Expand the Pro-Choice Dialogue
Mohottige, Dinushika, The Christian Science Monitor
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 report.
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. …