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Gillibrand’s Out-Of-Touch Views On Abortion And Race Ignore The Black, Southern Democrat

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) recently pledged to nominate only SCOTUS candidates who would uphold Roe v. Wade should it end up back under consideration by the highest court in the land.


She also made comments during an interview with the Des Moines Register that raised eyebrows because it sounded a lot like she was equating pro-life policy positions with racism.

“I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have as a society decided that the other side is not acceptable,” Gillibrand said when questioned whether or not appointing judges with a clear policy bias would threaten judicial independence. “Imagine saying that it’s okay to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Telling– asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America, I don’t think that those are political issues anymore.”

“There is no moral equivalency when you come to racism,” Gillibrand added, “and I do not believe there is a moral equivalency when it comes to changing laws that deny women reproductive freedom.”

If Gillibrand is honestly trying to say being pro-life is akin to being a bigot she may have a tough sell, even within her own party and especially in the South where pro-life legislation has been percolating and forcing a new debate. That’s because, as Salena Zito reports in the New York Post, there’s a not-insignificant contingent of pro-life Democrats from the South that are black:


"And here’s a fact that might surprise people north of the Mason-Dixon Line — 58 percent of the pro-life Democrats in Louisiana are black. In Mississippi, that number jumps to 73 percent. “The point is … Democrats who call themselves pro-life … in most states are black,” said Anderson. (Full disclosure: Anderson is a partner at OnMessage Inc. with Brad Todd, co-author of my book, “The Great Revolt.”)

“It’s a little fact that’s been around for a long, long time that the Democrats just conveniently ignore,” he added. “The place where Republicans get pro-life Democrat support is a subset of black Democrats.”

Then of course, there’s Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, himself a black man for anyone (Gillibrand?) unaware, who recently wrote a concurrence in the Indiana abortion case Box v. Planned Parenthood in which he, more or less, started a conversation about the personhood of a fetus by wondering if a fetus can be discriminated against based on, among other things, race. Thomas used the history of eugenics in this country — basically a movement to ensure the “unfit” are discouraged or prevented from reproducing — as the basis for the question.

"To Justice Thomas’s chagrin, last week’s Supreme Court ruling only partially settled the matter. It upheld the state requirement on the disposal of fetal remains but declined to consider the constitutionality of laws that prohibit what he termed “eugenic” abortions. Sooner or later, writes Justice Thomas, the court will have to take up the issue. “Having created a constitutional right to an abortion, this Court is dutybound to address its scope.”


Unfortunately for Gillibrand, the data doesn’t support her contention either, as minority communities are aborting their children at alarmingly high rates, a situation Jeanne Mancini, President of March For Life, terms “targeting.” And it's reasonable to ask how minorities who might be pro-life and choose to have their own children would be discriminating against themselves.

“Senator Gillibrand should review CDC abortion data before making wildly erroneous and inflammatory comments that equate the pro-life movement with racism,” Mancini told TownHall, echoing Thomas' eugenics lesson. “If she did, she would find that the people most disproportionately targeted for abortion are Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Americans with a disability.”

Gillibrand, who remains near the bottom of the Democratic contenders with regard to support for a presidential run, is certainly trying to appeal to what she believes is her base when she equates being pro-life with bigotry. And for good reason. It’s been a long-accepted truth that most black and Hispanic Americans are Democrats and most Democrats support Roe v. Wade. 

But if Zito’s reporting is cutting edge, what’s being revealed is that long-held party truths are only as good as the status quo. And if that status quo begins to shift — because, for example, backlash pro-life legislation is written in the South in response to the passage of pretty extreme late-term abortion legislation in other areas of the country — Democrats like Gillibrand may discover her base is made up of individuals with individual consciences. And that could present quite a problem for a party that requires near lock-step groupthink.


Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.

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