Abortion targets African Americans?

It sure does… if you ignore all numbers relevant to the argument and focus instead only on one: African American women obtain about 37% of abortions compared to white women obtaining 34% of abortions, this according to the Guttmacher Institute.

But let’s break the numbers down further.

First anyone who knows anything about abortion can agree that the single cause of abortions is unplanned pregnancy. This is an undeniable fact that has been long recognized.

Margaret Sanger has long been demonized as promoting abortion as a means of eventually exterminating the black population. This is untrue, as Sanger was actually against abortion, but heavily in favor of contraception:

While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.1Sanger, Margaret. (1920). Contraception or Abortion? In Women and the New Race (p 120). New York: Truth Publishing Company.

The question that must be posed is that if Sanger favored abortion, why did she speak out so heavily against it? Why would she consider it a "disgrace to civilization" if she favored it?

But moving on, let’s look at the breakdown of numbers for unplanned pregnancies by race.

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2008 report called "Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States", 69% of pregnancies among black women are unintended, compared to 40% among white women and 54% among Hispanic women.

In 2001 there were approximately 6.4 million pregnancies. Of this, over 3.5 million of these pregnancies were to white women, while almost 1.2 million were to black women and almost 1.3 million were to Hispanic women. Of these pregnancies, 40% among white women, or approximately 1.4 million, were unintended while 69% of pregnancies among black women, or approximately 828 thousand, and 54% of pregnancies among Hispanic women, or approximately 690 thousand, were unintended.

Of the three ethnic classes reported in that 2002 report, black women reported the fewest number of pregnancies overall, but the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies. They also had the highest percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion — 58% or approximately 480 thousand abortions. Compare this to 44%, or approximately 616 thousand, among white women and only 43%, or approximately 297 thousand abortions, among Hispanic women.

So in 2001 white women actually had more abortions overall than black women, even though black women had the higher rate of abortions. Hispanic women had both the lowest percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion, but also the lowest number of abortions overall.

The data shows that black women have a higher rate of unintended pregnancies, and as a result, tend to have a higher rate of abortions. In 2005, black women obtained 37% of all abortions (approximately 444 thousand), compared to 34% of abortions obtained by white women (approximately 408 thousand).

Given that between 1994 and 2001 there was no change in the percentage of pregnancies among black women being unintended, there is no reason to believe that percentage has changed between 2001 and 2005. The data shows, however, that more of the unintended pregnancies are ending in abortion.

This begs the question: why are blacks having a higher rate of unintended pregnancies? Could it be they are more sexually active? According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this seems likely. In 2007 approximately 66.5% black high school students, almost 2 in 3, reported having previously had sex. Approximately 16.5% of black students also reported first having sex before the age of 13, and 46% of black students reported being sexually active.

Compare this to 37.4% of Hispanic students and 32.9% of white students reported being sexually active, and 52% of Hispanic students and 43.7% of white students reported having previously had sex. Condom usage was not significantly different between races (67.3% among black students, 61.4% among Hispanics, 59.7% among white students), but the CDC survey asks whether a condom was used in the most recent sexual encounter before the survey, not whether condom use is consistent and correct.

So with black students being more sexually active, that exposes them to a higher rate of unintended pregnancies, especially since the rate of use of the birth control pill among sexually active black students (9.1%) is less than half that of sexually active white students (20.8%). And where there are unintended pregnancies, there are abortions.

Another interesting fact regarding pregnancies among black women comes from the the February 21, 2003, edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: "The pregnancy-related mortality ratio for black women was consistently higher than that for white women for every characteristic examined."2Chang, Jeani, et al. (2003, February 21). "Pregnancy-Related Mortality Surveillance – United States, 1991-1999". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 52(SS02);1-8.

Further, homicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, especially black pregnant women.3Goldwert, Lindsay. (2008, April 11). "Murdered Pregnant Women: The Racial Divide". CBS News. And the numbers are believed to be underreported among minorities. The CDC has estimated that black women are seven times as likely as white women to be murdered while pregnant, and overall the CDC estimated that over 324 thousand pregnant women each year are the victims of domestic violence.

Currently there is a point of view that most abortions are elective, meaning of the mother’s own choice and free will, and to an extent that is certainly true. However given how many pregnant women are subjected to domestic violence each year, and the small percentage of them who end up dead, especially the increased likelihood of a pregnant black woman to end up dead, could it be likely that women are also obtaining abortions to literally save their lives?

What influence has domestic violence had on a woman’s decision to obtain an abortion?

Clearly there is more to this than originally meets the eye. I’ve probably only scratched the surface herein, and more detail is probably needed. But it is clear that the "abortion industry" isn’t targeting minorities. Instead the likely explanation of why blacks obtain more abortions may be related to increased sexual activity among blacks, leading to an increased rate of unintended pregnancies, economic status, and possibly also domestic violence.

Updated (April 22, 2010): Added comparison citations for sexual activity.


Cited references