Dr. Dolores Grier (1931-2018) was one of the most passionate advocates of justice, both in the pro-life and civil rights movements, of the 20th and 21st centuries. She founded the Association of Black Catholics Against Abortion and served on the boards of the African American Society Against Abortion and the New York State Right to Life Committee.
The Harlem native held a master’s in social work from Fordham University and later an honorary doctorate from Iona University. For Grier, abortion and racial inequality were inseparable. She credited a “persuasive, dynamic speech in defense of all human life from conception” by the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1977 for bringing her into the pro-life movement. Afterward, she approached Jackson and said, “Rev. Jackson, I’m going to join the pro-life movement. You said the pro-life movement needed youth and color, and I am the color.” (Jackson would sadly reverse his pro-life position when he ran for President in 1984.)
On this day in 1989, Grier joined forces at a press conference with other pro-life women, including FFL Remarkable Pro-Life Woman® Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first woman employed as a general surgeon at Boston University Medical Center. Grier decried abortion as a tool of racism, noting the proximity of most abortion clinics to majority-minority neighborhoods and the lack of attention to decent housing, education, and health care for Black women, as opposed to abortion. She declared, “When we were on the plantation, you snatched the newborn baby from our arms and sold it into slavery. Today, you cut it out of the womb and throw it in the garbage or use it for human experimentation.”
Ever a woman of principle, in 1993, Grier would go on to refuse the New York City branch of the NAACP’s Women’s History Month award because of the organization’s support for abortion. She wrote to them, “I believe abortion to be a racist weapon of genocide against black people. It has been thrust upon black women as a solution to their economic crises, confusion and concern.” The following year, she said of Planned Parenthood specifically, “What are they bringing to us, people of color? They’re not bringing jobs, they’re not bringing food, they’re not bringing skills. They’re bringing death.”
Grier brought home the racism and classism of abortion succinctly: “What do you see here? Unless you are White, unless you are wealthy — those are the two W’s — you really shouldn’t come into the world.”
Today, we honor Dr. Dolores Grier alongside Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Angelina Weld Grimké, and so many other Black American women who refused to choose between justice for people of color and justice for the unborn.