Anti-abortionists Accuse Knoxville Planned Parenthood of 'Black Genocide'

The Pro-LIfe Coalition of East Tenn. cites DVD documentary 'Maafa 21' as evidence of a conspiracy to eradicate African-Americans

In May members of the Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee gather outside Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee’s new facility on Cherry Street. ProCET claims PPMET moved to this neighborhood to eradicate people of color.

photo by Frank Carlson

In May members of the Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee gather outside Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee’s new facility on Cherry Street. ProCET claims PPMET moved to this neighborhood to eradicate people of color.

On a breezy Friday afternoon in April, Cecil Clark stood on the corner of North Cherry Street and Washington Avenue, in East Knoxville, cooling himself in the shade of a tree and making small talk with passersby.

Wearing a black hat that said “FBI: Firm Believer in Jesus” and a white shirt that read “My God is a powerful God,” Clark was just a few hundred feet from True Vine Baptist Church, the humble building where he had been preaching for 20 years. Over the past few weeks, he had grown accustomed to seeing his church from this spot across the street, as he’d spent each Friday among a small group of anti-abortion activists protesting the new Planned Parenthood clinic located just behind him.

It was an unusual crew, these faithful few—Baptists and Catholics, whites and blacks, some looking well off, other looking less so—joined together in protest of this clinic, specifically, and of Planned Parenthood, abortion, birth control, and any sex education other than abstinence-only, in general. “I’d like for them to be shut down, period, because I’m against murdering babies,” Clark said simply, as a dump truck grumbling black exhaust made its way to the interstate ramp nearby.

True Vine Baptist Church sits across from Planned Parenthood’s new facility on Cherry Street. A banner out front reads “Black children are an endangered species” and is part of a billboard campaign sponsored by the Georgia Right to Life Foundation.

photo by Frank Carlson

True Vine Baptist Church sits across from Planned Parenthood’s new facility on Cherry Street. A banner out front reads “Black children are an endangered species” and is part of a billboard campaign sponsored by the Georgia Right to Life Foundation.

Clark seemed an old hand at this routine. Around him were hallmarks of the cause—a banner showing a fetus at various stages of development, placards that read “Women Do Regret Abortion” on one side, and on the other side, “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood.” Signs in Spanish read “Planned Parenthood Roba Almas”—Planned Parenthood robs souls. As it turned out, though, Clark was a recent convert. “I never paid any attention to abortion or pro-life or pro-choice,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have never known the difference. But when I sit down and look at ‘Amaafa 21,’ that changed my life completely.”

What Clark was referring to is Maafa 21, a DVD documentary given to him by Lisa Morris, spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee. Released about a year ago, this two-and a half-hour production posits that, rather than being a center for reproductive and women’s health, Planned Parenthood is actually an organization dedicated to the eradication of the black race. It’s a theory Morris and others say is evidenced by Planned Parenthood’s history, and by the fact that so many of its clinics, including this new one on Cherry Street, are found in minority neighborhoods.

Clark was confident it was true, even if murky on the details. “How abortion got started was to kill off all the black babies—that’s to get rid of the black race,” Clark explained. “Then that’s where Hitler...I believe it was Hitler that got this from—you know, you want to have, like, a pure race? Well, what had happened was, some black guys had got into Germany, and got some white women pregnant. And—when you look at abortion, that’s how abortion got started.”

Standing nearby was a member of Clark’s congregation, John Woods. Woods, also black, echoed Clark’s account with still fewer specifics. “Abortion started way back with Hitler. Hitler was active, wanting to destroy this racial people in order to show the dominance and his power,” Woods said in a monotone, adding that he believes Planned Parenthood is attempting to wipe out his race.

This argument isn’t entirely new. Questions about Margaret Sanger—widely credited as the founder of the birth control movement and closely associated with the origins of Planned Parenthood—have been raised since she began her work in the late 19th century by various groups hoping to discredit her movement. But what is somewhat new is who’s making this racial accusation: predominantly white, Republican, anti-abortion groups like ProCET, which just months ago successfully prevented the clinic from opening in a largely white area of West Knoxville.

It’s a strategy that raises a number of questions, chiefly about ProCET, the anti-abortion movement, and the next stage in this ongoing battle for women’s reproductive rights. Perhaps the most important one is this: Will it work?

