CBS Behind Anti-Choice Billboards in Atlanta


Editor’s note: Read all of RH Reality Check’s coverage of this racist anti-choice campaign.

What, exactly, is happening with CBS?  Has it suddenly merged with the Christian Right and become the “Christian (Right) Broadcasting System?”

It would seem so.

For the past month, reproductive justice groups in Atlanta, Georgia have been fighting against an anti-choice campaign by Georgia Right to Life and a group called the Radiance Foundation.  The two groups have collaborated to buy billboard space throughout the city calling black children “an endangered species,” and advocating for laws to limit the reproductive choices of women of color, as well as to push for laws banning abortion based on “the race or the sex of the child.” 

Now it turns out that the billboards are the property of CBS Outdoors, a subsidiary of the multi-media CBS corporation.  This is not the CBS of my childhood (I Love Lucy, the Ed Sullivan Show) or of the once venerated show, 60 Minutes.

This is instead the CBS that “suddenly changed its advocacy policy” to air a Super Bowl advertisement earlier this month from Focus on the Family, the ultra-right conservative organization that seeks to limit the rights of women, homosexuals, and people of color generally.  Meanwhile, they denied ad space to several organizations representing gay rights and gay advertising interests.

It is the CBS that then pushed for inclusion of Focus on the Family ads on the website of the NCAA.com, and for airing ads by the same during the March Madness college basketball tournament, until the latter pulled those ads in response to protests from the LGBT community and likely after someone, somewhere in the NCAA finally (re)read their own guidelines against ads coming from messengers that, for example, denigrate gay people.

That CBS. 

There are currently 65 billboards throughout the Atlanta area, and Georgia Right to Life told the New York Times that it intends to soon have 80 such signs.

These are owned by and rented from CBS Outdoors, which is now the target of a campaign by women’s rights groups in Georgia seeking to remove the Georgia Right to Life signs.

One of the groups leading the campaign is SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, an organization that works to address the complexities of the lives of women and girls.   

“SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW respects and defends Black women,” says a statement from the group, “and all people’s, reproductive health decisions including the right to abortion.”

“Black women know what is best for our lives, our families, and our communities and are capable of making these decisions without a coordinated assault by organizations that are not genuinely committed to addressing the host of social issues confronted by the black community. We strongly reject and denounce these billboards and the sponsoring organizations, Georgia Right to Life, the Radiance Foundation, and Operation Outrage for speaking about us, demonizing our decisions, and assuming they know what is best for our lives.”

The suggestion by these billboards that “black women somehow are perpetrators of a coordinated and intentional effort to “execute” black babies is harmful, deplorable and counterproductive,” states SPARK. “Black communities and our allies will not stand by while black women’s character and moral agency are persecuted, demonized and intimidated by these ads and their supporters.”

“We urge people interested in the lives of black children to look at black communities more holistically and commit themselves to issues such as poverty, food insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, the school to prison pipeline and the broader prison industrial complex, environmental degradation and affordable housing.”

Yet rather than working on these issues, the “pro-life” community in Georgia is focused on passing House Bill 1155, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Bill, which  asserts that abortion providers in the state of Georgia solicit women of color to have abortions based on the race or sex of the fetus.

“While such allegations are unfounded and inflammatory,” states SisterSong, another group leading the opposition to both the legislation and the billboard campaign, “the bill has sparked much interest. This bill also proposes a ban on sex-selective abortions, furthering the criminalization of women of color without any regard to the broader ubiquitous issues of gender discrimination that are deeply embedded in the fabrics of our lived experiences.”

A statement opposing the bill has been signed by more than 40 national leaders from communities of color committed to reproductive justice and other leaders in the reproductive justice movement.

According to SisterSong, HB 1155 was heard and voted on in the Non-civil Judiciary Sub-Committee last week. It passed and was then presented in the full Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 17, and Republicans in Georgia are attempting to fast-track the legislation.

“This bill seeks to ban the solicitation and targeting of women of color by abortion providers throughout the state,” says Sistersong in another statement. 

“This misleading issue of abortions for sex- and race-selection in Georgia means that we have to use facts and science to stand up for women of color without undermining our support for abortion rights or without enforcing racial stereotypes about women of color.  Intent on driving a wedge between reproductive justice and racial justice organizations, and pro-choice advocates, the bill reflects the false assumption that abortion providers throughout the state “solicit” women of color.”

If implemented, this bill will adversely impact abortion providers by requiring them to prove that they are not targeting women of a certain race or ethnicity. This burden could result in delayed medical services, particularly for women of color.  Creating such delays are a common tactic of the anti-choice movement, creating additional burdens on women facing unintended pregnancy.

