White Supremacy and the Pro-Life Movement: Slanted Subtweets During #ScaryStats

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

I don’t want it to seem like I have a one-track mind, but it’s really hard to break my focus from all the negativity that Human Coalition spews on the regular. Human Coalition, an organization that runs anti-abortion fake clinics using online marketing and data analytics to deceive women, has been a particular interest of ours over the past several months. They haven’t been fond of the light we shed to expose their insidious goals, and recently, their leadership caught on to our #ScaryStats tweets, where we joined over 20 other organizations fighting for gender equity and social justice to share statistics about intersectional issues. The “pro-life” movement loves jumping on repro hashtags, but Human Coalition leadership specifically had a few clumsy contributions to the tweetstorm that got me thinking about how their movement has tried – and in some cases, made headway – in coopting social justice and human rights language while furthering misogynist and white supremacist ideals. Their expression of these sentiments isn’t always direct, but sometimes is masked behind supposed allyship or solidarity with the struggles of people of color. This is the first of three posts I’ll be writing in coming weeks to dissect this unsurprising but upsetting trend in the pro-life movement, exemplified by Human Coalition’s public actions.

Lauren Enriquez, Human Coalition’s Public Relations Manager, jumped on the #ScaryStats hashtag to subtweet us and our partners, stigmatizing abortion rates among Black women in New York City (she wasn’t the only one posting this “stat,” it was repeated by several accounts):

First of all, as a native New Yorker, I am damn tired of how the city is so often used as a pawn in arguments we don’t want to be a part of and often aren’t included in. New Yorkers were abortion-having heathens to some on one day and patriots whose loss was used to justify racists’ anti-Muslim views the next. That’s a bigger topic, but I had to acknowledge that it happens frequently and NYC isn’t here for it. [1]

But back to the tweet: it’s pretty remarkable to say “Black Lives Matter” and shame Black women’s choices in the same breath. However, this level of hypocrisy is not new to the pro-life movement — Feminista Jones wrote an excellent piece on the phenomenon, linked here — and Black people in reproductive health, rights, and justice spaces have said time and again how much more aggressively clinic protesters treat Black escorts, providers, and patients, how Black women are viewed more harshly for reproductive decisions (including parenting), and how anti-abortion zealots will say “Black Lives Matter” in reference to fetuses, but not show up for racial justice causes. [2-5] As a woman of color I’ve personally experienced some measure of racially motivated hostility in my interactions with “pro-lifers,” but I recognize that’s only a fraction of what many Black women in the work have experienced.

Pro-life tweeters also attacked a #ScaryStats post by Planned Parenthood Black Community which said, “If you’re a Black woman in America, it’s statistically safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term or give birth.” Rather than uplift the real and tragic issue of Black maternal and infant mortality – Black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women [4] – these people who purport to care about Black life don’t actually listen to the voices of Black women, and instead often try to speak for them. They drown out the voices of people of color, who most often shoulder the byproducts of oppressive policies, instead flailing about the internet with wildly flawed and condescending claims that Planned Parenthood is rooted in ‘Black genocide.’ Imani Gandy from Rewire fact-checked that argument, so I’ll link her piece here.

But that’s just it: The pro-life movement tries to speak for and reclaim the language of racial justice activists without centering affected voices, and while focusing on a single issue whose connection to the struggle is based on problematic stereotypes and outright fabrications. There are people of color in the anti-abortion movement, of course, but the prominent figures are overwhelmingly white, and the narratives come straight from the white savior’s playbook: They want to be rescuers, saving women of color from ourselves, and saving the fetuses of women of color from the women who would dare to exercise control their own bodies and futures. If their interests aren’t centered in a racial justice issue, the pro-life movement has no desire to further it. In fact, their efforts undermine racial justice causes. Like in the below, where Lauren #AllLivesMatter’d COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights):

To parse my in-speak: “All Lives Matter” is another example of the right’s frequent dismissal of the Black Lives Matter movement and attempts to take attention away from the issue of racial justice, often blaming identity politics and diluting the message that Black lives are under attack at contemptible rates in this country.

Another example is this subtweet of our statistic reflecting the lack of abortion care access nationally:

You just can’t claim to care about people of color if you poke fun at low-income women’s inability to receive health care and the geographic disparities of abortion access nationally, and you certainly can’t take up the mantle of racial justice advocacy if that activism is paired with stigmatizing women of color and comes at the expense of our dignity and personal sovereignty. Trusting people of color with their own healthcare choices, even if they aren’t the choices you would make for yourself or your family, is inseparable from racial justice. If your analysis of racism in healthcare does not include that, you are not an advocate, and you are an impediment to everyone’s liberation from white supremacy. Women of color deserve the respect to be heard when we advocate for ourselves, and we certainly don’t need performative, self-serving allyship.


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