***

Planned Parenthood has generated headlines over the past year with its move to the new facility on Cherry Street, but the organization has been in Knoxville since 1962, operating at a number of locations under slightly different names. In its nearly 50-year history, it’s been known as Planned Parenthood of the Southern Mountains, Planned Parenthood of Knoxville, and Planned Parenthood of East Tennessee. In 2000, it merged with the Middle Tennessee branch to become Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, or PPMET.

Over the past 20 years, the clinic’s been located in West Knoxville, on Northshore Drive and at two locations on Kingston Pike, including its most recent: a small, unremarkable space in a strip mall at Downtown West.

Jeff Teague, president of PPMET, says when the economy tanked last year, demand for the clinic’s services shot up. The bulk of the work PPMET does is pregnancy screenings and prevention, meaning providing affordable birth control in the form of pills, patches, rings, etc. It also provides cervical and breast cancer screenings, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and a host of sex education programs designed to reduce unwanted pregnancies and prevent STIs. Significantly, PPMET does not provide surgical abortions but does provide medicated abortions, the drug RU486. Teague says abortion-related services constitute about 5 percent of his organization’s work.

As demand for services rose, PPMET decided it needed more room and settled on a space in Homberg Place, in Bearden, owned by Holrob Commercial Realty. To enter into a lease and begin renovations, PPMET created a limited liability company—a common practice designed to restrict financial exposure—called Leonard Lawson LCC. Morris calls the creation of the LLC deceitful and credits divine intervention with revealing the plans to her organization. Details of LLCs and their owners are available online through the state treasury website.

At any rate, Morris and ProCET became aware of the move and began picketing the Homberg location, calling Holrob as well as the home of the contractor charged with renovating the space for PPMET. Teague says it was strange to see so much opposition when ProCET didn’t seem to have a problem with the clinic when it was at Downtown West, just a few miles up Kingston Pike. “It’s fascinating to me that they suddenly became concerned about us and our location in East Knoxville after us being there for 50 years,” Teague says. Morris says her organization should have been more vigilant before but says she worried that with an expansion, surgical abortion services would be added. Teague says PPMET had no plans to offer surgical abortions then or now, saying demand is already met by two other clinics—Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health and Volunteer Women’s Medical Clinic.

Embedded in the lease between PPMET and Holrob was a clause stating the lease could be terminated if any controversy arose, a clause Holrob chose to exercise in August. Teague describes the parting as mutual and a business decision. Soon after, PPMET found its current location on Cherry Street, and in February closed on the $296,000, 4,000-square-foot facility. Teague says the location and space are ideal. Already a medical office, it required only minor renovations, and located just off I-40, he says it’s accessible to clients both in town and around the region. He notes that PPMET routinely receives customers from across East Tennessee and as far away as Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina.

When the new clinic opened for business in March, so did ProCET’s weekly demonstrations. Originally scheduled to last through the end of Lent, in early April, they’ve been extended indefinitely. This is also around the time Maafa 21 and the black genocide argument began to publicly appear in Knoxville.

On March 16, ProCET and Baptist Tabernacle, a church on East Magnolia, welcomed Catherine Davis, the minority outreach director for the Georgia Right to Life Foundation. Under Davis’ leadership, Georgia Right to Life began a billboard campaign in early February in Atlanta featuring a frightened black child, eyes wide, with the words “Black children are an endangered species” written above. A banner sporting this message now sits in front of True Vine Baptist, among a few small, white crosses of the kind found outside many similarly-minded institutions.

With money donated from ProCET members, Morris ordered 100 copies of Maafa 21 and began handing them out to black ministers, like Clark. “They wanted us to give them specifically to people in the community who could make a difference,” Morris says, “to get the truth out. That being pastors, media, you know, and whoever else they felt like God was calling them to give to.”

To Teague and others, the sequence of events suggests ProCET is making an opportunistic and cynical argument. “They didn’t really seem to care about any communities of color before then,” he says of ProCET. “They didn’t care what we were doing, and then suddenly it became an easy tactic for them to sort of make it difficult for us to, you know, be in that neighborhood.”

Also in mid-March, an unidentified man phoned Steve Emmert, vice president of PPMET, and threatened his life. ProCET condemned the phone call, reiterating that it is a non-violent organization.

