"Systemic racism" refers to all of the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that harm certain racial groups and help others. One example is the current 18:1 disparity between federal penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine, imposing the same penalties for the possession of an amount of crack cocaine as for 18 times the same amount of powder cocaine. Research shows this disparity affects crack users who are more likely to be Black, low-income and less educated.*

Now consider abortion. A 2020 article on the pervasive racial disparity in abortion begins:**

"While induced abortion remains a contentious political issue, there is no credible scientific doubt that a unique human life begins at conception and, therefore, ends with an abortion. Even the Obama administration and the abortion-friendly Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have acknowledged 'the critical importance of a child’s first 1,000 days after conception in determining a healthy and productive life trajectory…to ensure that all children…have an equal opportunity to survive and thrive.'

Yet, the evidence is clear that for many decades Black children in the United States have not had, and do not have today, an equal opportunity to survive until birth."

Later the authors report that “…Black women have been experiencing abortions at a rate nearly 4 times that of White women for more than 30 years. It is very likely that the disparity existed even before there was any reporting [of abortion data].”

What can be concluded from this? “Given [the] high incidence and racially skewed distribution [of induced abortion], abortion is unquestionably the most demographically consequential occurrence for the [Black] community. Its impact on the size and racial composition of the nation is undeniable.”

Analogous to the racism inherent in crack versus powder cocaine laws, a vote to enshrine the right to abortion in the Vermont Constitution is a vote for systemic racism.

Richard Jesse

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