The Black Anti-Abortion Movement; Killability; Black Women’s Historic Pro-Abortionism

30.03.2011 § Leave a comment

Interesting article from colorlines about the black anti-abortion movement — totally fraught, but some nice historical points:

In 1941, the National Council of Negro Women became the first national women’s group to endorse birth control. Prominent female political figures in the black community came out against the rhetoric of their male counterparts when it came to reproduction. “Black women have the right and the responsibility to determine when it is in the interest of the struggle to have children or not to have them and this right must not be relinquished,” declared Frances Beal, head of the Black Women’s Liberation Committee of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil right movement…

More broadly, there is the crucial point that criminalizing abortion actually poses a greater threat to the African-American lives. Before the procedure was legalized, “Illegal abortion was the cause of 25 percent of the white women’s deaths due to pregnancy, 49 percent of the black women’s, and 65 percent of the Puerto Ricans’,” as Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress and a strong supporter of reproductive rights, wrote in her memoir. In addition, the legalization of abortion resulted in significant improvements in maternal and fetal mortality rates. “Maternal mortality in New York City dropped by more than half during the first year [abortion was legal], to an all-time recorded low. Infant mortality also dropped to a new low,”

The article ends up just caving into The Standard Non-Analysis. While really there are so many continuities to follow. excluding the young lords, almost every single nationalist poc group in the sixties held this exact same line. women of color have historically not only lacked reproductive control, but things would happen where they’d go to the hospital and come out without a uterus. to be black is to be killable. (See Wilderson)

obviously, the article frames this campaign has completely ideological, having to do with a woman (wtf is that?!)’s right to her ‘own’ fleshsack. but is there a way that we can take these histories into account and develop a more rigorous position or critique?
Important is the smothering of radical black  feminisms. Diane K Lewis wrote in a 1977 footnote:
“A 1972 Poll showed that black women were more sympathetic than white women to efforts to upgrade women’s status in society (62 % to 45 % respectively) and that black women were also more supportive than white women of the attempts by women’s liberation groups to do so (67 % and 35%, respectively)”
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