When it comes to race and abortion, it’s well-known in the pro-life movement that Planned Parenthood was created with the purpose of eliminating certain groups — including Black Americans. Black women have always been a target of the attempts to curb the population, through forced and coerced sterilization, birth control, and eventually abortion. It’s because of this that when the Black Lives Matter movement evolved, following multiple killings of Black Americans like George Floyd, the pro-life movement joined in with displays stating that preborn Black lives also matter.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent shows that while the percentage of abortions among white women fell during 2019, the percentage of abortions among Black women increased over 14% (when comparing raw numbers of Black abortions year to year). In 2018, abortions on Black babies accounted for 33.6% of all reported abortions compared to 38.4% of all reported abortions in 2019. This was the highest percentage reported in several years.
At the time of Floyd’s death, Gloria Purvis was the host of the Catholic EWTN show “Morning Glory,” but after she spoke out about Floyd’s death, the show was canceled without an explanation. Purvis (now the host of the Gloria Purvis Podcast) and Cherilyn Holloway (founder of the organization Pro-Black Pro-Life) recently spoke to Live Action News about the pro-life movement, abortion, the Black community, and racism.
On the right to life and natural death
“I can’t even think of a time that I ever thought abortion could be — would be — the right answer, and I think [that was] probably because of science at first,” Purvis told Live Action News. “Just knowing that’s a human. It’s a member of the human family. I mean, what do they think grows in a woman’s womb? A carburetor? It’s really just basic biology class and part of our development process is to grow in the womb. I never ever considered terminating that life as a right thing — even as people have tried to position it as a right for a woman — and part of that is because I never considered a right to be contrary to the nature of a thing. It is within the nature of women to become pregnant and bear children, and so to me, it just seemed counter to our nature as life bearers of our species that killing our children could never be a right properly understood.”
Understanding basic science and human rights and living the Catholic faith all aligned with Purvis’ pro-life stance, because each allows her to see that every human being — inside the womb and out — is worthy of dignity and respect. To her, being pro-life is common sense, as is fighting to protect lives after birth.
On being pro-life and pro-racial justice
The racial injustice that exists in the abortion industry exists after Black babies are born, too. Purvis believes that to care about saving Black lives from abortion should translate into caring for Black lives after birth. She is attuned to the racial injustices that steal Black lives after birth. She argues, “Life in the womb is worthy of protection and so is life outside the womb. We don’t have a conflict about doing both. We see that our community is hurt, how could we not?”
Being both pro-life and pro-racial justice all came to the forefront when Floyd was killed. As Black Americans mourned injustice against Black lives outside the womb, pro-lifers (who fight for the right to life of all preborn human beings) were quick to point out the racism of the abortion industry. For many, Floyd’s death seemed like an opportunity for pro-lifers to show that they care about life from the womb to the tomb — and they felt this did not happen.
“We saw how our fellow pro-lifers spoke about Floyd,” said Purvis. “How his dignity didn’t matter. We saw his right to life and to a natural death didn’t matter. […] This hostility was almost shocking. If you watch the video of this man’s murder, it’s gut-wrenching. When he was calling out for his mama it nearly broke me.”
Purvis said in watching Floyd’s death, she felt the same “helplessness you feel when you watch an abortion being performed — when they show in the womb the destruction of that child’s life. That feeling that you have is the same feeling that I had watching it. The revulsion, the powerlessness, the anger, the sadness, the whole gamut. And that ability to be able to connect with the person being murdered was the same as the child in the womb whose life is being violently taken away.”
Purvis noticed that because Floyd didn’t have a clean record, some people believed he deserved to die in the way that he did. She explained that qualifying someone based on their past actions is a rejection of our understanding of the dignity of the human person. Just because a preborn baby might not be perfect, or a born person might not be innocent, does not mean they forfeit the right to life without due process.
“People asked, ‘What did [George Floyd] do to deserve that?’ There’s nothing anybody can do to deserve that. They were looking for reasons to justify his murder,” she said. “Just like we see people looking for reasons to justify killing the life of the child in the womb. It’s just so parallel. We [in the Black community] saw it.”
Telling people to choose life vs. helping people to choose life
When it comes to abortion in the Black community, the reasons women choose abortion are in line with the reasons any woman chooses abortion. There is fear, lack of support, and lack of resources. Cherilyn Holloway of Pro-Black Pro-Life offered her thoughts as to why the abortion rate for Black women is so much higher than the abortion rate for white women.
“I believe that this is two-fold,” she told Live Action News. “One is the availability to this option in their neighborhoods. There is not a counter offer to help ‘solve the problem.’ Abortion clinics offer an immediate solution to a crisis situation. Also, the stigma behind single-parenting, and all of the negative rhetoric that comes with it.” Abortion facilities are heavily located in minority neighborhoods and make their presence known by positioning themselves in the schools and providing teenagers with birth control. When that birth control fails, the people that these teens and young adults have come to trust are the people at the abortion facility.
Holloway feels that the biggest misconception surrounding Black women and abortion is that they choose abortion out of ignorance. She explained, “Black women are not a monolith. They are making this life-altering decision because they see no other way. The options in their community and sphere of influence can be limited based on where they live.”
Purvis noted that the pro-life community wants women to have their babies when they are facing difficult circumstances. But when women do choose life, there is often the question of why are poor women having babies? The real question, she said, is why are these women poor? It is likely that they are unmarried and they work jobs that don’t offer sick leave, maternity leave, or health insurance. That’s where pro-life pregnancy centers work to fill in any gaps they can — helping women secure jobs, housing, health insurance, and whatever else they may need. That support continues after the baby is born.
Pro-lifers and politics
Purvis believes politicians of both major parties need to be held accountable to support family life and work to create a more family-focused atmosphere. “We say we value marriage and family and bonding with the child yet we have these rules that effectively separate mothers from their children,” Purvis said. “How are you gonna tell a woman that her baby is six weeks and she needs to get back to work? It undercuts what we say about bonding and breastfeeding.”
Though the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, for women in poverty, going without pay can be devastating. European nations offer paid maternity leave anywhere from 14 weeks to 58 weeks.
“The real problem is I think people have erroneously conflated being pro-life with the same thing as being associated with a particular political party,” said Purvis. “I think that wrongly minimizes what the pro-life movement is or what the pro-life ethos is. I think the danger in it is that people think you have to line up with every talking point of a political party; otherwise, you are undercutting the abortion movement if you don’t.”
Holloway agrees, saying, “Abortion is not a political issue. It is a life issue. Politicizing it allows one to divide it and place it separate from other values. We are talking about the dignity of human life. ”
Hope for the future
In addition to holding politicians’ feet to the fire, Purvis also believes we need a revolution of love. “Christianity is calling us to a revolution,” she said. “I’m hopeful, and within the Black community, there are those of us who speak to and serve our community from a position of love for our community from the womb to the tomb. And if you’re not equipped to do that, help those of us who are.”
Holloway notes that pro-life supporters can help by supporting pregnancy resource centers serving minority communities. “Join boards and expand the services to more wrap around, holistic care,” she said. “Who can you partner with for these services even if they do not share the same faith or belief system? If an organization is offering housing assistance, education, child-care… build a bridge.”
The pro-life community is largely one of compassion and love. But we must be willing to see existing shortcomings and flaws and work to overcome them, so that more lives can be saved — from the womb to the tomb.
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