In Context: Sean Duffy on African-Americans and abortion

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., is under fire for comments about African-Americans and abortion. (AP file photo)
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., is under fire for comments about African-Americans and abortion. (AP file photo)

The Congressional Black Caucus is weighing whether to ask for a formal condemnation of U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy over comments the Wisconsin Republican made about high rates of abortion among African-Americans.

The Wausau Republican's remarks, made on the House floor on Jan. 7, 2016, drew a sharp reaction the next day from one of the caucus members, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee.

Moore said on the floor:

"I don’t expect Representative Duffy to understand why his comments were so offensive, nor do I anticipate him apologizing for them. What he and so many of his Republican colleagues fail to understand is the underlying context behind high abortion rates in African-American communities. High rates of abortion are related to poverty and lack of access to prevention services. A number of African-American women face multiple barriers to accessing quality, affordable health care, which can lead to higher rates of both unintended pregnancy and abortion.

"Representative Duffy’s hypocrisy on this issue is as predictable as it is offensive. If he truly believes that we all should be fighting for the ‘hopeless and voiceless’ among us, why doesn’t he stand with us as we defend Planned Parenthood, an organization committed to ensuring all communities, and especially those most in need, have access to high-quality care? ...

"It’s painfully obvious that Representative Duffy’s concern for life ends as soon as the umbilical cord is cut. That being said, I don’t believe that his comments were said in malice or meant to inflict harm. Representative Duffy’s rhetoric is indicative of someone who just doesn’t know any better. I suggest that Representative Duffy educate himself on these critical issues."

The reactions lead us to offer In Context, our periodic feature that fleshes out sound bites that gain widespread attention.

Following is a key portion of Duffy’s remarks, which were made in connection with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Duffy began by saying he has heard many liberals decry the "targeting and unfair treatment" of African-Americans in the criminal justice system and elsewhere in society. Then he said:

"I hear a lot in this institution from minority leaders about how their communities are targeted. But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion.

"There are some stunning facts. The African-American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but account for 40 percent of the abortions -- 15 percent of Americans, 40 percent of the abortions.

"In New York City, the most recent stat, African-American women had more abortions than live births.

"There is a targeting going on, in a lot of spaces, in a lot places. And it’s going on in the abortion industry.

"And my friends, my liberals, Congressional Black Caucus members, they talk about fighting for the defenseless and the hopeless and the downtrodden. But there is no one more hopeless and voiceless than an unborn baby. But their silence is deafening. I can't hear them. Where are they standing up for their communities, advocating and fighting for them, their right to life?

"Black lives matter. They do. And Indian. And Asian. Hispanic and white. All those lives matter. We should fight for all life, including life of the unborn.

"We’ve talked about this a lot tonight. In two weeks, there’s going to be an amazing march that takes place right here at the Capitol. And you are going to see tens of thousands of people come out and support life. Now, you’re not going to see the national media cover this; they’re going to ignore it. Tens of thousands of people.

"Just think, how powerful that rally is going to be when you have Rev. Al Sharpton standing on the stage talking about how he’s going to fight for his community and his unborn babies and all the Congressional Black Caucus standing behind him going, you know what, we are going to fight for the defenseless and voiceless little babies in our community that are being targeted.

"And just think, if our president, who sheds a tear for violence, goes to the West Wing (of the White House) and sheds a tear for the unborn. I can only hope -- and pray."