The downfall of the abortion business will be in sight when the black Christian community not only joins the pro-life movement, but shares in its leadership. This would represent the third wave of the modern pro-life movement.
The first wave was primarily a Catholic surge arising in the late 1960s. As abortion “rights” emerged, Catholic doctors, ethicists, and laypeople began to make the case for life. As a practical matter, they were soon providing "emergency pregnancy services” for women who were distressed and unprepared to be mothers. As a result, the pro-life movement developed along two lines. One appealed to the conscience of the nation about the injustice of abortion. The other rescued actual young mothers caught up in difficult circumstances.
In the early 1980s, the second wave arrived. Evangelical Christians flooded into the cause. One tributary had formed in the late 1970s, when Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop introduced to the Evangelical community a book and film series called “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” This awakened Evangelicals to abortion as the diminution of human life. Leaders such as D. James Kennedy and Jim Dobson urged engagement. By the 1990s, evangelicals fully shared in the leadership of the movement.
You can read the polls and see that there is a tick, tick, tick toward pro-life conviction. The annual number of abortions hovers now around 1.2 million per year, down from 1.7 million. But we are not surging forward. We are stuck. And we will witness nothing more than minor and incremental progress now until the Third Wave arrives.
If the civil rights movement had actually kept its focus on the main issue—the dignity of personhood, as Martin Luther King, Jr., articulated it, they would have transitioned from achieving equal rights for black people to achieving equal rights for unborn people. King’s own logic would have taken them there. He argued, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
King and the sanitation workers in Memphis exposed the injustice of racism in four simple words: "I am a man." With this poignant claim, they appealed to our shared humanity and the intrinsic rights that come with being human. Being human is the predicate of civil rights protection. But injustice anywhere, includes the womb. Scientifically speaking, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings from the moment of conception.
This natural extension of the fight for human rights almost happened. A number of civil rights leaders, including Dick Gregory, H. Rap Brown, and Jesse Jackson all denounced abortion as genocide in the 1970s. Jackson explained the moral trajectory of civil rights toward the pro-life cause, writing,
Another area that concerns me greatly, namely because I know how it has been used with regard to race, is the psycholinguistics involved in this whole issue of abortion. If something can be dehumanized through the rhetoric used to describe it, then the major battle has been won. . . . That is why the Constitution called us three-fifths human and then whites further dehumanized us by calling us "niggers." It was part of the dehumanizing process. The first step was to distort the image of us as human beings in order to justify that which they wanted to do and not even feel like they had done anything wrong. Those advocates of taking life prior to birth do not call it killing or murder; they call it abortion.
A tsunami of justice for unborn children ought to have come from the civil rights movement. But it dissolved away, just as the civil rights movement itself dissipated. By closing its mouth to the plight of the unborn person, the civil rights movement lost all its power. It degenerated into an organized effort representing a constituent group rather than a noble ideal. Gone was the higher principle of justice for all people.
As the civil rights movement died, the pro-life movement emerged. Now 40 years later, my own conviction is that the cause of justice for the unborn is at a high-water mark. As I said before, it will rise no further, remaining far short of the goal, until a third wave arrives: a flood of African-American engagement and leadership.
Long ago, Planned Parenthood explicitly identified its profit zones: “young women, low-income women, and women of color” (Planned Parenthood Plan of Action, 1997). One study reports that 62.5 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in cities where blacks represent a higher percentage of the population compared to the overall population of the state.
Black women, who represent 12 percent of the female population, suffer 37 percent of all abortions. Latina women represent 13 percent of the female population but suffer another 20 percent of all abortions. Together, they suffer 57 percent of all abortions yet they represent only 25 percent of our nation’s population.
Rev. Clenard Childress explains the numbers: “The abortion industry kills as many Black people every four days as the Klan killed in 150 years. Since 1973, legal abortion has killed more Blacks than AIDS, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and violent crime combined.”
Since those who profit in shedding innocent blood concentrate on black and Latino neighborhoods, these abortionists cannot survive without the silent approval of the black and Latino pastors, leaders, and churches in those neighborhoods. When these groups take up the cause of human rights (again), but this time for the unborn, and expose the bloody injustice of abortion itself, then will we see a radical surge forward, and probably the end of abortion as a business.
That is why the rise of Ryan Scott Bomberger as a pro-life leader gives me hope. Ryan (pictured above) was conceived in the unspeakable crime of rape, and adopted by white parents. He grew up in a home with 13 children, three "original" to his parents, and 10 more adopted from white, black, mixed, Asian, and Native-American backgrounds. Today Ryan runs the Radiance Foundation, which educates people about the unborn and calls for human rights for all humans. As a black man he is particularly zealous to expose "the eugenic racism that gave birth to Planned Parenthood and the tragic alliance that exists between the nation’s oldest civil rights group [the NAACP], and the nation’s abortion giant.”
It appears that God has designed things so that only together—black, white, Latino, male and female, Catholic and Protestant—are we to carry the day. If we are going to make history, our movement must reflect the Body of Christ. Together we may well prove “mightier than the waves of the sea” (Psalm 93:4).
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