Pondering Abortion in the African American Community

Last week came the news of a showdown of sorts in the New York area regarding abortion in the Black community. The Billboard that you see at the right was displayed in SoHo section of New York and says, The Most Dangerous Place for and African American is in the Womb. The billboard was placed by a local Chapter of group known as Life Always. After controversy, threatened protests, and even a plan by Al Sharpton to organize significant demonstrations, the group chose to remove the sign. The sign continues to appear elsewhere in the country.

Once again we confront the very painful and very deadly issue of abortion. In this post I would like to set forth a number of independent though related points regarding abortion in the Black Community. Most of you know, though I am white, I have spent most of my 22 years as a priest ministering in African American Parishes and I love doing so. Most of you also know that I, as any Catholic Priest would be, am strongly pro-life. There are particular factors regarding abortion when it comes to the African American Community and some of them need to be confronted and explored. Allow me to list them here in a somewhat disconnected way:

  1. The high rate of abortion in the Black community is very sobering and sad. African Americans make up about 12% of the US population but account for 30% of abortions. Hispanics are over represented as well, though not as steeply. They account for 25% of abortions while being about 17% of the US population.[1]
  2. Staggering Numbers – Since 1973, over 15 million black children have been lost to abortion. Over 1,400 black children are killed every day through abortion. The African American Population is currently only 37 million. What this means is that if these 15 million aborted babies had survived and had some children of their own, the African American population would be almost double the size it is today. Half are gone in 40 years.
  3. The billboard in New York was in response to the dreadful news that in the New York area 60 % of Black pregnancies end in abortion.
  4. Highest Cause of Death by Far –  These are all staggering numbers. No other cause of death among Blacks (or whites for that matter) even comes close to the toll that abortion takes. Add up the numbers of deaths from heart disease, AIDS, diabetes, cancer, accidents and violent crimes, multiply it by two,  and we are not even close to the number who have died by abortion.
  5. Very few want to discuss this. There may be gatherings to lament the number who have died by AIDS, or heart disease and programs announced to try and reduce the number of deaths by these. But abortion is “off the radar.” This is not unique to the Black community but it the numbers are higher and condition even more critical. And still there is silence. It is almost like rushing to add water to the sink, but no one wants to admit that the drain is wide open.
  6. Some ARE beginning to discuss this topic however. And, it is a long and difficult road to get the topic on the agenda. The billboard above is one such attempt. Making African Americans aware of the staggering numbers is another important task. Even prominent members of the African American Community are beginning to speak out. (See below).
  7. Some years ago when I mentioned abortion, a parishioner said to me, “Abortion isn’t our issue Father, we Blacks keep our babies.” And her perception is a common one in the African American Community. Very few see aware of the huge numbers and the over-representation of the African American Community in the abortion numbers.
  8. I do not find open support for abortion in my parish. It is more a question of not wanting to discuss the issue. When I preach against abortion I do not get angry letters or people walking out. I am not confronted after Mass. What I do get is a lot of silence and I sense pain in that silence as well as a certain startled quality when the numbers are made plain.
  9. The billboard in New York (and elsewhere) makes a true statement. There is just no other place where 60% of black people go and will not make it out alive. The nationwide rate is only a little lower, with 47% of black pregnancies ending abortion [2].  By comparison 16% of white pregnancies so end. The fact is that it simply IS a much bigger problem in the African American Community. Still, one may ask, where do 16% of White Americans go and not make it out alive? Hence, one may legitimately ask, where are the similar billboards in White or other ethnic communities? In the end though, part of the answer has to be that the numbers are so much higher in the Black Community. The numbers simply cannot be ignored.
  10. The Billboard however may be critiqued for its tactic. There is one approach which says that prophets should not mince words, and to some extent I agree with this. However, when it comes to abortion, I have discovered that there are many deep and very personal struggles associated with abortion. In such a scenario, and presuming we are trying to reach out, inform and win hearts and minds, I am not sure the “stick in the eye” approach is the most effective. To tweak and provoke has its place, but I am not sure here is that place. The Ad can be (and has been) interpreted to mean that Black women are bad mothers, or dangerous. The focus is more on the women than the lost children. I am not sure that this is what we mean to communicate or that such a message is helpful.
