Racist Parents Kidnap Daughter and Try to Force Abortion

A few days ago I read a story from Rueters about a couple from Maine, who kidnapped their 19 year old daughter. They forced her into a car, and tried taking her to New York so they could force her to have an abortion. The daughter escaped and called police while she hid in a store in New Hampshire. The parents have been arrested and held on $100,000 bail. After reading the first couple paragraphs of the story, my immediate reaction was, “I wonder if the potential father is black.” However, the initial article reveals very little about the motive. After my initial read, the only motive I could glean was that the parents were mad that the boyfriend was in jail. But, this story didn’t add up to me. So yesterday, one of my students mentioned the story and said that–the kidnapped woman’s boyfriend is a black man, and the daughter told police that racism was a motive in the kidnapping.

Based on my research on interracial relationships, this story actually fits fairly well into the narratives I have seen in many white families where relatives strongly object to interracial relationships. The only thing that surprises me about the story is that the parents attempted to kidnap this woman; the cases I know of personally generally involve less direct coercion. I know of 2 cases (one in my research and one in another sociological study) where parents of a white person in an interracial relationship suggested, encouraged, and promoted abortion to prevent the birth of a biracial child (I am hesitantly using the term biracial because most of the white relatives would say the child is black.). I also know of other cases where people encouraged white mother’s to place a child for adoption because the child’s father was black, and I know of many situations where white families offered bribes and/or withdrew emotional and/or financial support as a way to discourage an interracial relationship or a pregnancy that resulted from such a relationship. In these cases, white relatives feel they are protecting the family’s reputation, and/or they feel that the relative in the interracial relationship is too naive (especially women) to know what she/he is getting into. White relatives who feel this way believe that birth of a biracial child is a permanent marker of an interracial relationship that will hurt their relative’s social standing (white privilege), and to some extent, I’m sure they are right about this. The irony of this is that many white relatives of interracial couples would be the first to say that race doesn’t matter or that whites do not have unearned privileges, but suddenly when it hits close to home, they change their tune.

The media attention given to this kidnapping has been varied, ranging from the first story, which was completely raceless, to the subsequent story where race is revealed as a motive. This story also has implications for abortion politics, and thus, it has received attention from those for and against abortion rights. I thought a nice sampling of headlines for this story would reveal a lot about our racial politics, our abortion politics, and where location where race and abortion politics intersect (or don’t intersect in public life).

  • We’ll start with this headline from BET.com–”Parents Were Upset Baby’s Father Was Black, Police Say.” Note how this headline focuses on the father’s race as the point of contention for the parents. I also found it interesting that the author uses the term “unborn child.” I know this phrase is passe among many pro-choice advocates, but I can clearly understand why an African American writer would choose to emphasize personhood, given the long history African peoples being treated as less than human. I tried to walk the tightrope between my pro-choice and pro-black views by using this phrase, “to prevent the birth of a biracial child.”
  • This headline from Seascoastonline.com comes from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Herald–”A call for calm in kidnapping probe.” The article is from AP, but even if an article comes from AP, local papers make up their own headlines. What is so ridiculous about this headline is that the article has nothing whatsoever to do with “a call for calm.” I don’t know if the person who wrote this headline was worried that the 10 Black people who live in NH were going to go out and protest this, but the headline certainly does not match the story (Ok, I know the number of Black folks in NH is more than 10, but please allow me a sarcastic moment.). The actual article makes NO mention of the racial aspects of the case, which I don’t necessarily object to. However, I frequently see articles “calling for calm” any time an event is racially charged. Now here is a better headline for the same AP release–”Prosecutors mum on kidnapping charge.” Yes, the headline avoids the race issue, but at least it matches the subject. I would expect a prosecutor not to divulge too much information in a high profile case, to try to preserve the jury pool. But how can the same article have such dramatically different headlines.
  • Next comes this headline from Truth Dig.com, a progressive website that seems to cater to a white audience–”Taking the ‘Choice’ Out of ProChoice.” The article makes several good points about reframing pro-choice politics, and remains nearly silent on the racism issue until we get to this lovely quote:

    “The back story, as assembled by police and reporters, has all the elements of soap opera even in its bare bones. Katelyn, a high school honors student who enrolled in Boston College, had been sent to George Washington University in an attempt by her parents to distance her from her boyfriend. The debacle followed her parents’ discovery that she was back in Maine and pregnant. Katelyn has told authorities that her parents were outraged because her boyfriend is black. Their attitude may have been more shaped by the fact that he is in jail, again. But there is nothing that justifies duct tape or the destination.”

