ATLANTA (WOMENSENEWS)–Last weekend, the Rev. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., left no doubt about where the Tea Party movement, led by conservative pundit Glenn Beck, stood on abortion rights.
In a Beck-headlined rally, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Alveda King–a big-name backer of a controversial anti-abortion billboard campaign here that targets African American neighborhoods–invoked her uncle and proclaimed that equal protection for all included banning abortion.
True protection, she was quoted in The Republic magazine as saying, will only be achieved "when our children are no longer in mortal peril on our streets and in our classrooms, and in the wombs of our mothers."
The 59-year-old King, a former Georgia legislator, says her uncle championed the rights of the "human family, and the human family also includes little babies in womb." Her uncle, she says, would have opposed abortion.
"The greatest way to violate the rights of a little baby in the womb is to kill the baby," King said in an interview with Women’s eNews. "That violates the baby’s civil rights."
This week, reproductive rights activists reacted negatively to King’s appearance at the rally where Beck was widely quoted as calling President Obama a racist with a "deep seeded hatred of white people."
Loretta Ross, national coordinator of the Atlanta-based SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, expressed extreme dismay that King was assuming the mantle of her uncle and extending it to Beck’s controversial effort to reclaim the civil rights movement for people of religious faith.
"That’s like Martin Luther King Jr. endorsing the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan," Ross said.
Pro-choice advocates note that Martin Luther King Jr. accepted an award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in part for his support of "the cause of worldwide voluntary family planning."
King’s anti-abortion stance gained national attention earlier this year when she became a visible supporter of a controversial billboard campaign that started in Atlanta and said abortions threatened black children with extinction. "Black children are an endangered species," the billboards said.
A new campaign, "Black and Unwanted," accuses abortion rights proponents of preventing black babies from being adopted by opposing interracial adoption.
Sixty of these billboards were erected in central Georgia in Savannah, Augusta and Macon during the summer, said Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation, creator of the campaign. The billboards also went up in Little Rock, Ark., in June and July.
Bomberger adds that the billboards are now up in Bryan-College Station, Texas, near the place "where Roe v. Wade started."
Ross called the billboards "a new weapon in an old war. They’re trying to shame black women out of choices."
Candidates endorsed by Tea Party leaders such as Beck and Sarah Palin are widely expected to play a potent role in the midterm elections in November, when Democratic control of Congress will be at stake.
One sign of that came earlier this week when a little-known Alaskan candidate for the Republican nomination for senator, Joe Miller, backed by Palin, unseated incumbent Lisa Murkowski in a close race.
But King, who describes herself as an author, actress, singer and doting grandmother, disavows any openly political role.
"I’m not involved in politics anymore," she recently told a reporter for Salon.com. "Make sure you note that."
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Diane Loupe, a freelance writer and editor based in Decatur, Ga., teaches communications at the Interactive College of Technology in Chamblee, Ga.
For more information:
RH-Reality Check columnist Pamela Merritt on Dr. Alveda King:
Alveda King talks to Salon ahead of her planned speech at Glenn Beck rally.:
Alveda King’s comments on abortion at the Priests for Life website.: