For a hot-button issue which is arguably the social lodestar for American culture-wars people make a lot of unfounded assertions and assumptions about abortion. For example, poking around the GSS data set it’s pretty evident that there isn’t a sex difference in regards to the legal status of abortion. What I have found is that there may be an intensity difference between men an women among the educated pro-choice segment of the population, which might give pro-choice women the impression that there is a general difference (as people tend to extrapolate inordinately from their social milieu).
What about race? One of the occasionally resurrected talking points from conservative Republicans is that black Americans should be targeted because their social values are more aligned with the Republican party. You do see some of this when it comes to gay marriage, though I judge the difference to be relatively modest. But a new story in The New York Times made me wonder about abortion, To Court Blacks, Foes of Abortion Make Racial Case:
For years the largely white staff of Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, tried to tackle the disproportionately high number of black women who undergo abortions. But, staff members said, they found it difficult to make inroads with black audiences.
So in 2009, the group took money that it normally used for advertising a pregnancy hot line and hired a black woman, Catherine Davis, to be its minority outreach coordinator.
Ms. Davis traveled to black churches and colleges around the state, delivering the message that abortion is the primary tool in a decades-old conspiracy to kill off blacks.
The black abortion rate is eye-popping:
Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black women get almost 40 percent of the country’s abortions, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the population. Nearly 40 percent of black pregnancies end in induced abortion, a rate far higher than for white or Hispanic women.
Day Gardner, now the president of the National Black Pro-Life Union in Washington, said those figures shocked her at first.
“I just really assumed that white people aborted more than anyone else, and black people would not do this because we’re culturally a religious people, we have large families,” Ms. Gardner said.
You can see some data on teen birth and abortion rates by race & ethnicity here. Here’s the last paragraph from piece:
“Before we saw the movie, I was pro-choice,” said Markita Eddy, a sophomore. But were she to get pregnant now, Ms. Eddy said, “it showed me that maybe I should want to keep my child no matter what my position was, just because of the conspiracy.”
Perhaps the quote was taken out of context, but it sure makes it seen like the fact that the fetus may or may not be a person is of less relevance to this girl than the conspiracy theory. I guess you could call this “framing,” or being “tactical.” But it may very well be successful. Consider the analogy with HIV. Nearly half of HIV infected individuals in the United States are black, and there are lots of conspiratorial theories about the origins of AIDS in the black community. In the case of HIV these theories aren’t really “actionable.” That is, weird beliefs don’t have an effect on the choices they make, people know that HIV is deadly, whatever its origins or intents. But when it comes to abortion perhaps people will make a different choice based on these background beliefs; or at least that’s what the pro-life movement is hoping.
Here are the trendlines for a “Yes” response to the GSS “ABANY” variable. This is what ABANY asks: “Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtaina legal abortion if: The woman wants it for any reason?”
I think the trendline for blacks is volatile because of the smaller sample size. But in any case, it seems clear that though blacks are modestly more pro-life than whites, they are not that much more pro-life.