    Well, Ellen Goodman needs to read the other reports because this young woman has explicitly stated to police that her parents were upset about the race of her boyfriend, not his criminal record. She seems to take it upon herself to down play the race issue and provide a pseudo-justification for the parents (He’s a jailbird.). What’s sad about this headline, is that it is the same problem we have over and over again in the white progressive/liberal/feminist blogosphere. Some white progressive/liberal/feminist takes it upon her/himself to very carefully outline a progressive/liberal/feminist perspective on a hot button issue (in this case abortion), while simultaneously marginalizing racism and the perspectives of people of color. She makes a good point that this case in no way undermines pro-choice politics, and the family would have an extremely difficult time finding a doctor to perform an abortion on an unwilling woman. Unfortunately, Goodman doesn’t realize (or care about??) the clear racial implications of the case.

  • Now here’s another pathetic take on this story. This time we have the anti-abortion website Lifesite with–”New Website Details Thousands of Violent Crimes by Abortion Supporters.” The authors are promoting a new site that basically argues that pro-choice advocates are a bunch of criminals, and the site attempts to use this case to demonstrate the “violent nature of abortion.” While the article briefly mentions race; the author also decides that abortion is violent and the parents were violent not because of their racism but because in the words of one anti-abortion activist, “Abortion is one of the most violent acts known in the history of mankind and its acceptance into our otherwise civil society has served to breed more and more violence to the point where we are now witnessing parents who physically subdue and kidnap their own children in an effort to force them to abort their unborn grandchildren.” Does this guy really think the parents would have wanted this woman to have an abortion if the guy was white? Isn’t racism the underlying cause of this violent act. These crazy parents don’t epitomize pro-choice advocates. First, how can anybody even remotely think that kidnapping somebody and trying to force that same person to have an abortion is in anyways consistent with pro-choice politics. Clearly these parents were anti-choice because they didn’t want to let their daughter have any say in this matter.

A case like this can be framed and used to promote multiple viewpoints, as the headlines reveal. Unfortunately, the vast majority of media outlets, pushed the racist elements of this story to the back of the agenda. In particular, people seem to be attracted to the abortion angle of the story, not the racist angle. If you miss the racist, angle of this story than you miss a huge piece of the puzzle.

This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, Families structures, divorce, etc, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

38 Responses to Racist Parents Kidnap Daughter and Try to Force Abortion

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  4. 4
    Heart says:

    I thought so. I thought so.

    You know, I am thoroughly pro-choice, and I hate the criminal justice system in this country, and I believe in the abolition of the prison system as it exists here, and Iam against the death penalty, but to me, reading this, these parents should be charged with attempted murder and should spend the rest of their effing lives in jail.

    I swear to the goddess on high I hate this racist country. I feel so alienated and enraged these days that I can’t even write about it as I would like to, as I feel I really need to. I just want to leave, move, get out of Dodge. I feel despairing that anything will ever change.

    I felt one ray of hope today. On a van, as I rode the bus to work, I saw two signs: “Torture: an American value,” and “Ashamed to be an American,” with an upside down flag.

    That’s how I feel. I wish I could get right up in these parents’ faces. I want to gather their daughter in and make a safe place for her and for her child. I want the state of Michigan or Washington for people of color and their white parents or partners. I am at my wit’s end.

    Heart

  5. 5
    Rachel S. says:

    Heart said, “I thought so. I thought so.”

    I know. It’s soooo not surprising. I just can’t believe that they left that huge “detail” out of the first report.

  6. 6
    moe99 says:

    What I can’t figure out, is how these parents were going to *force* their 19 year old daughter to have an abortion. She’s an adult, fer criminies’ sake.

