How Medical Racism Created A Black Anti-Abortion Movement
Two years ago, filmmaker Yoruba Richen was shooting footage of an anti-abortion protest in Indiana when she saw signs that would later inspire a full-blown documentary.
“Abortion is killing black people,” one sign read.
Another declared in big, bold letters that “Margaret Sanger was racist.”
After doing some research, Richen found there was an entire network of black activists leading an anti-abortion uprising across the U.S. Their main message was bold and terrifying to her: “The most dangerous place for an African-American child is in the womb.”
Richen, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, recently delved into this topic in her short documentary “Anti-Abortion Crusaders: Inside The African-American Abortion Battle,” created in partnership with PBS Frontline and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.
The documentary, which was released in December, focuses on the anti-abortion argument that black women are coerced into getting abortions at higher rates than white women. This, in turn, the argument goes, continues the United States’ long history of medical racism by using abortion as a means to black genocide.
“Genocide is a very potent argument in our community because of the history of racism. That’s why this message is able to catch on,” Richen, a black woman herself, told HuffPost in a recent interview. “Medical racism is a huge issue and it’s something that we haven’t really reckoned with in this country.”
Richen spoke to people on both sides of the aisle ― from anti-abortion preachers to pro-choice Planned Parenthood physicians ― to find the disconnect in the argument.
The messaging, she found, stems from an often-cited and controversial statistic that black women in the U.S. account for 28 percent of reported abortions each year, while making up only 13 percent of the female population.
“What I think both pro-lifers and reproductive-righters can agree on is that black women have a larger number of abortions than you would expect when thinking about their share of the population,” reproductive rights historian Cynthia Greenlee notes in Richen’s documentary. “Where we differ is the interpretation.”