PHILADELPHIA — Pro-choice activists struck a popular chord at this year’s Netroots Nation convention by blaming white supremacists for orchestrating setbacks to their abortion agenda.
The theory that white supremacists are behind pro-life efforts gained steam as several conservative and/or Southern states passed laws restricting abortions. In Georgia, abortions are banned if doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat, which typically happens at about six weeks of gestation.
The rhetoric helped keep the abortion issue front and center at a convention that showcases the Democratic Party’s younger, far-left political activists. Racism and the Black Lives Matter movement were dominant themes at the event, which drew more than 3,600 activists to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
The abortion message was delivered at daily roundtables led by Lizz Winstead, a co-creator of “The Daily Show” who has become an abortion rights activist and leads the Abortion Access Front, formerly known as Lady Parts Justice League.
“We’re going to Milwaukee to fight the white supremacist garbage,” Ms. Winstead told the crowd.
Her group is staging counterprotests in Milwaukee to a weeklong gathering by the Christian pro-life group Operation Save America.
Ms. Winstead declined an interview request from The Washington Times.
Elicia Gonzales, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Women’s Medical Fund, which pays for abortions for women who cannot afford them, also called pro-lifers’ restrictive efforts as mere politicking.
“Abortion has only become a politicized issue more so recently as an effort to continue to try to retain power,” she said.
The link between racists and the pro-life movement relies on the white supremacist theory that legal abortion is part of a “white genocide” scheme by Jews, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
However, the Anti-Defamation League recently reported that a new Alabama law that bans most abortions flummoxed white supremacists torn between opposing abortions for white women and supporting abortions for black women.
At the Abortion Access Front booth in the convention’s main exposition hall, they used a watermelon to demonstrate an early abortion procedure.
A small, round watermelon was the stand-in for a woman’s uterus, and the red watermelon fruit played the role of an 11- to 12-week-old human embryo.
The procedure was performed using a cannula that resembled a large plastic straw and a manual vacuum aspirator that looked like an oversized syringe.
A woman in medical garb inserted the cannula into a hole cut at the end of the watermelon and attached the vacuum aspirator, which sucked out a core of watermelon fruit.
“That’s the whole shebang,” said abortion clinic consultant Jen Moore Conrow, who provided the play-by-play commentary. “Most procedures take about three to five minutes, and folks feel OK afterward.”
Ms. Gonzales said the demonstration helped dispel pro-life myths spread for generations through “white supremacist, racist, patriarchal rhetoric.”
The efforts to restrict abortion services, she said, were not about abortion but about white power.
“This has nothing to do with abortion. This has everything to do with control and power over people, and it is absolutely rooted and based from a white supremacist mentality that is really all about remaining in positions of power and authority,” she said.
Asked about the high rate of abortion among black women, which would seem to indicate that white supremacists would support abortion rights, Ms. Gonzales’ colleague Seneca Joyner chimed in.
“That is not true. It’s a white supremacist myth,” said Ms. Joyner, who described herself as a world historian and expert on white supremacy.
Abortion rates among black women are higher than those of white women and represent a greater share of pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
The abortion rate for black women was 25.8% of pregnancies compared with 6.6% of white women’s pregnancies, according to the CDC’s 2015 data, the most recent available.
The ratio of abortions per live births was nearly four times higher for black women, 403 per 1,000 compared with 108 per 1,000 for white women, according to the federal data.
Abortion rates and ratios for all ethnic groups have been on the decline since at least 2007.
The Democratic Party’s crowded field of 2020 presidential candidates all take pro-choice stances. They support abortion as part of health care coverage regardless of whether it’s under the status quo or a single-payer system. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro has gained more traction on the issue than other candidates.
He grabbed attention of the party’s pro-choice activists during the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate when he pledged to fight for “reproductive justice.”
Still, he has steered clear of invoking the specter of white supremacism.
At the Netroots Nation presidential candidates forum, Mr. Castro garnered enthusiastic applause by vowing, if elected, to have Congress codify Roe v. Wade abortion rights in federal law, protecting them against any Supreme Court reversal.
He was the only candidate among the four who took the stage at Netroots Nation to delve into the topic.
“States like Alabama, like Missouri, like Georgia, they are passing these laws to try and abridge reproductive freedom,” he said. “This is something that touches the lives of so many people in our country that this is a good time where we all need to step up.”
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