  7. 7
    fishane says:

    but I can clearly understand why an African American writer would choose to emphasize personhood, given the long history African peoples being treated as less than human. I tried to walk the tightrope between my pro-choice and pro-black views by using this phrase, “to prevent the birth of a biracial child.”

    I’m mostly with you. Race is constructed. Understanding is required where possible, and sensitivity where not. Language matters, and I’m even willing to concede that various different modes of language might be appropriate at times, but I’m really conflicted about that.

    I can’t, however, see how race should matter in this case, in terms of the crime committed. An abduction and forced abortion of the fetus transcends race, even if it was an element factored into the eventual crime. It is a fetus, not a “biracial child”. The mother was the victim of a serious crime that has nothing to do with race.

    Now, one can look over the crime and analyse why it happened, and race certainly plays in there, and that’s hugely interesting, and worthy of reflection. And of course, lazy media will intentionally miss, or at least downplay, the important parts of the story.

    The crime itself, though, is narrow, and color blind.

    Lifesite will of course spin anything as a victory – watching them is good, but the spin isn’t surprising.

    This case is as much about a woman’s right to choose as any of the other horror stories we’ve heard, and race issues, while they clearly matter here, shouldn’t cloud the base wrong done to this woman.

    Put another way, “why” shouldn’t matter in a crime, in most situations (there are a lot of exceptions). “What” is what matters most.

  8. 8
    SmartBlkWoma says:

    Wow, I had read several articles about this story before running into this one and this is the first that mentioned the fact that the boyfriend was black. It was always framed as a pro-choice/pro-life issue and the racial aspect was completely avoided.

  9. 9
    Tuomas says:

    Well, Ellen Goodman needs to read the other reports because this young woman has explicitly stated to police that her parents were upset about the race of her boyfriend, not his criminal record.

    Hell yeah. Because no one ever accuses anyone of racism falsely.

  10. 10
    Tuomas says:

    Of course, it is entirely possible that they are more concerned of the race. I’m just saying that just because the young woman said so isn’t evidence enough.

  11. 11
    Rachel S. says:

    fishbane said, “The mother was the victim of a serious crime that has nothing to do with race.”

    Do you think the parents would have done this if if the botfriend was not a black man? The young woman has even stated that the parents were motived by racism. What more do we need to show that racism was a factor in the crime?

  12. 12
    Rachel S. says:

    Tuomas said, “I’m just saying that just because the young woman said so isn’t evidence enough.”

    First off, I feel like we are talking about rape here because this is the same sort of thing people say all the time when women come forward about rapes. Second, there is plenty of forensic evidence to support the woman’s story.

  13. 13
    Qusan says:

    Unfortunately, the first thing that came to a lot of black folks’ mind (if only joking at first) when this story first broke was “the baby daddy must be black.” I don’t understand the surprise.

  14. 14
    curiousgyrl says:

    fishane:
    I dont understand your point or where it gets you to make it. Just because the same crime could be committed in a different situation that had nothing to do with race, doesn’t mean that this crime had nothing to do with race. These parents were motivated by the desire to stop thier daugther from having a black child; there is a long history of eugenics in this country targeting black folks for the same reason.

  15. 15
    Hailey says:

    The idea suggested that the parents are being falsely accused of racism might have some validity if the parents had more credibility. The parents were found with duct tape etc in the back of their car and the father had a weapon with him. Their daughter’s report of what happened rang true to the police. Her parents deserve no less than 25 years.

    What I have found eye-brow raising is the media and public reaction. If these had been anti-abortion parents who had kidnapped their daughter to prevent an abortion people would be absolutely outraged which would be completely understandable. What is surprising to me is that the outrage has been quite modest in this situation where parents pursuing an abortion went to such great lengths and made their daughter fearful for her safety. The silence to me is the biggest surprise.

  16. 16
    beth says:

    was wondering what the over/under was on the amount of time that would pass before some jerkoff would frame this as a “see what happens when people support abortion rights”? non sequitur. looks like i should’ve taken the under.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    First off, I feel like we are talking about rape here because this is the same sort of thing people say all the time when women come forward about rapes.

