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Changing hearts and minds about abortion

Courage and fortitude are needed, even in a post-Roe world

Rep. Gary Franks in 1993 on Capitol Hill Associated Press/Photo by John Durika (file)

Changing hearts and minds about abortion
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It takes real courage to change your mind. It takes rare strength to listen earnestly to the opposition’s case, let alone choose to honor the truth above your previous convictions or political commitments. But former U.S. Rep. Gary Franks, R-Conn., recently did just that. He publicly explained why his mind and heart have changed about abortion.

He wasn’t always pro-life as a congressman, but he is now—and he’s a powerful example of someone whose perspective on abortion has changed. He is also an excellent model for any of us who are advocates for the preborn.

In his column, Franks points to the disturbing roots of Planned Parenthood: Its founder, Margaret Sanger, spoke openly about what she called the “Negro problem” in America. “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” she wrote in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble in 1932.

Franks, who is black and served in Congress in the 1990s, highlights this quote, and he’s right to do so. I’ve been bringing it up for years now. Franks is correct to be alarmed. He is correct to think that Sanger’s eugenicist posture is morally contemptible.

More of us should be alarmed. We should know about and discuss Sanger’s intention to “[prevent] the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives” via birth control. Planned Parenthood, as an institution, is inextricably intertwined with the explicit goal of eradicating black Americans.

But we can set aside Sanger’s statements—we can even set aside historical fact—and still come to the conclusion that Planned Parenthood disproportionately kills minority babies.

The statistics demonstrate clearly that minority children are wildly overrepresented among those aborted. Regardless of its founder’s intentions, the reality is that 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are in or near minority neighborhoods. Fully 60 percent of these surgical abortion facilities are specifically located near neighborhoods that are home to relatively high black populations.

If we consider ourselves advocates for the preborn, we should choose to fight for life even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or difficult for us to do so.

Additionally, the abortion rate for minority women is five times what it is for white women. Abortion kills more black Americans than every other cause of death combined, including heart disease, AIDS, violent crime, accidents, and cancer. This just doesn’t seem like an accident to me.

But more importantly, every one of these deaths to abortion is a grave and undeniable moral evil. About 360,000 black babies are lost to abortion every year, or almost 1,000 every day.

And the moral debate over abortion is rising to a fever pitch right now because it’s feeding directly into the political question of abortion: Will the pro-abortion legal regime established by Roe v. Wade be overturned? What do we do if it is? For some, the answer is relying on expanded contraception access through Title X. Franks admits this was his answer long ago.

But I think the answer is to lean on the extensive network of pregnancy centers the pro-life movement has been building up for decades. For example, the Human Coalition, where I work, has an extensive network of clinics that serve women considering abortion. We partner with local churches to mobilize their members and get vulnerable women the support they need. We run call centers to connect women to helpful resources. And we coordinate long-term care for these women by using existing infrastructure. We educate and advocate.

And we aren’t the only ones doing so. Many other pro-life programs, such as Lifeline Children’s Services, serve the same function. The Church of God in Christ, under the leadership of Bishop J. Drew Sheard, has partnered with the Human Coalition and now plans to open a pregnancy care center in Memphis, Tenn.

Gary Franks’ integrity and commitment to the truth about abortion should be an inspiration to all of us. If we consider ourselves advocates for the preborn, we should choose to fight for life even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or difficult for us to do so. We should commit ourselves not just to the truth, but to taking action in its defense.

If Roe gets overturned, the resources we’ve worked for over the last 50 years to establish as an alternative to Planned Parenthood must be ready and waiting. We can and we must offer women and children in crisis a real future, not just expanded contraceptive options.

Dean Nelson

The Rev. Dean Nelson serves as the vice president of government relations for the Human Coalition, one of the largest pro-life organizations in the United States. He also serves as the chairman of the Douglass Leadership Institute, an education organization advocating for human dignity, strong families, and limited government. Rev. Nelson is a licensed minister from Salem Baptist Church in Marshall, Va., and an ordained bishop with Wellington Boone Ministries.

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