Rare is the reporter who writes about blacks and abortion. So give credit to Julia Duin, a-friend-of-this-blog who covers religion for The Washington Times. She wrote about a topic that the rest of the Washington press corps avoided: a demonstration late last week by black activists against the nation's abortion laws. Here is how Duin began her story:
Hoisting signs declaring "abortion is not a family value," about 60 black demonstrators descended on Democratic and Republican headquarters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning to demand that political candidates refuse funding from Planned Parenthood.
Activists and pastors claimed that a disproportionate amount of the nation's abortions are performed on black women, many of them in clinics operated by Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.
"Planned Parenthood is a lying, racist organization," said Alveda King, niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, adding that one of two abortions performed on her occurred at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
"Planned Parenthood says they provide health services to the black community," said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny. "I ask, what is healthy about killing black children?"
Her opening suggested that the story would break news. Black church leaders, including the niece of MLK, rallied on Capitol Hill; and anti-abortion activists charged that a billion-dollar business is racist.
Yet the story sank under its own weight.
For one thing, Duin did not confirm an important fact. She wrote that the activists and pastors "claimed that a disproportionate amount of the nation's abortion are performed on black women." That's more than a claim. As the Alan Guttmacher Institute wrote in an October 2002 report,
Of women obtaining abortions, 41% were non-Hispanic white, 32% were non-Hispanic black and 20% were Hispanic.
For another thing, Duin overlooked the political significance of the black church leaders. Her story promised a discussion about abortion in the black community. But after a few paragraphs, the story focused on abortion laws, funding, and politics. What happened to the original story line?
I think that readers needed an elaboration on this theme. Do black Christian leaders plan to do any follow-up to combat abortion locally and nationally? Does the march represent something new for black pastors? Both would seem to be relevant questions. Of the 17 leaders of the National Black Pro-Life Union, seven are pastors.
I like that Duin and the Times had the guts to write this story. But I think this was an opportunity missed.