A particularly pernicious narrative about abortion rights is one that accuses pro-choice groups and abortion clinics of attempting to target “pre-born” minorities (and girls) for abortion, and dismissing as callously indifferent to the lives of “pre-born” minorities those who oppose efforts to ban so-called sex- and race-based abortion.
The narrative, based upon an out-of-context quote by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is as commonplace as it is false. To hear anti-choice groups tell it, Margaret Sanger was a racist woman whose goal was to exterminate black babies and bring eugenics to the United States. This is, of course, nonsense.
According to the aggressively uninformed anti-choice crowd, Margaret Sanger proclaimed, “[W]e want to exterminate the Negro population.” The full context of the quote, however, belies the meaning anti-choicers ascribe to it.
As David Edwards of Raw Story pointed out last year, in a 1939 letter to pro-birth control advocate Clarence J. Gamble, Sanger argued that black leaders should be involved in the effort to deliver birth control to the black community: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.” Facts be damned, however, anti-choice groups wail about abortion being black genocide, or black babies being an endangered species. This “black genocide” narrative drives the debate over “race-selective” abortion laws that have been introduced during recent legislative sessions around the country and at the federal level. (Only two such laws passed: one in Kansas as part of an omnibus bill in 2012 (SB 313), and one in Arizona in 2011 (HB 2443). Currently, Indiana is considering a race-selective abortion ban (HB 1430.)
Narratives based on social biases and stereotypes drive the debate regarding sex-selection, as does a fundamental failure to grasp that “son preference” in certain cultures is based upon gender stereotypes and inequity, and that abortion bans do not address these issues. (Currently, gender-selective abortion bans are being considered at the federal level (SB 138 (PRENDA 2013) and in six states: Indiana (HB 1430 and SB 0183); New York (AO2533 and SO2286); Virginia (HB 1316); Missouri (HB 386); North Dakota (HB 1305); and Texas (HB 309). Notably PRENDA 2012 (which failed to pass last year) dropped the “race-selection” provision before putting it up for a vote, however the remainder of this article will use the term PRENDA to refer to both race- and sex-selective abortion bans.)
Generally, these bills would threaten doctors with up to five years in prison for performing such a procedure, and would permit fathers married to the woman who obtains an abortion to sue a doctor he believes performed an abortion based upon the sex or race of a fetus. These laws also require doctors and nurses to report women whom they suspect are seeking an abortion on the basis of gender bias.