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Pro-life, regardless of skin color

The black perspective is missing from the abortion debate

Monica Sparks (left) and her twin sister Jessica Ann Tyson Getty Images/hoto by Steven M. Herppich/AFP

Pro-life, regardless of skin color

Did you know that there are women who were raised in conservative evangelical homes who now support legal abortion for what they claim to be moral reasons?

Last month, the Los Angeles Times published yet another one of these well-worn stories in its profile of Christy Berghoef. The headline: “As Supreme Court weighs abortion, Christians challenge what it means to be ‘pro-life.’” Berghoef is a liberal white Christian who used to pray “for abortions to end” and now believes “abortions should never be outlawed.” According to the article, Berghoef “is part of a new, if disconcerting, breed of Christians challenging the teachings of their elders.”

The article’s subtext paints the usual background picture of pro-life Christianity defined by rigid, moralistic, small-town whites being disrupted by the compassionate, newly enlightened Berghoef. Her enlightenment came in part, we learn, from her time away from her hometown of Holland, Mich., when she took a job in Washington, D.C., and saw “homelessness and poverty on her walks to work.”

But Berghoef didn’t need to travel to my neck of the woods to expand her horizons. A few miles away from where she grew up in Michigan, my good friend Monica Sparks is a Kent County commissioner. Sparks is an African American, a Christian, and a Democrat who is the president of Democrats for Life of America.

“As a black woman, I sincerely appreciate that DFLA’s mission, to preserve life from womb to tomb, includes an understanding and focus on racial injustices and the needs of minority communities,” she said, after accepting her new role with the organization, adding, “One of our top priorities will be to educate our party on the racist implications of public funding of abortion. Abortion is ending the lives of black babies across the country at an alarming rate. To battle racism, we must end the high abortion rate, but we must also commit to fighting poverty, improving schools, and improving opportunities for all Americans.”

Far too many in the media frame the debate over abortion as limited to white conservatives and white liberals.

Sparks and her twin sister were born to a drug-addicted mother and had a difficult childhood, during which they were placed in the foster care system and split up. A year later, they were adopted and reunited by members of the Church of God in Christ, America’s largest and fastest-growing African American denomination, with more than 6.5 million members nationwide.

In November 2019, the Church of God in Christ issued a formal proclamation, which states, among other things: “Whereas abortion is the killing of the innocent, which is against Scripture (Exodus 20:13, Psalm 106:35–38, 2 Kings 17:17, Deuteronomy 5:17, Revelation 22:15). Abortion is genocide. Abortion must end to protect the life of the unborn. The Church of God in Christ opposes elective abortions. This issue of personhood has haunted America since the Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson and Roe v. Wade decisions. Just as slavery was overturned in America, Jim Crow was defeated and Nazi Germany was overthrown, it is our prayer that the heinous industry of abortion will become morally reprehensible worldwide.”

The Church of God in Christ has an extremely strong presence in Michigan, home to its current presiding bishop. We can safely conclude that the denomination’s leadership has spent at least as much time as Christy Berghoef contemplating the theological and moral implications of abortion law. So why is yet another spiritual journey of a small-town white woman from being strongly pro-life to being pro-abortion so important for us to hear about?

It is a signal that far too many in the media frame the debate over abortion as limited to white conservatives and white liberals. Many pro-abortion advocates clearly believe that the views of white suburban women define the boundaries of the abortion issue in America. That just isn’t so. Monica Sparks—a black, Christian, pro-life Democrat born into challenging circumstances—does not fit those boundaries. The Church of God in Christ does not fit within those boundaries. The boundaries are false.

Black people are disproportionately affected by abortion and have very different perspectives that often do not fit neatly into the ideological Republican-Democrat binary. That is not to downplay the irreconcilable differences between those parties’ views. While we don’t all agree on what to do politically and ideologically, we believe black voices and perspectives are sorely missing from a discussion that is controlled almost exclusively by mainstream media liberals. Including black Americans might help the entire country find a little more common ground.

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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