Additionally, this legislation would alter the racketeering laws of the Georgia Code to include abortion providers. This is unacceptable as abortion is legal in the State of Georgia, and the alleged abuses of this medical procedure are unfounded. Such a bill would have a terrible effect on women’s ability to access reproductive health care services throughout the state.

“This bill comes on the heels of a controversial billboard campaign that targets Black women in Georgia,” said SisterSong.

The blatantly sexist and racist billboards declare Black children as an endangered species and prey on the conscience of Black women. The mere association between the born and unborn with endangered animals provides a disempowering and dehumanizing message to the Black community, which is completely unacceptable.

Why CBS is allowing itself to become so deeply enmeshed with the anti-choice, anti-science, anti-rights community is a mystery, but given the confluence of recent events, it clearly underscores the need for a greater degree than ever of coordination among reproductive justice and pro-choice advocates with the LGBT community in the United States. 

Meanwhile, in response to the billboards, SPARK has launched a campaign asking CBS Outdoors to remove the ads.  Information on the campaign can be found here.

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson

  • midwestfeminist

    This disgusting campaign shows that the antis have absolutely no moral line that they will not cross, they will stop at nothing to achieve their agenda no matter how much harm they cause.

  • leftcoaster

    I’m as pro-choice as it gets, but you really need to do more investigative reporting before making a big deal out of this. It’s a company that sells billboard space and is about as related to CBS the broadcasting entity as I am to my sister-in-law’s mother’s cousin’s brother-in-law.

     

    As a journalist I was compelled to establish correlations before publishing an allegation. Were I assigned this story I’d shelve it unless I had evidence that pro-choice groups were denied billboard ad opportunities through this company.

     

    With all due respect, you  just look whiny when you publish this kind of stuff.

  • sylvie

    What works for one person does not mean it will work for another. I had an abortion 30 years ago and I know it was the best decision for me, because it saved my life.

    Abortion rights protect life

    I wish all the pro-lifers read the article “PROTECTING LIFE AFTER BIRTH” by Alice Miller in the link below and digest the information in it for them to see that nothing is what it seems and people that proclaim to be pro-life are really against life and people that are pro-choice are really pro-life. Please read the article in the link below to see the facts that people that proclaim to be pro-life are really ignorant that put all life in danger. Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is a crime against her, her unborn child and a crime against humanity. As Dr. Alice Miller says in her article: “When I see the passion with which Catholic priests – men childless by choice – fight against abortion, I can’t help asking what it is that motivates them.  Is it a desire to prove that unlived life, as perhaps their own destinies suggest, is more important and more valuable than lived life?  Was that, perhaps, how the parents of those passionately committed to stopping abortion thought, though they expressed it in different ways?  Or is it a case of seeing to it that others share the same fate as oneself?  Both are possible.  Both are dangerous, when people are driven to blind and destructive actions by the dead hand of their own repression.”

    http://www.sylvieshene.com/articles-protecting_life_after_birth.htm

     

  • jodi-jacobson

    Their own description is quite clear on the relationship.

     

    CBS Outdoor is a division of the CBS Corporation, and is one of the leading outdoor media companies in the world. CBS Corporation has preeminent positions in Television, Radio, Outdoor and Online advertising and is an industry leader in the creation, promotion and distribution of entertainment, news and sports with such well-known brands including CW, CBS Interactive, CBS Paramount Television, CBS Radio, CBS Television Distribution, CBS Television Stations, CSTV, Showtime and Simon & Schuster.

  • leftcoaster

    But you need to understand the way these subsidiaries work. They are not run by the same management team.

    You are also unable to point out any example of a billboard ad rejected from a pro-choice group.

  • piercebutler

    … the need for a greater degree than ever of coordination among reproductive justice and pro-choice advocates with the LGBT community …

     

    Bit of a non-sequitur here. Most of the pro-choice and LGBT individuals and organizations that I know are in reasonably close harmony already. Both, alas, lack much deep connection outside the white community, and that would seem more to the point of this article.

  • saltyc

    I think it’s very eye-opening that CBS allows these extreme ads both on their TV station and billboards, most companies shy away from deeply offensive and outrageous ads such as these and it’s important to point out that it’s the same company and to watch out for more. Great essay!

  • leftcoaster

    Please, I’m still having to defend the explosive objection to the Tebow ad, which was built up into infamy as some scathing, frenzied anti-abortion essay — and turned out to be so vague as to be ridiculous.

     

    Yes, whiny. Pick your battles. It’s a good lesson to learn.

  • prochoiceferret

    Please, I’m still having to defend the explosive objection to the Tebow ad, which was built up into infamy as some scathing, frenzied anti-abortion essay — and turned out to be so vague as to be ridiculous.

