The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion As abortion rights collapse, Black and Brown women will suffer most

Demonstrators hold a “Black Bodies for Black Power” rally to advocate for abortion access on June 18. (Shuran Huang/Reuters)
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The women’s Bible group leader leaned close to me. She lowered her voice. “You know, abortion was intended to be a form of genocide against Black people and Brown people.”

The implication was that she, as a Latina woman, and I had a special duty to our races — that fighting abortion was a form of fighting racism. “Did you know that Margaret Sanger wanted to exterminate us?”

It was 2010, I was 22 and this was evening ladies’ Bible study at the evangelical church I attended in a Dallas suburb. The women were planning a pilgrimage to an antiabortion march. While I had grown up in the church, that year I had gotten rebaptized and rededicated my life to Jesus. I attended church twice a week, and even thought about becoming a youth leader.

I was taught — and I believed — that Christians needed to infiltrate all walks of social, political and cultural life in America, to restore the nation to God before Jesus could make his return. Godly dominionism was more important than “worldly” democracy. Still, I felt uncomfortable protesting abortion clinics.

Why was it necessary for us to condemn others, including desperate pregnant women? Did God really want us to increase the suffering in the world?

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Eventually, I left the church. But the seismic overturning of Roe v. Wade reminds me of those days, and particularly of that antiabortion sales pitch customized to me as a Black woman: Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a racist eugenicist. Legalized abortion holds down the population of Black people in America.

But the story that the antiabortion forces want us to believe is exactly wrong. A post-Roe world will put Texas’s Black women under ungodly risk, both physically and legally.

This week, it is now much less safe for me to get pregnant in the state I was born in.

The statistics speak for themselves. The triumph of the more than 40-year evangelical crusade against abortion will mean that women will suffer, and Black women disproportionally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are more than four times as likely to have had abortions as White women. Nationwide, Black women are also more likely to miscarry or have stillbirths — suddenly, in addition to being a personal tragedy, a moment of grave legal peril in many places — than White women. In Texas, which already has a higher maternal mortality rate than the national average, Black women died at a rate of 37.1 per 100,000 births. The comparable number for White women is 14.7.

Now, many Black women facing high-risk pregnancies — and who don’t have the resources to easily travel out of state — will have no choice but to carry them out. All of this will lead to physical and economic hardships that will keep many Black women and their families in the social underclass.

Churches in Texas, including the one I was part of, claim to thread the needle of compassion on abortion, not by vociferously advocating for better statewide health care but by pointing to church-funded crisis pregnancy centers and training programs for those who wish to become foster parents. To many people, this is the way to show Christ’s love. I once believed this, too.

But the foster system and adoption are far from panaceas. This is the United States, remember: Since slavery, we have had a long, racist history of Black women’s children being legally taken from them by White state systems.

Indeed, white supremacy believes it is right to force birth on Black women while also being far quicker to conclude that Black parents are incapable of taking care of their children. Black people are more likely to be accused of child abuse and neglect in Texas; Black children in Texas are taken away at higher rates by child protective services. Black children also remain longer in the foster care system than White children. Expect all that to worsen now.

Already, here in Texas, I am worried for my privacy and speech rights on the subject of abortion.

Texans, including medical professionals, can report those who help women seeking abortions to police for a bounty. Already, a Latina woman was arrested this year; a medical professional reported her, claiming she had attempted abortion.

There is nothing Christ-like in expanding Texas’s ability to surveil and persecute Black and Latina women. There is nothing loving about threatening them with the tyranny of incarceration.

I know my former church community is celebrating the overturning of Roe. But there is much to grieve. Black women and children will surely suffer. There is the sadness — and guilt, even — for those of us ex-evangelicals who once were a part of the religious movement that helped bring this moment to pass.

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