Newsham: The pro-life rhetoric devolves

Better Dead Than Red

The pro-life movement has become a hot topic these past few weeks. Since Republicans took the House, promising jobs and growth, pro-choice groups have been on the defensive against a series of bills that have sought to limit federal spending on reproductive health care.

On the grassroots level, right-wing groups that normally don’t concern themselves with civil rights are now speaking out against the “black genocide” of abortion. On the national level, House Republicans have voted and will do so again to defund Planned Parenthood, tossing red meat to their naïve base.

In spite of the Hyde Amendment, which has been in place for decades and bars federal funds from covering abortions, House Republicans led by Mike Pence of Indiana insist that by partially covering the costs of STD tests, breasts exams and birth control, the federal government is somehow “freeing up” money for abortion. Senator John Kyl of Arizona claimed that “ninety percent” of Planned Parenthood’s services were abortion services, which a spokesman later said was “not intended to be a factual statement” — a caveat one would expect to hear more often from our representatives.

But it’s not just Planned Parenthood. In February, with Pence’s sponsorship, the House passed a bill eliminating funding to Title X, which allows low-income individuals to access family planning services. Don’t just take my word for it; ask Mike Pence, who stated, one month later, that Title X “do[es] important work” and “provide[s] health services for women and children that might not otherwise have access to them.”

They really don’t have a clue. Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of whose services are abortions, is a business, and not one that uses “free[d] up” funds to just give away a service. States are still entitled to assist abortions through Medicaid, but this assistance often does not defray the entire cost of reproductive health services.

What’s more, rabidly pro-life politicians like Pence are reneging on their small-government dogma. Every dollar spent on family planning saves our government four in dealing with unintended pregnancies and births.

It’s not just federal legislative developments, though, that are cause for concern. The recent campaign spearheaded by conservatives such as Rick Santorum to portray abortion as “black genocide” has stoked its fair share of controversy. The reducto ad Hitlerum arguments have begun to rain down, with many on the right accusing Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger of being the grand schemer behind an international genocidal plot masquerading under the guise of “population control.” Several black clergy have joined the campaign, trying to tie their cause to the civil rights movement and claiming that “Planned Parenthood has killed more African-Americans than the KKK.”

In my own hometown of St. Louis, a billboard has gone up in the majority-black north of the city declaring that “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” Local blogger Shark-Fu has initiated a campaign to get it removed. She has called out the billboard as a race-baiting measure by Missouri Right to Life, an organization with no roots in north St. Louis. She sees it as an accusation; if abortion is murder in the womb, then the logical conclusion would be that “black women are the most wretched of creatures.”

Life Always, the group behind the billboard, has tried to show that the anomalously high abortion rate among blacks is evidence of a genocide that is destroying the African-American community; another of their billboards suggests that abortion is killing the Barack Obamas of the future. But if their numbers are to be trusted, they tell a story of a totally different crisis.

From the numbers in New York City that Life Always cites, it’s evident that Caucasian and African-American births were not far off, roughly in proportion to their populations in the city. The abortion rate within the African-American community, however, was over four times higher. This isn’t a malicious genocide, but an epic crisis of family planning. Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summed it up best: “black women … are less likely to have the benefit of regular health care and the contraceptive information and services it confers. Trapped in meager circumstances, many black women who find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy choose abortion.”

At the same time as they seek to cut funding for contraception and reproductive health services, the GOP has also moved to cut Medicaid, Head Start funding and WIC, a nutritional assistance program for mothers and their young children. As much as these people call themselves “pro-life,” their support for life doesn’t seem to extend much beyond birth.

Jack Newsham is a freshman in Morse College. His column runs on alternate Mondays.

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