The Crocodile Tears of Anti-Choice Billboarders


In Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, Professor Dorothy Roberts states that a “black woman’s earliest experience in America was one of brutal denial of autonomy over reproduction.” (Roberts) 

These experiences continue today.  The rights of women of color to govern their bodies and control their reproductive health continues to be a battle and divisive wedge not only due to governmental interference but within communities of color. 

On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, in a poor and marginalized community in Chicago, Illinois (58th and State Street), the unveiling of three billboards from the anti-choice group Life Always was a prime example of this divide. 

As black women gathered to protest and demand the removal of those signs, which were posted up in the darkness from the night before, black preachers and other Life Always representatives stood at the microphone explaining why they chose this neighborhood and the president’s image for their tag line: “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.”  These three identical billboards placed side by side on a building that face evidence of poverty, neglect and despair is ironic.  The lot in which the press conference was held is littered with broken glass and garbage, with grass nowhere to be found.  It is this scene that provided the backdrop for this Houston-based group to advocate for “Life Always.”  Yet, these outsiders fail to see the irony in telling black women in this depressed neighborhood not to abort their ‘babies.’ 

By coming into poor communities of color in an effort to regulate and attempt to control women’s decisions about reproduction and reproductive health, the group is spreading fear, myths and falsehoods not only about abortion (one lonely woman of color stood on stage and talked about breast cancer and abortion) but also about what these anti-choice organizations actually do.  For example, one preacher yelled from the podium that they advocate for more crisis pregnancy centers that would help women.  Yet, we all know that these centers do not help women but attempt to shame through various tactics, such as propaganda films and shoving mutilated dolls in front of women.

One of the women that sought funding from the Chicago Abortion Fund, Nicole Goss, found a crisis pregnancy center before she found our information.  She had this type of experience.  In fact, she stated that the center she found herself in attempted to do everything to force her not to have an abortion, even telling her she was too far along to have a procedure – which was not true!  These centers are deceitful but very dangerous as well.  Nicole had a second- trimester procedure which proved to be not only more risky but drastically more expensive  than if she had access to an earlier first-trimester abortion.  This is a clear example of the deceptive work of these centers for which the preachers are advocating.

As a woman of color that has been poor, marginalized and ignored by society, I resent “outsiders” that don’t live in these neighborhoods bringing their message and agenda to these communities, which they will likely never step foot in ever again.  Even a pastor from Dolton, Illinois (a suburb outside of Chicago) that spoke at the press conference doesn’t live in that community.  There are plenty of churches in that neighborhood so why couldn’t Life Always solicit their participation?  Why did they resort to bringing outsiders? 

Furthermore, these shock value tactics ring of hypocrisy.  The president’s picture on this billboard?  Really?  If these individuals actually cared about “Life Always,” they would be in these communities advocating for supportive services and other programs that could assist the very women they’re targeting.

By calling black women victims without looking at the social conditions of black women’s total lives, these “outsiders” fail to understand why young women of color have abortions in the first place.  As Angela Davis states, “when black and Latina women resort to abortions… the stories they tell are not so much about the desire to be free of their pregnancy, but rather about the miserable social conditions which dissuade them from bringing new lives into the world.” (Roberts)  There is no discussion about why abortions are needed; the lack of access to quality health care, comprehensive sex education and contraception; or even employment prospects that would help young women care for the families they already have.  

At the Chicago Abortion Fund, we help young poor women because our communities are among the least likely to have regular access to health care, family planning and reproductive health education.  Life Always and these “outside” ministers fake concern, but we see their true colors.  Why don’t they engage in some real dialogue that addresses these issues?  Racial billboards just don’t cut it.

Professor Elena Gutierrez writes in Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-American Women’s Reproduction, that it is documented “how the development of racializing images and ideologies is central to the reproductive control of women of color.” (Gutierrez)  The Chicago Abortion Fund, along with many other reproductive justice organizations and advocates, condemns the use of racial imagery and messages on the billboards in this latest attempt to shame and assert control over black women’s reproductive decisions.

Works Cited

Gutierrez, Elena. “Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-American Women’s Reproduction.” Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2008.

Roberts, Dorothy. “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty.” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

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  • auntbec

    Women of all backgrounds are so profoundly grateful to organizations like the Chicago Abortion Fund, and those of us in abortion care know our work couldn’t continue for these women without you. 

    There is a complete lack of understanding of the fact that medical procedures cost money.  If a woman is on public assistance there is little help for them, except the funds that come from outside organizations.  Even if a woman is not on public assistance, the funds can help. These women do not know costs until they make that first phone call, that first contact.  It is not inexpensive.  What then happens is that they may have to make arrangements to come from out of town or out of the state, costing more money.  They quite possibly have children that will need to be cared for until their mom returns.  As these women proceed to make their arrangements to care for themselves, the pregnancy continues and the costs rise for the procedure, necessitating more financial help.

