A Georgia bill that would outlaw abortions based on race, color or sex is fueling arguments over whether abortion providers are targeting black women.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act would apply to abortion "the same standards of nondiscrimination" that govern employment, education, government and housing, said Georgia state Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Republican who introduced the bill last month with bipartisan support.
If enacted, the bill would make it illegal to knowingly solicit, perform or accept funding for race- or sex-selected abortions. The bill has a hearing set for Wednesday before the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.
The Radiance Foundation has been raising the issue of black abortion with billboards that say, "Black Children Are An Endangered Species" and "toomanyaborted.com."
Pro-choice leaders are outraged by both the billboards and the bill.
"The wording of the campaign is offensive … to many of us, it compares our children to exotic animals. Our children are not animals," said Loretta Ross, national coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.
In a phone briefing Tuesday held by RHRealityCheck.org, a Web site committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights, Ms. Ross called the bill an intrusion upon the doctor-patient relationship because it would require doctors to ask women why they wanted an abortion and then record their answers.
What's really going on is a "test case" for national legislation to get abortions outlawed and to create divisions in the black community, Ms. Ross said.
It's "absurd" to say that abortion providers target women of color, said Dr. Melissa Gilliam, an associate professor for obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Unplanned pregnancies, lack of access to health care and lack of income for contraception are all reasons for differences in abortion rates, she said.
Planned Parenthood has been wrongly depicted as racist through "race-baiting phone calls," added Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
She was referring, among other things, to calls from pro-lifers pretending to be racists who wanted to donate money to Planned Parenthood if it would be used to abort minority children.
Planned Parenthood — which has retrained its staff to recognize and handle such calls — "does not tolerate racism and does not accept racially motivated donations. When we are presented with any evidence that this may be occurring, we act swiftly to correct that," Dr. Cullins said.
Meanwhile, Georgia Right to Life is continuing to raise the black-abortion issue, which it says is long overdue to be discussed.
"We are not demonizing black women," said Catherine Davis, director of minority outreach for Georgia Right to Life, to CNN last week. "What we are saying is that the abortion industry has targeted, specifically, the black community."
The goal is to "alert the community and awaken the community," she said.
Guttmacher Institute figures say that of 1.2 million abortions obtained in 2005, 37 percent were to black women. Blacks make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population.
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