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Racial Reconciliation or Spiritual Smokescreens?: Blackwashing the Crisis Pregnancy Center Movement


Beginning in the early 2000s, evangelical crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) sought to establish themselves in areas where they perceive Black women, who have disproportionately higher rates of abortion relative to other racial-ethnic groups, will be drawn to their services. These efforts are tied to larger racial reconciliation efforts by white evangelicals. To this end, in this article we explore how the evangelical CPC movement understands Black women’s higher abortion rates, the solutions they seek to offer Black women to persuade them not to abort, the expansion of the movement into minority areas and how the CPC movement justified this encroachment, and the role of Black leaders and symbolic inclusion through “blackwashing” in this expansion. Drawing upon an ethnographic content analysis, we argue that CPC activism in urban areas is not substantially different from its approaches in white and/or suburban areas and inclusion of Black perspectives and activists is limited to a surface-level veneer we refer to as blackwashing. Throughout the paper, we also provide a counter-narrative examining CPC activists’ claims about Black women and abortion and find many of them to be lacking in veracity.

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The authors wish to thank our colleagues Linda Grant, Margaret Hagerman and Sarah E. Pellegrine for their thoughtful reviews of earlier drafts of this article.

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Kelly, K., Gochanour, A. Racial Reconciliation or Spiritual Smokescreens?: Blackwashing the Crisis Pregnancy Center Movement. Qual Sociol 41, 423–443 (2018).

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  • Crisis pregnancy centers
  • Evangelicals
  • Abortion
  • Social movements
  • Racial reconciliation