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In the Ghetto

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February 2012

With his 1955 hit, Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley established himself as the father of rock and roll.  But Elvis Presley was its king.  Presley’s musical career started slowly, but when it hit, it really hit.  With his high-energy sound and those swivel hips, Presley took the country by storm.  Americans developed a severe case of Elvismania as they watched his every move.   Rock and roll brought Presley worldwide fame.

But not peace.  Presley found that through other music.  Presley’s roots ran deep into black gospel music, and he sang it whenever he could, sometimes all night long.  It touched his soul.  In his 1969 release, In the Ghetto, Presley sang about the cycle of poverty and the difficulty in breaking free.  A boy is born in poverty.  Unable to get help, he tries to steal and shoot his way free.  He becomes the ghetto’s next victim.  His mother is left to grieve, and as she does, another poor child is born.

Jesus told us that the poor would always be with us.  We need not be believers to believe it.  The poor have been there throughout history.  They are with us now.  They live in our cities, suburbs, and rural areas.  And just as the young man in Presley’s song could not break free, our country has been unable to break the cycle of poverty.  With the best intentions we have tried many things, but with only partial success.

There is now an alarming body of evidence that a new way of decreasing poor populations has emerged: legal abortion.  It is killing minority children in numbers vastly disproportionate to minority populations.  The CDC reports that in 2008, black women, who account for about 12-13% of the female population, had 40.2% of all abortions. Hispanic females comprise 15% of the population but obtained about 21.1% of all abortions.  In New York City, about 60% of black unborn babies and over 41% of Hispanic unborn babies were aborted in 2009. In black communities, abortion is the leading cause of death.

Why?  Some believe that it’s the result of eugenics, the effort to purify bloodlines and weed out “inferior” people. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s roots were deeply entangled in eugenics.  She argued that organized charity bred “defectives, delinquents and dependents.”  She encouraged government bonuses for voluntary sterilizations of “obviously unfit parents.” She believed that birth control could eliminate the “scourges of transmissible disease, mental defect, poverty, lawlessness, crime since these classes would no longer be breeding like weeds.”  As part of her 1939 Negro Project, Sanger wrote to an aide that it would be good to have black ministers involved in the project.  “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

What Sanger meant by those words may remain a secret of history. But the 2011 study Racial Targeting and Population Control demonstrates that racial targeting through abortion is very real.  Working with Planned Parenthood’s website and other data, researchers obtained the ZIP codes for abortion facilities.  Using U.S. census data, they established the percentages of blacks and Hispanics in each zip code and in the entire state.  That allowed them to determine those ZIP codes with disproportionate percentages of minorities.  Researchers found that every state had at least one abortion facility in zip codes with a disproportionate minority population.  In Texas, facilities are located in 94 zip codes, 74% of which are disproportionately black or Hispanic.  In Connecticut, almost 75% of its 21 zip codes having abortion facilities are in disproportionate areas.  In 42 states, facilities were located in zip codes where minority populations exceeded 200% of the state average.  Some zip codes had multiple facilities.

These statistics should be enough to trigger a federal investigation into the problem.  If blacks or Hispanics were being kept from voting booths, there would be action. But when the issue is the use of abortion to target minority communities, the silence of the Obama administration has been deafening. And the Government Accountability Office has found that the Obama administration violated federal law by funding lobbying to legalize abortion under the Kenyan constitution.  That’s sadly ironic.  The President’s father was Kenyan.

Perhaps the problem is not about race but about money. Planned Parenthood’s 2009-10 report discloses total assets of $1.04 billion and a net profit of $18.5 million.  Planned Parenthood performed 329,445 abortions.  Using the Guttmacher Institute estimate of $468 per abortion, PP made $154 million from abortions.  According to former PP clinic director Abby Johnson, abortion is so lucrative that PP is requiring all facilities to perform abortions by 2013.

There may be yet another reason why legal abortion has hit the minority communities so hard.  It’s the notion that abortion is a compassionate alternative to the cycle of poverty.  Presley’s song touched on it:  “Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need, it’s another hungry mouth to feed . . ..”  But we may never assume what we cannot know: God’s plan for His children.  Rich or poor, each human being is not a potential life but a life with potential. A child may be the one who keeps his family together or who is a help to others in need.  A great saint, Martin de Porres, spent his life helping the poor in his native Peru.  He was a mulatto, the illegitimate son of a nobleman and a former slave.  He was a blessing to others because he was given a chance at life.  His story can be repeated millions of times through millions of poor.

We may disagree about how to help the poor. We should never disagree about their right to life.  Why does God permit poverty?  Maybe it’s to let us see His goodness at work through the poor.

We’ll never see it unless we give life a chance.

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

©  Paul V. Esposito 2012.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Comments?  Visit us at

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