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.


  • connman250

    Can someone tell me how abortion equals reproductive health? Abortion is the elimination of reproduction. I think even Yalies cannot dispute that statement. Do you think you can find a real doctor at a planned parenthood clinic? I doubt it! In fact most things you find at a Planned Parenthood Clinic, can be found at your nearest CVS Pharmacy or doctors office. This is redundancy at best.

  • Madas

    My God, Newsham, when are they going to fire you? I can hear your drivel on MSNBC everyday of the week. At least there I can see pretty graphs and pictures. When Planned Parenthood stops offering abortions, I’ll feel comfortable having my tax money there again. Here’s a better idea. If you care so much, why don’t you donate rather than steal my money for your pet projects?

  • The Anti-Yale

    I am not Pro Life; I am Anti-Ambiguity.

    115 million acts that we do not know are NOT the taking of life is a trifle excessive.

  • penny_lane

    I love how if an article even has so much as the word “abortion” in it, everyone’s critical reading skills go out the window.

  • ignatz

    As usual, Newsham, you have it upside-down. This time, you make lame excuses for the ones who kill the babies, while you do a hatchet job on those who try to save the babies. Maybe you need new eyeglasses?

    “The abortion rate within the African-American community . . . was over four times higher. This isn’t a malicious genocide, but an epic crisis of family planning.”

    So now there’s nothing malicious about killing? Now it’s just a pragmatic gesture, something that low-income blacks can’t help doing? How can you even say these things?

    Finally, let’s test your theory. Kindly imagine yourself telling your own young child: “Look, Junior, I’m not being malicious here, but your Dad’s having trouble holding down a job, and so, er, we’re going to kill you, just to help make ends meet. I do hope you understand.” Sigh. And for those who remember a very similar line from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life,” please note that Newsham’s politics and Python’s satire contain roughly the same amount of moral wisdom.

  • pikadot

    This would do well folded in to a larger article about the public education crisis. Pro-birth folks never read the article, never read the available evidence, never read the statistics and never read the science. Just the comments here already are proof enough. If our public schools could tackle critical thinking and basic biology/population genetics, we might have a hope of having a discussion. As it is, popular uneducated media hosts can whip people in to a frenzy about “KILLING BABIES” and the frothing masses can get a lot more excited about that, and zombies, than they can about the boring old real world and how it functions. My sympathies to you, author, for the outpouring of vitriolic nonsense you’re about to endure.

  • ignatz

    pikadot, that’s so enlightening! If only they would read the “evidence” and the “statistics” and the “science,” why, THEN they’d realize that killing babies is just fine! Certainly nothing “malicious” about it — just a sensible economic decision, that’s all. Move along folks, nothing to see here…..

  • morse_14

    Don’t feed the trolls…..

  • UnaPalomaBlanca

    Jack apparently thinks babies are better dead than anything, red or otherwise.

  • Jaymin

    Cmon people. Jack is not talking about killing babies as an anti-poverty policy. His basic claim is that keeping planned parenthood well funded will boost contraceptive use in poorer communities, which will reduce the abortion rate. So pro-lifers should stop pidgeonholing Planned Parenthood for political gain and actually use it to their advantage in stopping the “black genocide”. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

  • Leah

    Second to Jaymin. Pro-life and pro-choice people ought to be able to unite on promoting contraception and abstinence, but because such a large proportion of pro-lifers are anti-condom, the discussion breaks down.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Without attributing a source, the author parrots Planned Parenthood’s self-reported claim that only

    > “3 percent of [Planned Parenthood’s] services are abortions.”

    Only true if, as does PP, one counts handing out a condom as a single “service.” A dollar-based view gives a different sense of the cost:

    – Annual abortions performed at Planned Parenthood: **332,278** [Source: Planned Parenthood 2009 services fact sheet
    – Average cost of abortion: **$468** [Source: Guttmacher Institute estimate (and a low one, at that!)]
    – Total income from abortions: **$155,506,104**
    – Total health center income: **$404,900,000** [Source: Planned Parenthood 2009 annual report]

    Can you do the math? On a dollar-weighted basis, **nearly 40% of Planned Parenthood health center income comes directly from terminating unborn children**.

    Wow. 330,000 terminations; ~1 million terminated babies every three years. A million. Praise be that the parents of the posters here chose life (and, one assumes too bad for some percentage of unborn siblings…)

    Just sayin’… Planned “Parenthood.” Ha!

    Lastly: Does no one find it ironic that **Margaret Sanger’s** creation (Planned Parenthood) successfully **carries out her original goal of [ex]terminating minorities and the poor?**

    [In her own words…][1]

    **On blacks, immigrants and indigents:**
    “…human weeds,’ ‘reckless breeders,’ ‘spawning… human beings who never should have been born.” Margaret Sanger, Pivot of Civilization, referring to immigrants and poor people

    **On the purpose of birth control:**
    The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” she wrote in the Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

    **On the rights of the handicapped and mentally ill, and racial minorities:**
    “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12

    **On motherhood:**
    “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race (Eugenics Publ. Co., 1920, 1923)


  • Standards


    are you that dense? You do realize that PP provides most of its services for free or largely subsidized for those who can’t afford them?

