African American Babies:Endangered Species?

Since Roe vs. Wade, abortion has been one of those hot button topics in our church and society. And it is usually the case that whenever abortion is discussed it is spoken of as an issue of choice, reproductive rights or the right to life. But the “Endangered Species” campaign seeks to address the historical […]

May 2010 : Featured Post

On a monthly basis, will be featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to provoke healthy dialouge and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age.

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As I was riding through a neighborhood in Decatur, GA, this billboard with the precious piercing eyes of a beautiful black baby, stating that “Black Children are an Endangered Species” jumped out at me.

I tried not to stop traffic by staring up at this picture for too long but my mind could not quite connect this beautiful babies’ face with this label. I usually think of buffalos and whales when I think of endangered species not little black babies. So I hurriedly reached for a pen and a scrap of paper out of my purse and scribbled down the website  And so began my search for the connection.

African-Americans and Abortion

In an effort to stop the rate of abortions in the African American community, which is estimated to be 40% of all African American pregnancies, the Radiance Foundation and GA Operation Outrage have begun the “Endangered Species” campaign in order to invoke awareness about the historical reality of abortion.  They have placed these billboards in majority African American communities throughout Georgia because they have found that abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood are prevalent in African American and lower-income communities.  The “Endangered Species” campaign believes the locations of these clinics are strategically targeting minority and lower-income populations.

It is usually the case that whenever abortion is discussed it is spoken of as an issue of choice, reproductive rights or the right to life. But this campaign seeks to also address the historical underpinnings of abortion and its connection with eugenics.

Creating A Pure Race…

Eugenics comes from the Greek word eugenes meaning “good in birth”. In 1883 Francis Galton started using the word” eugenics” defining it as the “science of improving stock-not only by judicious mating, but whatever tends to give the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had.” Galton later experimented with a variety of different formulations such as “the study of agencies under social control which may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations”, and “the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race: also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage”[1]

This “science” has also been cited as influencing Hitler and his quest for creating a pure race of people.

The Mother of Planned Parenthood

As I perused the website I noticed that the campaigns’ leading target is Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger who was an advocate for Birth Control and eugenics in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. She states that the Birth Control Movement and Eugenics are “seeking to assist the race toward elimination of the unfit….We who advocate Birth Control, on the other hand, lay all our emphasis upon stopping not only the reproduction of the unfit but upon stopping all reproduction when there is not economic means of providing proper care for those who we born in health”[2].

The Plot To Destroy the “Unfit”

Margaret Sanger is also noted for the creation of the “Negro Project” in which she partnered with the likes of W.E.B Dubois, Mary McLeod Bethune, and Adam Clayton Powell to set up sites in African American communities where the community members could get access to contraceptives.  In a private letter written by Margaret Sanger she writes that, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”[3] It is clear by this statement that even the African American community was fearful of the effects of birth control, and the movement’s real agenda. However, some of the members of the African American communities did use the services in order to have access to contraceptives but a majority of the community especially in the south distrusted the doctors and clinicians, therefore the clinics that were set up in the community did not remain for long.

Although the Endangered Species campaign is linking Margaret Sanger to abortion, particularly in African American communities  it is important to note that the Birth Control Movement during Margaret Sanger’s time, opposed abortion, she states that “abortion is a wasteful, injurious, and almost degrading method of dealing with the birth rate… a society in which abortion flourishes cannot be regarded as a healthy society… a community which takes upon itself to encourage abortion is incurring a heavy responsibility. ”[4] However in 1963, the president of Planned Parenthood, Alan Guttmacher, did begin to offer abortions to pregnant mothers at their sites after the Roe. Vs. Wade court decision.

But whether Margaret Sanger did nor did not promote abortion the fact still remains that underlying the Birth Control Movement and the fight for abortion, was a desire to decrease the population of people who were deemed undesirable or unfit.

And so I ask, who are we to decide who is fit to be born?

We want to hear your thoughts. Is abortion an issue of race extermination that evangelicals have left out of the conversation regarding abortion issues or is race a minor aspect that should be talked about regarding abortion?

Click here for more information about the “Endangered Species” campaign.

Minister Alisha Tatem was born in Allentown, PA to Pastor Melvin and Jacqueline Tatem.  She attended Messiah College and received her bachelor’s degree in social work. After graduating from college she worked for Early Head Start as a Child Development Partner, and served as a youth minister at Grace Deliverance Baptist Church for three years. She was licensed to preach on May 20, 2007 at her home church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and presently serves on the ministerial staff at Total Grace Christian Center, in Decatur, GA. She will be graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary, May of this year with her Master’s of Divinity, and looks forward to pursuing further education in pastoral counseling. If there is one thing that describes Minister Tatem best it would be that she has a heart for young people and she is passionate about seeing young people give their lives over to God in the midst of competing societal pressures. It is her hope that she would be able to touch many people’s lives on this life journey and one day hear God say, Well done my good and faithful servant.



[3] The moral property of women: a history of birth control politics in America by Linda Gordon


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