Race Card: Anti-Abortion Billboards Target Black Women

Nadra Kareem Nittle
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billboard in SoHoThere's been an uproar in New York all this week about an anti-abortion billboard in Soho. The billboard featured a little black girl with the message, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." Launched by anti-abortion group Life Always, the billboard served as a controversial way to bring attention to the fact that black women have a disproportionately high abortion rate in New York City and nationwide. While that's clearly worrisome, suggesting that black women are a threat to black children for exercising their reproductive rights is extremely offensive. One of the top reasons women get abortions is because they can't afford to raise children. Rather than address this dynamic as well as the disproportionate number of African Americans who lack health insurance, Life Always chose to publicly disparage black women.

The good news is thanks to public outcry and condemnations of the billboard from people such as New York City Councilwoman Letitia James and the Rev. Al Sharpton, Lamar Advertising announced on Thursday that it would take the billboard down. The bad news is that similar billboards have already gone up in cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta and that anti-abortion groups plan to roll out more across America.

The goal of the billboards isn't only to stigmatize black women but also to convince the black community that Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American neighborhoods for abortion services, a claim that the Guttmacher Institute disproved last month. Rather than spread conspiracy theories about genocidal plots to kill black babies, why not examine why the unplanned pregnancy rate among African-American women is so high and see what can be done to change this trend? It's particularly disturbing that right-wing, anti-abortion groups are spreading conspiracies about genocide considering that people of color have historically faced attacks on their reproductive freedom. Puerto Rican and Native American women are some of the groups who have historically been sterilized without consent.

African American women today aren't being forced into sterilizations or abortions, however. And if groups such as Life Always want black women to stop terminating their pregnancies, they need to support Planned Parenthood's efforts to care for uninsured black women, including educating them about contraception and pregnancy prevention. But too often, conservative Christian groups such as Life Always don't support these measures, even though married women and mothers make up a sizeable percentage of those who've had abortions. Of course not every woman who terminates a pregnancy does so as a result of financial difficulties or being uninformed about family planning, but many do. Accordingly, this is where anti-abortion groups should be putting their resources—not in outrageous, race-baiting billboards.

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10 Comments Have Been Posted


yeah this ad is offensive, but planned parenthood isn't immune from criticism either

"“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population"

– margaret sanger, founder of planned parenthood

Yes, but...

It's true that Margaret Sanger was a known racist and those remarks are obviously shameful and abhorrent, but that quote is from 1922. The Guttmacher Institute study that Nadra cites in her post that disproved the claim that PP targets black neighborhoods is from last month. The billboard in question is from yesterday. Not to say that we should forget Planned Parenthood's problematic past by any means, but the comparison may not be apt in this case.

yes. margaret sanger was a

yes. margaret sanger was a racist and believed and said things that were extremely offensive. but those things were said over 50 years ago. i am not excusing it in anyway. but her beliefs are not the policy of planned parenthood today. planned parenthood does not have a policy in place to actively target black women or hispanic women or poor women. planned parenthood is much more than an abortion provider, abortions make up only about 3% of the services they provide. they perform cancer screenings and treatment, sti testing and treatment, the provide birth control and of necessary reproductive health services with little or no insurance. planned parenthood helps make every child a wanted child.

this ad is so offensive because yes it does imply that black women are bad for black babies and it also implies that the group putting up this billboard or protesting outside a clinic or shooting abortion doctors actually give a fuck about black, brown, white, poor, disenfranchised babies and their families after they are born. eliminating funding for planned parenthood and title x will increase unintended pregnancies, perpetuate cycles of poverty, increase cancer and sti rates among women and men and it wont do SHIT for black babies!

if they gave a fuck they would not spend all their time and money playing silly billboard games and they would use that money to support the women and children that are living in abject poverty here and now!

i agree

oh yeah i love planned parenthood, it needs to be here. i think it just important to point out that history does exists for people who didn't know. btw did you all know the girl who is on that photograph didn't know her picture would be used for the ad. i guess her mother submitted stock photos for modeling many years ago----not to this organization.

i do truly believe there are certain programs that are designed to have an effect of genocide, or incarceration for the african-american community. i think that quote does show that the agenda did exist and at least with the government and crime today, still exists.

Yes, Margaret Sanger Was A Racist

Emily, I couldn't agree with you more.

