In the January issue of Rolling Stone, cover girl and Grammy-nominated hip hop star Nicki Minaj admitted that when she was 16 years old, she got pregnant by a man who was much older than her. Finding out that she was pregnant was a nightmare, she recalled, and ultimately she decided to have an abortion.
"I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through," she told the magazine. "It haunted me all my life."
Yet she was clear that despite her own struggle with terminating her pregnancy, it was the best decision for her and she was clear where her politics lie: "It'd be contradictory if I said I wasn't pro-choice. I wasn't ready. I didn't have anything to offer a child."
And while some may criticize her for not “keeping her business to herself,” I’m extremely glad that she didn’t stay silent. For starters, while a handful of Black celebs have talked about having abortions (Vanessa Williams and Sherri Shepherd come to mind), it’s rare that young Black celebs speak out. And largely, the public narrative around who has accessed this safe and legal (depending on where you live) medical procedure, has been centered on white women — further perpetuating this notion that abortion is a white woman’s issue and that they are the only ones who are deeply impacted by the current war on women.
In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. African-American women have the highest abortion rates in the U.S.
According to a 2013 Guttmacher Institute report, Black women are four times as likely to have an abortion compared to white women. Looking specifically at teenage girls, on average, 41 in 1,000 pregnancies among Black women (ages 15-19) are terminated compared to 10 in 1,000 among white women and 20 in 1,000 among Latinas.
With abortion rates going up, it’s really clear how much this procedure is needed in this country. But it also highlights the fact that women across this nation desperately need stronger access to birth control, quality health care and comprehensive sex education. (We also have to stop ignoring men and consistently emphasize their responsibility in preventing pregnancy, HIV and STDs by wearing condoms.)
And yes, it’s all easier said than done given the GOP’s obsession with our vaginas, the influx of states passing restrictive abortion laws and an attack on birth control. The anti-abortion folks will once again try to monopolize on this moment with their conservative views. Critics will manipulate Minaj’s words to play into some “abortion regret” narrative and will illuminate, once again, that the most dangerous place for a Black child is in our wombs.
Please disregard these scare tactics.
It's easy to see just how stigmatizing it is for women, especially Black women, to share their stories about abortion. We have been taught to sit in silence.
But with Minaj opening up about her experience, she has helped other women to know that they are not alone. There is no shame. For many, this is just life.
For most women, the decision to have an abortion is never one that is taken lightly. And in the end, despite the thousands of thoughts that weigh on a woman’s mind — “Will God forgive me? Am I a bad person? What if I never get pregnant again?” — women have to make the best decision for themselves. A message that we definitely need to hear more of, especially in our community.
So thank you, Nicki, for sharing your story.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Bennett Raglin/ Getty Images for BET)