Alabama State University (ASU), a historically black college, is planted near the west side of the capital city of Montgomery, a birthplace of the civil-rights movement. The campus sits at the edge of a major housing project. Or as Tijuanna Adetunji puts it: "It's in the 'hood."
That made it the perfect place for Adetunji, 38, who grew up in the Montgomery projects herself, to share her message on African-Americans and the true nature of abortion.
Earlier this year, an ASU professor invited Adetunji to address her students on the topic. "The professor knew some of her students had faced, or were facing, crisis pregnancies," said Adetunji, a pastor's wife who has lately assumed the mantle of pro-life activist. "She wanted a way to get them some help in making better decisions, better choices."
As a public employee, the professor "couldn't tell the students everything," Adetunji said. "But I could."
Adetunji told the students, all of whom were African-American, that she still grieves over her own choice to have two abortions, one at age 17 and the other at age 25.
She told them that abortion is killing off their culture: 13 million black babies have died in the womb since 1973-more than 2.5 times the total number of deaths among African-Americans during the same period from AIDS, cancer, accidents, heart disease, and violent crime combined.
She told them that one-third of all abortions are performed on black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control, even though blacks make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Finally, Adetunji used models and an interactive DVD to show the class that it is not "tissue" that dies during an abortion, but a living child with eyes, a beating heart, and tiny hands and feet.
"One young man on the front row was in tears," Adetunji recalls. Another got up and walked out. Later, he returned and confided to the professor in anguish: "I didn't know! I made her have three! . . . I didn't know!"
Adetunji is among a growing number of people working both to educate African-Americans about the truth of pregnancy and the ravages of abortion, and to increase compassionate outreach to black women facing crisis pregnancies. And with an African-American becoming president, some urban pro-life activists say the time to draw national attention to the steep toll of abortion on blacks is now.
Clenard Childress Jr., senior pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., and founder of BlackGenocide.org, criticizes Obama's pro-abortion voting record and rhetoric but says, "The good thing about an Obama presidency is that we now have a face to put on the genocide of African-American babies in this country."
Indeed, the face of the minority survivor in the Oval Office racially represents many abortion victims. Ninety-four percent of all abortion doctors are located in metropolitan areas, with seven in 10 of these in predominantly minority-populated communities, according to Care Net, a Virginia-based coalition of more than 1,100 pregnancy resource centers. The result: African-American and Hispanic women, who together make up about one-quarter of the female population, account for 57 percent of the 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States each year. In some urban areas, abortions among minority women now equal the number of live births.
That trend spurred Care Net to launch its Urban Initiative in 2003. Since then, the group has opened 14 PRCs in metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia's New HOPE Pregnancy Center. In 2005, Herb Lusk, an African-American pastor in Philadelphia known for his poverty-fighting efforts and biblical conservatism (see WORLD, July 29, 2000), asked members at Greater Exodus Baptist Church if they knew where the nearest pregnancy resource center was.
The prevailing answer then was: What's a pregnancy resource center? Now, members of the Greater Exodus congregation know the answer: The nearest PRC is an outgrowth of their own church. In 2008, Lusk teamed with Care Net to open the New HOPE Pregnancy Center in Philly, across the street from the Salvation Army and within a five-mile radius of five abortion clinics.
"If you don't do anything about abortion, then you're not part of the solution, which means you're part of the problem," said Lusk. "The good news is I'm no longer part of the problem."
In Montgomery, Ala., Tijuanna Adetunji is combating the problem by speaking in churches, passing out literature, and looking for a building in which to start a PRC. She wants to establish it "on the west side of Montgomery, where the black folks are." Adetunji says this with an ironic chuckle, as though the need were as obvious as the need for shelter in a storm.
Adetunji grew up unsheltered, raised in the drug- and sex-soaked projects by a single mom whose boyfriend touched Adetunji in ways he shouldn't have. Even as a young teen, Adetunji was sexually active: "But I wasn't really looking for sex. My father wasn't there, so like most girls where I came from, I was looking for love. . . . The sex was a byproduct of wanting someone to hold you, to affirm you, to say they loved you-even if they were lying."
At age 17, Adetunji became pregnant. By then, her family's economic situation had improved, and they didn't live in the projects anymore. She was able to scrape together the money for an abortion: "It was the thing to do. It was used as a form of birth control."
But many black girls, especially those from the projects, couldn't afford abortions then. "The white girls could get an abortion because they had access to money," Adetunji explained. "The only reason black girls didn't get an abortion is because they didn't have the money. At the same time, when you had the baby, you weren't going to college, you weren't going anywhere. You were exactly what everyone said black girls from the projects were: nothing."
Adetunji believes the "Baby Mama" stigma may be in part responsible for the high rate of abortion among black women today. "We still want to get away from the projects at all costs. It's like the Enemy has duped us into believing we must kill our own children to do so. It's like we haven't progressed at all."
Clenard Childress said a lack of knowledge in the African-American community, and among black pastors in particular, is a big part of the problem. Though churches are still central to African-American culture, many pastors are so wrapped up in the nose-to-grindstone minutiae of ministry that they ignore the grimmest of statistics: that more than one of every two of their future congregants is killed in the womb.
Childress is working to change that, meeting with other black pastors one-on-one and speaking on the topic at conferences: "Often pastors will come up to me afterward weeping and broken, and say, 'I never saw that.' People have held me and wouldn't let me go."
Jim McGarvey, former director of Hope Women's Centers in Broward County, Fla., describes similar experiences. More than half the county is made up of African-Americans, McGarvey said, but until recently, most black churches did not support the Hope chain of PRCs (unaffiliated with the HOPE center in Philadelphia) "because they didn't know about us."
Like Childress, McGarvey began going church to church to speak with black pastors. "I was simply giving them the information," said McGarvey, who is white. "Among the black pastors I know, the lights are coming on and they are wanting to do something about the problem of abortion."
Childress said he finds it effective to help African-Americans see the true nature and toll of abortion by showing them "how we've been disconnected from the civil-rights movement of true Christian social action."
Martin Luther King Jr. used biblical precepts to fight for the upward mobility of blacks, he said. "But liberal black leaders like Jesse Jackson and [NAACP chairman] Julian Bond today use the rhetoric of civil rights to advance their personal agendas and validate their own existence. They invoke Dr. King's movement, but they have left the God of that movement."