By Isabel Gibson Penrose, Opinions Editor
Recently, the Young Americans for Freedom have put up posters around Gettysburg’s campus that make various claims about abortion. Here’s an assessment of how accurate their claims are.
The Poster Shows: A sonogram of a fetus photoshopped to be holding a sign reading, “I Am A Person.”
Science Shows: A more accurate sign would read, “I Could Gestate and Develop into a Person, Eventually.” According to the Guttmacher Institute one-third of abortions occur six weeks into the pregnancy or earlier (when the fetus is an embryo that consists of two layers of cells,) and 89 percent occur within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy (when the fetus is about the size of a kidney bean). The depiction of women who get abortions as baby killers is both harmful and factually inaccurate.
The Poster Says: “Every day in America, an average of 3,315 human beings lose their lives to abortion.”
Facts Say: The statistic of 3,315 checks out as accurate – but is presented without context, when context is vital. There are around 1.2 million abortions performed each year in the United States, putting the abortion rate at about 20 per every 1,000 women aged 15-44. Worldwide the rate is higher, with 28 abortions per every 1,000 women aged 15-44. America is not the lone country where abortions are performed, but we are lucky enough to live in a country where the abortions that are performed are safe and legal.
Also, I feel it is important to reiterate that abortion is not synonymous with loss of life. It is a completely safe and legal medical procedure that terminates a pregnancy that could have otherwise developed into a fetus.
The Poster Says: “Abortion is the number one killer of black lives in the United States. More than HIV. More than diabetes. More than cancer. Abortion snuffs out more black lives than all other causes of death. Combined.”
Facts Say: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the number one cause of death among black Americans is heart disease, while cancer is the number two cause. Diabetes is cause number six for black men and number four black women. HIV does not even crack the top ten, begging the question of why it was even included in the poster’s list. Abortion is not mentioned, because (I’ll say it again) abortion is not a killer.
The Posters Say: “Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America. 78% of their clinics are in minority communities.”
Facts Say: Planned Parenthood provides a variety of services to millions of patients each year – according to the Washington Post abortion makes up about 12 percent of those services (they arrived at that statistic by dividing the 327,653 abortion procedures Planned Parenthood reported by the 2.7 million patients that visited Planned Parenthood in 2013). So yes, Planned Parenthood is a provider of safe and legal abortion services. The first sentence checks out!
The second one is a little less cut and dry. According to NPR, 60% of the approximately 1,700 clinics that provide abortion services are located in majority-white neighborhoods. This statistic also holds true of the providers that perform over 400 abortions a year – 58 percent are in majority white neighborhoods. According to the Guttmacher Institute fewer than one in ten abortion providers are located in neighborhoods where more than half the residents are black. Responding to requests for demographic information Planned Parenthood released information which showed in 2013 that 14 percent of their patients in America were black – a number fairly proportional to the percentage of black people in the American population.
The idea that 78 percent of Planned Parenthoods are in minority communities while only 14 percent of Planned Parenthood patients are black is absurd.
Blackgenocide.org, the website where 78 percent statistic comes from, offers no sourcing and no evidence for their claim while NPR and the Guttmacher institute cite Planned Parenthood directly.
The Posters Say: “Blacks make up 12% of the population, but 35% of the abortions in America.”
I Say: Don’t refer to black people as “blacks.”
Facts Say: This checks out, sort of. Women of color are five times as likely to terminate a pregnancy as white women. However, this fact is also presented without context – context that is once again key to understanding.
In a powerful piece for the Washington Post Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore writes, “No one denies that the abortion rate in black communities is higher than in white communities, but failing to mention the underlying context behind these numbers demonstrates a disturbing lack of awareness of the impact of poverty and the realities faced by black women.” This is exactly where these posters fall shortest – offering statistic that have a place in the real world, instead of just the world of outrageous rhetoric.
YAF wants to shame black women for having abortions or rile people up into believing inane conspiracies about black genocide, but they don’t offer any viable solutions to problems like the poverty that impacts many black women in America.
The Posters Says: “#blacklivesmatter”
I Say: This is the worst invocation of the “Black Lives Matter” slogan I have ever seen. The Black Lives Matter Organization, founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, states on its website that BLM is “rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our de-humanization…[it] is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.” Taking such an empowering message and twisting it in an attempt to further the oppression of black woman is despicable.
The Posters Suggest: Websites like blackgenocide.org, facebook.com/PersonhoodEducation, and abort73.com
I Suggest: You stay away from these factually inaccurate and grossly offensive websites. If you’re interested in the Black Lives Matter movement I suggest you visit blacklivesmatter.com or check out Gettysburg’s own Black Student Union. If you’re interested in learning more about keeping abortion safe and legal I suggest you visit prochoiceamerica.org. If you’re interested in staying informed about both Black Lives Matter and abortion I suggest averting your eyes when you pass these posters in the hall or cutting out the alternative poster I have presented alongside this article – but please, please, don’t tear YAF’s posters down. That is not a debate we need to have again.