Here's the thing: I don't believe life starts at conception. I don't believe anyone else really believes it, either. If that belief was universal, there would be Barbie-sized coffins at every funeral home to accommodate the corpses of miscarried fetuses, funerals for miscarriages would be common and bereavement leave would be extended to family members of miscarried fetuses.

And none of those things are true.

If they were, the anti-abortion crowd WOULD be spending their money taking care of the women they would force to have children and the babies that are born into conditions that aren't even suitable for pets.

It really isn't the babies that crowd is worried about. It's their own morality. Their values are threatened if they're not universally enforced.

We'll all know that's not true when the people who shoot abortion providers start lobbying for laws requiring ALL parents to give up blood and disposable organs to save the lives of the children who've already been born.

What kind of monster would let their child die for want of a kidney when they have a spare one that could save that child's life? And yet parents routinely decline to donate and there are no laws requiring them to. And there never will be, because legally requiring us to donate blood and tissue is an egregious violation of our most basic civil rights. So is requiring woman to harvest 6 - 9 pounds of raw materials to create a child from her body, but somehow, it always boils down to the morality of it.

Abortion is "murder" because some people believe that "life" begins at conception -- even though there's no scientific evidence that that's true and there's certainly no anecdotal evidence that that's true.

Your comment was wonderful. Thanks for it.

Totally Disagree!!!!

I toally disagree with you when you say " abortion is murder." Do you even know why people make the decsion to have an abortion? For Many personal reasons. Just say a women gets pregant and she can barley afford herself how could she raise a child knowing that she is not finacially stable? Or what if the lifestyle she lives is not safe enough for a baby, Or what if the mother of the child is a drug addict and she doesnt want her child to be a crack baby or take the chance the her child may come out with many birth defects. do you know how much work it is to raise a child who has birth defects? I think that everybody is entitled to their own opinons but at the same time people should be focusing more on the fact that women make the choice to have an abortion for many personal reasons. Society puts so much pressure on women who get abortions but if you really think about it whos business is it other then the women getting the abortion to tell them that they are a bad person or that they have no heart because they just murdered a baby. I really think you should look back at what you said about abortions because i brought up plenty of reasons as to why abortions happen.

I call BS

<blockquote>The goal of the billboards isn’t only to stigmatize black women but also to convince the black community that Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American neighborhoods for abortion services . . .</blockquote>

Even if it's been disproved, I don't know how any organization can say with a straight face that they're trying to reach great numbers of WoC by putting up a billboard in SoHo. There are far more diverse neighborhoods in NYC and if their (misguided) purpose is to reach them as opposed to scads of white people, then they'd be slapping up their message there. So not only is Life Always choosing to disparage back women, but they're essentially inviting the rest of the public who willfully remains ignorant as to why this would be the case to pile on the shame.

I doubt that Life Always cares about women

I doubt that Life Always truly cares about the plight of the female-bodied African-American community. If they truly care about women (and society in general), they should start taking action on issues like women's lack of health insurance. On a side note, I hate it when anti-choice groups call abortion "genocide." It's erroneous and also disrespectful to survivors of genocide.


Seriously. On my college campus some group came and put up a giant display with pictures of fetuses and stillborn infants (which they claimed were aborted fetuses, but let's not even go there) right alongside pictures from the Holocaust, Rwanda, etc.

I guess looking on the bright side, the current state of affairs in the realm of reproductive rights means I'm going to be making a LOT more Planned Parenthood donations...and hopefully others will too.

Somehow this doesn't really bother me.

And fyi, I'm a black female. Thanks.

Did you know that the only reason the African American population isn't booming at the accelerated rate that the Mexican American population is because African Americans are much less likely to celebrate children, family, etc? Really. Black mothers (who's socioeconomic state is arguably similar to that of Hispanic mothers) just aren't nearly as thrilled about babies. Which is sad. The fact of the matter is, whether Planned Parenthood is still taking notes Margaret Sanger or not, African Americans are, effectively being eradicated from the American population, primarily via violence, incarceration and abortion.

As a side note, most people don't know that Margaret Sanger thought that birth control was the only necessary key to "planning parenthood." If I remember reading correctly, she referred to abortion as something so barbaric that "only a man" could have invented it (and coming from Sanger, that's saying something).

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