Atlanta Ads on Black Abortions May Go National

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A billboard campaign in Atlanta sends an incendiary message connection abortion to genocide. If the outreach tactic to black communities is considered a success in Georgia, pro-choice groups believe it will be replicated across the country.

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An anti-abortion billboard in Atlanta.ATLANTA (WOMENSENEWS)--"Black Children Are an Endangered Species."

That statement hangs in the air here, with the image of a frightened black child, on 80 billboards of various sizes in the African American neighborhoods of metro Atlanta.

The signs started appearing in late January and are expected to start coming down at the end of March.

In late February The New York Times drew national attention by running a story on the billboards. Following that, on March 9, the pro-choice web site RH Reality Check held a telephone news conference to refute the charges that abortion clinics were targeting black women.

Since then reproductive rights groups have been sending warning cries that anti-choice activists are distorting and exploiting statistics to make inroads into the African American community.

Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice-president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says the people behind the campaign are out to destroy Planned Parenthoods within the African American community. If they succeed in Georgia, says Cullins, they'll use the same tactic nationwide.

Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation, which designed and coordinates the billboards, says pro-life activists in 10 other states and the District of Columbia want to sponsor the billboards.

The stark statistic at the center of the controversy: black women are four to five times as likely to have an abortion as white women.

Carol J. Rowland Hogue is a professor of epidemiology at Emory University in DeKalb county, near Atlanta, and the director of the Women's and Children's Center at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.

Hogue says the reason that black women have higher abortion rates is their much higher rate of unintended pregnancies. For every 1,000 black women in the United States between 15 and 44, there are 98 unplanned pregnancies. For white women the comparable figure is 35; for Hispanic women, 78.

Unintended Pregnancies

"If black women had the same unintended pregnancy rate as white women have--but maintained the same likelihood of aborting an unintended pregnancy as they currently have--their abortion rate would decline 64 percent," says Hogue.

Catherine Davis is director of minority outreach for Georgia Right to Life, a predominantly white group that, according to the Radiance Foundation's Bomberger, spent $20,000 to sponsor the billboards in Atlanta's predominantly black neighborhoods.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are targeting the black community for abortions, Davis says.

Abortion, her group contends, accomplishes what the Ku Klux Klan could only dream about--exterminating black people.

Georgia Right to Life--which has a mailing address in Lawrenceville, a suburb of Atlanta in Gwinnett County--and other anti-abortion activists are pushing a bill in the state legislature that would prohibit abortion providers from targeting black communities or performing abortions based on a child's race or sex.

At a legislative hearing, a young white woman testified that her parents had forced her to abort the baby she was carrying because the father was black.

Loretta J. Ross is national coordinator of SisterSong, Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective in Atlanta, a pro-choice group. She says she's skeptical of the testimony, which seemed to point out the flaws in states laws requiring parental consent for abortions among minors.

Abortion providers wouldn't force a girl to have an abortion, Ross says.

Ross is lobbying hard to stop the bill. She's also battling the perception that black women in Atlanta are lining up behind the bill.

"It is very hard to persuade African American women in the city of Atlanta that this legislation--headlined by rural white Republicans--is aimed at saving black families," says Ross.

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