    This is silly, and trivializes the disbelief that women who report rape often experience. Skepticism towards a rape means that you are calling the woman a liar or completely nuts (in essence). Skepticism towards a person’s report of another person’s motivations means that you are aware that people often get that wrong.

    Second, there is plenty of forensic evidence to support the woman’s story.

    I await with baited breath a description of how forensic evidence can support an opinion about someone else’s opinion. (“Look, six hairs with DNA residue…she was right, her parents DO believe that Jews control the banking system!”)

    This woman’s narrative is believable and consistent with how people who are terribly racist believe; I have no difficulty accepting that her story could well be the case. That would be my default assumption, in fact, if someone held a gun to my head and said “tell me what you think happened here”. But thus far the evidence that it is the case is her unvarnished word. We know nothing about her, and narrative coherence is not evidence. It’s just cognitively comfortable.

  18. 18
    Dianne says:

    I tried to walk the tightrope between my pro-choice and pro-black views by using this phrase, “to prevent the birth of a biracial child.”

    Where’s the conflict? The pregnant woman wanted to have her boyfriend’s child, her parents were trying, almost certainly at least partially for racist reasons, to prevent her from doing so. Allowing parents or anyone other than the woman who is pregnant to have control over whether or not she has the baby is an extremely anti-choice position, no matter whether they are attempting to force her to have the baby or have an abortion. In one sense, the parents’ position is more like the “pro-life” position than the pro-choice position: they believed that they had the right to interfere with their daughter’s reproductive decisions and were willing to use violence to enforce their will.

  19. 19
    Dianne says:

    I wonder, incidently, how the parents were expecting this to play out once they got their daughter to a clinic. “We’d like you to do an abortion on our daughter…she’s right here…careful of the duct tape.” Didn’t they realize that any clinic with even a vague pretense of being legitimate would have called the police? Did they have a “back alley” source they were planning to take her to? Did they expect her to agree eventually? Did they have any real plan?

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    Dollars to donuts they intended to browbeat her on the trip until she agreed.

  21. 21
    georgine says:

    An interesting punishment might be for the “grandparents” to be bound and duct taped so they could not make a move nor say a word and once a week for a year view their grand child grow and change. Not to be able to touch the warm soft little bundle, to hold the little hands, to smile at the eager little face or receive those happy smiles in return. They change so quickly in that first year. Only a person with a soul of a rock could resist. After the year I leave it to the daughter and her man to decide how to proceed. If this is inconvenient for the daughter….never mind:)

  22. 22
    Rachel S. says:

    “Dollars to donuts they intended to browbeat her on the trip until she agreed. ”
    I think so too. First, they had to force her into the car, and then they probably figured they could coerce her.

  23. 23
    Radfem says:

    I wondered too. I’ve heard some stories of White parents putting pressure on their daughters to not get married, not have children if they are paired with Black men, but this, wow. It’s not shocking( in terms of being a surprise) and unfortunately, it shouldn’t really shock anyone because as has been said, that’s a reflection of what’s going on in our country on many different levels. Why wouldn’t this be happening?

    This is just so horrible, and I’m pro-choice too, and in a sense, it’s very much a pro-choice issue in that one faction(the racist parents) are trying to control the woman’s(daughter) ability to reproduce or not and they are by coercision or violence trying to take away that choice. Historically, up to the present, women of color have been also been treated in a similar fashion on a much larger scale in that they had no autonomy over their bodies including their reproductive organs. They were and are coerced into or forcible sterilized or placed on hormone-based contraception against their will, the proponants of contraception and abortion often have backgrounds based somewhat in eugenics and racist beliefs(which some antiabortion groups exploit while doing “outreach” in communities which are populated predominantly by people of color especially African-Americans) not to mention slavery where Black woman could be bought and sold, and raped by White men.

    And because “pro-choice” and even “pro-life” philosophies should both encompass many things outside the two they are most often associated with, abortion and contraception. They should also mean clean, safe neighborhoods, good healthcare including prenatal, good jobs, affordable and safe housing, education and many other things that help women feel that they have a real choice to be able to have their children and raise them rather than obtaining abortions(which isn’t always done by choice, but necessity or survival which is no choice at all). Of course, in “mainstream” prochoice movements and just about every form of “pro-life” movement, these issues receive scant or no attention at all. They aren’t seen as “prochoice” or even “feminist” but they are the backbone of both movements.

