Fake Clinic Networks’ Misguided Allegations of Racism

| Reproaction

By: Tenaja Henson

In the wake of a collective reckoning of systemic and institutional racism, we are seeing time and time again people calling on organizations to be accountable for their history, in some cases leading to the removal of monuments. For many people this is an opportunity to shed light on a part of history we often forget, but for the anti-abortion fake clinic chain Human Coalition, it is an opportunity to try and shut down Planned Parenthood health centers across my home state of North Carolina.

In a recent letter, Rev. Dean Nelson, executive director for Human Coalition Action, called on Governor Roy Cooper to, “reckon with the white supremacist legacy and racist reality of Planned Parenthood”, meaning he wants them to close all nine of their clinics in the state and investigate the debunked myth that they are “targeting” Black women. [1] These accusations come after Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced that their intention to remove the name of Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, from the affiliate’s Manhattan Health Center to recognize her “contributions to reproductive harm on communities of color.” [2]

It’s no surprise that Nelson is deploying the overused trope that Planned Parenthood is ‘targeting’ Black women because of Margaret Sanger’s ties to the eugenics movement and racist legacy. Not only that but, the trope is full of lies, inaccurate history, and advances stigma. Regardless of Margaret Sanger’s past affiliations, and in turn Planned Parenthood’s, they don’t negate the importance of the comprehensive healthcare services Planned Parenthood provides today. [3] Nelson is co-opting this pivotal moment when many are recognizing the deep-seeded systemic racism and anti-Blackness that pervades our society to push for the closure of Planned Parenthood health centers, not for the betterment of the lives of Black people, but to push his own anti-abortion agenda.

Nelson’s letter to Governor Cooper also included the outrageous claim that, if Planned Parenthood locations would be shut down, Human Coalition’s anti-abortion fake clinics would serve as a sufficient substitute. Reproaction has long called attention to the fact that Human Coalition runs anti-abortion fake clinics that are known for deceitful behavior toward their patients. Outside of the vitally important realm of abortion care, Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive healthcare that the anti-abortion fake clinics Nelson represents do not; let’s not forget that those opposed to abortion are also generally opposed to birth control, medically accurate sex education, and much more. Planned Parenthood’s services in the state are accessible to many, and vital to those in rural and poor communities, who otherwise would not be able to access such care. [4]

The claim from Rev. Nelson that the need to shut down and investigate all nine of Planned Parenthood’s health centers in North Carolina would benefit Black women is quite an interesting tactic, coming from him. Not only has Human Coalition not taken a stance to support the Black Lives Matter movement and opposed the removal of Civil War monuments honoring the Confederacy, [5] but the fundamentals of this anti-abortion rhetoric is rooted in anti-blackness and white supremacy.

If Human Coalition was truly working for the betterment of and genuinely cared about Black lives, they would be making the same demands as the millions of activists in this country and around the world. They also would not have argued against the removal of racist monuments. Is their claim to tear down Planned Parenthood health centers not the same rhetoric of not worshiping historical figures who were racist? Not only are they trying to conflate their arbitrary attack on Planned Parenthood to the national movement for Black lives, but they want their analysis to seem more important and meaningful under the guise of saving “preborn” Black lives in a way that helps no real Black people.

If Human Coalition really cares about Black lives and Black women, their efforts would be focused on making sure that Black babies are not born into a world where they will be subject to systemic racism and the potential of a shortened life due to police brutality.

Rev. Nelson’s support of Black women is weak. If he genuinely cares about the livelihoods of Black women, taking away accessible health care would not be the first thing on his to-do list. Where are the efforts to ensure safety for birthing Black people and their babies in hospitals where they are far more likely to die than white birthing people? [6] Where is the support for the mothers who have lost their children because of state-sanctioned, racist police violence?  Where is the outcry from Human Coalition about the disparities in the education system that set Black children up to enter the school-to-prison-pipeline from day one? Where are the efforts to stop the murder of Black trans women?

Human Coalition has shown that they only care about Black women when it serves them, and only in lip service, at that. Who are they to think it’s appropriate to call on an organization to reckon with their own history of racism when they have not addressed the racism that exists within their own organization and movement? If we are really going to achieve change by holding ourselves accountable to the ways in which we have been active or complicit in systemic racism, this step is crucial. Which also means, historical figures we might once have viewed as our heroes are also subject to this analysis as well. Taking down monuments, removing names from buildings, or shifting practices within organizations is a step in the right direction. We live in a world that was created to oppress Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Not all our historical heroes will survive this collective reckoning, and that is okay.

