Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rushing In And All That

There are two topics I dread discussing. One is anything having to do with the state of Israel. One attracts either nutjob religious zealots, or nutjob anti-Semites, and I detest nutjobs. The other is abortion. Largely because it is a topic about which I really don't care all that much, I find the prospect of saying anything fraught with trouble. Admitting up front that one does not care about it is a sure-fire way of attracting anti-abortion folks who scream "MURDER!!", while the pro-choicers who see insouciance on this matter as a sign of weakness in the face of the threat to every woman who has ever existed just doesn't help anyone's credibility.

So, I'll repeat myself: I honestly don't care all that much about the issue.

Furthermore, I am going to write a post about abortion, because I am not an angel and do not fear to tread upon certain ground that others, even a bit wiser than I, would avoid.

The reason for my intemperate decision? I have recently seen bandied about the claim that African-Americans have abortion as rates three times higher than whites. This "fact" (to which we shall repair anon) has been accompanied by the claim this is part of a conspiracy of racist whites wishing to destroy blacks by destroying their babies. Considering the sources of this claim, I had serious doubts about its veracity, so I used Google and discovered (.pdf), to my surprise, that the actual numbers are far higher. According to information in the Statistical Abstract of the United States (SAUS), the abortion rate per 1,000 pregnancies was 14. For African-Americans, it was 50.2. That is actually around three-and-a-half times. These numbers, according to the chart at the link, do represent a continuing downward trend in the abortion rate since the first-cited date. The abortion rate across the board in the US has declined, and when broken down by race, the decline is clear enough.

The Guttmacher Institute conducted a survey regarding abortion in 2005. The results (.pdf) of that survey are clear enough:
The reasons [for having an abortion] most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work, or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%). Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing, and almost one-third were not ready to have a child. Fewer than 1% said their parents' or partners' desire for them to have an abortion was the most important reason. Younger women often reported that they were unprepared for the transition to motherhood, while older women regularly cited their responsibility to dependents.

Conclusion: The decision to have an abortion is typically motivated by multiple, diverse, and interrelated reasons. The themes of responsibility to others and resource limitations, such as financial constraints and lack of partner support, recurred throughout the study.
Funny enough, I didn't see "because racist white liberals want me to" as a reason, although, I suppose that's because all these poor young African-American women are too afraid of the big mean white-supremacist liberals to say it.

Now, I have criticized some of the more facile, and borderline racist, defenses of abortion that one used to hear; when a middle-class or even upper-middle-class white person insists that abortion needs to kept legal and accessible for the poor and minorities, without any elaboration whatsoever, it sounds bad. It might even be bad, but it certainly sounds bad.

This does not mean that pro-choice supporters, or the Democratic Party, or whomever, is racist. Indeed, it's an odd argument to make barring any actual evidence. I know there is some logical fallacy at work here: "Liberals support abortion. Blacks have abortion at a higher rate than whites. Therefore, pro-choice supporters are racist." That, it seems, it the argument, and it just doesn't seem to follow.

Now, if an individual or group opposes abortion, and wishes to advocate for restricting or even banning the procedure, go for it. If one wishes to cite data regarding racial disparities in abortion rates, super-duper (although, it might be a good idea to get the numbers right). Calling pro-choice folks "the real racists" because the abortion rate for African-American women is higher than the rate for whites or other ethnic groups, absent any actual data (let alone logical coherence), is not only inflammatory. It is wrong. Repeating it when it is shown to be wrong (and it is easily shown to be wrong, regardless of how one feels about the procedure) is called lying.

Virtual Tin Cup

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