ROCHESTER — Protestant and Catholic church leaders agree something must be done to address the increased rates of abortion among Hispanic and African-American women in Rochester.
To lead that effort, a group of local pastors launched the "Am I Not a Child" campaign to ask "people of all good conscience" to stand together and create awareness of this ongoing tragedy, said the Rev. John Walker, senior pastor at Faith Christian Church.
As part of increasing that awareness, the campaign also created a website, aminotachild.com, which provides information about the 10-year trends in Monroe County’s ethnic communities. The abortion rate for Hispanics grew from 15 percent to 25 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared to an 8-percent increase among African-Americans and a 13-percent decrease among white women. During that decade, the number of abortions among Hispanics per 1,000 live births also doubled from 180 to 339.
"This is not just a Protestant or Catholic thing, it’s not even just Christians," Rev. Walker said. "Think about it. We’re killing ourselves. So, this is something that we can come together, where people of good conscience can stand together and say, ‘Look, this is a child.’ It is sort of paradoxical because on one hand, we say we want to protect children, but only after they are out of the womb."
The campaign’s first concern is addressing the high rates of abortion among Latinos and African-Americans in the city, where 36 percent of African-American pregnancies end in abortion and the Latino abortion rate has spiked 67 percent, Rev. Walker explained.
Couple those rates with the fact that 90 percent of pregnancies in the city are a result of out-of-wedlock relationships, and it is no wonder the community has such a crisis, he remarked.
Many children are being raised without fathers and growing up with no role models to teach them a sense of responsibility or how to form healthy relationships, Rev. Walker said.
And many in the Latino community may not be talking about abortions because of the stigma attached, noted Joan McCarthy, executive director at the Women’s Care Center on Lake Avenue. The center has seen a dramatic rise in the number of Hispanic women they work with, she said.
"Obviously, the Catholic culture is a strong part of Hispanic identity and (abortion) is completely contrary to the teachings of the church," she said.
"Now through assimilation, the same thing that happened within the African-American community is now seeping into Latino communities," McCarthy added. "It’s very unfortunate, this whole disintegration of the family unit and the lack of reverence for our faith. I don’t know if it comes with being part of the larger American community or comes from a world view that is polluted."
Members of the group Latinos por La Vida (LXV) believe the inherent values of the Latino culture of welcoming life are being obscured by a "culture of death," explained Daniela Adames, who helped form the group. Latinos por la Vida is a coalition of pro-life organizations born from the Corazon Puro (Pure Heart) bilingual chastity group based in the South Bronx.
"I feel very strongly that there is a great need for outreach to the Latino and black population since they are the main victims of this very strategic genocide we call abortion," Adames said in an e-mail. "The abortion industry targets the Latino and black population — perhaps to ‘bring and end to poverty’ — making abortion seem something necessary and harmless, when in reality our women and families are left wounded and kept silent. … LXV seeks to unite Latinos in raising our voices and uniting with others to speak against this great evil through prayer, education, and formation of leaders."
Locally, Jann Armantrout, life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester, said that she and leaders from churches in the city, notably Father Tony Mugavero, will take part in the campaign’s efforts to spread the word and engage the Latino and African-American communities.
"We are trying to help rebuild a civilization of love within our country and within the world," she said. "I’m hoping we’re at the cusp here of a large conversation being facilitated by the ‘Am I Not a Child’ effort. It’s wonderful, if you ask me."
Another part of the campaign’s goal is to have the state approve a "declaration of personhood" for a child in the womb, Rev. Walker said.
"It’s a child," he said. "We care about children. So we need to declare its personhood."
The need for such legislation harkens back to the days when African-American slaves were considered three-fifths of a person, Rev. Walker said. Although she has bioethics concerns about any potential personhood declaration, such as continued debate over when life begins in the womb, Armantrout said that she supports the declaration’s premise that all people are equal and created in God’s image.
"In the city of Rochester, the home of Frederick Douglass, we stand for the unborn," Rev. Walker stated.