***

At two hours and 20 minutes, Maafa 21 is long for a documentary, but the breadth of its content and its pacing makes it feel far longer. Created by an anti-abortion company in Texas called Life Dynamics Incorporated, the DVD looks expensively produced and well-researched, making use of numerous documents, photos, and interviews to argue essentially two points: That Margaret Sanger was a racist who desired to eradicate the black race, and that Planned Parenthood today is carrying out that mission.

Even with its high production value, the DVD feels off in many ways: graphics identifying interview subjects are set askew, with beams of light flashing across the names in a way that’s tacky; quotes from historical documents are read aloud by actors, a la Ken Burns’ The Civil War, but sound overwrought (and, strangely, the historic voices identify themselves for the audience); most odd is that those interviewed—blacks and whites associated with various anti-abortion organizations—sound as though they’re reading aloud rather than speaking to an interviewer, suggesting a tightly controlled production rather than a distillation of interviews and reporting.

“Maafa” is a Swahili word meaning tragedy and refers to the history of capture and transportation of Africans for slavery. The number 21 refers to the 21st century, when the black genocide is supposedly still occurring. The documentary opens with the end of American slavery and the rise of the eugenics movement, and in the first hour focuses heavily on some of its members, their racist views, and their connection to Margaret Sanger. To bind them all together, the DVD makes use of a webbed diagram, the preferred visual aide of conspiracy theorists around the globe. The ultimate effect is to pin the sum of racist eugenicist ideas, including those of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, on Sanger, and to argue that she wanted to use birth control and abortion to eradicate the disabled, mentally challenged, and African-Americans.

Having thoroughly tarnished Sanger’s reputation, the second half is devoted to showing how the American Birth Control Federation, which Sanger founded and which later became Planned Parenthood Federation of America, put her beliefs into practice to create the black genocide occurring today. If there’s any doubt, the DVD argues, just look at the numbers: A black woman today is five times more likely than a white woman to obtain an abortion.

In a pivotal scene, African-Americans are interviewed on the street and asked to name the No. 1 cause of death in the black community. “Heart disease?” “HIV/AIDS?” “Diabetes?” they guess. “What if I told you,” the interviewer says to a young black man, “the real answer is abortion.” Clenard Childress, the northeast director of the Life Education and Resource Network, an anti-abortion group, then appears to drive the point home: “The abortion industry, at this point, kills as many African-American people every four days as the Klan killed in a 150 years, and you can truly say that the most dangerous place for an African-American to be is in the womb of an African-American mother.”

Also in the second half, the film attempts to co-opt the Civil Rights movement, quoting Cesar Chavez, the Black Panthers, and Jesse Jackson to show that they, too, suspected abortion was a means to eradicate minorities. In fact, Maafa 21 says, the first anti-abortion groups were the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam.

Of course, Jackson later changed his position to advocate for abortion rights. The film has an answer to why: He sold out his people so that he could solicit funds to run for president. “There’s never been a shortage of black leaders who have been willing to sell us down the river if there’s enough money and political power in it for them,” reasons Stephen Broder, a black pastor in Dallas, Texas.

Who else is in on the scheme? The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “There is definitely a conspiratorial plot being hatched, and has been hatched, by the NAACP to keep from their people the fact that they are co-conspirators in the genocide of their own people,” says Levon Yuille, a black pastor in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in Maafa 21. Yuille says the media are in on it, too, which explains why more of the country isn’t aware of this plot.

***

It’s little wonder Clark and Woods were hazy about the links between Sanger, Hitler, Planned Parenthood, and black genocide. Maafa 21 bombards its audience with so much information for so long that it is hard to keep any of it clear, the result being that one is left with general impressions and associations rather than specific causal relationships. It also means any attempt to untie its knots will be very labor-intensive.

Yet there are salient points that indicate real problems with the scholarship on which Maafa 21 is based (not least of which are the qualifications of its writer, director, and source, Mark Crutcher—see sidebar) and the information ProCET distributes. One of the more commonly used quotes from Sanger is this, from 1939: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea should it ever occur to any of their more rebellious members”—the implication being that Sanger was, in fact, planning an extermination and wanted to keep its existence a secret.

Esther Katz, a professor of history at New York University and editor of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project—an effort to collect, transcribe, and publish all of Sanger’s records—says there’s nothing sinister behind the remark. At the time, Sanger was involved in the Negro Project, an attempt to bring birth control to poor blacks in rural areas in the South. Some in the movement wanted to open clinics immediately, but Sanger thought an educational program was needed before instituting a clinic. “She understood blacks would be quite suspicious going to white clinics for that very reason, so she wanted to create coalitions with the black community leadership—ministers, teachers, etc.—and work with them first. And then they could work within the community to say, birth control services are available, they’re not meant to wipe out the black race, and they’re here to help,” Katz explains.

