A New York billboard running a picture of a young African American girl with the words, ” the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb”, was hotly contested and ultimately removed from its site. Lamar Advertising agency ran the ad for Choose Life, a pro- life group, as a part of its anti-abortion campaign to reach black women. Statistics released by the New York City Health department states that over 41 % of all births are aborted in New York City and 59.8% for black women. Mayor Bloomberg said he was unsure if the figures were correct. The billboard was placed in lower Manhattan on February 18, 2011 and removed on February 24, 2011 amid outcries from various groups, including city leaders and community activists.
The first amendment guarantees that the anti-abortion billboard was constitutionally protected. Yet, just because there was a legal basis for placing the advertising, doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. It clearly was not the right thing. The ad was said to be removed due to complaints received from the restaurant in the building below the ad which had no relationship to the ad but was receiving the brunt of the comments. The ad should be offensive to all women and not just African American women. It is particularly racially insensitive to African Americans. It should be particularly offensive in a city where Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D. NY) founded the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (“NOW”) in New York and fought for women’s rights, including the right to choose abortion. Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first African American and woman to run for the Democratic candidacy for the Presidency
Now, that the ad has been removed, another thing left to do is to apologize to the mother of the child, depicted in the bill board. Tricia Fraser of Patterson, NJ took her daughter to a modeling agency two years ago. Photographs were taken and she agreed to a release of her daughter’s photograph. Yet, she never imagined that her daughter’s image would be used on a bill board for an anti-abortion campaign aimed at African Americans. She states that she “was devastated that they portrayed her like that.” And she is worried that her daughter’s image might be similarly used again in the future. She wants an apology and assurances that it will not be used in that manner again. To date, no response has been received. So, next time a professional photographer takes a picture of you, your baby, child, wedding or bat mitzvah, remember you too could see it again displayed on some billboard.
Since the Republican controlled Congress has vowed and passed a bill to take away all funding from Planned Parenthood for contraceptive use and counseling, one can only wonder what effect the measure will have on the lives of women in New York and elsewhere, if passed in the Senate. That would make a good subject for an ad. A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco published in the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that of the 85,000 low income women studied, there was a 46% decline in the odds of an abortion and a 30% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant when the women received a one year supply of birth control pills. Currently, most public centers piece meal out birth control pills in increments of one to three months. Lead study author Diana Green Foster says:
“Having sex without using a method of birth control is one of many kinds of risks people take in their lives, like driving too fast or driving without a seatbelt. If seatbelts were given out as piecemeal as contraception, few people would use them.”
Most private facilities do not engage in the piece meal approach. It almost seems like a no brainer to give a year supply if the odds of abortion declined by 46%. Instead, Congress chooses to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. Instead of attacking and demonizing a woman’s right to choose a legal abortion, perhaps Lamar advertising agency and Choose Life should be focused on ads for jobs, social programs for women, aborting crime and yes, funding for contraceptives.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal/political commentator. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She is frequently seen in the media addressing issues on women, race, law and politics. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.