WASHINGTON — The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has perpetuated a “genocide on the black community,” says a group of African-American pastors who claimed Thursday the birth control and abortion provider has had a racist agenda since its beginnings in 1921.
Holding a brief vigil and press conference in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., the group of pastors and activists said they were incensed by the results of recent “undercover” inquiries into several Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
“Every day … over 1,500 black babies are murdered inside the black woman’s womb,” said Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND). “This is a race issue.”
The pastors urged Congress to initiate an audit of the organization and have written letters demanding that money for Planned Parenthood be eliminated from federal Title X funding, of which the group got $65 million for fiscal year 2007, according to pro-life Concerned Women of America. In total, Planned Parenthood received $300 million in government contracts and grants in the current fiscal year.
The national office of Planned Parenthood provided FOX News with a lengthy statement on Thursday in which it said its role in the African-American community is widespread because the need is greater.
“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) revealed that a shocking number of teenage African-American girls — nearly half — carry a sexually transmitted infection," reads the statement. "This compares to an overall average rate for all teenage girls of at least one in four.
“The largest increases in the teen birthrate were reported for non-Hispanic black teens, whose overall rate rose five percent in 2006. In addition, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than the general population,” it said.
But an investigation, undertaken by students at the University of California at Los Angeles newspaper, The Advocate, revealed troubling responses from Planned Parenthood staffers when asked by an actor, posing as a “donor,” if he could earmark his contribution for abortions for “black babies” only.
In one example, Autumn Kersey, vice president for marketing at Planned Parenthood of Idaho, is asked whether a donation can be specified “to help a minority group … like the black community, for example.”
“Certainly,” Kersey says in a taped response in which she sounds genuinely encouraged by the offer. “If you wanted to designate that your gift be used to help an African-American woman in need, then we would certainly make sure the gift as earmarked for that purpose.”
The caller responds: “Great, because I really faced trouble with affirmative action, and I don’t want my kids to be disadvantaged against black kids. I just had a baby; I want to put it in his name.”
Kersey responds, “Absolutely.”
The "donor" proceeds to proclaim that “the less black kids out there the better,” followed by, “understandable, understandable,” by Kersey, who laughed as if he were joking.
“Excuse my hesitation, this is the first time that I’ve had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I’m excited and want to make sure I don’t leave anything out,” she is recorded saying.
Kersey's and other statements were culled from calls to Planned Parenthood clinics in six states. In each, the staff person answering the call expressed an interest in taking the donations despite the caller’s overtly racist commentary.
That is part of a troubling trend, say critics, who accuse Planned Parenthood of targeting minority neighborhoods. They blame the institution for a disproportionate rate of abortions among black women.
“I think the media, and I think America, and certainly black folks, need to start thinking about race and Planned Parenthood, said Rev. Clenard Childress, who raised the question, not for the first time, about Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, who died over 40 years ago at the age of 86.
Sanger, a pioneering advocate for universal access to birth control for women, was also a proponent of “eugenics,” a philosophy that advocates social intervention, like birth control and abortion, for "improving" the hereditary traits of the human race. According to biographies written about Sanger, who was the sixth child of 11 eleven born to a rigid Catholic family in upstate New York, her support for this practice was focused on the “unfit” and the poor — slum dwellers — as they were called at the time, by making contraceptives more available there.
Over the years, comments made by Sanger about reproduction among the poor and minorities have led to her reputation as a racist and a belief that she wanted to “weed” out blacks from society. Planned Parenthood has disputed that caricature and has pointed out her supporters in the black community, including Martin Luther King Jr., and W.E.B DuBois. Nevertheless, Childress and others repeatedly invoked her name as a major force behind a century-long “genocide” on the black community.
According to a report released by the group of Students for Life America on Tuesday, black women are 4.8 times more likely to have an abortion than white women, while the black population in the U.S. is in decline. Black women account for 36 percent of those having abortions in the U.S. today, according to group, while black children make up 17 percent of live births.
“Contrary to the public’s belief that Planned Parenthood is helpful and supportive of family planning and the health of the mother and child, recent news and research show that the roots of its foundation have continued to give birth to continual hatred and disdain for minorities that its founder saw as 'unfit,'” the group says in its report.
In its response, Planned Parenthood emphasized that 97 percent of its services are focused on providing contraceptives, breast and cervical cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment — not abortions.
“Those services are more important than ever as this country faces a health care crisis — too many women can't afford birth control, too many families don’t have adequate health insurance coverage and too many young people are faced with unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” the organization said. “As a safety-net provider, it is Planned Parenthood's mission to provide women, men and teens with affordable access to reproductive health care services and information, regardless of income.”
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Idaho apologized in February for the comments made by its staff during the UCLA student investigation.
“A fundraising employee violated the organization’s principles and practices when she appeared to be willing to accept a racially motivated donation,” said the Idaho-based organization told the Idaho Statesman. “We apologize for the manner in which this offensive call was handled. We take full responsibility for the actions of the fundraising staff member who created the impression that racism of any form would be tolerated at Planned Parenthood. We took swift action to ensure that each of our employees understands their responsibility to communicate clearly with donors about the fact that we believe in helping all individuals, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, make informed decisions about their reproductive health care.”
That's not enough for Lilly Epps, an activist who joined the pastors in denouncing Planned Parenthood on Thursday. She said she was 26 years old when she got an abortion in the clinic used to stage the protest. She said the day has come to get “the truth” out about Planned Parenthood and what it is doing her community.
“I am a mad black woman,” she said. “Words cannot say how angry I am, how ignorant I was. But I thank God I came to the truth.”