Abortion is a contentious topic in the States right now: so when Kanye West shared a damaging myth about the effects of morning-after pill Plan B, the organisation Planned Parenthood moved in to shut him down.
When we next need advice on emergency contraception, remind us not to speak to Kanye West. The rapper demonstrated his near-total lack of knowledge on the topic – and reproductive rights more generally – in a recent chat with radio host Big Boy.
Discussing his new album, Jesus Is King, which is inspired by West’s Christian faith, the singer appeared to accuse the Democratic party of brainwashing African-American communities into forced abortion.
“We brainwashed out here, bro. Come on, man. This is a free man talking,” he said. “Democrats had us voting Democrat for food stamps for years, bro. What is you talking about? Guns in the ‘80s, taking the fathers out the home, Plan B, lowering our votes, making us abort our children. Thou shalt not kill.”
As you can see, West’s remarks also seem to imply that Plan B, otherwise known as the morning-after pill, causes abortion. This irresponsible and entirely untrue claim is nevertheless a popular trope that is often rolled out by right-wing commentators and pro-life campaigners in the States.
Keen to iron out any confusion, Foundation Consumer Healthcare – the pharmaceutical company that makes Plan B in the States – soon jumped in to correct the inaccuracy.
“Plan B helps prevent pregnancy before it starts by delaying ovulation,” a rep for the manufacturers told TMZ. “Plan B is not an abortion pill – it will not harm an existing pregnancy and it will not be effective if a woman is already pregnant.”
Reproductive health service Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, went one step further in responding to the controversy. A spokesperson for the organisation suggested that West’s remarks were designed to shame black women, and the choices that they make.
“As black women, we make our own decisions about our bodies and pregnancies, and want and deserve to have access to the best medical care available,” the rep said.
“Misinformation like this is meant to shame us and keep us from making our own health care decisions. Black women want and deserve support and access to the full range of reproductive health care, but this persistent lie is threatening our ability to obtain it.”
Unsurprisingly, West’s perpetuation of a damaging “abortion pill” myth that has zero bearing on reality also got quite the reaction on Twitter.
Many people tied his remarks to a wider culture of endemic sexism.
Others questioned why the comments had been deemed as grounds for serious debate on (surprise, surprise) Fox News:
Still, it’s interesting to see that those close to the White House actually approve of West – as least as far as messaging on his new album is concerned.
The row comes at a critical time for abortion rights in America. Lawmakers in conservative, Republican-led states are seeking to provoke a Supreme Court battle in the hope of overturning the country’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that makes abortion legal.
This week, a federal judge placed a temporary injunction on the near-blanket abortion ban that was signed into law in Alabama earlier this year, saying it “diminishes the capacity of women to act in society”. Like similar bills, the legislation is being contested by state abortion providers, and will now progress up the court system.