Other quotes are simply misattributed. Morris gave a speech to Clark’s congregation earlier this year, quoting Sanger as having said, “Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.” Katz says Sanger never said this.

Quotes aside, much of the foundation Maafa 21 builds its framework upon is Sanger’s association with eugenics, a scientific theory popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that today lies mainly in the shadow of its most heinous iteration, Nazi Germany. But Katz says that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what eugenics means. She says the type of eugenics Sanger espoused was more like what’s called genetic breeding today: an attempt to test for genes that might be harmful, like Huntington’s, and then decide whether to risk passing the disease on by having children. “She wanted to justify birth control by arguing that you could build a stronger human race by restraining the move to procreate when genetic diseases could be reproduced,” Katz says. “It was never directed at any one particular ethnic group or racial group. She certainly didn’t want to wipe out the black race, anyway.

“So the problem is that eugenics had this very conservative side—they wanted some groups to reproduce more and other groups to reproduce less. That was never anything Sanger wanted. She wanted everyone to reproduce less.” Regarding the Nazis and eugenics, Katz says Sanger never favored anything of the sort. “They wanted to breed an Aryan race, and so they wanted to breed out everything that wasn’t perfect and Aryan. Sanger was never in favor of that, she was opposed to all efforts to Nazism, to those experiments, to everything like that,” Katz says.

Another point Maafa 21 and ProCET raise is Sanger’s visit to a Ku Klux Klan rally. Here, there is some truth. In 1926, Sanger visited a Ku Klux Klan luncheon of women members in New Jersey. At the time, birth control was illegal under the Comstock Laws, and even giving out birth control information orally was illegal. Katz says Sanger was hoping to win support for a bill in order to legalize a clinic. “She describes this in her autobiography, that it was a weird event and she didn’t know where she was going. She found them weird, she never repeated the effort, and there’s no other documentation about it that we’ve ever been able to find,” Katz says.

Katz acknowledges that Sanger made mistakes in her effort to legalize birth control, including tailoring her arguments to win support from various groups, and often vilifying immigrants in particular. “Sanger was not a great intellect. I mean, she was very poorly educated, she was self-educated largely, in terms of this kind of science, and she was very naïve, I think, more than anything else.” In addition to her views on immigration, Sanger advocated for the sterilization of the mentally challenged, arguing they would not be able to control the urge to procreate. But while Sanger may have said or done things that today are objectionable, even abhorrent, Katz says Maafa 21 and the black genocide movement are flat wrong in their depiction of her views and work.

“If you want to have an argument about whether Sanger was or was not responsible for her decisions about eugenics, even what eugenics turned into, that’s a reasonable debate. That’s an honest debate, ” she says. “But debating whether she wanted to erase blacks from the face of the earth is just stupid. I mean, there’s no way she’s ever said any such thing. There’s no action she’s ever taken to signify that, so why would we be talking about it?”

Planned Parenthood makes a similar point. It continues to recognize Sanger as leading the way in ensuring women would have access to birth control and contraception, changing the lives of millions of women. “Despite all of that, there were some things that she said and did, in the context of being nearly a century ago, on the issue of eugenics that were wrong at the time, even though they may have seemed mainstream in some circles at the time, and they’re wrong today,” says Diane Quest, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Those views, though, have never been part of Planned Parenthood’s mission, or the care that it’s offered and provides to women today.”

***

Lisa Morris is spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee. She has been sharing Maafa 21 with members of the black community and believes Planned Parenthood is motivated by racism.

photo by Frank Carlson

Lisa Morris is spokeswoman for the Pro-Life Coalition of East Tennessee. She has been sharing Maafa 21 with members of the black community and believes Planned Parenthood is motivated by racism.

Lisa Morris is a petite, middle-aged woman with large eyes who describes herself as “just a mom.” She explains her involvement with ProCET as a combination of her faith and an abortion she had 30 years ago, believing in retrospect that event explains much of the pain she felt at the time. “Ten years after I’d had it,” Morris remembers, “I didn’t even recognize the connection between the chaos in my life and the abortion issue.”

