What does it mean to be pro-life to those who are part of the pro-life movement? As a pro-life African American, sometimes, I am not sure. I know what it means to me, but I am often left wondering what it means for many of my fellow pro-life advocates who are white. I am not the only one who wonders this, as I have had many conversations with other African Americans regarding the pro-life movement. Often, we lament what seems to be inconsistency in the pro-life movement. Most of my fellow black pro-life friends all have experiences where they have heard someone who is pro-life use the statistics of black abortion rates to defend their cause. These facts are true, and the disproportionality of black abortion should be alarming to all African Americans. When black people consider Planned Parenthood, this reality should be all the more concerning considering who the founder of the organization is and her thoughts pertaining to ethnic cleansing.
However, concern comes into place as we hear people use black abortion stats to defend the pro-life cause, only to ignore or minimize similar statistics as it relates to all the other ways black people are marginalized, oppressed, and at times murdered within American society. For many black pro-life advocates, black abortion stats can seem to be a form of tokenized information that is used to serve an agenda that limits itself to black life before exiting the womb.
Recently, I spoke to a member of the Black Lives Matter movement who was adamantly pro-choice. I asked him questions regarding why he found his position more appealing than the pro-life position and his response was rather alarming. He told me that he was turned off by the pro-life movement because of the way its white members quoted black statistics about abortion. For him, it was very typical for white people to try and win him to the pro-life cause by quoting statistics of black abortion death. He never actually heard the stats, he didn’t care. For him, he refused to listen to anyone who dismissed the stats of black death among unarmed adults. In other words, white pro-life advocates who could not empathize and affirm the need to defend black lives after birth had no credibility to try and defend the value of black lives before birth. For him, and many others, doing so makes the pro-life cause seem more like a political agenda than an issue of life and death.
Ultimately, I was able to come alongside this man, and in a few hours, he became a full-fledged activist for the unborn. He was a member of the Black Lives Matter branch in my city, and he was anxious to speak with other members about their need to protest for the lives of the unborn. I accomplished this using the same black abortion stats I have heard many of my white friends use. The difference was I engaged with him using these stats, along with all the other data regarding the needs of the black community and human flourishing. As he heard abortion data from someone who was holistically invested in the needs of the black community, he was willing to listen. I gained credibility despite not being a Democrat and despite admitting that I did not vote for Obama.
It is my belief that the pro-life movement will gain a significant following if it divorces itself from a political party and emphasizes in greater detail that it is about defending life. As of now, there are many minorities who are skeptical of the pro-life movement because they see it as being synonymous with the Republican Party, which they believe ignores a multitude of other issues affecting their communities. I am personally convinced that moral credibility is the greatest obstacle that hinders greater ethnic and socio-economic diversity in the pro-life movement and not the actual facts pertaining to abortion. The greatest apologetic need facing the pro-life movement in our time is its need to demonstrate a consistent morality. Technology has caught up with the movement and there is little need to defend the personhood of the unborn in our time. You will be hard pressed to find a millennial that doesn’t affirm the personhood of the unborn. Transforming an individual from someone who acknowledges the unborn into someone who will be a voice for it is largely determined by whether or not they can be convinced that their voice is part of a morally consistent movement, and not just simply an arm of a political party.
If you have been silent concerning minority struggles and indifferent to racialized injustice, you have very little credibility behind statistics you quote concerning unborn black children. You will likely not convince minorities to join you in your cause. They will consider you a person who is seeking to capitalize on black death not because you truly care about black lives and the black family, but for your own agenda. It will send them flying in the opposite direction.
If you want to appeal to minorities concerning your pro-life convictions, it has to be from a posture of someone who is an advocate for black lives when its convenient (statistics that aide the pro-life cause) and when it is personally costly (speaking on ethnic reconciliation and racialized Injustice). Otherwise, pro-life seems to many minorities to be a policy position that truly refers only to life before the baby has a perceived color, and when it can serve a certain political agenda. It is important that all pro-life advocates ask a few important questions. Is your credibility to march as pro-life hindered by your indifference in other areas related to human flourishing? Do you lack credibility to quote black abortion statistics because you have shown a lack of interest or concern in other areas affecting the flourishing of black lives? Let your pro-life convictions be the overflow of a love that is passionate about all life and encompasses the Imago Dei in all people through all of its precious stages.
Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a Biblical Counselor. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he has received an associates in Biblical/Theological Studies and a Bachelors in Biblical Counseling. Currently, he is finishing an advanced M. Div in Historical Theology and is preparing to plant and pastor a transcultural church in central Florida.