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Racism Within the Pro-Life Movement

by Kateland McKenna

This week Kateland McKenna had the pleasure of attending a webinar held by SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) that hosted speaker Loretta J. Ross, Activist and Professor at Smith College. The purpose of the webinar was to discuss the racist history of the so-called pro-life movement. Below are some of the major points taken away from the discussion:

You can watch the entire webinar here:

  • The history of abortion and reproductive politics began long before the implementation of Roe v. Wade in 1972.

  • Ross instructs, “Don't start the history with Roe because you will miss all that precedes it, nor will you understand all the political things underneath the Roe decision that you need to attend to in order to have a comprehensive and intersectional analysis.”

  • You will not understand abortion politics in the United States if you do not understand racial politics in the United States

  • The racialization of reproduction has been used by the US as part of its wealth-building strategy in a slavery-based economy and through forced breeding of white women.

  • Post-Civil War, restrictions on birth control, abortion, and sex education were designed to lead white women into having more babies as part of the fulfillment of the manifest destiny credo. While also criminalizing reproduction for everyone who is not white.

  • Ross states that, “we are still fighting the fight, trying to determine whether or not the United States is going to be a country that attempts to live up to its promises of freedom and liberty and justice for all, or is it always going to be mired in the enactment and the implementation of white supremacist principles.”

  • Ross explains, “In all the debates I hear about reproductive politics, no one ever talks about white women being forcibly bred. And that's exactly what we are risking a future of. That's what is basically going on.”

  • The majority of white women either actively support white supremacy or passively go along with it. There are also white women who are resistant to it, who have given their lives, such as Anne Braden, Connie Currie, and were great role models for white people who want to fight white supremacy.

  • Instead of explicitly using race to oppress, the right uses religion. They wrap a religious mantle around them, a religious justification. But it's the same ideological whiteness. Next, it will be economic justification, saying that the economy cannot afford to take care of all these undeserving people who are trying to live off the dole and take advantage of those that work hard.

To end, I wanted to share Loretta Ross’ perspective of the fight we are currently facing:

“The reason I am so optimistic
 is because I believe that the far right and the religious right and all
 these people we are fighting, what I call the anti-human rights movement,
 they think they are fighting us. They think they are fighting the human
 rights movement. But they couldn't be more wrong. We are fighting them
 because we are very clear about our threat assessment and who we need to
 fight. But they are not fighting us. They are fighting
 forces that could kick their asses because they are fighting truth
. They are fighting evidence. They are fighting history. And
 mostly, they are trying to fight time. They are trying to pretend
 that they are strong enough to roll back time.
 And I am sorry, however bad you think you are, you cannot
 cannot turn us back to the 19th century. So I think
 there's an inevitability about their defeat because
 we have truth, time, evidence, and history is on our
 side. History is on our side.” - Loretta J. Ross

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