A world without abortion is unsustainable for black women. The barriers that exist to basic healthcare make it a fundamental necessity to have the constitutional right and unobstructed access to terminate a pregnancy we cannot carry to term. If you hold the belief that a person should not exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy under any circumstances, I challenge you to read to the last paragraph. Open yourself up to the possibility that there is more room for discussion, more opportunities for compassion, and that a world can exists where allowing Black women to choose for themselves, devoid of judgment, when to be pregnant.
Every day we make dozens of decisions: what to wear, what to eat, and with whom to spend our precious time, among other things. Some of us are privileged to have more decision-making power than others. And all decisions are made in the context of our everyday lives; where we live, what we look like, into which circumstances we were born, etc. One consequence of decision-making is being given the benefit of the doubt by the people around you; that is, being trusted that you are deciding for yourself the best thing to do. Unfortunately, this value isn’t extended to everyone, especially not black women who still bear the burden of genuine mistrust.
This no more evident than when it comes to making the difficult decision of whether or not to continue a pregnancy. For reasons I later discuss, black women have abortions at five times the rate of white women and while the reason a woman of any ethnicity chooses to have an abortion varies, there is a pervasive assumption that black women do so with reckless abandon. And why? Why are we not extended the same level of confidence that we’re making the absolute best decision for ourselves as anyone else? It comes down to one thing, unexamined assumptions. Undergirding the mistrust about reproduction are deeply rooted assumptions about black women’s life choices, it is part and parcel of respectability. Inherent to our very existence, although few dare say it aloud, is disdain. Assumptions that we are sexually insatiable, that we have babies for money, and that we are not worthy of love or lasting relationships; all contributing to a deep-seated misunderstanding of our reproductive decisions.
Despite propaganda, there was never a time when a Black woman woke up and said, “I think I’ll have an abortion today.” It just doesn’t happen. Even a woman who’s had multiple abortions, makes the decision with care and consideration; balancing her accountability to her already existing family, her faith, her own needs, and the future needs of the unborn. After all, 61 percent of women who get abortions already have children. And if all of the decisions we make are made in the context of our everyday lives we can only talk about black women having abortions by talking about poverty. Abortions do not happen in a vacuum (pun not intended).
Here are some facts:
- 26.5 percent of Black women live in poverty.
- Because the number one indicator for being poor is if you were born poor, 70 percent of people born into poverty stay there.
- 69 percent of women who have abortions are poor or economically disadvantaged.
- 37 percent of all abortions are obtained by Black women.