  11. The Higher numbers in the Black community are due to numerous factors. Poverty is likely the chief factor. 42% of abortions are performed on women who are poor [3].  The breakdown of the Black family is another factor. 85% of abortions are performed on unmarried women [4]. The breakdown of the Black Family is complicated. A huge factor is the Welfare system, which has and continues to reward single parent scenarios and punishes marriage. An astonishing fact is that only 37% of Black women have ever been married. While this is shocking, the rest of America is catching up. Marriage and family are in trouble everywhere, and this is bound to affect the question of abortion.
  12. The Black community has been targeted by Abortion providers. Some dispute if this is the case today, but there is no doubt that, historically, the Black Community was targeted for reduction and even elimination by the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. Sanger was a eugenicist and thought of the Black and Brown races as inferior. She sought, through the use of contraception, and later, Abortion, to reduce and ultimately eliminate them. She is infamously quoted as saying, The [Black] minister’s work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. 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 to any of their more rebellious members (Letter to Gamble, Dec 10, 1939). I Have written more extensively on this topic here:  Origins of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood denies it targets Black and Latinos today. Yet it remains true that the highest percentage of abortions are sold by them to Black and Latino women. Many also argue that most of Planned Parenthood “clinics” are located in minority neighborhoods. They deny this and provide statistics to refute it. But as one might expect, how we define “minority neighborhood” is crucial to determining the real number.
  13. But in the End, No Excuses Please – So there ARE many factors that drive the numbers of African American abortions higher. However, we must also avoid patronizing attitudes that seek to absolve the Black community from all responsibility. Despite the challenges of poverty and broken families due to welfare, the Black woman and the Black man remain moral agents, who make choices for which they are responsible and accountable. Simply offering explanations cannot ultimately excuse any community from asking necessary questions and addressing the horrifying numbers of abortion. Pastors of Black Churches such as me have an obligation to bring this before the community and preach with clarity that Abortion is murder and it must end. We must help women who are in crisis,  and we must seek, with the wider community, to provide real and true alternatives, to include adoption. Poverty cannot exclude such a discussion. And frankly, huge numbers of African Americans made it out of poverty a long time ago.
  14. We simply have to confront these numbers. We must discuss them openly. There will be some who wish to claim that racism is the real motive. But I am not sure how concern for the death of African American babies is racism. Others will see it as racist that the Black community is singled out. It is not, Abortion remains a human problem affecting us all. But, it cannot be denied that the numbers are significantly higher in the African American Community and this must be confronted and addressed in a way that is not accusatory but also not patronizing.
  15. It’s going to be a long process. The intersections between race, politics, abortion and culture are deep. Building trust is key. Many in the Black community wonder of the Pro-Life Community’s motives and true commitment. Many wonder at the concern expressed for unborn babies and the apparent lack of similar concern for born babies. I don’t think the charge is wholly fair (and is driven mostly by politicians), but the perception is real and it must be dealt with. Trust must be built and this takes time. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
  16. Powerful and New Voices – Thank God some good and powerful voices are emerging. The video s below help detail some of that. Further, three members of the family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have stepped forward and begun a discussion about abortion. I want to end with a statement recently issued by them:

As our nation pauses to recommit itself to fulfilling the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we invite our fellow citizens to reflect on how that dream touches every human life. Dr. King taught that justice and equality need to be as wide-reaching as humanity itself. Nobody can be excluded from the Beloved Community. He taught that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’

In his 1967 Christmas sermon, he pointed out the foundation of this vision: ‘The next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. …Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such….And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people, we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won’t kill anybody.’

