Now she thinks about her unborn children the way King David spoke about losing his own son shortly after birth. “The child cannot come back to me,” Dalger says. “But I will go to him.”
Many African-American leaders were once solidly pro-life. Today, black pro-lifers swim against a tide of pro-abortion activism and entrenched difficulties in some of their communities, but they’re also finding truth and compassion can make headway.
THE MESSAGES ON BILLBOARDS AND SIGNS that popped up around Cleveland in early 2018 purported to offer compassion and truth from Preterm, Ohio’s largest abortion center, but instead announced tragic messages:
“Abortion is sacred.” “Abortion is a family value.” “Abortion is a blessing.”
They also proclaimed: “Abortion saved my career.” “Abortion saved my future.” “Abortion saved my children.”
Pro-lifers noticed the signs.
They also noticed something else: Many of the billboards popped up in predominantly black neighborhoods. Preterm’s own website declares: “Because of racial injustice, women of color are more likely to need abortions. … For us, reproductive justice includes racial justice.”
Ryan Bomberger’s group, the Radiance Foundation, joined local pastors and pro-life groups around Ohio to respond to the signs. They set up their own billboards:
“Abortion is big business.” “Abortion is regret.” “Abortion is systemic racism.”
Pro-abortion groups reject the idea of abortion as a form of racism, but pro-life advocates have noted a high percentage of Planned Parenthood centers operate within walking distance of black or Hispanic communities. Planned Parenthood disputes how high that percentage reaches, but no one disputes African-American mothers obtain abortions at a higher rate than other groups of women.
Whatever the motives, abortion centers cultivate a substantial customer base in African-American communities and raise funds to make abortions cheap or free for women who can’t afford them.
Groups like Preterm say some black women can’t afford to parent children. Pro-lifers know women need material help to care for children both before and after birth, and a network of pregnancy care centers and maternity homes help meet many such material needs each year.
Roland Warren, an African-American and the president of Care Net, a network of 1,100 pregnancy care centers around the United States, says communities with high abortion rates also have deeper needs.
“I never talk about the sanctity of life issue without talking about the sanctity of marriage,” he says. “Those two things are linked together, and you can’t have one without the other.”
Noting the high rate of unmarried mothers in African-American and other communities, Warren says a key to helping women decide to keep their children is helping couples pursue marriage, so a mother and a father can be in the home. In the cases where that doesn’t happen, mothers need to know they have a network of relational support beyond childbirth.
That takes discipleship, Warren says, and Care Net has launched a program (called Making Life Disciples) to train small groups in churches to mentor and support women and families facing unplanned pregnancies. The goal: to more intentionally partner local churches with local pregnancy centers to offer help beyond the center’s walls.
Warren thinks this is an area where pro-life Christians need to grow: “Christians have been viewing the life issue as a material issue or a political issue. The church hasn’t been viewing the life issue as a discipleship issue.”
Back in Ohio, Preterm continues with its campaign to disciple women toward abortions, despite the loss involved. Those losses include at least one mother: In 2014, Lakisha Wilson, a 22-year-old black woman, died of medical complications related to her abortion at Preterm. A county medical examiner ruled the abortion center wasn’t at fault.
A year later the group Physicians for Reproductive Choice gave Preterm abortionist Lisa Perriera its “George Tiller, MD, Abortion Provider Award”—which recognizes abortionists who have “overcome opposition” and taken “courageous action to protect and expand abortion in their state.”
IN THE 1970s, African-Americans were among the first courageous voices decrying legalized abortion. Mildred Jefferson, a surgeon and the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, helped start the National Right to Life Committee in the 1970s.
In a Jet magazine article about black abortion in 1973, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (who is now pro-abortion) called abortion “genocide.”
African-American Pastor Clenard Childress came to pro-life activism in the 1990s, and also calls abortion “black genocide.”
Childress, the New Jersey director for the Life Education and Resource Network, was one of several black pastors who called for the Smithsonian Institution to remove a bust of Margaret Sanger in 2015.