Joseph: There's a Sad Irony in the Origins of 'Abortion Rights'
In a Wednesday Newsweek article on “abortion rights,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee and Donna Brazile predicted that “Black Americans would be especially hard-hit by new restrictions or outright bans on abortion that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court may allow states to impose later this year.”
The truth is that fewer black American babies would be aborted. Surely that would be a good outcome for all Americans.
In 2019, then-Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson, a black Democrat, denounced abortion as “modern-day genocide.” In a 2014 speech at the University of Missouri, Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, was almost a lone voice in raising the disparity in the number of abortions inflicted on black American children and on white.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in 2018 that the abortion rate among black women — 25.1 per 1,000 — was over three times higher than the abortion rate among white women. In New York City in 2013, more black children were aborted than were born alive.
The disproportionality of these statistics demonstrates a clear breach of the principle of equality — the very principle that motivated the civil rights initiative. In a sad regression, the discernment and courage of the left-leaning progressives of the civil rights movement subsequently took a wrong turn during the Sexual Revolution.
Any sudden and rash departure from what Lincoln called the “steady practice” of established constitutional principles is always fraught with danger. Reckless innovation precipitates unforeseen consequences. Roe v. Wade was no exception.
There was a sad irony in the origins of the “abortion rights” ideology that emerged in the late 1960s: The civil rights champions would not defend the civil rights of human beings targeted for abortion.
Many radical feminists had cut their teeth in the civil rights movement of the same decade. But, tragically, they could not extend to the children in their own wombs the same rights and freedoms they sought to win for (born) black Americans and their communities.
Though they had struggled honorably and bravely, such was their ideologically distorted passion for the new sexual liberation of the late ’60s that they could not accord civil rights to their own children. They saw them as unjust impediments to their newly fashioned women’s rights and freedoms.
The result is that abortion has taken a disproportionate toll on black children.
It is ironic too that Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the Roe v. Wade opinion back in 1973, couldn’t see it coming.
In a 1994 interview, he recognized that the statistics concerning capital punishment showed “in bold numbers and letters” that there was a racial strain in the imposition of the death penalty. But he refused to see, in equally bold numbers and letters, the same racial strain in the lawful imposition of abortion that he and the other progressive justices had facilitated with Roe v. Wade.
The left’s break with its past ideals is most clearly seen in its embrace of abortion on demand. In a 1980 issue of The Progressive, Mary Meehan picked up on the logical inconsistency of the left’s fervent support for abortion:
“It is out of character for the Left to neglect the weak and helpless. The traditional mark of the Left has been its protection of the underdog, the weak, and the poor. The unborn child is the most helpless form of humanity, even more in need of protection than the poor tenant farmer or the mental patient. … The basic instinct of the Left is to aid those who cannot aid themselves — and that instinct is absolutely sound.”
The left, it appears, has now lost that instinct.
How soon can it be recovered?
Just as soon as good people on the left withdraw their endorsement of the mistakes made in Roe v. Wade. The magician’s cloak of Roe’s right to privacy must be lifted to expose the treatment of human beings in their mothers’ wombs as mere property, never “persons in the whole sense” but mere chattel to be allowed to live or condemned to die at the will of their “owners.”
The humbling truth is that we mothers do not own our children. Our ties to each other are of belonging — not ownership. We belong to them and they belong to us. We are family.
There is no right to have our children killed in the womb. They are our little daughters and sons — not our property. They have the same right to go on living as we do.
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