The work of building the Beloved Community is far from finished. In each age, it calls us to fight against poverty, discrimination, and violence in every form. And as human history unfolds, the forms that discrimination and violence take will evolve and change. Yet our commitment to overcome them must not change, and we must not shrink from the work of justice, no matter how unpopular it may become.

In our day, therefore, we cannot ignore the discrimination, injustice, and violence that are being inflicted on the youngest and smallest members of the human family, the children in the womb. Thousands of these children are killed every day in America by abortion, throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

We declare today that these children too are members of the Beloved Community, that our destiny is linked with theirs, and that therefore they deserve justice, equality, and protection.

And we can pursue that goal, no matter what ethnic, religious, or political affiliation we have. None of that has to change in order for us to embrace Dr. King’s affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. It simply means that in our efforts to set free the oppressed, we include the children in the womb.
We invite all people of good will to join us in the affirmation that children in the womb have equal rights and human dignity.”

Dr. Alveda King
Director, African-American Outreach, Priests for Life
Niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mrs. Naomi Barber King
Wife of the late Rev. A.D. King (brother of Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Rev. Derek King
Indianapolis, Indiana
Nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr.



38 Replies to “Pondering Abortion in the African American Community”

  1. The billboard really hits hard. The truth hurts … but perhaps it will make people take notice of the huge numbers of babies that are no more, and will turn things around. I will be praying.

    I’m still perplexed how Sanger could’ve convinced the Black minister to actually preach this … it is so very sad.

  2. The sign was removed because waiters were being harmed. We cannot support such evil just because we wish to show our hatred for another evil. Rather, we must fight evil with good and return good for evil. We are children of the light, not children of the darkness. Though we should become as gentiles to convert gentiles, we cannot become less than Christ to convert non-Christians, because we are begotten of the Father and the priest in Mother Church by Baptism, His adopted sons in His only Son, brothers and co-heirs of Christ, Prince of Peace.

    In truth, I am a little tired of the overly political nature of some Catholics who think every removal of anti-abortion signs and matrimony apps is an attack on whatever they love most, rather than business being business, and who think America will fall like Rome, rather than looking a bit more closely at Rome and America, and who think other such nonsense, which I assume is fed by certain politicians and ideologists. Prudent participation in the political community is essential – not becoming worldly for the sake of the world.

    1. Rick,

      After careful consideration and with all due respect, I have to express my concern regarding your comments. They leave me with some serious questions for everyones consideration.

      First, did the sign appear out of hatred or love? (This is not a rhetorical question.)

      Second, I wasn’t aware of physical violence, how were waiters involved, and who is inflicting the violence, do you have a link to a story?

      Third, is this really only an issue of conversion? The numbers are staggering. This is infanticide on an ever wider and increasing scale.

      Fouth, Do you really feel Catholics are becomming over political, are these really only political issues? For your consideration below, in 1948 the United Nations Convention on Genocide developed the following definition and stance. After reading it, I have to wonder what’s happened to our society, culture and world in so short a period of time?

      Genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law.

      Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group as such: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, forcible transferring children of the group to another group.

      The following acts shall be punishable: genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide, attempt to commit genocide, complicity in genocide. From the United Nations Convention on Genocide, 1948

      Fifth, I don’t mean to be over alarmist but I have to wonder how many citizens of the fallen Roman Empire felt the same way you do today prior to their demise?

      I offer this just as some food for thought.

    2. Nick,
      I have to say I believe there has never been a truer statement made. Check out this web site and see what its inbedded DVD (5:45) and message are all about. Look at the organizations, etc, and let me know what you think. Help me get the word out….especially to the Circle of “Kings” that commented here. I believe sometimes it just takes not giving up….and Believing Again.


  3. Msgr, I think highlighting the number of children killed by abortion is a non-starter when abortion supporters do not view them as children. It is simply not an issue for many on the pro-abortion side. In fact, I bet there are many who view the high abortion rates as a sign of black women exercising their “reproductive rights”.

