Politics Women Justice

Abortion and the Weaponization of Black Wombs

Ally Henny

I am not here to debate abortion. In fact, I’m not even going to share my own complex views on this issue because what I think really doesn’t matter. Instead, I’m here to talk about the weaponization of Black women’s bodies in the abortion discussion. 

The morning after the 2016 election, I sat in my bathroom weeping. I was 30-something weeks pregnant with my second child and as I thought of the implications of a Trump presidency, my heart ached for her and my 2 ½ -year-old. My husband heard me crying in the bathroom and came to check on me. I reassured him that the baby was fine, but that my heart was broken because it was clear to me that white people, most likely including many of my Christian brothers and sisters, had just elected a man who made me fear for the quality of life that our children and I would live.

As I vented my frustration, I began to sob and wail uncontrollably. “These white people care more about the child in my womb who may or may not see life on the other side of it more than they care about me or the 2-year-old watching TV in the other room,” I screamed. 

To say that I was hurt when I found out that more than 80% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump is an understatement. I do not identify as an Evangelical, but I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of betrayal, especially since I have many friends who attend Evangelical churches and would identify as such. 

What hurt all the more was that so many of my siblings in Christ were willing to vote for someone who posed a threat to my sense of well-being because of his so-called “stance” on a singular issue. Abortion. 

Abortion makes and breaks elections, it seems. 

If I had a dollar for every white Christian who has told me about the “Black genocide” and how evil and racist Margaret Sanger was, I would be a rich woman. It seems like the only thing some white evangelicals know about the Black community is our abortion rates. It seems like that’s all they care about, too. 

I’ve heard the argument about Black abortion rates so much that it has become fairly hurtful and triggering to me because it is wielded with zero grace. White Christians bring Black abortion rates to the discussion of race and play it like it’s the Big Joker. They’re out here more concerned about running a Boston and “winning” the race discussion than they care about Black lives. 

I’m tired of my womb being a topic of discussion for white people in general, but especially white Christians. Elections should not be decided on the pathologization of Black parenthood and the weaponizing of Black wombs, especially by people who seem to care little about Black lives in general. 

In her book Sisters in the Wilderness, Delores Williams uses the story of Hagar to discuss a concept that she calls survival versus quality-of-life. She argues that, like Hagar, Black women are forced into making decisions about our (and our children’s) survival and quality of life. For Hagar, it was living with abusive people (Abram and Sarai) or wandering the desert pregnant and alone. 

According to Williams, this dilemma of survival and quality of life lead many enslaved Black women to kill their infants rather than to have them born into slavery. I imagine that the decision to abort carries a similar weight for many contemporary Black women. 

The fact that so many people can condescendingly dismiss the concerns of the Black community because of their judgments about us shows me that Black women are nothing more than objects to them. We are votes in a ballot box and nothing more. It hurts because Black women in general, and Black mothers in particular are not seen in the fullness of our dignity. Our wombs are political tools, and the precious children that need to be “saved” are discarded as soon as they’re born. 

I know many Christians who want to shut down the abortion clinics in the ghetto because they believe that there’s a “demonic assignment” that is seeking to “snuff out the destiny” of the Black community. I can’t speak to whether or not that’s true, but it makes me wonder how people can so easily perceive Planned Parenthood as being the work of Satan without questioning what, if any, spiritual power is behind the under-resourced schools, police violence, redlining, and school-to-prison-pipeline (among other things) that are also found in these low-income neighborhoods they claim to care about.

Knowing all of this hurts just as badly now as it did in 2016 when I wept in my bathroom with my second child growing inside me. Every time abortion re-enters the news cycle, I think about that day and the myriad times that I have felt that my womb was being weaponized for political gain. This isn’t about my personal feelings on the issue of abortion. This is about Black wombs being thingified and reduced a political trump card for people who have consistently demonstrated that they don’t truly care about Black lives.