    The point wasn’t the wording of the commercial. It was that CBS silently changed their policy on issue advertising to allow this commercial, and then justified it after-the-fact, clearly favoring the anti-choice side. Given that they rejected the UCC ad back in 2004, they should have run screaming from this one—but they didn’t. They’re shredding their presumption of neutrality on the red-hot controversy of abortion (as most large commercial entities have, because there’s little to be gained otherwise), and they deserve all the flack they get for it.

     

    Which is where folks like you are supposed to come in. Unless, of course, you shoot yourself in the foot by arguing against FoF’s media-savvy message, as opposed to the fact that it appeared on CBS. If the ad had run on CBN, nobody would have given a rat’s patootie.

  • crowepps

    Certainly the firestorm that hits wherever an atheist group puts up one of their fairly innocuous billboard with statements like “Maybe there is no God” and “Being a good person doesn’t require God” is just as over the top.

     

    http://cbs13.com/local/athiest.billboards.vandalized.2.1498012.html

     

    Particularly when you consider how truly vile some of the purportedly ‘Christian’ billboards are. http://www.examiner.com/x-8928-Philadelphia-Atheism-Examiner~y2009m8d4-Christians-offended-by-atheist-billboards

  • leftcoaster

    Did you even see the ad they ran? It was so ridiculously non-controversial, the entire pro-choice movement ought to be ashamed. Granted, Tebow and her minions are morons and their larger campaign — visible on FOF’s Web site — is hideous. But you’re engaged in a campaign of terror against CBS based on an ad you THOUGHT was completely outrageous and specifically anti-choice (it was NOT); You continue to mix apples and oranges by pulling up that UCC ad which had NOTHING to do with the event (Hello? Football? Tebow?).

     

    I understand most people don’t get the mechanics of media and advertising, but please trust me on this. You are determined to make CBS the enemy here, and it’s embarrassing. Stick to the REAL problems threatening the choice issue, not the media outlet that sells ad space.

  • leftcoaster

    Even though we know Pam Tebow is a dipstick and her so-called “pro-life” stance is ridiculous, the ad that was produced was boring and generic. The Super Bowl audience would never have figured out what she meant if there weren’t a firestorm ahead of time.

     

    Just as the atheist displays and campaigns are extremely low-key and neutral, and yet they are received as being evidence of demonic possession. It’s important to employ perspective.

  • ahunt

    Heh…gotta love how the definition of whiny depends on whose ox is being gored.

  • ahunt

    Given the backpedaling and obfuscations associated with the whole Tebow affair…my best guess is that CBS looked to its bottom line, possibly aware that one third of American woman have undergone an abortion at some point in their lives.

  • prochoiceferret

    Did you even see the ad they ran? It was so ridiculously non-controversial, the entire pro-choice movement ought to be ashamed.

    I did see the ad. The “so ridiculously non-controversial” descriptor doesn’t mean much—people said that about the UCC ad, too, yet CBS rejected it because it touched on an issue of public controversy. Why did they accept one, and not the other?

     

    Do you think it is okay for CBS, a mainstream broadcaster that transmits on public airwaves, to make itself publicly partial to anti-woman, anti-LGBT, anti-family organizations without criticism?

    I understand most people don’t get the mechanics of media and advertising, but please trust me on this. You are determined to make CBS the enemy here, and it’s embarrassing. Stick to the REAL problems threatening the choice issue, not the media outlet that sells ad space.

    I’d say you could use a refresher course on the whole “mechanics of media and advertising” thing, since mass media often has a significant influence on popular opinion. How do you think violent clinic protesters and anti-abortion-access laws come about in the first place?

  • crowepps

    The ad that CBS ran after the firestorm which referred people to the FOF website to see the original far more controversial ad?  I’ve got to say, personally I found the ambiance of the entire suite of ads run during the game pretty awful – beer – sex – possessions make you important – beer – sex – moms love their sons – beer – sex – hot cars establish manhood – beer – sex.  Since the consumerism/beer/sex is the root CAUSE of the unwanted pregnancies that result in those abortions, you would think FOF wouldn’t want to be associated with the entire venue.

  • paul-bradford

    SPAM ** SPAM ** SPAM ** SPAM ** SPAM ** SPAM ** SPAM 

     

     

    From my very sheltered perspective in the shadow of Harvard and MIT, the entire issue of anti-atheist prejudice seems like an enticing issue to discuss around the fire, and then to move on to something else.  Some don’t have that luxury.  Anti-atheist prejudice is real and it’s growing and it puts a terrible chill on our national discourse.

     

    I strongly recommend to you all that you read 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, a Work of Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein.  I got to hear Ms. Goldstein read last night and it was a wonderful experience (of course, I’ve been nuts about her since The Mind/Body Problem).  She told us that a driving motivation for her to write the book was to put a sympathetic atheist at the center and to dispel some of the ridiculous myths people have about atheists.

     

    I love the book.  My recommendation alone should motivate you to plunk down $18.45 and read it.