    As an aside, can you imagine any really prominent black woman – Oprah, Michelle Obama, or anyone else – speaking out on this issue? I can’t.

  4. Please do not let the “silence” of you parishioners in the pew discourage you from continuing to speak for the unborn at the pulpit, Monsignor. After every Mass (including daily) my parish has been saying a “Parish Pro-Life Prayer”. After the benediction, after the priest has left the altar, he stands with us, facing the crucifix and together the entire congregation say this prayer. It is a long prayer.

    About a year after we began this tradition, in early winter, our pastor got a call from a man who lives in another state. He was passing through our town after retrieving his college-aged daughter at the end of her semester. They joined us for Mass. After they left Mass, on the drive home, his daughter told him that she was pregnant and had been planning to have an abortion quietly after she returned home. When she heard the prayer, she was so moved that she changed her mind. This man, crying tears of joy, was calling to tell our pastor to thank the his parishioners; because of them that very day his daughter had given birth to a healthy baby girl!

    1. Praise God! This is a beautiful story. I agree with Lil Sis — please do not be discouraged. Your words have a great impact. Even when we’re silent, we do listen and learn.

  5. I have a worse statistic than any published in the article above: 90% of Downs pregnancies end in abortion. And eugenics is not an issue today? Really?

    1. So true. And it’s the medical establishment that offers all these tests so you can choose — and sadly most parents choose death.

  6. Nick, thank you for some uplifting thoughts. I miss the inherent “evil” which you find in the sign, unless you are referring to the undeniable evil it states. Would you support erecting the sign in some waiter-free zone, say, alongside the Long Island Expressway? Ditto for the Rev. Sharpton? Let’s not kid ourselves about the opposition.

      1. Nick is probably referring to information in this LifeNews.com article: http://www.lifenews.com/2011/02/24/pro-life-nyc-billboard-on-black-abortion-rate-taken-down/

        “But the outdoor advertising company that sold the space to the pro-life group for the billboard said on Thursday that it would remove the image because the employees at the Mexican restaurant located on the bottom floor of the several story building bearing the ad were facing harassment over its pro-life message.

        “It’s down, or at least it should be coming down soon,” Peter Costanza, the general manager for Lamar Advertising, told the New York Times. “Why did I take it down? Yesterday, somebody came into the restaurant harassing the waiters and waitresses. I don’t want any violence to happen around the buildings there.” ‘

        I think you’re spot on in your post, Msgr. Pope. God Bless!

  7. We have to at least stand in solidarity with those little babies, suffering violent death in the abortion mill, and if we are faithful, at least they will not die alone.

    We used the famous Ten Commandments of nonviolent action when we were active picketing and praying at an abortion mill. Those ten commandments, published by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham all those years ago, they still work. That abortion mill is out of business now.

    And I consider the “hard truth” picketing signs to be necessary, though not a universal tool. And that billboard is NOT a “hard truth” billboard, by any means. It is more of an “afflict the comfortable” billboard. So your comment #10 seems like a cop-out, to me, Monsignor, like an excuse or a grant of permission to stay silent, to refuse to suffer the impact of those numbers on our thoughts. I mean no disrespect, Monsignor, but I would’ve supported a full term for that billboard — a week, 30 days, whatever length of time it was supposed to be in place. Then follow it with another billboard, maybe about the loveliness of moms and their children. But do not take down the first billboard.

    The prophet Amos began his message by saying, “They have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges made of iron.” Yeah, Gilead is still being threshed.

    1. OK, sorry to “cop-out” on you. I suppose my point remains however that we need to ask what it is we really want to communicate. If it is to shock then the sign works. But if it is win over a few fence sitters I am not as sure. Again, this is a prudential judgement so I understand you may differ and that is fine.

