Unborn Black Lives Matter, Too

The headline was not unlike many that I see in my Twitter feed: Yale Black Men’s Union Send Message “To My Unborn Son.” I follow a fair amount of Catholic priests, pro-life Christian writers, and disability advocates, so I honestly expected the accompanying story to be about a courageous campus protest by some idealistic young Ivy Leaguers—perhaps outside an abortion clinic in New Haven, where Yale is located and where the population is 35 percent African American. But, alas, the story beneath the headline was just the latest in a string of stories covering protests inspired by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In this case, the editorialists at the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s biggest newspaper, were directing readers to a “remarkable photo essay” by Yale student Eno Inyangete. The essay—which is actually just a Tumblr page—features members of the Yale College Black Men’s Union holding whiteboards bearing messages addressed “To My Unborn Son.”

“Stand up,” reads one sign. “They won’t remember your humanity unless you remind them.”

“I hope the system you live under isn’t geared towards the destruction of a black man’s image and that you’ll be seen as a human—not a pigment,” reads another.

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Whenever I set pen to paper, I ask myself: What’s the story you’d like to read on this topic? Then I try to write that story. Here, the story that should accompany the headline seems obvious, and is supplied by the sloganeering of the Ferguson and Staten Island protesters: Black lives matter. Only in the story I’d like to read, there’s more to say. All black lives matter—even the unborn ones. So, let me write that story, not because it hasn’t been written before, but because it can’t be written often enough. Let me write the story that should accompany a photograph of a young black man holding up a sign reading, “To my unborn son—I hope you grow up in a world that knows the value of every individual.”

According to 2010 Census data, African Americans make up just 12.6 percent of the U.S. population. Yet, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that black women had 35.4 percent of all abortions in 2009. The website Abort73 reports that almost twice as many blacks were killed by abortion in 2009 than by any other cause. Estimates put the total number of black lives lost to abortion since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion at 16 million or more. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, more African American babies were aborted than born in the city in 2012.

A world that truly knows the value of every individual would not produce such grim statistics. A world that remembered the humanity of unborn black children would not be a world in which the Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., founder of BlackGenocide.org, could truthfully declare that “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” Abortion ends more black lives than do AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. More black lives end in abortion than end in car accidents, suicide, or murder.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from reading much of the coverage of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City. That narrative, advanced gleefully by the media, holds that racist cops are preying on young black males and slaughtering them in numbers too vast to contemplate. The Department of Justice reports that, between 2003 and 2009, 1,529 non-Hispanic blacks were killed while being arrested by the police—in the neighborhood of 200 per year, or .54 per day. That’s not good. We should pray for a world where no one is killed by the cops, or by street gangs, or by random violence. But 1,300 African American babies are aborted every day. Surely that warrants a photo essay, too?

The real epidemic of violence against African Americans is taking place in abortion clinics around the country, 80 percent of which are located in minority neighborhoods. Activists Lila Rose has exposed the willingness of Planned Parenthood fundraisers to accept financial contributions from donors claiming to want to help “lower the number of black people.” Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s racism has been well-documented. She presented at Klu Klux Klan rallies. She launched the “Negro project” as part of her campaign to rid the world of “human waste.” “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities,” Sanger wrote to Pathfinder founder and Procter and Gamble heir Clarence Gamble. “We don’t want the 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.”

I don’t want to pick on the Yale College Black Men’s Union. For all I know, they are all great guys. But even as they “think about what it means to be black men in America,” they ignore what it has meant to be an unborn black baby in America over the last 40 years. When they write—as they do in the introduction to Inyangete’s essay—that “we know the fate of your son [Michael Brown] could also be the fate of any of us,” they conveniently leave aside that abortion is the true fate of the majority of unborn black sons.

These protests will surely continue. You will surely be told over and over again in the coming weeks and months that black lives matter. And they do. Just remember the rest of the story. Black lives matter—even the unborn ones.

(Photo credit: Eno Inyangete)


  • Matthew Hennessey

    Matthew Hennessey is a writer from New Canaan, CT, and a graduate of Hunter College and Fordham University. You can follow him on Twitter @matthennessey.

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