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I’m not a Laurence Tribe fan, but the Harvard Law professor seemed downright vicious when he tweeted, “White Supremacists oppose abortion. … Never underestimate the way those issues and agendas are linked.”
Tribe’s explanation lacked logic: He said they oppose abortion “because they fear it’ll reduce the number of white infants and thus contribute to what they fear as non-white ‘replacement.’” Actually, a black unborn child is three times as likely to be aborted as a white one. As Jason Riley of The Wall Street Journal reported, “In New York City, thousands more black babies are aborted than born alive each year.”
Riley is only one of many black writers and leaders who have pointed out abortionist racism. Mildred Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, was president of the National Right to Life Committee during the 1970s. Alveda King speaks widely and has called abortion “womb-lynching.” Roland Warren is president and CEO of Care Net, America’s largest network of pregnancy resource centers.
Others have also devoted their lives to affirming what John Perkins, WORLD’s 2020 Daniel of the Year, told me Thursday: “We hold these truths to be evident, that all lives matter to God.” But here’s something we need to admit on this 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision: The civil rights movement and the pro-life movement have sometimes been ships passing in the night, rather than allies in preserving lives.
I asked Perkins why and came away with three reasons. First, past wrongs have left a legacy: For centuries “black life was of no consequence to white folks. … My mother died of starvation, living on a white man’s land.” Perkins noted that several decades ago some who opposed abortion also opposed integration: The two issues were not linked, but it’s true that some who were pro-life had “lost the language of human dignity.”
Second, coming to recent events, overwhelming white evangelical support for Donald Trump has created “a credibility problem” with blacks. Perkins said white conservative opposition to abortion, but support of a man who never apologized for sexual activities that probably led to abortions, left many blacks suspicious: “You say some things are right and some things are wrong … but do you live that right?”
Third, the suffering Perkins underwent when Mississippi police jailed and assaulted him in 1970 deepened his commitment to Christ: “When they were beating me up I would have blown that place up if I had had a hand grenade.” Perkins remembers “bargaining with God” while he was helpless, and coming away with the goal of preaching “a gospel that could redeem them too.” He remembers the result: “They didn’t kill me, and I got some enlightenment.”
Perkins gained what underlines much pro-life activity: “I have gratitude to God for letting me live.” Bad as suffering is, God often uses it to increase our willingness to serve Him by protecting all the lives He creates.