Morris stands by Maafa 21 and the arguments it makes. “I will do whatever I can to bring the truth to light,” Morris says, “and if that means showing the DVD on how they started and that is what changes some people’s mind, then fine.” Even so, she says people shouldn’t get caught up on the race argument, saying Planned Parenthood “would just as soon have white women come in there too, or Hispanic, or Asian.” In fact, Morris and others make this point repeatedly. “The racist issue is part of it, but it’s not all of it, because abortion is abortion, no matter what color you are,” Morris says. If that’s true, if Planned Parenthood does take all comers, why make the race argument at all?

“We’re trying to use whatever the truth is, and if the history of Planned Parenthood is going to bring some people to the realization, then God will use that,” Morris says.

Paul Simoneau is director of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville’s office of justice and peace, and a member of ProCET. He says Maafa 21 raises important questions about Planned Parenthood’s past and present.

photo by Frank Carlson

Paul Simoneau is director of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville’s office of justice and peace, and a member of ProCET. He says Maafa 21 raises important questions about Planned Parenthood’s past and present.

Another member of ProCET is Paul Simoneau, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and director of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville’s office of justice and peace. In his position, Simoneau represents the social teachings of the church on issues like abortion and euthanasia, which he calls “the alpha and omega of the culture of death.” He draws on his military background to explain his involvement in the abortion fight, saying he learned never to leave the wounded behind.

Simoneau says he believes Planned Parenthood is motivated to eradicate the black race, and that Maafa 21 provides a valuable tool for discourse. He says he doesn’t know much about what research went into producing Maafa 21; nevertheless, he says he largely believes its contents, and recommends that those in doubt visit blackgenocide.com—which, as it happens, is the official website of Maafa 21, owned and maintained by Life Dynamics, the company that produced the film.

Simoneau also downplays the significance of the race argument, saying the issue is about life and that Planned Parenthood’s past is just one part of it. While raising the black genocide argument, both he and Morris would prefer to discuss traditional arguments against abortion. “The focus is not Maafa 21,” Simoneau says. “The focus is on life and whether what Planned Parenthood is really doing is really undermining the very fabric of our society by harming the family. That’s what I think the issue is.

“No matter what neighborhood they end up in, we just want them to stop. We don’t want them in our community. I think they’re harming our community.”

Nevertheless, Morris and Simoneau return to this argument, and like Maafa 21, pivot between Sanger’s biography and the prevalence of clinics in minority communities today to bolster the black genocide argument. Why, Simoneau repeatedly asks, if Planned Parenthood is not targeting minority communities, are four out of every five of its clinics located in communities of color?

However, it isn’t clear this is true. According to Planned Parenthood, using information from the 2000 U.S. Census, out of 841 Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide, just 5.8 percent, or about 42 clinics, are located in communities of color, defined as a ZIP code having a black population greater than 50 percent. While that metric is obviously imperfect—the ZIP code in which the Cherry Street clinic is found is majority white, according to this data set—it’s unclear what other metric could be used. Simoneau cites the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as his source, and indeed, a 2008 letter from Bishop Martin Holley, of Washington, D.C., says 80 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in communities of color. Asked how it obtained that statistic, the Pro-Life Secretariat’s office pointed to an article from the Life Issues Institute, an anti-abortion group, that gave the percentage as 60 percent, not 80. It quoted the figure from research conducted by Life Dynamics Incorporated.

Regardless of the actual percentage, Teague says it’s hardly evidence of a conspiracy. “We try to locate our health centers in locations where people need us,” Teague says. “Traditionally, the neighborhoods where communities of color are are neighborhoods and communities that are under-served by health-care providers. So us locating our health care services there is simply a means of providing access to desperately needed health-care services.”

Another point Simoneau and Morris touch on is the disproportionately high number of abortions obtained by black women. Here, they are correct, at least about the statistic: According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that works to advance reproductive rights, both the rate and number of abortions in the country have been falling over the last 25 years, but most abortions today are obtained by minority women. In 2004, black women received 37 percent of the total abortions, white women received 34 percent and Hispanic women obtained 22 percent. Considering racial proportions, this means black women were five times more likely to obtain an abortion than white women, and Hispanic women were twice as likely as white women. Why?

