Friday, July 29, 2011

Follow-Up Fridays

I want to revisit this post that I made two weeks ago about an anti-abortion ad that was put up in New York City and taken down the next day. I got some good comments/questions, so I just want to expand further on some of my own ideas, and maybe hear more about what you all might have to say.

My white friend Rebecca said:

Is it true that when the unemployment rates are low and the economy is thriving that crime rates drop?

To the best of my memory the time during the Clinton administration our economy was thriving (we were operating on a surplus right).

Yes, Rebecca I do believe that you are right that when the economy is good, crime rates tend to go down. And you are also right that we had a budget surplus under Bill Clinton (Oh, how times have changed...)

But I also think that the authors of Freakonomics took this into consideration when writing the chapter, and found that crime decreased more sharply under President Clinton than during other times of economic prosperity, leading them to speculate that economic prosperity alone was not an explanation for the significant decrease in the crime rate.

My black friend Michelle said:

My understanding as to why that billboard was immediately taken down was that the parents of the little girl in the ad were not informed (or misinformed) as to the ad content.

Yes, I also heard that the little girl's parents were not aware what her picture was going to be used for. But my understanding was that they knew that it was a stock photo, and models for stock photography know that they don't have any control over where their image is going to end up. It reminds me of that Friends episode where Joey is on posters all around Manhattan that say he has an STD.

Additonally, after doing some more research on the internet, it would seem that the protests of pro-choice groups was the biggest factor in getting the billboard removed. At least according to one of the leaders of a pro-choice group. She wrote in part:

I truly believe that our collective quick action, phone calls and letters to the [billboard] company are directly responsible for their decision to pull the ad.

When I wrote the post, I came across some blogs with phone numbers telling people to call and complain about the ad, saying that it was racist. I'm like, "How is this racist?"

One of the (white) bloggers said that is was insulting black women's intelligence by assuming they weren't smart enough to make informed choices about their own reproductive health. I would argue the opposite; that it was giving black women information they most likely didn't already know that might or might not have a significant impact on what reproductive decisions they choose to make.

Now, I understand that the ultimate goal of the group producing the ad is probably to decrease the number of choices that all women have by making abortion illegal. But I personally don't see anything wrong with bringing to light the fact that there is a disparity in the abortion rates between black women and white women. Just like I don't see anything wrong with highlighting disparities in home ownership, incarceration rates, higher education rates, life expectancy, etc. These disparities exist and they should be discussed.

Michelle also said:

So what if abortions occur disproportionately among Black women?
Black women are at a disadvantage. And that's just the way it is.

I would say if black women are at a disadvantage (at least in part,) due to the legacy of historical racist practices and policies, that is an issue of concern for me. Hell, even if this turns out to be an issue of class and white women are aborting their babies primarily because the don't have the financial means to take care of them--that bothers me a lot too.

The reason that I asked you all if it might be racist/racish to be concerned about the rate of black abortions, is because if a white person was like, "I'm going to have this baby so I can help propagate the white race." We would all be sitting here thinking, "Hmm...white supremacist much?" The whole discussion of the number of white babies vs. the number of black babies can start to sound a little Race War-y. But no one reading seemed to have an issue with that. If you did, leave me a comment and I can try to explain why I don't see it that way.

Both Michelle and my new black friend Dayka (Hi Dayka!) offered up some alternate explanations for why the statistics might be the way they are, or aren't actually the way they seem to be. I guess my answer to this would be that the statistics from the CDC are pretty clear cut, and I don't know that the alternate explanations that you provided would be significant enough to explain away the huge disparities in the abortion rate.

For example, Dayka I know you mentioned that white women are more likely to have abortions through private doctors. This may be true, but most hospitals are required by their state laws to report the number of abortions that occur in their facilities. And I don't believe that two out of three white doctors are "protecting" their white patients by not reporting the fact that the patient had an abortion. Especially when you consider the reporting of the procedures is completely anonymous.

My white friend John Ferguson suggested that maybe more black women don't have abortions, perhaps a subset of black women have several abortions which skews the rates. My response would be: either way, this is a problem.

John Ferguson actually said a lot of other things. John, I wish you and I had been able to talk about this more the last time we saw each other, so I could have cleared up some of the things that I said. But I guess instead, I can do it on my blog where everyone can read it (:

Just a few things I want to clear up:

1) I don't believe that black men are inherently more violent or genetically predisposed to commit more crimes than white men.
2) I do agree with the idea that people born to poor,uneducated mothers are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system. Note that I didn't say commit crimes, I said come into contact with the criminal justice system (i.e. get caught.) So if there are fewer poor black males to target and incarcerate because of abortion, then the crime rate is going to go down.
Just like if there are fewer poor white males to target, the crime rate is going to go down. Remember, the Freakonomics chapter said nothing about race, it focused on class.

As a sidenote, nobody answered my question about if a decrease in the crime rate should be seen as a benefit of legalized abortion.

I think it's interesting that just based on the comments, no one seems to have a problem with the idea that class based abortions are something to be concerned about. Even if it were proven that this had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with class, should it be disturbing to us that poor women have three times as many abortions as middle-class women or rich women? Perhaps it is not racism; it's just classism--does that make it somehow ok?

I think my white friend JD made an excellent point when she said:

It seems like as a society we've decided that age and situation of the mother, the circumstances of the pregnancy, and disability are "good" reasons, whereas race and gender are "bad" reasons [to have an abortion]. Or put another way, if the mother doesn't want a child, it's a good reason; if the mother (or society) doesn't want a particular child, it's a bad reason. [emphasis added]

JD posted a link in her comment to a very thought provoking article about abortions being used for sex-selection in countries like China and India. I would recommend that you all read it.

I think that the pro-choice camp (of which I am currently still a part, ) has painted itself into something of a corner. By promoting this idea of abortions for whomever, whenever, for whatever reason, and fighting tooth and nail any and all attempts to restrict access to abortion, they are insulting the intelligence of the average human being who recognizes that abortion is (at the very least,) an end of the possibility for a particular organism to have a life. And certain organisms are being disproportionately targeted by the procedure.

One of my most favoritest english teachers in college said that abortion was like waking up one morning and having a world class violinist attached to your shoulder. The violinist would die if you cut him off of your shoulder, but if you didn't cut him off, he'd be with you everywhere you went for the rest of your life. What should you/would you do?

I know that there are more comments that I didn't get to and I also know that this post is probably not as polished as it could be. But little dude is doing his afternoon nap wake-up routine, so I have got to go get him. Thank you all for leaving your comments and I hope that we can continue this conversation. And if you are a new reader like Dayka, I hope that you will look over to the sidebar on the right hand side for all the different ways that you can stay connected with me and know when I make new posts.

Thanks for reading; I look forward to hearing your feedback.

1 comment:

  1. When I saw "my white friend Rebecca" I started to get worried.