On every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Americans remember the civil rights movement’s undeniably positive impact on public life. Increasingly, we also remember the work that still must be done to end the persisting racism in this country. Awareness of systemic racism — racial or ethnic discrimination embedded within the laws and regulations of a society — grew exponentially following the 2020 protests responding to George Floyd’s death.
Yet, while the necessary discussions about systemic racism have taken root, Americans on both sides of the political aisle still ignore the most blatant modern example of systemic racism: the public funding of the abortion industry.
In 2021, Planned Parenthood received more than $633 million in taxpayer funding, making up 37% of the organization's total revenue. While Planned Parenthood pretends that abortion makes up just 4% of its services, looking at the organization’s internal rhetoric paints a vastly different picture.
For example, in 2019, Planned Parenthood fired former president Dr. Leana Wen after just 8 months due to “philosophical differences.” While Wen accepted the position “to run a national health care organization,” the Planned Parenthood’s board wanted “to double down on abortion rights advocacy.” If Planned Parenthood were truly a healthcare provider, it would have pivoted towards Wen’s vision, but abortion will always be the organization’s ultimate end.
While abortion is inherently problematic because it denies the preborn their unalienable right to life, America’s largest abortion vendor, Planned Parenthood, is also the clearest example of the abortion industry’s systemic racism.
The organization’s founder, Margret Sanger, shepherded the American eugenics movement and sought a “gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks—those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.”
She even established her facilities in minority communities to stop their population growth. Today, Planned Parenthood continues to target people of color. Nearly 80% of these abortion facilities are within walking distance of predominantly Latino and Black neighborhoods.
Racial disparity does not automatically signal discrimination, but when paired with how Planned Parenthood’s racist legacy informs the organization’s current strategy for attracting customers, their racism is undeniable. It is no coincidences that in 2019 Black and Hispanic women made up almost 39% and 21% of abortions, respectively, despite being only 12% and 18% of the US population.
In Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, they argue that they “cannot advance health equity without addressing racism. Structural racism continues to harm Planned Parenthood patients, preventing them from achieving their optimal health outcomes.” What the organization fails to clarify is that to them, “optimal health outcomes” includes ending almost 400,000 lives, most of which are people of color.
While Planned Parenthood may now openly condemn Sanger, they have not shifted from the strategies she employed to achieve her racist ends. Planned Parenthood continues to fervently deny their obvious intentions while still employing the strategies their founder used to achieve her perverse goal: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”
But the abortion industry’s racism is not limited to Planned Parenthood. Fundamentally, the abortion industry predicates itself on the conclusion that human beings do not have equal value and some human lives are expendable. No statement could be more antithetical to true social justice.
As a first-generation Latina American, I mourn for how abortion has ravaged my community and I am not alone in recognizing the damage abortion does to people of color. MLK’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, puts it plainly: “We can no longer sit idly by and allow this horrible spirit of murder to cut down, yes cut out and cut away our unborn, and destroy the lives of our mothers.”
So, I implore you: if you identify as an anti-racist, seriously examine whether your defense of people of color ends when it is no longer in line with your political agenda. Stop appropriating our experiences and challenges to justify abortion’s grave evil.
Systemic racism persists in this country through abortion’s public funding, but to dismantle it, we must first acknowledge the abortion industry’s exploitation of women, particularly women of color. Instead of allowing the abortion industry to profit from abusing the most vulnerable Black and Brown bodies, fight for racial justice by defunding the abortion industry and empowering women to choose life.
Stephanie Luiz is the New England Regional Coordinator for Students for Life of America.