By Claire, Communications Intern
The last year has seen a rise of anti-abortion billboard campaigns targeting of low-income communities of color that claim that abortion is a form of genocide. The organizations behind these campaigns have also charged that Planned Parenthood specifically has purposefully targeted communities of color and is complicit to this “genocide.”
The first billboards appeared little over a year ago in Georgia. They claimed that black children were an “endangered species.” There are 170 billboards in five cities and states now. The billboards are the brainchild of Ryan Bomberger’s anti-choice Radiance Foundation . It is important to note that Bomberger’s mother was raped and carried him to term before putting him up for adoption. In his work he has been very adamant that adoption is the best solution to pregnancy if the mother cannot afford or wants the child. More billboards by the Radiance Foundation and other organizations have appeared in the wake.
Most recently, this past Sunday, the Radiance Foundation kicked off another series of billboards in Georgia claiming that abortion is a form of slavery. In his statement, Bomberger attempts to draw parallels between the denied humanity of black slaves and what he sees as a denied humanity of black fetuses. These billboards are controversal enough that even the NAACP, who historically has been neutral in the abortion debate, have issued a statement. Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP said in a statement, “Women are not forced to have abortions the way they were in servitude. Slavery was about not having the right to make any decisions. Women were actually bred to produce children for the purposes of profit.”
More after the break…
Other billboards include the now notorious SoHo billboard by anti-choice organization Life Always. This billboard claims “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.”
Opponents of the billboard won when the mother of the little girl in the picture insisted that the ad was inappropriate and it was removed. While some of the people involved with these billboards and ad campaign are African-American, including Bomberger, this issue has been championed by white Republicans in a hypocritical act of faux-multiculturalism. Supporters of these campaigns have included individuals who otherwise have no care for the safety and well-being of either low-income communities or communities of color. Self-same representatives who decry “welfare queens” and continuously vote in ways that harm low-income communities of color. Women of color organizations like SisterSong and Trust Black Women have condemned these posters (specifically the SoHo billboard) as racist, sexist and demeaning to women of color.
Both websites, toomanyabortions.com and thatsabortion.com specifically name Planned Parenthood as the culprit behind this “silent genocide.” And, in a way the statistics support the claims. Loretta Ross, National Coordinator of SisterSong, agrees with the Guttmacher Institute that black women are 4 more times likely than white women to have an abortion and that there are socio-economic factors that influence this. 37% of abortions nationwide are performed on black women. The issue at hand here has nothing to do with a secret, genocidal desire to abort black fetuses. It has everything to do with socio-economic factors that affect the every-day lives and choices of black women in black and low-income communities. Women of color reproductive rights organizations recognize that racism, sexism and classism disproportionately affect the health and healthcare decisions of women of color, especially women in low-income communities. According to the Guttmacher Institute black women have a higher rate of unintended pregnancy than white women. They have less access to family planning services and general healthcare. Overall black women have less rates of birth control use, higher rates of untreated STIs and less preventative healthcare in general. Black women have a higher abortion rate because they have a higher need for abortion.
But African-Americans are not the only racial minority who are being targeted. The Latino community is also starting to see these billboards with a slightly different twist.
This billboard campaign launched in Los Angeles, California is targeting the Latino/Hispanic Community and suggests, like other racially targeted billboards , that abortion is form of racial genocide. The main difference is that these billboards are also bi-lingual and appeals directly to the immigrant community within the larger Latino community. It also specifically address mothers with the use of the word madre. While 22% of abortion preformed in America are to Latina patients and Latinas are 2.7 times more likely to have an abortion than non-Hispanic women; the issue is far more complex than the accusations suggest. The issues that contribute to a higher Latina abortion rate are the same as for black women. They have less access to adequate healthcare and less access to preventative birth control. Latina organizations like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health condemned the billboard as “political ploy” that further restricted access to family planning and healthcare from Latinas in low-income areas. Luckily this billboard, funded by the anti-choice Latino organization Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, was removed a couple of weeks ago.
There are a lot of assumptions being made about women of color who choose choice. These campaigns attempt to hold women complicit to the “genocide” of their people. It charges that black women and Latinas are falling for the tricks of modern-day eugenics and that they are killing their own race in the pursuit of their own selfish needs. It assumes that many women of color do not think deeply or fully about their options, choices and role in their communities/work/life/family. It turns the community against women who choose abortion and uses them as a scapegoat in the war on abortion. It claims rather definitively that the needs of the community (to survive) greatly outweigh the individual woman’s need to survive (to get a job, pay her bills, support her other children, and so forth).
The truth of the matter is these campaigns do not actually address the real issue. If this issue is the high abortion rate of women in these communities, these campaigns do nothing substantial to fix this problem. It merely attempts to shame women out of seeking abortion. It does nothing to fix why women need abortion in the first place. These billboards say nothing of the institutionalized racism that has pushed black and Latino people into low-paying jobs, into sub-standard environments and trapping them in that poverty. It says nothing of the lack of decent health care in low-income communities to keep women and children healthy at a reasonable price. It says nothing of the high maternal mortality rate in this country or the even higher rate for women of color. If these people, particularly Bomberger, claim to care for black babies and latino babies, why are they not funneling their money and effort into actual healthcare and education for their communities? Why do they not care about the quality of life of the children they want brought into this world?
At the end of the day, these campaigns are just another misguided attempt to enforce a certain morality on women. These campaigns are also preying on the fears of communities oppressed by the intersection of racism and classism. These communities, because of their race and their socio-economic level, have seen eugenics in the past, in the guise of social improvement. It is not unlikely some would believe it would happen again. Regardless, no woman in any community should be shamed for making the best decisions for herself and her family. But perhaps a woman of color who did have an unplanned pregnancy can better explain what is wrong with these campaigns. During the federal House debates against Planned Parenthood, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) said what many women did not have the voice to say.