    Congratulations, you’ve demonstrated that Planned Parenthood provides an expensive service. It makes no sense to use income as a measure of what they do, when most of what they do is free or subsidized.

    I can’t even begin to imagine the hell that would be thrown if Planned Parenthood didn’t charge for abortions. This seems to be somewhat an illogical and biased Catch 22 you’ve constructed.

    Also care to explain what exactly it means for a child to be unborn? Like shoved back in the womb? Killed? Or is it more that you’re talking about a not-yet born fetus being terminated. Sorry that doesn’t sound as compelling as our poor, poor unborn children. Just sayin…

  • MJG

    Wow. This is bad even by the standards of the YDN opinion page. Oooh look at the pro-lifers and how they don’t like welfare! They must hate everyone once they get out of the womb! I caught some politician saying something dumb, who would have thunk? And since pro-life people clearly want to put black women in jail, let’s just ignore all of their arguments and pat ourselves on the back for our enlightened, rationl perpective on the whole thing.

    Honestly, this whole piece reads like a bad debate from high school government class. The only thing that made it worth reading was the citation of the noted philosopher and “Local blogger Shark-Fu” to provide the closest thing to an argument found here. My laughter nearly took me to the floor of the dining hall.

    But I don’t have to listen to you anyway. Local blogger Fark-Shu told me that all pro-choice people support the death of African-Americans and their slow elimination from the earth, and I don’t like to associate myself with racists…

  • The Anti-Yale

    HERE IS WHAT IT MEANS FOR A CHILD TO BE UNBORN: “Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped.” (Macbeth V, vii)


    Sanger remains a controversial figure. While she is widely credited as a leader of the modern birth control movement, and remains an iconic figure for the American reproductive rights movements, pro-life groups condemn Sanger’s views, attributing her efforts to promote birth control to a desire to “purify” the human race through eugenics, and even to eliminate minority races by placing birth control clinics in minority neighborhoods.[36] Despite allegations of racism,[37] Sanger’s work with minorities earned the respect of some civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America.[38] In their biographical article about Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood notes:
    In 1930, Sanger opened a family planning clinic in Harlem that sought to enlist support for contraceptive use and to bring the benefits of family planning to women who were denied access to their city’s health and social services. Staffed by a black physician and black social worker, the clinic was endorsed by The Amsterdam News (the powerful local newspaper), the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Urban League, and the black community’s elder statesman, W. E. B. Du Bois.[39]

  • Standards

    Oh thanks, PK, I had no idea he was referring to the termination of a pregnancy, and that an unborn child referred to a fetus.

    The prefix un usually means either the opposite of, or reverse of, something. I don’t know what the opposite of born is, but I think it’s death rather than an abortion. And if you could explain to me how to reverse a birth I’d be obliged.

    It’s also disingenuous to refer to an aborted fetus as an unborn child, because a fetus is about as much a child as a pinecone is to a sapling.

  • The Anti-Yale


    I was being facetious about Macduff (the inspiration for Duff Beer on The Simpsons).
    Facetious, except for the words “untimely ripped”.

    If you really want to argue about it, please read my paper on the matter at the following link. It is full of religious ethics pedantic gobble (it was for a course by that name at Yale) but you’ll get the point:

    I’m Anti-Ambiguity not Anti-Abortion.

    Just provide me with a culturally agreed upon definition of when life begins and I’ll remove all objections to the 115 MILLION (almost 20 times the Holocaust) post Roe-v.Wade untimely rippings from mothers’ wombs.

  • rr22

    I’m as liberal and progressive and agnostic and gay as they come….
    but I think killing fetuses is generally morally reprehensible.

    which party should I vote for?!

  • Branford73

    Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. You can have a personally held moral position without having to force your moral views on others through laws of the State. Once upon a time this was the core position of conservative Republicans, most notably Barry Goldwater, but I don’t see a Goldwater Republican anywhere around.

    But the best route for you is to vote for the person in each race, not the party. Decide which issues are the most important to you and how each candidate measures up to all of your issues. If you’re still in doubt (each having the same amount of political warts in your view) then look at the “fellow travelers’, i.e. the cadre of advisers and supporters, and decide which crowd you’re more comfortable with in the position of power at issue.

  • yale_eleven

    Thank you Branford73! Personally I believe homicide and theft are wrong but I would never impose that belief on others. Shame on those racist Christian tea-baggers for forcing their dogma down our throats

  • Branford73

    y-eleven, please let me know who your favorite Republican’t for President is so I can know you’re one of his/her fellow travelers.

  • RexMottram08

    Stop clinging to guns and religion and inherent human dignity!