President Bush's Supreme Court nomination of conservative Samuel
Alito has reignited discussions over whether a woman's legal right
to choose an abortion is under a serious threat.
The pro-choice movement continues to face the challenges of
rallying reproductive rights supporters and defining and defending
the term "choice." But has it really stopped to consider how
"choice" applies to the options and resources available to low-
income and minority women?
The pro-choice movement has long established its cause as
defending a woman's right to choose. Yet for many women, that choice
is nonexistent. The cost of raising a child in the United States
today is nearly $200,000. With an egregious lack of affordable
healthcare, housing, and educational opportunities, many poor women
of color may simply opt out of bringing a child into the world.
The numbers bear this out: Minority women are more likely to live
in poverty than other women in their states and in the nation as a
whole, according to 2001 US Census figures. Further, women having
abortions have become increasingly likely to be poor, nonwhite, and
unmarried, and already have one or more children; two-thirds say
they cannot afford to have a child, half say they do not want to be
a single parent, according to a 2005 Alan Guttmacher Institute
As a feminist of color, I am often frustrated by feminists and
pro-choice activists who consistently engage in a two-sided
reproductive rights dialogue void of discussions of race and class.
Where are the reactions to the fact that although blacks constitute
only 13 percent of the US population, they account for nearly 36
percent of abortions, according to Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention 2001 figures?
It is time the national pro-choice movement - which aligns itself
with women's empowerment and autonomy - widens the conversation to
include and advocate the numerous issues faced by women whose daily
needs and concerns remain largely neglected and marginalized.
It is easy to become engrossed in today's divisive reproductive
rights jargon without realizing the fuller historic context of women
of color and the American pro-choice movement.
For example, consider the opinions of Margaret Sanger, a white
1920s birth-control advocate and the founder of the American Birth
Control League (later to become Planned Parenthood).
In her 1920 publication "Women and the New Race," Sanger claimed
"every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and institution
for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too prolific
breeding among wage-workers. …