    This woman is White but she would give birth to a biracial child whose father is Black and if her racist parents subscribe to the “one drop” rule or any variation, they will see that child as Black. It’s fairly clear that they do. That is why they are doing this to their own child, their flesh and blood because the prospect of her giving birth to a child that they and others will view as Black is more repugnant to them than kidnapping and forcing their daughter(who appears to on some level, be basically a walking uterus) to obtain an abortion and remove what is or would be her child from existance. This is why they are doing this to what would be their biracial grandchild, which is part of their own flesh and blood but they are so consumed with racism, they can’t see that or it makes them loathe the situation even more. They are also essentially punishing their daughter for having a sexual relationship with a Black man and trying to wipe the “evidence” of it out of existance.

    The excuse of the boyfriend being in trouble with the law, is just that, an excuse.

    This is racism that’s not at all how many Whites see it, as being “subtle” “not overt” and other similarly used phrases. This is pretty out there, it’s blatent enough to hit people with a sledge hammar and still many White people do not recognize it for what it is. People like Ellen Goodman(who I like but yeah, profoundly disappointing here) and others who see it just as a “gender” issue and either miss the racism entirely or downplay it. So, even the more blatent forms of it are unaddressed, which offers little hope for the more subtle forms that often lead up to the more blatent forms.

  24. 24
    Rich B. says:

    The family’s name is “Kampf”?

  25. 25
    Dianne says:

    The family’s name is “Kampf”?

    Ja, und sie kampfen doch mit ihre Kind. Bloedmaenner.

  26. 26
    ms_xeno says:

    I have seen at least one website regarding pro-lifers who get abortions mentioning the interracial factor as a major motivator for their sudden and temporary interest in “choice.” This shouldn’t really be a big surprise to anyone who has paid attention to reproductive rights issues for any length of time.

    And frankly, I have a problem with calling the parents “crazy”– Fuck that. They knew what they were doing. Racism makes no logical sense, but it doesn’t follow that assholes who follow an illogical philosophy to its logical extreme are “crazy” as in “not truly in control of their actions.” Maybe I’m even more cynical than usual after ten days of jury duty, but I don’t want these people called “crazy” even in jest. I don’t want them let off the hook on any level for treating their own daughter this way.

  27. 27
    little light says:

    Racism makes no logical sense, but it doesn’t follow that assholes who follow an illogical philosophy to its logical extreme are “crazy” as in “not truly in control of their actions.” Maybe I’m even more cynical than usual after ten days of jury duty, but I don’t want these people called “crazy” even in jest. I don’t want them let off the hook on any level for treating their own daughter this way.

    ms_xeno, I’m reminded of an article that was required reading in my department in college, J. Z. Smith’s “The Devil and Mr. Jones.” Smith’s basic idea was that if we go, ‘Oh, well, those people were crazy’ when we see something awful, we’re abdicating the responsbiility of trying to understand the action and the structures undergirding it, and in the end essentially excusing it as a fluke, freak occurrence that could never repeat itself. He goes on to argue that if we do that, we may as well hang up any hats related to being scholars or the like and tell the Enlightenment, “well, sorry, I give up. The whole ‘understanding the world’ project was a nice idea, but I don’t want to look at the messy bits.” I think it applies to more than scholars, myself–journalists come to mind–but it’s a helpful reminder for the rest of us, too.

    We call these people “crazy,” we’re not just smearing those with mental health problems. We’re removing their responsibility for their actions, and in refusing to go further in explaining why, abandoning the responsibility of understanding and possibly preventing similar situations in the future.

  28. 28
    hailey says:

    Beth, who are you referring to?

    And, Dianne, I don’t think that the parents behaviour reflects the values of either the anti-abortion or abortion rights camps. I do, however, believe that it’s a strategic error for the pro-abortion rights movement not to speak out in very condemning tones about this. They’d be all over this if it was a parent abducting their child to prevent an abortion.

  29. 29
    Jake Squid says:

    I do, however, believe that it’s a strategic error for the pro-abortion rights movement not to speak out in very condemning tones about this.

