The Obvious Racism of Abortion Rights Opponents

Mother and Child

The problem with obsessive focus on a single policy issue is that it can leave one blind to both the absurd outcomes that are the predictable results of laws that address only the issue one obsesses about and to equally bad or worse outcomes in related policy areas. So, opponents of abortion rights obsess over statutes that they think will stop abortion.

But they entirely ignore the closely related issues of maternal mortality and infant mortality, both of which are markedly higher in the United States for African Americans than for any other group.

So they want to force women to give birth, but they don’t much care if the women or their babies survive the experience, especially if those women and babies are African American.

Stupid, or racist stupid? You choose.

“Conservative” states are falling over themselves to pass new statutes prohibiting abortion. Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia have passed what the press erroneously calls, using the highly politicized terminology of abortion rights opponents, “fetal heartbeat bills.”

Proponents of such laws love to wax histrionic about their self proclaimed concern for the well being of women and fetuses.

What they never seem too interested in is the huge problem that African American mothers have a much higher mortality rate than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.

Similarly, infant mortality rates are much higher for African Americans than for any other group.

Ohio is happy to pass a statute prohibiting abortion after roughly six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. In Ohio, the African American infant mortality rate is three times that of white infants. A story with the title, “Ohio fails to adopt recommended measures that would save women’s lives during childbirth,” notes that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world and that the rate here has increased in recent years even as it has continued to decrease in Europe and Japan.

One state that saw maternal deaths drop even as they increased elsewhere in the United States is that liberal bastion, California. Their best practices led to the creation of the Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health, or AIM. Ohio has made no effort to join.

So Ohio wants to force women to give birth, but doesn’t care if they die soon afterwards.

In Kentucky, the infant mortality rate for African American babies is higher than for any other group.

But Kentucky is more worried about prohibiting abortion than protecting the health of infants, especially African American infants.

Mississippi governor Phil Bryant has claimed he wants to make his the safest state for “the unborn,” the tendentious, politicized term abortion rights opponents use to describe fetuses, but he apparently does not much care about the health of African American mothers. “In 1965, the maternal death rate of black mothers in Mississippi was 10 times that of white mothers. In 2012, the most recent data available, the white pregnancy-related maternal death rate was 29.3 percent compared to 55 percent among black mothers.”

Mississippi also has the highest infant morality rate in the country, overall. Not surprisingly, the rates for African Americans and Native Americans are significantly higher than for whites.

But Mississippi can pass a very strict law prohibiting abortion.

In 2012, the last year for which data is available, African American mothers were 68 percent of pregnancy related deaths. Does one need to point out that African Americans are nowhere near 68 percent of the population of the state? Georgia has the highest overall maternal mortality rate in the U.S.

But Georgia can prohibit abortion at six weeks.

Similar bills are advancing in other states.

So, in good Christian Republican fashion, our nation’s “conservatives” are busy obsessing over one entirely abstract issue — whether any given woman chooses to have an abortion — while ignoring a huge, practical, closely related issue — our nation’s scandalously high maternal mortality rate and the even more scandalous racial disparity in that rate.

Stupid, or racist stupid?