by Sunsara Taylor
From November 26th, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO), the last abortion clinic left in Mississippi, will be besieged by Operation Save America/Operation Rescue, a Christian fascist organization that has been associated with clinic violence and terror for decades. Local activists have called for a week of action defending this clinic, and StopPatriarchy, that conducted last summer’s nation-wide, month-long, Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, StopPatriarchy.org, is mobilizing people nationally to join with them.
In an effort to bring attention to this emergency in Mississippi, Sunsara Taylor conducted an interview with Dr. Willie Parker, one of the two heroic abortion doctors who regularly flies to Mississippi to provide abortions. On the Issues is pleased to print this excerpt from the interview in which Dr. Parker speaks about the situation in Mississippi and the charge that abortion is a form of “genocide” against Black people. For the entire interview, go to revcom.us.
Willie Parker: The reality is that all women who are of reproductive age and are sexually active are essentially at risk for unplanned pregnancy, given that 50% of all pregnancies that occur in this country are unplanned. Unplanned doesn’t mean unwanted, but we know that fully half of the women that have an unplanned pregnancy will consider abortion. Even though unplanned pregnancy happens to all women, those who are disproportionately at risk are women of color and women in poverty. These are also the women that have limited access to reliable contraception, because most contraception is available through insurance and these women are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the uninsured . These are also the women who are not represented politically in ways that would allow them to demand access to services like sex education, contraception, and abortion.
What I see where I provide abortion care are areas that are very hard hit by poverty are also areas that have high proportions of populations of color. 20% of all Mississippians live in poverty, but 42% of African Americans in the state of Mississippi live in poverty. Again, there is that link between poverty unintended pregnancy and abortion. Unintended pregnancies are where abortions come from, they don’t come from people having particular religious beliefs or lack of belief. They don’t come from the location of the clinic, as is alleged, that agencies build clinics in communities of color to make it easier for them to have abortions. They come from unplanned and unwanted, or planned but lethally flawed, pregnancies. So those are the patients that I see. They are largely women of color and poor women, because women who have means often have other ways to access abortion care, in a confidential and private way.
Sunsara Taylor: One of the charges the anti-abortion movement makes is that abortion is a form of genocide against Black people. They vilify and demonize Black women and use that as a means to demonize abortion for all women. This is outrageous. Yet, I think it has a lot of people confused, and so I wonder if there’s anything more that you want to say about that?
Willie Parker: Well I’ll say that as a human being that studied history and who knows the impact of the term genocide, but also as a person of color, as an African American person who attempts to be a critical thinker, I am both appalled and offended that anti-abortion forces will use the inflammatory language of comparing abortion to genocide. It’s offensive because it implies that Black women aren’t smart enough or thoughtful enough to make the tough decision to have an abortion. It revisits in a paradoxical way the control of Black women’s fertility and of their bodies. In slavery women were forced to breed. Now they’re again forced to breed, or forced to bear children that they had no intention to bear. And to allege under some notion that there is a genuine interest in the well-being of either women in general or Black women in particular, or Black babies, that there is this interest that persuades them to try to block access to abortion while at the same time reducing access to education, housing, health care, food stamps, and the like, is hypocrisy of the highest order.
One of the most dangerous truths is a half truth. And while it doesn’t take much persuasion to indict the intentions of racially bigoted people in this country who hold power who try to defame or do things to Black people as a group, it is not in any way relevant to the fact that women who become pregnant, no matter what their color, need access to abortion. The odious history of racism in this country does not justify the denying of women their right to access abortion, whatever color they are. And to use that to vilify women and to distract from the real problems that are plaguing Black people as a group is disingenuous at the best and downright evil at the worst.