Dear American Football Player Benjamin Watson,
I recently learned that during an interview with Turning Point Pregnancy Center, you made some remarks about Planned Parenthood and their role in the high abortion rates in the Black community. To quote you directly:
“I wouldn’t say I have any unique insight,” you said. “I do know that blacks kind of represent a large portion of the abortions, and I do know that honestly the whole idea with Planned Parenthood and [Margaret] Sanger in the past was to exterminate blacks, and it’s kind of ironic that it’s working.”
Sir Ben Watson, before I begin to address how fallacious and misguided your claims are, I first want to establish that I am a 26-year-old Black woman who has frequented Planned Parenthood. I have also never had an abortion. Matter of fact, only about three weeks ago, I went to Planned Parenthood for an annual gyno exam, STI screening and birth control. I am glad to say that my vagina and reproductive system are both quite healthy. I also want to stress that I know that because of Planned Parenthood. Not because of the NFL. Not because of Black men who knowingly don’t have any unique insights on the matter of women’s reproductive health or rights, but still manage to have and express opinions on the matter. I have had access to affordable reproductive healthcare because of Planned Parenthood for over 7 years. If that institution were to be defunded, where, precisely, would I go for these services?
I do hope that, considering the political implications of the comments that you made, which may possibly sway many Black people to adopt anti- Planned Parenthood sentiments, that you have a plan for the thousands of Black women who obtain these services via the organization you have attempted to condemn based on myth. Yes, you did read properly: A myth.
The claim that Margaret Sanger wanted to “exterminate” Black people has been proven largely false. This shortsighted narrative blends conflation and pure ignorance with absolute misinformation. While Sanger was an advocate of eugenics, that scientific movement existed on a spectrum where many of its believers held varying beliefs. Some wanted to create a super race. Others wanted to see to it that selective breeding stomped out genetic disease. Then there were those that sterilized minority populations because they internalized racist notions of superiority vs inferiority. Politifact outlined Margaret Sanger’s position on the spectrum of eugenics beliefs after Ben Carson made similar statements about the Planned Parenthood Organization some time ago. They wrote:
“Although the eugenics movement included some who had racist ideas, wanting to create some sort of master race, “only a minority of eugenicists” ever believed this, according to Ruth Engs, professor emerita at the Indiana University School of Public Health and an expert in the movement.
At the time that Sanger was active, Engs wrote, “the purpose of eugenics was to improve the human race by having people be more healthy through exercise, recreation in parks, marriage to someone free from sexually transmitted diseases, well-baby clinics, immunizations, clean food and water, proper nutrition, non-smoking and drinking.”
It’s a far cry to equate eugenics with advocating the elimination of black people.”
So that means your opinions weren’t only uniquely unsightful, but also based on a myth was already been fact-checked and proven false.
Of course, this does not mean we should not engage in a dialogue about the rates of abortion among Black women. The choice to reproduce is a difficult one, for varying reasons. Black women face far too many barriers and hardships that make the decision to have a baby seemingly impractical. I have written about these barriers and hardships and why “Black Marriage and Child Bearing Are Reproductive Rights Issues.” You mentioned some of those barriers both in your interview and in a Facebook post you later published wherein you lambasted and implicated Black men in the high abortion rates among black women. You also highlighted the truth that racism treats Black pregnant women unfairly, compared to their White counterparts in many instances. For these reasons, among many others, Black abortions rates are persistently and disproportionately higher than those of other groups.
I am certain that we all agree that the rate of abortion among Black women needs to decline. If Black women had more options, more resources, more support from partners and faced fewer criticisms, undoubtedly it would. Yet, I find it difficult to believe that advocating against Planned Parenthood would help at all. Not just difficult, actually, absolutely impossible.
Black women need annual exams. We need birth control. We need STI screenings. And we need Black men to think of these things before taking public platforms against organizations that afford us access to them.
What we do not need is another man infringing on the few rights to reproductive health and choice we have under the guise of “Black advancement.”