Activists Protest Anti-Abortion Campaign Targeting Women of Color

By Rachel Walden |

Earlier this week, the so-called “Pro-Life Freedom Ride” (alluding to the civil rights freedom rides) arrived at the King Center in Atlanta to demonstrate in opposition to abortion rights. The “freedom ride” campaign is being organized by Priests for Life to “build…on a method that the Civil Rights Movement used effectively forty years ago,” and consists of anti-abortion activists taking a bus to cities “with strategic significance for the movement” (such as Atlanta and Birmingham) to demonstrate against abortion.

The “ride” to Atlanta follows up on previous efforts in the state targeting women of color with the goal of restricting abortion. Atlanta was the target earlier this year of an anti-abortion billboard campaign targeting Black women by referring to Black children as an “endangered species.” Also this year, race-focused anti-abortion legislation was defeated in the state; it was opposed by groups of women of color including SisterSong, SPARK, and SisterLove, who were also active in organizing protests of the “pro-life freedom rides.”

Loretta Ross of SisterSong filed this report {PDF] from their protests of the “Ride” at this week’s events, writing that:

…it was surreal seeing all these white folks carrying signs that said “Abortion is the #1 Killer of Black America.” Can you imagine the optics of the scene? Here’s a group of white folks claiming to save Black babies being protested by mostly African American women and men who are shouting “Trust Black Women!”? Once we saw their signs, Paris instantly created a new chant: “Racism is the #1 Killer of Black America, not Black Women!”

In a statement [PDF] prior to the event, the organizations wrote that the “rides” were “no more than a ploy to turn back the clock on Black women’s right to reproductive freedom,” and Ross got to the heart of the offense of the event, including the appropriation of an important civil rights legacy in the service of restricting the rights of women of color:

We are offended by their cynicism, opportunism, and outright distortions of historical facts. Both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King firmly supported reproductive justice for women. Lies by anti-abortionists, no matter how often repeated, cannot change those historical facts.

As Dazon Dixon Diallo of SisterLove stated:

The actions planned by Priests for Life [the group organizing the rides] are insulting, disrespectful, and completely antithetical to the struggle for women’s human rights. They should be ashamed of themselves, and it is our job as Black women and people of color to shame them!

We would expand that to it being the job of *all* people who are pro-choice advocates for human rights and reproductive justice to resist these campaigns.

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