In a 2008 policy paper for Guttmacher, Susan Cohen explained the difference as a result of the number of unintended pregnancies in those respective communities, noting that black women were three times more likely to have unintended pregnancies than white women, and Hispanics were twice as likely. And why is this the case? According to Cohen, it “results mainly from similar disparities in access to and effective use of contraceptives,” pointing out that as of 2002, 15 percent of black women were having unprotected sex but not seeking to become pregnant, compared with 12 percent of Hispanic women and 9 percent of whites.

Returning to ProCET, Morris and Simoneau say they’re simply using the DVD to ask a question, and that people can make up their own minds whether they believe the content of the DVD or not. They encourage those with further questions to go online in search of more information, namely to websites associated with Life Dynamics and various anti-abortion groups. (“Just Google ‘Margaret Sanger genocide,’ ‘Margaret Sanger racism,’” Simoneau says.)

But their willingness to push an incendiary theory without verifying the scholarship or sources behind it raises serious questions about intellectual honesty in the pursuit of a goal. If one believes, as Simoneau and Morris do, that Planned Parenthood is engaged in evil, do the ends ever justify the means?

Simoneau says no. “I can’t lie to bring about a good. You just can’t do that. You have the two universal norms: do good and avoid evil. And you can’t do evil so that good may come of it. Absolutely not. That’s why we will never advocate a message of violence, because violence is evil. And you don’t get good coming from evil.”

However, he seems to miss the implications for ProCET and its distribution of Maafa 21. “And that is not what we see with Planned Parenthood,” Simoneau continues. “They’re trying to promote a good, supposedly making society more manageable, but they’re doing it through promoting an evil, which is the killing of the unborn.”

***

There are a few theories as to why this argument’s now appearing from groups like ProCET.

Loretta Ross, national director of Sister Song, an Atlanta-based organization seeking to advance reproductive rights for minorities, sees the black-genocide campaign as an attempt to split the black vote away from President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, while creating fissures within the abortion-rights community along race lines and in the black community along gender lines. Katz sees it as another means to discredit the reputations of Planned Parenthood and Sanger in order to undermine abortion rights and birth control. Cynthia Fleming, a professor of Africana Studies and History at the University of Tennessee, sees it as a way to capitalize on the conservative social values of many African-Americans in order to enlist them in the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. “African-Americans marched for civil rights. They even gave their lives and their livelihoods all in an effort to gain equal rights. But when it comes to marching in an anti-abortion demonstration, that’s not something you find a whole lot of,” Fleming says. “So I think what they want is more vocal support for their position from the black community. And I’ll be real curious to see how that plays out among African-Americans.”

But despite the apparent receptiveness of some black leaders to the ideas put forth in Maafa 21, the black genocide movement may be inherently limited in what it can achieve. Fleming points out that many anti-abortionists hold strongly negative views about social programs that many African-Americans favor, so there’s a natural tension between them. Additionally, taking on the mantle of the Civil Rights movement raises particular objections. “The Civil Rights movement was about increasing people’s freedom,” Ross says, “and they’re trying to say, ‘We need to claim civil rights for the unborn in order to decrease the freedom that black women and other women have over their bodies’? That doesn’t make any sense.”

Harold Middlebrook takes a phone call in the office of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, where he is pastor. Middlebrook is a widely respected civil rights leader, and says while he’s concerned about issues raised in Maafa 21, he says he doesn’t think Planned Parenthood’s presence is a significant issue in his community.

photo by Sheena Patrick

Harold Middlebrook takes a phone call in the office of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, where he is pastor. Middlebrook is a widely respected civil rights leader, and says while he’s concerned about issues raised in Maafa 21, he says he doesn’t think Planned Parenthood’s presence is a significant issue in his community.

Even some who buy into the black genocide argument still see opportunism in ProCET’s newfound interest in the people of East Knoxville. Harold Middlebrook, pastor at Canaan Baptist Church and a widely respected civil-rights leader, says he’s only seen part of Maafa 21 but believes the theory that Planned Parenthood may be attempting to limit black births to increase white dominance. Yet he also says it’s not an important issue for him. “This isn’t going to last long. Not in this community.

“I asked Bishop [Richard] Stika and others, what happens to you all in my community when this is no longer an issue? Where are you all when we struggle to feed hungry babies? When every day I get 10 to 12 phone calls—not just from African-Americans, but from whites, too—asking, can you pay my utility bills?”