In the letter to Gov. Cooper, Rev. Nelson suggested that shutting down Planned Parenthood health centers is a chance for the governor to affirm Black Lives Matter. This sentiment is quite shocking for two reasons, the first being that Nelson doesn’t appear to have ever supported Black Lives Matter’s local or national efforts. Second is the Black Lives Matter movement and founders, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometti, and Alicia Garza, have released multiple works outlining their principles and ideals that have to do what Black Lives Matter works for; while demands and ideologies are always subject to change with the times I am pretty sure that, “We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered” [7] means that policy and demands about reproductive rights coming from men are not a part of the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, it is clear that Nelson’s motives are working directly against the principles shared by these three inspiring Black women, and appropriating messaging from the movement they founded as a slogan to push his own problematic agenda.

I want to give Rev. Dean Nelson some credit here however, he does get one thing right. In his letter Nelson says, “Systemic racism impedes, injures, and kills Black lives.” And he would be right, racism and specifically anti-Blackness hides within our society which translates into our own ideas and understandings of the world, our own personal thoughts can be and are often rooted in oppressive ideas, especially when we don’t challenge them. But Reverend Nelson is forgetting that he is not above this. One of the most challenging and necessary lessons I have learned throughout my life and especially this year is that my Blackness doesn’t mean I cannot internalize anti-Blackness, does not mean I cannot internalize bias about class status, other races, ability, and other identities that are marginalized in our society. And with Reverend Nelson, a Black man, speaking for Human Coalition to Gov. Cooper about a way to support Black Lives Matter, I feel this would be missing a crucial piece of analysis. Using his Blackness to push Gov. Cooper to do something for, what Nelson is saying benefits, the Black community but at the end of the day causes harm to more Black people, and if Gov. Cooper chooses to not respond or satisfy the demand, Nelson is in a position to come back and state that Cooper is being active in systemic racism. Not only is this a bold move but also a dynamic that skews the public dialogue around how and where we need to address systemic racism.

I am afraid we will continue to see Blackness weaponized by people in power to further a private or personal agenda as we continue to move through this time to change and accountability. Reverend Nelson is not a pioneer of this tactic, we see it in people like Ben Carson and even Kanye West using their identity to speak for an entire population of people who have been screaming for decades for justice. And what is so curious is that we often deem these people as ideal in their Blackness and make them the epicenter of where the general public will receive their daily dose of cultural learning. All the while, we continue to ignore the work and dedication of organizers and community members who speak with a collective voice, listen, move, shift, and change with the needs to the communities that they work with, not for.

Many of the leaders in these spaces are Black women, Black trans folks, and/or Black youth, whom Rev. Nelson and Human Coalition claim to be speaking for. However, the demands that have been made in this letter to Governor Cooper do not reflect in the slightest the demands I see coming from organizers and protestors in the streets, on the computer, on the phone, and in your inbox organizing for a society that does not kill Black people, for a society that does not restrict reproductive rights and create a more dangerous environment for black birthing people.

If Rev. Nelson and Human Coalition really wanted to support Black people, their efforts would be supporting the Black people in the streets. What Human Coalition wants is for an organization that they fundamentally disagree with, based on patriarchal ideologies of taking autonomy away from pregnant people, to shut down and no longer exist so that they will be the only option for many folks. In fact, I argue that Human Coalition and other anti-abortion advocates aren’t showing genuine concern for Black people at all, just concern for how they can control Black people; placing superior value on fetuses rather than the Black bodies that carry them, and leaving the rest to state sanctioned violence and police brutality. Human Coalition is not here trying to do the work to dismantle systemic racism, they are here trying to use this moment of great change and activism to further their own problematic agenda.


  1. https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2008/08/abortion-and-women-color-bigger-picture
  2. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-greater-new-york/about/news/planned-parenthood-of-greater-new-york-announces-intent-to-remove-margaret-sangers-name-from-nyc-health-center
  3. https://rewirenewsgroup.com/article/2015/08/20/false-narratives-margaret-sanger-used-shame-black-women/
  4. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/crisis-pregnancy-centers-cannot-replace-health-care-providers_n_58c95b1fe4b09e52f5552811?guccounter=2
  5. https://thehumanelementshow.com/portfolio-items/re-writing-history/
  6. https://patientengagementhit.com/features/first-do-no-harm-combatting-black-maternal-health-disparities
  7. https://www.blmla.org/guiding-principles
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