It doesn’t take much scrolling on the internet to read articles claiming Black Americans are incredibly conflicted about abortion.
But, new findings from Black to The Future Action Fund’s temperature check poll, the largest recurring poll of Black Americans in the United States, beg to differ.
According to their May poll, which reached roughly 1,000 respondents, 73% of Black Americans support Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case which the Supreme Court overturned late last month. And 68% of Black Americans support abortion being legal in all or most cases.
Alicia Garza, Principal of Black to the Future Action Fund and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, says she wasn’t surprised by the findings.
“What we know about Black folks is that it’s important to us to be able to have access to quality health care, and it’s important for us to make decisions over our own lives,” says Garza. “It does not surprise me that Black folks would be overwhelmingly in support of keeping that decision about health care between a person and their doctor.”
Black people in the United States are often talked about, says Garza, but they’re rarely talked to, especially when it comes to issues like abortion.
“There’s a lot of ways in which Black people get assigned particular characteristics, particular values, particular thoughts, but you have to be really careful about that,” she says. “At the end of the day, there’s not enough practice in actually engaging Black folks.”
SaraEllen Strongman, an Assistant Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at The University of Michigan, says that just because Black Americans tend to be religious doesn’t mean they necessarily hold anti-abortion viewpoints.
“A lot of pro-life or anti-abortion evangelical groups are coming out of a predominately white evangelical tradition,” says Strongman, “ I think there’s an… impression that African Americans more broadly opposed to abortion than is actually realistic.”
In fact, Strongman says that Black churches have often been the site of liberal organizing around a host of issues surrounding autonomy.
“Historically, the church in the African American community has been an incredible site for political mobilization,” says Strongman. “So if anything, I think a lot of even relatively conservative African American religious institutions are going to be more politically progressive than you might think.”
Strongman also pointed out the history of Black women, like Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, organizing around reproductive justice.
“She said you know, isn’t it better for people to have control over their own bodies over their reproductive autonomy,” says Strongman, echoing Chisholm’s 1969 speech on the house floor, where she argued that “the decision to have a child should be a personal private decision.”
In more recent years, Strongman says support for abortion has become even more closely tied to civil rights overall.
“I’m not surprised [support for Roe] is high,” says Strongman, “given the ways in which a lot of social justice movements, especially in the last five to ten years, have made clear the links between racial justice, bodily autonomy and civil rights.”