(CNSNews.com) - A recent Pew Research poll reported high levels of 'hopelessness' in African-American communities across the United States, a characteristic pro-life activists are linking to high abortion rates among black women.
"Children are the future. When you destroy your children, you destroy hope," Dr. Alveda King, pastoral associate of Priests for Life and the niece of the late civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said in a statement.
"The incredibly high number of abortions performed on black women in this country has to take a toll not just on the women involved, but also on their families, friends, and communities," King said. "If African-Americans feel that life will not get better, I have to believe that abortion is feeding into that hopelessness."
King was referring to a study released Nov. 13 by the Pew Research Center, which reported that only 44 percent of blacks say they think life will be better for African-Americans in the future. One in five said they think life is better for blacks now than it was in 2002.
"I know from personal experience that abortion causes depression, regret, and despair," King said. "If we love and welcome our children, optimism for the future can only increase."
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank named in honor of one of the former presidents of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, black women see higher rates of unintended pregnancy than the general population.
Ninety-eight of every 1,000 black women experience an unintended pregnancy, compared to 35 of every 1,000 whites and 78 of every 1,000 Hispanics.
African-American women are also "more than twice as likely as women overall to have an abortion," according to the institute. Black women between the ages of 15 and 19 had 84,460 abortions in 2000, according to the Institute. White women of the same age had 92,830 abortions and Hispanics accounted for 45,110.
Statistically, blacks - men and women - make up 12 percent (35 million) of the U.S. population; whites, 75 percent (215 million); and Hispanics, 15 percent (42 million).
A spokesman for the Alan Guttmacher Institute did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but the group says on its Web site that higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion among black women are connected to financial and marital status. The group does not mention a connection between abortion and "hopelessness."
"This [higher abortion rate] is likely because of a combination of factors, including the fact that black women are disproportionately poor and unmarried," the Web site reads.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a conservative black author, said he believes abortion "definitely has had a major impact" on blacks' psyche, and he said other factors are also to blame, including other moral issues, education and mainstream black leadership.
"The fact that there's one parent in the home for the most part, the black man is not there for his family guiding them," Peterson said. "The most important factor is that the average black man is not providing for his family and that's why the economic situation is the way it is."
Peterson also accused mainstream African-American leadership - the NAACP, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson - of "brainwashing" blacks to make them feel hopeless.
"They have managed to convince many blacks that they cannot make it because of racism and so a lot of them are not even putting forth the effort because they believe the lie," Peterson said.