Outraged by the grisly details of late-term abortions in Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s clinic, a group of black pastors is coming to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to ask for congressional hearings into the impact of abortion in black communities.
Political activist Star Parker and about a dozen black pastors are scheduled to speak at the National Press Club Tuesday morning about Dr. Gosnell’s murder trial and the high levels of abortions and abortion clinics in black communities.
“Our heads should be hanging in shame as a nation of civilized people who would allow this type of crime against humanity to have gone on for so long. We are as guilty as Gosnell of these atrocities against the most innocent and vulnerable human beings,” said Ms. Parker, founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.
Dr. Gosnell is on trial on multiple counts of murder — killing children born alive and one adult patient. It’s important for blacks to speak up “because Kermit Gosnell is black, and this is a matter of black-on-black crime,” said Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union.
These “heinous activities” are happening in communities all over the country, she said, and Congress should make sure inspections are performed and “people are held accountable.”
The case is in the jury’s hands after weeks of testimony about the inhumane treatment of mothers, fetal parts being put down a garbage disposal, animal excrement on floors, and bloody blankets and equipment at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic in a largely black neighborhood of West Philadelphia. At the time of Dr. Gosnell’s 2010 arrest — on unrelated suspicions of prescription drug trafficking — the Pennsylvania Department of Health had not inspected his clinic since 1993.
“The whole health department of Pennsylvania should be on trial for allowing these atrocities,” said the Rev. Luke Robinson, pastor of the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Frederick, Md.
Abortionists like Dr. Gosnell have “brought the back-alley abortion business into sophisticated-looking places that do the same thing the back-alley people did,” he said.
Members of Congress have asked state and D.C. officials to report on their policies regarding abortion regulations, clinic inspections, licensing and enforcement of laws, including the federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. The federal act requires health care workers to give lifesaving medical assistance to newborns even if they survive an abortion. President Obama opposed such a state-level bill when he was an Illinois senator.
According to federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Census Bureau, blacks accounted for 35 percent of abortions performed in 2009, although they represented about 14 percent of the U.S. population in 2010.
Pro-choice organizations say that high levels of unintended pregnancy, poverty and domestic violence are a few of the reasons for racial disparity in abortion statistics.
“The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy,” Susan A. Cohen, director of government affairs at the Guttmacher Institute, wrote in a 2008 paper disputing the idea that abortion clinics are marketed aggressively to minorities.
The variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic lines “relates directly” to the variation of unintended pregnancy rates, she wrote.
Moreover, a 2011 Guttmacher Institute advisory said that 63 percent of all known U.S. abortion providers were in neighborhoods where most of the residents are white.
About 12 percent of providers were in neighborhoods where 50 percent or more of residents were Hispanic, and 9 percent were in neighborhoods that were 50 percent or more black, Guttmacher said. “These statistics definitively refute the assertion that most abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.”
Pro-life advocates reject such explanations.
In October, Life Issues Institute Inc. published an analysis of 2010 census data that looked at the racial makeup for neighborhoods around 165 surgical-abortion clinics operated by Planned Parenthood.
It found that 79 percent of these clinics were “within walking distance” of neighborhoods with relatively high concentrations of black or Hispanic people. This is a more “accurate portrayal” of the populations around Planned Parenthood abortion facilities, the Life Issues Institute report said.
Clinics are in neighborhoods “because there’s a need,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of Sister Song: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in Atlanta. Sister Song is part of the Trust Black Women partnership that was created in 2010 to “fight against race-based attacks on abortion rights.”
“We never know why a woman chooses to have an abortion,” said Ms. Simpson, but “it’s important for women to be able to make their own reproductive decisions.”
“That’s what reproductive justice is all about,” she said, adding that she and her allies will “stand firm” on the issue.
“While we all condemn criminals like Gosnell and what happened in his ‘clinic,’ he is an outlier,” Ms. Cohen said Friday.
Separately, a Gallup poll has found that only 7 percent of American adults were watching the Gosnell trial “very closely” and 54 percent were watching it “not at all.” Of those riveted by the trial, 11 percent identified themselves as “pro-life” and 4 percent said they were “pro-choice.”