- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Nobody was more surprised or offended than black pro-life activists like Roland Warren when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand compared their beliefs to racism.

“I am not a racist,” said Mr. Warren, president and CEO of the pro-life Christian group Care Net, which has 1,100 affiliated pregnancy centers. “This is not about race; it’s about life. And the sanctity of life knows no color.”

Ditto Ryan Bomberger, chief creative officer of the pro-life Radiance Foundation, whose work includes running social media campaigns on the high abortion rate in the black community.

“It is so bizarre,” Mr. Bomberger said. “As an African American, I think it is ludicrous to somehow accuse me of being a racist when I am working to save black lives.”

Ms. Gillibrand, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, drew headlines last week when she compared pro-life views to racism. She declared that it was “not acceptable” to appoint judges who held certain beliefs, including opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic,” she told the Des Moines Register in Iowa. “Asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America, I don’t think that those are political issues anymore.”

Democrats and pro-choice groups were mobilizing after a legislative season in which a dozen red states enacted laws aimed at challenging Roe and a rising number of black and Hispanic state legislators broke ranks on the pivotal abortion issue.

Dozens of state Democrats crossed party lines to oppose late-term abortion bills or support infanticide and fetal heartbeat legislation. Many of those Democrats were black, a demographic group that accounts for an outsized share of U.S. abortions.

“I think a lot of black people are aware of it and concerned about it, but politically it’s a problem because of the Democratic Party’s position on abortion, since most black people vote with the Democrats,” Mr. Warren said.

In 2015, black women accounted for 36% of abortions even though blacks represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures released in November.

In New York City, there were nearly 3,000 more abortions than live births among non-Hispanic black women, according to state health department figures.

“[Ms. Gillibrand’s] comments are so disengaged from reality,” Mr. Bomberger said. “And she lives in New York City, where more black babies have been aborted than born alive.”

Pro-choice activists counter that abortion can save black lives. They say CDC data shows that black women are three to four times more likely than white women to die in childbirth.

Missouri state Rep. Cora Faith Walker, a black Democrat, argued on the House floor that legislation banning most abortions after eight weeks of gestation “is going to cost lives.” The bill was signed into law last month.

“The likelihood of me dying in childbirth is four times higher. It’s not hyperbole; it’s reality,” Ms. Walker said in a video posted by Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri.

Planned Parenthood has argued that laws limiting abortion access, including the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for elective abortions, hit minority women hardest.

“For some people — disproportionately folks of color, and people with low incomes — the Hyde Amendment puts access to safe, legal abortion out of reach,” Planned Parenthood Black Community tweeted. “The Hyde Amendment needs to go — period.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Warren called abortion clinics located in minority neighborhoods “a tremendous wealth transfer program.”

“They’re run by wealthy, liberal white folk who take money out of the community,” Mr. Warren said. “Planned Parenthood workers don’t live in these neighborhoods.”

Alveda King, a pro-life activist and niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., described Ms. Gillibrand’s comments as misleading. “If you’re pro-life, you can’t be racist because you’re defending life for the most defenseless population on the planet,” she said.

“So to call us racist because I’m pro-life, I guess she’s calling me racist as well,” Ms. King said on “Fox & Friends,” according to a Media Matters for America transcript. “I’m a problem-solver. But I love people, all people, rich, poor, young, old. She’s absolutely, civilly wrong. Abortion is a civil wrong. Life is definitely a civil right.”

If Ms. Gillibrand was unaware of the black pro-life movement, it may be because it’s often overlooked, Mr. Bomberger said.

“It’s not popular to be brown and not tow the party line,” he said. “It’s also a fact that black conservatives are ignored by both parties.”

At the same time, he said, he believes that pro-life sentiment within the black community is on the rise.

“I see an increase, especially since I get to speak at a lot of college campuses,” Mr. Bomberger said. “There’s an awakening.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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