Others echo this feeling. “What I find so offensive about that is, where are these people when poor, inner-city black women have children, or attempt to have children?” Fleming asks. “Their infant mortality rate is incredibly high. They don’t have insurance. They can’t go to the hospital and get the proper prenatal care. They don’t have the kinds of programs they need to ensure their babies will be born healthy and have a decent life. Where are these people? If they’re talking about genocide, what about the black babies who are already here?”

While the black genocide theory may be limited by its own messengers, Ross says that doesn’t mean damage isn’t being done in the meantime, and she takes exception to Simoneau and Morris’s defense that they’re merely raising questions. “This isn’t just competing ideas. Women are being chewed up by these lies,” Ross says.

Emmert, of PPMET, agrees. “I think it’s unconscionable,” he says, “because if they prevent one woman from getting a pap smear that needs one because she’s afraid to come into a Planned Parenthood clinic, that is going to be on their heads.”

*Correction* An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a letter from Bishop Martin Holley referred to 80 percent of abortion clinics, and not Planned Parenthood clinics, as being located in black communities. Holley's letter does, in fact, state that 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are found in African-American neighborhoods, as Simoneau said. However, the research upon which that figure is based, provided by the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and found here, gives its highest percentage as 62 percent, not 80.

© 2010 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 12

FletcherArmstrong writes:

What's missing is a clear understanding of what abortion even is and what it does. To clarify, please visit www.AbortionNo.org. Be advised, it ain't pretty.

jpinto#207065 writes:

Thanks to Mr. Carlson for at least trying to make an effort to explore the Abortion/Genocide aspect in an extensive way.

I do recommend for accuracy and integrities sake that he refer to groups and people involved with those groups, as they refer/call themselves: Pro-lifers, not Anti-abortionists; and yes, it does matter.

To Harold Middlebrook: you might think the presence of Planned Parenthood as "majorly significant" if you were an unborn child targeted to be shredded to pieces or dismembered limb from limb as PP abortionists do to the helpless unborn, your neighbor, Jesus in a "distressing disguise."

People like Lisa Morris and Lieutenant Paul Simoneau
are sterling examples of compassion, mercy, and citizenship at its best. They will hear Jesus on that day, "well done." What will the rest of us hear?

gailmanvan writes:

i can't help but wonder how many pro-lifers have adopted any kids. maybe if you believe in the pro-life philosophy you should be required to adopt at least 2 orphans. put your money where your mouth is, in other words. and i wonder how many of these well- heeled pro-lifers have had teenage daughters have out of wedlock babies... bet not many. by providing free or low cost abortion services to anyone who needs one, we are limiting the number of unwanted pregnancies, an ugly truth. ever wonder what happens to unwanted kids? that is the true definition of ugly.sex trade. disease. violence. who suffers more, fetuses or unwanted kids?

phillipjwoods writes:

I found this article/movie review(?) to be incredibly racist and condscending.

The overall message of this article: Black People are once again being manipulated and steered in the wrong direction by the right wing republican party.

like we are a group of mindless children wandering aimlessly fresh off the slave boats - and without white liberals to steer us in the right direction, weez just ain't gon' make it!

your first mistake: not doing basic research, simply go to blackgenocide.ORG (not the dot com) and browse around. that site has been up and running for over a decade, black people have been protesting abortions for years across the country; no need to speculate, the pictures and articles are on that site for you to see.

The reason why it's an issue AT ALL is b/c black people have more abortions than anyone else across the country. God forbid somebody in the black community be concerned and raise awareness about this.

You all should be ashamed you even put this out there, let alone made it a cover story.

smoore writes:

I think the (unspoken) premise of this article is that abortion (surgical,chemical, or referring for same) is beyond scrutiny as a matter of morality and the common good. It certainly is not and never will be. Framing the article the way it was done resulted in a condescending view of those of us who are concerned about the abortion numbers in the country and in the local community. As a resident of East Knoxville, I am happy to stand with my colleagues, Rev. Clark, Lisa, Paul and all the others who give their time and goodwill to the Cherry Street vigil every Friday. I am grateful that some people are encouraged by seeing us there. And since you bring up the word "prey" in the subtitle of your article, how about doing an article on a money-making enterprise that preys on poverty, despair and desperation? Or coercion, predators and non-reporting?

scmiles80 writes:

in response to gailmanvan:

i can't help but wonder how many pro-lifers have adopted any kids. maybe if you believe in the pro-life philosophy you should be required to adopt at least 2 orphans. put your money where your mouth is, in other words. and i wonder how many of these well- heeled pro-lifers have had teenage daughters have out of wedlock babies... bet not many. by providing free or low cost abortion services to anyone who needs one, we are limiting the number of unwanted pregnancies, an ugly truth. ever wonder what happens to unwanted kids? that is the true definition of ugly.sex trade. disease. violence. who suffers more, fetuses or unwanted kids?