    Seems to me like pro-choicers are condemning this crime very strongly. Take this very blog for example…

  30. 30
    Rachel S. says:

    ms_xeno said, “And frankly, I have a problem with calling the parents “crazy”– Fuck that. ”

    That is a good critique, and I agree with you on this.

  31. 31
    Dianne says:

    Hailey: I agree with Jake Squid. The parents in this incident were condemned by every pro-choice site I’ve seen that remarked on it at all. As, of course, they should. On the other hand, some, possibly most, “pro-life” sites excuse or even condone the arson or bombing of women’s health clincis that perform abortions and the shooting of doctors who include abortion in their practice.

    Again, IMHO, the parents’ behavior was very consistent with the pro-life movement, although not with the opinions and beliefs of many of its supporters. The pro-life movement as it exists is about controlling women’s reproductive choices, not about preventing abortion. Pro-life groups that wanted to prevent abortion would encourage birth control, lobby for real sex ed, and provide serious help for poor women who are considering abortion for economic reasons. If they were interested in preventing post-conception death, they would stop concentrating on abortion, which causes the minority of deaths between conception and birth, and concentrate on funding research into the prevention of failed implantation and early miscarriage, which cause the majority of such deaths. The fact that they don’t suggests that their interests lay elsewhere–like in preventing women from making choices about their own bodies. Just like the Kampfs wanted to prevent their daughter from making her own choice about whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

  32. 32
    ms_xeno says:

    little light, I haven’t got much free time for reading right now, but I’m going to have hunt around for that Smith essay later. It sounds really interesting.

  33. 33
    ms_xeno says:

    Oh, and Rachel, I enjoy your writing a lot, and thought this piece was spot-on. It was only that one part that rankled a little. In fact, LL is right to add the point about the difference between our often unthinking, unanalyzed participation in racism and genuine mental illness, which I completely overlooked. Thanks, LL, and Rachel. :)

  34. 34
    Rachel S. says:

    I have actually written an essay about the problem of equating racism with mental illness; it’s floating around somewhere in the blogoshpere. I was using crazy more as a figure of speech rather than any sort of mental illness, but many other people (unfortunately) use those terms interchangably.

  35. 35
    Tuomas says:

    First off, I feel like we are talking about rape here because this is the same sort of thing people say all the time when women come forward about rapes. Second, there is plenty of forensic evidence to support the woman’s story.

    Well, you could try asking me instead of going with a feeling that just accidentally puts me into the same mold as rape apologists, on a feminist site.

    Just saying.

  36. 36
    mythago says:

    hailey is practicing a very old rhetorical technique: say something blatantly false about your opponents to get them to waste effort disproving your nonsense.

    Here, hailey’s claiming that pro-choicers aren’t condeming these abusive asshats (witih the nice touch of pretending to be helpful: no really, guys, it’s just that this would support your side….). S/he magnifies this with the lie that pro-choicers would react very differently if the parents were trying to prevent, rather than procure, an abortion.

    The keen thing about this lie is that if you keep your terms vague, it can’t be disproven. How much condemnation is “enough” and when it is sufficently “strong”? And since we don’t have a comparable situation that is identical except the parents wished to prevent an abortion, there’s no way to refer to pro-choicers being just as angry. Even if we did have such an incident, we’d still be hearing the vague terms: ah, but you didn’t condemn it as strongly, as quickly, etc. etc.

    It’s just more lying and game-playing. What did you expect?

  37. 37
    hailey says:

    There are pro-choice blogs that have spoken of it have not supportive of the parents but, really, most pro-choice organizations if not all haven’t commented on it at all. I believe that EVERY pro-choice organization would have if it was anti-abortion parents that had kidnapped the girl to prevent an abortion.

    I have not seen any anti-abortion site promote or excuse violence against clinics but if that is happening that’s wrong.

    I agree that birth control is a means of preventing abortions but that is not a universal view in the pro-life movement. Many believe that birth control is part of the problem. I also agree that society needs to offer practical real assistance to expectant mothers.

    I don’t believe I have said anything false about pro-choice organizations, they’ve been remarkably quiet.

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