Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let Freedom Ring!


By Lorey Carter

Most of us are familiar with this phrase because of its use during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. We hear a lot about the civil rights movement during Black History Month, justifiably so. After all, it was a pivotal time in this nation and although it was a very painful time, it resulted in a long overdue change in the way black folks were to be valued and treated as American citizens. It was the next major step toward realizing what the U.S. Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Unfortunately, while segregation laws were disbanded, racism and discrimination did not end with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It still goes on today in various forms. We see discrimination today most visibly in the criminal justice system. For example, data collected from state courts by the Justice Department shows that a higher percentage of black felons than white felons receive prison sentences for nearly all offenses, and also that blacks receive longer maximum sentences for most offenses. One has only to speculate why African Americans make up 12% of the population, yet they make up 38% of those incarcerated in state or federal prisons. In addition, 10.4% of all black males in the United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison, compared to 2.4% of Hispanic males and 1.3% of white males (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

I recently saw a movie entitled “American Violet” based on a true story which illustrates how racism factors into arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations resulting in injustice and disparate impacts on the African American community.

I have witnessed first hand racial discrimination and it troubles me greatly. I once worked as a law clerk for the public defender’s office and heard attorneys make racial slurs about their own clients. I’ve been pulled over in a car for “DWB” (driving while black) only to be released when there was nothing to cite me for. I would never minimize the importance of drawing attention and fighting to end this injustice against the black community.

However, I also see racism and discrimination carried out today in another form that is even more insidious than what we see in the criminal justice system. Many of the targeted victims of this discrimination have been indoctrinated to be willing accomplices in their own exploitation. I’m yearning for the day when as many African Americans are willing to draw attention to and fight to end this discrimination against the black community as they are the discrimination in the criminal justice system. I’m talking about abortion. I’m talking about a history of reproductive discrimination instigated by eugenicists and carried out by Planned Parenthood and others who believed that African Americans were a threat to society and therefore set in motion a plan to prevent or discourage us from reproducing.

There is traceable evidence exposed in a new documentary entitled “MAAFA21” proving that African American women have been systematically targeted and have been offered the “choice” to abort, initially through coercion and later through insistence that the opportunity to abort is a civil right.

According to the propaganda exposed in Maafa21, to be denied the opportunity to abort amounts to denial of a woman’s reproductive freedom. Today, we have the targeted victims (African American women) embracing this ideology and many are demanding their “right” to abort.

The opportunity to abort one’s child is not a civil right. It is not an expression of a woman’s reproductive freedom. It is participation in exploitation of the woman and her unborn child. This form of discrimination is so insidious and even more damaging than racism in the criminal justice system because one of the victims (the baby) is dead and the other victim often believes that her abortion was a good thing. That is heartbreaking.

Sadly, the percentages which denote the disparities seen in the criminal justice system as a result of discrimination (12% of the population is African American and 38% of those are incarcerated) is tragically similar to the disparities seen in abortion where African American women make up 12% of the female population, but have 37% of the abortions (Alan Guttmacher Institute).

Thankfully, this tragedy is not going totally unnoticed.

There are a growing number of African American leaders, including pastors who are beginning to sound the alarm in our community exposing the truth about the impact of abortion and how it is threatening our legacy as a people. I have the pleasure of working directly along side of some of these leaders in Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia and Detroit to reach African American communities that have some of the highest abortion rates in the country. Care Net is committed to partnering with these leaders to develop pregnancy centers in these underserved communities so that African American women facing unplanned pregnancies will not be solely surrounded by abortion providers, but will have access to practical support as they make life-affirming decisions about their pregnancy. And for those women who have already experienced abortion, these centers will also provide recovery counseling to them.

The word is getting out via the media as well. A recent billboard ad campaign “Black Children Are An Endangered Species” in Atlanta last month is generating awareness and getting national media attention. This provocative billboard leads you to the website, Toomanyaborted.com, which gives the facts about the impact of abortion on African Americans in a powerfully compelling way. The creator of the website and campaign is Ryan Bomberger, a very talented African American designer, who has partnered with Georgia Right to Life. ABC News recently interviewed Catherine Davis from Georgia Right to Life and Bomberger about the stir caused by this campaign.