Actually, gailmanvan, i personally know several families who have struggled with daughters with unplanned pregnancy who have lived their faiths by standing by their daughters as they became mothers earlier than their parents had hoped.
I am also among a growing consituency of Christians who are adopting local orphans. The numbers are getting larger by the month as local Christian churches are encouraging members to take foster parenting classes...i'd be happy to give you the name of a contact person so you can become one if you like.
I think if pro-abortion folks would take the time to really learn what Christian pro-life people are doing in their communities, they would quit postulating in such an errant fashion. It's so archaic.

Maldonado writes:

Hey jpinto:
Take up the "pro-life" vs. "anti-abortion" thing with the Associated Press stylebook.

p.s. The people in question are anti-abortion, right? So just say it. No need to politicize the terminology if you believe that abortion is wrong, is there? (Similarly, the other side is referred to "abortion rights advocates" or "pro-abortion," etc.)

debbiejnct writes:

in response to gailmanvan:

i can't help but wonder how many pro-lifers have adopted any kids. maybe if you believe in the pro-life philosophy you should be required to adopt at least 2 orphans. put your money where your mouth is, in other words. and i wonder how many of these well- heeled pro-lifers have had teenage daughters have out of wedlock babies... bet not many. by providing free or low cost abortion services to anyone who needs one, we are limiting the number of unwanted pregnancies, an ugly truth. ever wonder what happens to unwanted kids? that is the true definition of ugly.sex trade. disease. violence. who suffers more, fetuses or unwanted kids?

I really wonder how many parents actually teach their daughters to respect them selves. We as women were not put on this earth just to have babies. We should teach our daughters the truth. That what is really on a boy or man's mind is sex. They will say anything they think you want to hear to get it. They are not the ones who faces the consiquences, we are. So teach your daughters to respect themselves enough to say "NO". By the way, they also face the consequences if they choose abortion. They live the rest of their lives knowing they killed there own baby. Most women go crazy knowing that fact. And yeah, there are so many people who want children and can't have them. I'm pro life. I'm pro choice. You have the right to choose NO.

smoore writes:

Re: the AP guidelines

But they aren't referred to as "anti-life" or "anti" anything are they?

The most direct equivalence would be:

Pro-life, Anti-life
Pro-abortion, Anti-abortion.

But I don't think we will be seeing that in the manual anytime soon because it calls attention to the fact that abortion ends a life, and that's too much truth for breakfast reading.

The guidelines have been used to reinforce a stereotype of pro-life people as negative, arbitrarily disruptive individuals. Dawn Eden of NYC was fired (several years ago) from the Post for writing a too-balanced story involving pro-life and pro-abortion advocates. She was fired for being too fair, in other words, and failed to portray them (pro-life advocates) as negatively as her editor required.

Is having a manual a sign reporters aren't really allowed to negotiate controversial matters unchaperoned? Controlling language in this fashion is controlling minds, not to mention careers.

Maldonado writes:

Controlling language? The term "pro-life" clouds the issue, doesn't it? Are they advocating for all life? Soldiers? Terrorists? Sea life? I've met more than one pro-lifer in my time who decidedly favors the death penalty. Putting the word "abortion" right in there narrows it and de-politicizes it as much as it can be narrowed and de-politicized. And one side is in favor of abortion rights while the other opposes it.
Harping on the whole "anti makes it sound bad" thing is dumb. I'm "anti-genocide." Does that sound bad? Do I have to say I'm "pro-genolife" in order to convey that meaning clearly? Your whole argument seems to assume that you don't think people know what the word "abortion" means.

smoore writes:

People exert a lot of psychic energy trying not to know what it means.

Maldonado writes:

Well, that certainly sounds nice, but it doesn't really address the points of the argument we were actually having. Whatever. To be completely honest, I always thought using both the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" was the best, most recognizable, most succinct option. They're both so manipulative that they kind of cancel each other out.

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