     

    I heap all this praise on the book despite the fact that I consider the question of the existence or non-existence of God to be neither interesting, nor important.

  • paul-bradford

    The idea that abortion providers target women of color in order to eliminate black babies is so outrageous that I can understand the impulse to want to have these billboards removed — but I think a move like that would only make matters worse.

     

    The abortion rate among African Americans is five times what it is among whites.  That’s a stat worth pondering.  While you’re pondering it, ponder the fact that the birth/fertility rate among African Americans is higher than what it is among whites.  What do these two stats, taken together, tell you?  They tell you that there’s an enormous unmet need for contraception and that it’s much, much, much worse for blacks than it is for whites.

     

    If these billboards spark discussion about unwanted pregnancy among minorities it’s a good thing.  I wouldn’t be too anxious to suppress the conversation. 

  • crowepps

    The issue that concerns me actually isn’t atheism or prejudice against atheists but rather the idea that *we* have a special right to free speech so that *we* get to put our righteous opinions out there in the media, on billboards, etc., but if *they* dare to publicize *their* opinions it is an assault on the freedom *we* are guaranteed to never have any reminders in our bubble that other people think differently.

     

    I think public broadcasters should either accept issue ads or not accept issue ads. I think public billboards should either be available for opinions on religion/nonreligion or not be available.

     

    I find it kind of alarming that so many people have misinterpreted our constitutionally protected freedoms to the extent that they apparently believe ‘freedom of speech’ means freedom from contradiction, even when they have their facts grossly wrong. I find it particularly alarming that providing them with the actual truth is considered ‘discriminating against them’.

     

    “We are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe.

     

    I submit that any people thus handicapped sow the seeds of their own decline; they respond to the world as they wish it were rather to the world as it is.

     

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/21/1492484/facts-no-longer-mean-what-they.html

  • jodi-jacobson

    Do not support expanded access to contraception.

     

    Indeed they support defunding the very groups who are out there trying to prevent unintended/unwanted pregnancy in the first place.  They are calling for a witch hunt.

     

    The conversation about increased access to family plannig, prenatal care, maternal health care, sexually transmitted infections, and safe abortion services is well-handled and energetcially engaged by the women’s groups cited in this article, and by the wide range of reproductive justice advocates.  They don’t need racist, sexist organizations coming out with hate-filled billboards, using lies and misinformation to spark that conversation. It is demeaning to the women’s groups and the entire movement to suggest this.

    Indeed, if these groups were interested in prevention, then they should put up billboards talking about that or speak to their congresspersons who vote down all such funding every time it comes up.

     

    These billboards are hateful, hurtful, misleding and denigrating to women.

     

     

  • colleen

    Please, I’m still having to defend the explosive objection to the Tebow ad

    Please disabuse yourself of the notion that it’s necessary for you to ‘defend’ us whiny, stupid women who don’t understand how the Real World works, what our political priorities should be or how to fight.
    You don’t have to be embarrassed no mo, you poor suffering thing.

    ——————————————-

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • elyzabeth

    I know that the atheists had to fight tooth and nail to get some of those boards placed.  Apparently, they offend Lamar’s ( I think that was the company?) delicate sensibilities.  Those atheist ads are so much more offensive than the pictures of fetuses populating the side of every highway here in Texas. 

  • crowepps

    Good Golly, have those dedicated to stamping out child porn, those who fulminate at pictures of 2-year old girls in the wading pool shamelessly TOPLESS, heard about this?  The people putting up those billboards are obviously PEDOPHILES! 

  • saltyc

    Word, I don’t know Leftcoaster, but guessing that he’s a white dude in need of unpacking his arrogant privilege.

     

    PS telling women they should ignore doctors and risks to their health is extreme and offensive, no matter how quietly it’s said. Telling black women they’re responsible for genociding their race and that they have no business deciding when to have a child is extreme. Saying that God doesn’t exist is a simple fact.

  • jp2

    In order to fully understand the moral offense that constitutes abortion and contraception, please take the time to read John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”.  It explains in the most loving way the meaning of what it means to be male and female and the interaction between both sexes.  This will help those who do not understand.

    • prochoiceferret

      In order to fully understand the moral offense that constitutes abortion and contraception, please take the time to read John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. It explains in the most loving way the meaning of what it means to be male and female and the interaction between both sexes. This will help those who do not understand.

      Does it explain in the most loving way why, if a nine-year-old girl is pregnant with twins and physically cannot survive carrying them to term, the Church thinks she should not have an abortion and anyone who provides her with one should be excommunicated? Because I sure never understood that.

  • niteowle

    To JP2, I just have to say that, as a secular Jew, your implication that those of us who have not read the writings of a former Pope do not “understand” “the meaning of what it means to be male and female” or my own postion on aborion, is extremely offensive.