The hypocrisy of modern America’s worst human-rights abusers claiming to walk in the footsteps of her finest human-rights champions will never cease to disgust. In a new interview with Essence Magazine that tries to tie “safe reproductive care access for all” into Black History Month, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Chair Alexis McGill Johnson makes the following comparison:
These things like 20-week bans or not fighting to reimburse Medicaid expansion are like literacy tests. These are like poll taxes. These are things that women have fought for that are natural extensions of health care. [Lawmakers] are trying to essentially chip away at rights that have been affirmed in our constitution. We have to be better about continuing to tell that story.
Voter literacy tests and poll taxes were racist schemes to circumvent black Americans’ right to vote with barriers that exploited the educational and economic opportunities they were also denied, to keep them as close to slavery as possible in everything but name. They protected nobody and served no social good, making them about as unlike laws protecting children from skull-puncturing and dismemberment as you can get.
Also unlike abortion, the right to vote actually is “affirmed in our constitution,” specifically the 15th Amendment. The closest anyone can find for abortion are shaky inferences from the Constitution’s indirect allusions to privacy in the Bill of Rights which range from “too vague to affirm a right to abortion” to “explicitly addressing something completely different from abortion.” As distinguished—and pro-choice—law professor John Hart Ely puts it, Roe v. Wade “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”
Roe brings us to a third way the comparison fails. Whereas Roe abruptly and undemocratically reversed the majority of the country’s abortion laws, intensifying national divisions rather than resolving them, it was the American people and their elected representatives who ended poll taxes and literacy tests with the passage of the 24th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Winning over your countrymen tends to work a bit better when the freedom you’re fighting for is real.
Say, you know whose perspective on the civil rights era might be just a teensy bit more informed? Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. At this year’s March for Life, she had a run-in with some of the very people whom Johnson would have you believe are carrying on her uncle’s legacy. However, because Dr. King happens to be a tireless pro-life champion who sees saving babies instead of butchering them as the next great equality frontier, they had a rather less enlightened reaction:
Who is that old n****r b***h on the ground?
Which side of the poll tax debate does that remind you more of?
And of course, who could forget that more than a few pro-aborts hailed abortion as a nifty way to cut down on, as NARAL’s Nancy White once put it, “the 54% of Black children born to unwed mothers” who “are not productive members of society”?
That’s not to say that today’s pro-choicers are racist. But overlap between yesterday’s oppression of blacks and today’s destruction of babies is no coincidence. Though sustained by different motives and interests, both are ultimately enabled by the same impulse that enables one person to look at another and say, “Your humanity means nothing against my desires.”