Brothers in Arms, Part 2: Race and Abortion from Roe to the Reagan Years

This article is our second installment in a series that explores the historical and contemporary links between racial intolerance and opposition to abortion. Previously, this series examined how fears of immigration — and racist notions that associated abortion with the barbarism of so-called “savage” races — fueled the opposition to abortion that led to its prohibition in the late 1800s. This installment examines the social forces that helped racism and opposition to abortion converge again in the first years after Roe v. Wade.

Replica of a banner used at NAACP headquarters from 1920 to 1938

A principle of democracy holds that while majority rule should serve as the guiding force of government, at times it must be reconciled with the rights of individuals and minorities. It was an idea Thomas Jefferson captured in his inaugural speech of 1801:

All … will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail … that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect.

With that understanding, the framers wrote the Constitution to include provisions for a judicial branch, composed of judges whose lifetime appointments would free them from the pressures of elections and afford them greater independence in their decisions. The branch would serve as the nation’s highest judicial body, above state and local courts.


Before his obsession with abortion and Tinky Winky, Jerry Falwell fought civil rights and integration.


For much of U.S. history, local, state, and federal judicial systems existed alongside another judicial system, one far less formal and conceived not in the interest of protecting minorities, but often in meting out the harshest possible punishments for them. It was the vigilante justice of lynching, sometimes known as Lynch law. Named after the Virginia plantation owner Charles Lynch, it was a form of mob justice that took root in the Revolutionary War era, before an official court system was fully established. It came to mean quick trials that ended in public hangings.

Though lynching was initially used against British loyalists, eventually Southern blacks became the overwhelming majority of its victims. Many Native Americans, Asians, Jews, and Mexicans were also lynched. According to the NAACP, between 1882 and 1968, in the period of racial tension in the post-slavery and civil rights years, 4,743 lynchings took place, and 3,446 of its victims were black. Rather than taking place under the cover of night or in countryside seclusion, many lynchings were staged in broad daylight, even in front of courthouses, and they were often advertised beforehand in newspapers — a blunt assertion of their existence as a separate judicial system for people of color. Though associated with the South, they took place in the North as well. In fact, only a few states — Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — had no lynchings between 1882 and 1968. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Ken Clark for State Representative, LD 24

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Our candidate interviews usually focus on Planned Parenthood’s core concerns, like reproductive health, sex education, and reproductive choice. This interview is an exception. Rep. Clark was interviewed in 2014 on these issues, and has been an ally during his term in the House, where he represents Central Phoenix’s Legislative District 24.


“There are enough people in this state that if 5,000 people collected one petition, we’d get this done.”


Recently, however, he has been instrumental in trying to repeal a law passed at the end of this session, SB 1516, that makes it easier for dark money to influence our elections. Dark money is money used by groups like nonprofit organizations, corporations, or labor unions for political purposes. At issue is whether and how such groups have to reveal the sources of their funds. Instead of writing a separate piece on dark money, we decided to use today’s installment of our Meet Our Candidates series to shine a light on the issue. Planned Parenthood believes in the importance of fair and clean elections that accurately represent the will of the people.

You can learn more about dark money at Stop Corruption Now. Rep. Clark generously took the time to answer our questions via telephone on July 5, 2016.

When I moved to Arizona 20 years ago, I was impressed with the way elections here were run, especially that candidates could use public monies to finance their campaigns, for a more equal playing field. So I’ve been very disturbed by attacks on the system in recent years, including SB 1516, which was passed at the end of this legislative session and signed into law without much discussion. Can you tell us what this law does that is so damaging to our elections?

Senate Bill 1516 completely wipes out our previous campaign finance statute, and replaces it with something that will allow people to hide money in our political system, and in doing so, threaten politicians and blackmail them to get them to do what they want. So it’s an unprecedented change, and it doesn’t matter what issue you care the most about — if this law stays in place, your issue will be affected, because you will no longer have a Legislature that acts based on the merits of the law; with this law in place, it will act based on who has the most money and who is threatening whom. Continue reading