Alveda King: Abortion Is a Civil Rights Issue

Feb 25, 2014

Dr. Alveda King

Dr. Alveda King has taken up the civil rights mantle of her uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But her driving issue is abortion, and she has a vehemently pro-life stance. She says her uncle would agree with her. 

"Planned Parenthood does not want a woman to know what her genuine options are."
Alveda King

King joined Where We Live in advance of a Yale panel, "Conversation on Civil Rights... Then and Now" taking place on March 1.

A self-proclaimed "born again," King's strong feelings come from her own personal experience. She admitted to having had two "secret" abortions when she was young, and was going to have another in the mid 1970s but her grandfather stopped her. King recalls him saying, "Honey, that's not a lump of flesh, that's my great grandchild.'"

King paraphrased her late uncle, "Uncle ML," from a 1967 Christmas sermon, a few months before he was assassinated. He said, "When we learn to regard the human personality, we won't kill anybody." She sees herself following in his footsteps as "a voice for human rights and civil rights for all human beings from conception or fertilization until natural death." 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the first recipients of Planned Parenthood's Margaret Sanger award in 1966. His wife Coretta gave the acceptance speech, although Alveda King said that she did not write it (the online archives of the King Center say show something different). And while Coretta may have supported Planned Parenthood's agenda, King said that Martin Luther did not, "I grew up with the men in my family, especially, being on guard for the sanctity of life."

The women's news site Jezebel quotes letters and articles that suggest that MLK and Planned Parenthood had an "excellent relationship."   

In 1960, King agreed to be on a committee for a Planned Parenthood study on contraception, explaining in a letter, "I have always been deeply interested in and sympathetic with the total work of the Planned Parenthood Federation."

But none of the letters mention abortion, which provides fodder for both left and right wing speculators. 

On whether Planned Parenthood provides any positive services for women, King said, "The good that may be there is just outdistanced, and so far outweighed by the harm." She cited a controversial tweet by Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, saying that one of the things women need for Valentine's Day is a "safe + legal abortion." 

"It shows that Planned Parenthood does not love women," said King. "Planned Parenthood loves that money that women bring to them to support these decisions that could be circumvented with healing and nurturing efforts. Those efforts are out there, and Planned Parenthood does not want a woman to know what her genuine options are."

King's controversial stance on abortion puts her at odds with many followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it's far from certain that his extended family shares her views. In fact, the King family has been fighting with one another over other issues, including the slain civil rights leader's Nobel Prize and one of his personal bibles

Listen to excerpted audio of the WNPR interview with Alveda King: