11 Dec

Are Black Women Safer Getting Abortions Than Giving Birth?

Posted by Obiora Nnamdi Anekwe

Are black women safer getting abortions than giving birth? If one were to read a recent tweet by Planned Parenthood Black Community, one would think so. The October 31rd read as follows: “If you’re a Black woman in America, it’s statistically safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth.” The tweet went further by stating that “between 1988-2015, 16.1 mil women accessed abortion care, 108 died. Btw 2011-’13, BW accounted for 43.5 deaths of every 100,000 live births.” Such statements imply that black women should just abort their babies rather than take the greater risk of giving birth to their child. In addition, it is ethically irresponsible and simply callous to encourage black women to have abortions based on skewed data when there is no statistical evidence directly correlating the rate of pregnancy and abortions among black women. To the contrary, there is evidence to prove that it is extraordinarily rare to die from pregnancy in the United States overall.

Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, one needs to concede that facts are facts. The fact remains that it is untrue that it is safer for black women to have an abortion than giving birth. These statistics are not comparable because public health officials measure deaths per live birth, not deaths per pregnancy not terminated through abortion. In other words, the comparison is like comparing apples and oranges. When advocates of either cause inaccurately use statistics to argue their point, it only conflates the issue at hand and causes greater conflict between political lines. Furthermore, the dissemination of false information through social media encourages black mothers to make life decisions based on inaccurate statistics. This is justifiably “fake news” at its greatest height. 

But it is not the first time that black women have been manipulated to believe falsehoods about their health. There is a history of medical apartheid against black women in America. From early eugenics projects in several states established to reduce the number of black babies through female sterilization to disproportionate numbers of abortion clinics in black communities, there has been a consistent and deliberate effort to systematically use social programs to decrease the growth population of blacks in America. These initiatives have masked as methods to help black communities, but, in reality, they have served as a means to decrease numbers in black communities through population control.

I do not challenge anyone’s legalized right to a safe abortion, but I do argue against the ethics of how abortion rights advocates promote abortion through inaccurate statistics voiced in social media. The greater ethical issue still prevails as to whether one should use inaccurate data to influence black women into having an abortion. If these women were provided with accurate data, they may not have considered having an abortion. We simply do not know. But for the issue at hand, the end surely did not justify the means.