortion debate range far beyond a woman’s control of her body – By Mohamed Hamaludin


Amid the noise surrounding tough anti-abortion laws enacted around the South, in particular, a few comments are especially worthy of attention.

Emma Brockes’ commentary in The Guardian on May 16 carried the headline, “Alabama’s abortion ban is about keeping poor women down.” The sub-head read, “For the 25 white, male senators voting for it, this is not about the fetus but about maintaining the social order.”

The Huffington Post reported on May 17: “A recent CDC study found that black women are 3.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.”

The Associated Press, reporting on the May 16 execution of a man in Alabama, quoted his attorney Steven Sears as saying he had hoped for clemency from Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed a tough anti-abortion bill into law. Ivey had said the measure “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” The Washington Post reported on May 15, 2019.       

And Charles Camosy argued in The Washington Post on May 15 that “extremism in defense of the prenatal child ought to be paired with extremism in support of women.”

The Alabama law prohibits abortions even in cases of incest and rape and some insane comments have been made about rape. Former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri said in 2012: “If it is legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut down the whole thing.” He later apologized. Earlier this month, Missouri Republican state Rep. Barry Hovis remarked that most rapes are “date rapes or consensual rapes.” He too apologized.

The mindset of men like Akin and Hovis could partly explain the rash of strict anti-abortion laws. “In total, the laws passed by a margin of 367-154 in the six chambers we looked at. Of those 367 votes, 322 came from men, 318 of them Republican. In other words, seven of eight votes in support came from men, nearly all of them Republican,” The Washington Post reported on May 15.

The Alabama law exempts only cases where the mother’s life is in danger. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and South Carolina have enacted somewhat less but still tough bans. In Florida, although Republicans have controlled the state government for years, bills banning abortions were rejected for each of the years from 2011 to 2016 and one that passed in 2019 was struck down. But the Legislature may be emboldened by what they see happening elsewhere and look for support from the conservative state Supreme Court which Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has created.

Brockes emphasizes the racism angle, arguing that the Alabama ban “is not about the fetus, it’s about the woman … about the elimination of women – particularly poor women – as a threat to social order; it is a measure designed to ensure that poor people stay poor, and women stay home.”

On the other hand, Alanna Vagianos, in a June 8, 2018, Huffington Post story, points to claims that abortions are actually a means of culling the African American population. She called attention to a documentary, “Anti-Abortion Crusaders: Inside The African-American Abortion Battle,” by Yoruba Richen. The documentary, she said, examines the “argument that black women are coerced into getting abortions at higher rates than white women. This, in turn, the argument goes, continues the United States’ long history of medical racism by using abortion as a means to black genocide.”

“Genocide is a very potent argument in our community because of the history of racism,” Richen told Vagianos, adding, “Medical racism is a huge issue and it’s something that we haven’t really reckoned with in this country.” Richen found that the genocide theory was based on an assumption that 28 percent of abortions are performed on African Americans but they comprise only 13 percent of women.

Cynthia Greenlee, a reproductive rights historian, is not so sure. She says in the documentary, according to Vagianos, “What I think both pro-lifers and reproductive-righters can agree on is that black women have a larger number of abortions than you would expect when thinking about their share of the population. Where we differ is the interpretation.”

Margaret Sanger is central to the “medical racism” claim. She opened the first abortion clinic in the 1900s, started the forerunner of Planned Parenthood – and also was, Vagianos notes, “a vocal supporter of eugenics, which is the practice of selective breeding.”

Vagianos reported that some demonstrators at an anti-abortion protest in Indiana, where Richen was filming footage, carried signs that read, “Margaret Sanger is a racist,” and, “Abortion is killing black people.” Richen’s follow-up research found “an entire network of black activists leading an anti-abortion uprising across the U.S. Their main message was bold and terrifying to her: ‘The most dangerous place for an African-American child is in the womb.’”

The abortion showdown will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court where, unless Chief Justice John Roberts sides with the four liberal justices, Roe v. Wade will be overturned. But whatever happens, the confrontation between “right to life” and “right to choose” will remain for the foreseeable future.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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  • Trevor  On May 23, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    Margaret Sanger was a feminist icon, but this article claims that she was a racist eugenicist?

    Does this mean that the champion of feminist rights in GT, such as Sherlina Nageer of SASOD, Sasha Mahadeo, Anjali Luknow, Priya Persaud, and many other Red Thread activists, most of whom are Hindus, are indirectly contributing to Margaret Sanger’s genocidal campaign against Blacks and minorities?

    Is feminism, an extension of genocidal racism packaged as rights for gender?!

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