  8. Wow. I’ve never read that quote before about the founder of planned parenthood. I had no idea it had racist origins. Sounds a bit like hitler to me. Just terrible

  9. I myself would just like to see billboards containing the commandment.


    End of story.

  10. Monsignore, I just read your article on the origins of Planned Parenthood.

    Thank you for exposing the fact that Margaret Sanger was a Nazi.
    That is the short-term for someone who “believes in eugenics”.

    Margaret Sanger was a Nazi, and etablished a profitable death-machine that is still running today.
    As such it seems that Planned Parenthood is nothing but “Auswitch For Kids”.

    Thank you for exposing this fact.
    And once again, thank you for the long standing commitment to justice.

    The Catholic Church decleared war on Nazism in 1938 with the document “Mit Brander Sorge”.
    You are upholding the proud catholic tradition of warfare against the Beast.

    Thank you.

      1. And by the way Monsignore, when I said we are fighting the Beast in this matter, I was not joking.
        Read through the following article with regards to the origins of american eugenics.
        Especially the final sentence.

        Once again thank monsignore, and thank you X Contra.

        Now here are the origins of american eugenism. Read it in its entirety, please:


        There are no coincedences in this matter. Of that you can be very certain.
        Thank you.

  11. One thing said in favour of abortion (not to negate the African American issue which needs to be stressed on the lopsided numbers) is that women don’t always have a choice in the act that conceives a baby; which some people seem to rate as sort of sub human by playing word games with the term “fetus.”
    What if the act of conception is forced on her by one or more overpowering males? It’s her body and it wasn’t her choice to conceive. Well, what if a woman is the sole owner of a house and yard with no mortgage or encumbrances? What if a baby is set on her front porch with the one who left it there long gone? Would she be allowed to take this baby off her front porch and off her yard and set it where he/she (the baby) si sure to die? Not her choice that the baby was there.
    Her body – her house – her yard.

  12. Msgr Pope,

    I have a question for you:

    Could you criticize in a sermon the false prophets like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who support abortion or would that not go over well with your congregation?

  13. Good words….I hope you and others will tell everyone to watch the documentary which exposes Black Genocide from Abortion – Maafa21- it is a real eye opener…get it here and see a clip http://www.maafa21.com

  14. Hi,

    just to let you know, this statement made in the article is incorrect: “After controversy, threatened protests, and even a plan by Al Sharpton to organize significant demonstrations, the group chose to remove the sign.” The Life Always news release (from thatsabortion.com) states the following: “CNN reported on Friday that Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboard, decided to take down the message after people who opposed it threatened workers in the building located next to the billboard.” There was not a choice given to Life Always either to keep it or remove it, which I suppose is one form of irony.

    (Paraphrased from our discussion on the topic at http://www.beingfrank.co.nz/population-control)

  15. When I read the comments made here and the comments made by Charles Pope and people of his ilk, I must confess I feel that I am in the presence of some pretty awesome people. I will continue to push The Believe Again Project, because I believe it can make a difference. But I wanted to take the time to tell you all that you are very awesome. Nuff said.

    Carl Newman

  16. Msgr. Pope,
    What you say here is very good. The only thing that I find puzzling is you don’t mention sex. I’m sure it was an oversight, or you thought the post might be too long, but maybe you forgot because our society is so contraceptive-minded that we forget…sex causes pregnancy. Isn’t that funny that we don’t know that anymore? We take medicine for ailments, and now we take birth control pills, because our fertility is somehow something that we need to “fix.” Like fertility is a disability. I wasn’t a perfect girl growing up, but I was afraid of intercourse, because intercourse causes babies. So I didn’t engage in intercourse until marriage.

    Thank you for your pastor’s heart, and please continue to speak up. Our prayers are with you. Pray that we might be so bold. I was even afraid to type my real name, even though my last name isn’t included. Isn’t that silly? I know people who have had abortions, and I think they really try to hide their shame. I’m afraid to talk to them. Mother Mary, help us.

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