Note: Last month, Leah Trotter D’Antonio wrote an objective article on abortion in the black community. Now, she is offering her personal insight on the issue.
Are we eliminating the potential of our people? Forgoing the hopes and possibilities of parenthood for career advancement and financial gain? How are we to build a nation when we continue to destroy the seed of our future at an alarming rate? Are we traveling on the road toward extinction? Is contraception truly out of reach and unaffordable for African-American women or are we simply making a conscious decision not to use it? If that is the case, then are we using abortion as a form of contraception? If so, why are we taking the risks by having unprotected sex? Furthermore, is it possible to be personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice? These are just a few of the questions surrounding the debate over abortion, particularly in the African-American community.
This complex issue threatens to plague and deeply impact the future of African-Americans. As a result, I was compelled to delve deeper into abortion as it relates to our community in order to uncover the true reasons behind why nearly a third of pregnant black women terminate their pregnancies. Are we being practical or is our behavior genocidal? The statistics show that about 47 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. African Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population. Yet, about 30 percent of all African American pregnancies end in abortion. We represent such a small piece of the population already and it would seem that we’re vanishing slowly like a candle lit at both ends. Through violent crimes and health issues, our numbers are diminished. We further limit our numbers through abortion, seemingly doomed to extinction. With this in mind, I wonder why we do it.
The Reasons Why
As you’ll recall in my previous article, 67 percent of pregnancies among African American women are unintended and abortion is highest among black women between the ages of 18 and 29. Abortions are more common among poor, minority women. The number of abortions peak within the 20-24 years age bracket. An overwhelming number of abortions are seemingly performed as a means of contraception. So, what are some of the other reasons why women, in general, are choosing to terminate a pregnancy? According to the CDC, 25.5 percent of abortions were performed because women wanted to postpone childbearing. More than 21 percent said they couldn’t afford to have a child. Another 12.2 percent said that they were too young to become parents and another 10.8 percent said they had an abortion to prevent a disruption to their educational or career plans. An additional 7.9 percent did not want to have any children or any additional children. Furthermore, less than 2 percent of all abortions performed in the U.S. were due to the health of the mother or the fetus and only 1 percent due to rape or incest. Generally speaking, 61 percent of abortions are obtained by women who already have one or more children
Why Not Anticipate Instead of Terminate?
Let’s face it: there is more at stake here than unintended pregnancies. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “in 2009, black women accounted for 30 percent of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. Most (85 percent) black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.” African American communities continue to experience higher rates of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with other racial/ethnic communities in the US. The presence of certain STIs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV. Additionally, a person who has both HIV and certain STIs has a greater chance of infecting others with HIV.
Furthermore, the CDC also cites “socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV infection.” But condoms are available in abundance at Planned Parenthood and other free clinics across the nation, free of charge. So, in the face of danger, why aren’t condoms used more?
A few of the main complaints people have about condoms are that they don’t fit well, they’re uncomfortable, they ruin “the moment” or hinder sexual sensation. For these reasons, the female condom was developed. Yet, they’re not mentioned nor are they promoted nearly as much as male condoms. Female condoms are worn inside of the vagina. Since men seem to have most of the negative experiences with condoms, female condoms are a safe and effective alternative to the male condom. Why aren’t they offering female condoms more at the free clinics? Is it because the people who are supposed to educate the community about safe sex are lackadaisical and aren’t keeping up with the latest information, surveys and statistics that affect their profession and, as a result, the community may be suffering?
Bearing the Scars of the Past?
One aspect of the whole abortion issue that is not commonly spoken or is all-out denied is the psychological impact of abortion. Although many of the studies conducted over the years show that there is no significant impact on the mental health of women who have had abortions, one researcher points out that the variables they were attempting to measure in these studies were qualitative in nature and difficult to universally define and as a result, made sampling difficult. So, the results from some of those studies conducted are, more than likely, unreliable and inaccurate. However, any surgical procedure can be frightening, whether is elected or medically necessary. And with all the noise that’s being created from both sides of the abortion debate, whether a woman is faced with the decision to have a child or to terminate the pregnancy is bound to experience internal dissonance, depression or confusion.
Keeping it ‘Real’
I can under why conservative leaders are crying ‘genocide’ and are on a mission to eliminate abortion in our community altogether. But, there’s one angle they’re missing—and that’s prevention. More than likely, conservatives are advocating abstinence, which is fine because, for so many, premarital sex is a moral dilemma. But, it has now become a community issue and we really need to pull our heads out of the sand. I believe that as parents and/or role models we do our young people a disservice when we only teach abstinence. We must get beyond our puritan ideals and face the reality that we should also teach safe sex to prevent unintended pregnancies, which might eventually eliminate abortion from our community. We can’t keep using the same methods to address a problem and expect a different outcome. These numbers require a radical change in direction. If male condoms are not comfortable, promote the use of female condoms. We need to teach our young people the responsibilities and consequences of being sexually active—all within the context of our beliefs and ideals in an honest and realistic fashion. Give them the unadulterated facts and let them make an informed decision every single time. Now, that’s a legacy worth leaving for our children.
My Solution to the ‘Genocide’
Ultimately, I believe that the conservative leaders have greatly enlarged the abortion issue in hopes that it would gain the attention that it deserves in our community. I truly believe that if the black conservatives want to make a meaningful impact on abortions in the African American community, you have to do more to prevent unintended pregnancies. Engage the local health departments, demand and/or provide better access to contraception. Teach safe sex as well as abstinence. The statistics show that only 3 percent Planned Parenthood’s services perform abortions. Most of their resources go to counseling clientele on birth control methods and providing screenings for preventative diseases and illnesses. So, attacking them and pointing the finger of blame is meaningless. They will still continue doing what they’ve always done—provide life-saving services that women from certain economic brackets would not have access to otherwise. I believe if black conservatives got serious about finding pragmatic ways to curtail the abortion rate without billboards used as a scare tactic and other political campaigns that rile against Planned Parenthood, significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in our community. Many see all of this as a way to limit a woman’s right to choose. But, before that woman became unintentionally pregnant, she was confronted with other choices: (1) the choice to use contraception or not to use it—knowing fully what the consequences could be or (2) to abstain altogether. As mature human beings, I believe it’s time to take responsibility and stop trying to blame others for our error in judgment.
This has been a personal excursion for me—an introspection of monumental proportion. In the process of this journey, I’ve discovered what side of the fence I’m on ...
‘I’m Leah Trotter D’Antonio and I am Pro-Life - personally and politically.’