Bomberger will be partnering with Care Net in the near future and will be sharing his marketing expertise with our affiliates during our national conference in September. I’m looking forward to seeing him inspire our affiliates to be more effective in communicating the message in the communities where they serve.

I’m honored to work with anyone committed to standing in the gap for life. But as an African American woman, I am encouraged by the emergence of more and more African Americans joining in. For me, for Care Net, and the African American leaders I’ve met, this is not a political issue. It is a life issue. It is a moral issue. It is the essence of social justice. In decades to come, when Black History is told, we will know that we did what we could to preserve future generations because we actually believed these truths to be to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that will be the kind of Black History that we can all live with.

Lorey Carter is Director of Underserved Outreach at Care Net. She can be reached at lcarter@care-net.org.

Monday, February 15, 2010

“Unborn” Music Video Communicates the Duality of an Unplanned Pregnancy


By Elise Pino

Caitlin Jane’s exquisitely executed music video for her song “Unborn” gently communicates the duality of an unplanned pregnancy, reminding its viewers that two uniquely intertwined lives are at stake.

As the video unfolds the viewer experiences the uncertainty, anguish and ultimate joy of a young, single mother wrestling with the decision of whether or not to continue her unplanned pregnancy.

In listening to the song’s lyrics, however, one is drawn into the heart and mind of the young woman’s unborn child, lovingly calling out to her mother and asking for a chance to be born and to experience life outside the womb.

Ultimately, Jane’s music video serves as a poignant reminder of the two precious lives impacted by the decision to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term. “Unborn’s” lyrics echo the loving message communicated on a daily basis in pregnancy centers across the country, “God makes no mistakes; both [mom and baby] are wonderfully, fearfully made.”

Elise Pino is Center Services Manager at Care Net and can be reached at epino@care-net.org.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Abstinence Education Wrongly Blamed for Teen Pregnancy Rate Increase


By Toneia Mayes

In response to an article in The New York Times entitled, “After Long Decline, Teenage Pregnancy Rate Rises,” it is apparent that there are a few matters on this issue of abstinence education that need to be brought to light. The article implies that there may be a correlation between funding abstinence education and a 3% increase in teen pregnancy rates from 2005 to 2006.

This article states:

“While it is difficult to pinpoint precisely how different factors influence teenage sexual behavior, some experts speculate that the rise in teenage pregnancy might be partly attributable to the $150 million a year of federal financing for sex education that emphasized abstinence until marriage, avoiding all mention of the possible benefits of contraception.”
This statement is false. While it is true that most Abstinence Education (ABED) programs do not actively promote or encourage condom use, they do discuss condoms and give accurate statistics. Most programs discuss condoms while highlighting their limitations, but they do site that condoms are 85% successful at preventing pregnancy when used consistently and correctly 100% of the time. ABED students will never hear an educator try to convince them not to use a condom; however, they will explain that the only 100% effective way to avoid not only pregnancy but also STD's and emotional consequences is sexual abstinence.

To contrast the two approaches to sex education, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSED) focuses on risk reduction via condom use or limiting the number of sexual partners. ABED focuses on the value of abstinence while extensively citing the risk of sexual activity at a young age with or without a condom.

And the debate over these two approaches just got much more interesting.

In a study released Monday, February 01, 2010 by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, abstinence education has been validated as effective. The study states: “…a high risk population of 6 and 7th graders receiving abstinence centered education reduced sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners (a crucial determinant in acquiring an STD) and further showed that abstinence instruction did not deter the use of condoms (a common charge brought by anti-abstinence critics).” Read more about this ground-breaking study at the National Abstinence Education Association website.

To take away the abstinence message from our youth because "some experts speculate that the rise in teenage pregnancy might be partly attributable to (that message) ..." is saying that our teens do not have a right to make an informed decision because of a speculation.

To imply that teens do not need to hear the benefits of remaining abstinent until marriage is to imply that condom use is somehow our teens best or only option and that is just not true.

With sexually experienced teens themselves saying that they wish they would have waited (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2003), it seems that one of the best things we can do to meet their need is to teach them skills in decision making and help them deal with peer pressure to engage in sex.

Toneia Mayes is a Care Net Regional Consultant and a consultant for Community Based Abstinence Education grants. She can be reached at toneia@cox.net. For more information on the effectiveness of abstinence education, visit the Institute of Research and Evaluation website.