    Again, we couldn’t do it without you.  Thank you all for being out there in the struggle to care for and support women.

     

  • cmarie

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  • crowepps

    Remember, these billboards are not advocating to remove the right to abortion, just to provide people with information.

    It is incredibly patronizing to ASSUME that these women are chosing abortion out of ignorance or stupidity.  They are chosing abortion because they can’t afford to feed a child.  Listening to some moralizing isn’t going to provide that food.  Why aren’t you and the CPC staff in Washington, insisting that ProLife congressmen reinstate the WIC program and provide prenatal care?

  • cmarie

    ummm hello crowepps 

    they can handle hearing from both sides and making an informed decision from there.  Why are you trying to take down the billboards that provide the other half of the information?  If a woman already knows what the billboard says or doesn’t care or doesn’t believe it, then her actions won’t be affected.  And obviously I never said the WIC program and prenatal care in Washington DC should be discontinued… trust me… more importantly.. trust them… women can handle hearing both sides of this argument and making an INFORMED decision..its a fu***ing billboard not a demand… children think they have to follow every order….. adults listen…. consider what they’ve heard… who they trust…. do their own research and make their own decisions…these are not children….and you are not their mother…. they can handle hearing positions beyond those you might choose to present to them. 

     

     

  • arekushieru

    Uh, because they already know that information, as crowepps was trying to explain to you.  So, now, this just insults women, by assuming they don’t know. That you can’t see that is sad.

    And, how many of these kinds of billboards have these anti-choicers posted at clinics for organ transplants, showing graphic pictures of a dying organ recipient on the transplant waiting list?  If they were willing to show these kinds of graphic pictures ANYwhere else, I might believe that THEY actually believe this is about providing information….  

  • plume-assassine

    Look, I’m going to be blunt with you…I’m sick of this bullshit. You guys come on here all the time with your hysterical “Black genocide” and “Klanned Parenthood” diatribes feigning “genuine concern” for Black women. And on top of that, it’s some insulting, racist, patronizing bullshit. You are using poor, racial minorities as a front to shame & subjugate women. Black women don’t need to be ”informed” that they are naively perpetuating genocide against their own race. (You don’t even know what genocide is.) Nor are Black women ignorant victims of Planned Parenthood and they sure as hell don’t need ~*~special~*~ billboards to “”inform”" their private reproductive decisions.

  • crowepps

    Well put.  Cheers for you!

  • crowepps

    Are you under the impression that the children in those neighbors can’t read those billboards?  Just how do you think mothers should explain “what that means” when their children ask them?

    Do you really think it’s “the other half of the information” to insult Black women?  What ‘information’ is conveyed other than ‘we moralizers want to make it clear we think Black women are all selfish murderers who hate children’?

    they can handle hearing positions beyond those you might choose to present to them. 

    Well, sure they can, but then I don’t feel compelled to give those women ANY information because I trust them to know their own situations and their own capabilities much better than I do and I’m aware that MY opinion of their decision isn’t the focus.  It’s odd, though how in other situations people insist nobody should have to be ‘affronted’ by seeing information with which they disagree, like when those ‘You Can Be Good Without God’ billboards go up.

    “Just felt the need to find some way to voice my incredible displeasure in these Athiest Billboards placed all over Des Moines. Im not happy about having to pass one EVERY day on my way to work, especially when the message they are portraying goes totally against my personal beliefs.

    http://ulocal.kcci.com/service/displayDiscussionThreads.kickAction?as=62904&w=176452&d=654955&ac=new

     

    Some in Fort Lauderdale are claiming that a billboard for the Florida Atheist and Secular Humanist Society (FLASH) is an affront to Christianity and want it gone because it’s in a black neighborhood and by a business owned by born-again Christians.

    http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=79500

     

    The prospect of being faced with the message that atheists can be good — and therefore that Christians don’t have a monopoly on being good — is way too much for some Christians to bear. It’s so horrific that some are threatening to boycott the busses in Forth Worth. They’d rather walk than ride on a bus with an ad on the outside that says atheists can be good people

    http://atheism.about.com/b/2010/12/06/christians-outraged-at-ad-that-reveals-atheists-can-be-good.htm

  • plume-assassine

    Thank you, Crowepps. I think you guys might like this empowering website… http://thatsmyabortion.tumblr.com/ 

  • saltyc

    Yeah, this isn’t information. What this fosters is stigma, shame and silence. This makes women not want to talk to their families about their situation. This tells her that society disapproves of her, that her motivations are a blight on society, that her trying to stabilize her life is selfish, that she is commiting a crime. Those women aren’t ignorant, they know all about their situation. But people not in her situation don’t, and this is another pat on their back when they judge, ignore and put her down. I’ve heard guys say “she aborted MY child, that was wrong.” when they had zero intention of being fathers. This makes those guys feel vindicated.