ATLANTA — Has abortion become a “wedge issue” that is driving black voters away from the pro-abortion Democratic Party to the pro-life Republican Party?

Herman Cain thinks so.

Cain, a black talk-show host in Atlanta, is heading up the group VoteOurValues, which is currently sponsoring a campaign of radio ads — including some that target the Democrats’ pro-abortion stance — that seek to persuade black voters to abandon their traditional overwhelming support for the Democratic Party.

On the organization’s website (voteourvalues.com), Cain states that, “We all know that African-Americans are culturally conservative. Many are pro-life. … But they have been pressured to vote against their values.”

The radio campaign, which is airing on stations that broadcast to predominantly black audiences, features 17 ads about a range of conservative issues, including support for school choice, the faith-based initiative, and traditional marriage and strong families.

The ads are funded by America’s PAC, an Indiana-based political action committee.

Three of the ads target the Democratic Party’s support for abortion. In one, a woman commentator states that “one-third of African-American pregnancies end in abortion” and that unborn black babies “are terminated at triple the rate of white babies.”

“Each year, the abortion mills diminish the human capital of our community by another 400,000 souls,” the ad continues. “The Democratic Party supports these liberal abortion laws that are decimating our people. But the individual’s right to life is supported in the Republican platform.

“Democrats say they want our votes,” the woman concludes. “Why don’t they want our live babies?”

In an interview with the Register, Cain said the radio ads focus on four “core values”: economic growth, pro-life issues, pro-family issues and national defense.

In all four areas, Cain said, black people tend to be much more conservative than the Democratic candidates they usually vote for.

According to Cain, a successful businessman who was CEO and president of Godfather’s Pizza from 1986-1996 and who ran in the 2004 Republican primary in Georgia for the U.S. Senate, black voters are generally unaware of this “values gap.”

That’s because the Democrats remain popular for their promotion of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, Cain said. As a result, many black voters vote Democrat without realizing how liberal the party has become on issues like abortion.

“Many of the Democratic candidates and many of the Democratic elected officials have voted in favor of laws that promote abortion or make it easier for women to get abortions,” Cain said. “But when you talk to the majority of black Americans, they are against abortion and many of them are pro-life.”

Added Cain, “And many of them are simply unaware of the fact that some of their representatives have a different view on that than they have.”

‘Insensitive’

The abortion-related ads have incensed some black Democrats.

“They’re awful. They’re repulsive,” Gladys Muhammad, a Democratic activist in South Bend, Ind., told the New York Sun. “When they say Democrats don’t like black babies, that’s damn foolish. They’re very insensitive.”

In fact, the ads understate the discrepancy between the abortion rate among blacks and whites, according to the abortion industry’s own data.

An article in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, which is published by the research arm of Planned Parenthood, reported that in 2000 there were 49 abortions per 1,000 black women aged 15-44 — almost four times greater than the rate of 13 per 1,000 white women.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., a black pro-abortion Catholic, and the national office of NARAL Pro-Choice America did not respond to requests from the Register for an interview about the issues raised by the ads.

Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, said the “partisan” radio ad campaign is not advancing the pro-life cause. She said a better approach for pro-life voters is to support individual candidates who have demonstrated their pro-life credentials, whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Said Day, “I think it does do a disservice to the pro-life community when you target a party, because there are pro-life Democrats across the country who are running for office.”

Day conceded that the close identification of the Democratic Party with the pro-abortion position has “definitely” hurt the party in recent elections. She said abortion “was a big reason” for the outcome of the 2004 elections, which left the Republicans in control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

But the Democratic Party is listening to the message from voters and is starting to shift away from its strong support for abortion, Day said, There has been no shift, however, in the Democratic platform, which remains solidly pro-abortion.

Cain also points to the 2004 elections as a bellwether, saying that they demonstrated that his organization’s radio ads can change black voting patterns.

One of the states targeted with the ads in 2004 was Ohio, where President Bush’s narrow victory over Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry propelled him to a second term. Cain said exit polls in Ohio showed that Bush’s support among black voters in that state climbed from 9% in 2000 to 16% in 2004.

“We believe that’s because we ran a series of ads … that simply were designed to do one thing — get people to stop and think who they were voting for,” Cain said. “We didn’t have a landslide of people who changed their minds, but we do believe that enough African-Americans stopped and said to themselves, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I shouldn’t just vote Democrat because I’ve always voted Democrat.’”

Alveda King

Alveda King, director of African American Outreach for Gospell of Life Ministries, is the daughter of A.D. King and the niece of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. King said that she knows Cain to be “a man of integrity,” and agrees with his assessment that blacks tend to be significantly more culturally conservative than their mostly Democratic elected representatives. She estimated that eight of 10 black Americans regard abortion as “wrong.”

King also agrees with Cain that blacks generally overlook Democratic policies on abortion and other social issues because they so closely identify Democrats with the civil rights cause that has dominated American politics since the 1960s.

“The issues have never been clearly redefined along the lines of life and marriage and family,” King said. “And because of that, the blacks have mostly just stayed around in the Democratic Party.”

As for abortion, King said, “It has been perceived to be an issue in the conservative, white community for a long time, simply because the information has not been released on a large scale in the African-American community.”
King said that this is now changing, with a number of black pro-life organizations publicizing the harsh reality of abortion in black communities since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: Abortions of black babies have accounted for approximately 15 million of the total of 40 million abortions legally performed in the United States since 1973.

“The African-American community has suffered more abortions than any other community in this nation,” King said.

The Way Forward

King, who noted that her uncle Martin Luther King warned that “the Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for personal comfort and safety,” said that Americans of all races and political affiliations need to unite in order to fight abortion.

“Jesus Christ, the author of our faith — the Way, the Truth and the Life — encourages us all to work together to further his Kingdom,” King said. “It’s a common issue, not a black issue or a white issue or a Hispanic issue.”

Tom McFeely is based in

Victoria, British Columbia.