Is Being Pro-Life Racist?

ARVARD law professor Laurence Tribe claimed on Twitter that the pro-life movement is linked with white supremacy. “White Supremacists oppose abortion because they fear it’ll reduce the number of white infants,” he wrote. Is he right?

While you can never speak for everyone in any movement, as there are always exceptions, you can make some basic observations that typify a movement and its core values or its historical development. That seems to be Tribe’s point, as he concluded, “Never underestimate the way these issues and agendas are linked.”

Tribe did come back and clarify that he didn’t mean all pro-life persons are racist, but I think his claim about a link between the two, the pro-life campaign and white supremacy, is worth considering. I found it surprising that he was willing to open the discussion about the topic and linked ideological commitments, given that Margarett Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a known racist and advocate for eugenics. I would think this might be an issue he prefer left undisturbed.

For those interested, here’s a video of Sanger sharing about how she sees letting children be born who are “marked from their birth” as the greatest sin one can commit.

In an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, William McGurn challenges the tweet by Tribe and another WSJ article by Marissa Brostoff making a similar allegation. McGurn argues that the pro-life movement has been and is committed to human equality and is clearly opposed to white supremacy:

“As with all single-issue movements, pro-lifers can be accused of many things, from political rigidity to moral absolutism. But single-issue movements also offer undeniable clarity. The pro-life proposition is simple: Human life begins at conception, and every human life is equal in dignity and worth. 

Whatever else this may be, it is incompatible with white supremacism. Perhaps that’s why so many African-Americans, especially African-American women, have been leaders in the pro-life cause.

Mildred Jefferson, the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, was a founding member of the National Right to Life Committee. Kay James, now president of the Heritage Foundation, founded Black Americans for Life. Before he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, Jesse Jackson spoke of abortion as “genocide.”

Black pro-lifers, alas, are treated as if they don’t exist. Quick example: How many outlets even reported the National Day of Mourning that concluded this past Saturday with a prayer service in Birmingham, Ala., for all the black lives lost to abortion? One of its leaders was Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King. Another was Catherine Davis of the Restoration Project, who notes that the estimated 20 million black abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973 are more than the entire African-American population in 1960.”

To be fair, the Harvard professor is not the only one to build a case between one’s view of abortion and racism. Contrary to Tribe’s social media allegation, several years back, pastor and author John Piper sought to “stigmatize abortion by associating it with racism” in his talk “When Is Abortion Racism?” It’s worth your time to read the transcript or listen to the message.

While I’m firmly pro-life, I know many pro-choice persons who abhor racism and white supremacy. Yet, the question for anyone wishing to explore where the ideological commitments of either movement are to be found, should look to the historical developments of both campaigns as well as to their contemporary commitments. For those looking for a well-framed summary of pro-life values, the conclusion of McGurn’s Washington Post piece is a helpful place to begin:

“Against these white nationalists stand the pro-lifers, and not just on behalf of African-American babies. They also speak for the unborn child with Down syndrome, for the child conceived in rape or incest, for the unplanned pregnancy that will undeniably crimp any career plans a mother might have if she carries the baby to term. These are all hard cases, and the clarity of the pro-life proposition—the insistence that each of these lives is no less precious than any other human life—can make for a difficult political sell.

But no pro-lifer ever said life is easy. We say life is beautiful.”

Photo by Nynne Schrøder on Unsplash