The anti-abortion group Life Always just unveiled a giant billboard on the corner of Watts Street and Sixth Avenue that features a photo of a black girl and the caption, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb." Part of a national campaign, the billboard is about a half-mile from a Planned Parenthood facility on Bleecker Street. "During Black History Month, we celebrate our history, but our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion,” says Life Always Board Member Pastor Stephen Broden. Others, like City Council Member Letitia James, find the message a tad offensive.
"It is misguided to use Black History Month as a tool to promote this message," James said in a statement. "Every woman has the right to make personal choices in regards to her body, and I respect many different points of view, but to compare abortion to terrorism and genocide is highly offensive." (Life Always' press release also asserts, "There is a battle being waged in the United States that has taken more lives than any foreign war or act of terrorism. The enemy is abortion.")
James also points out that the website’s “Pregnancy Help” section guides users to various Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), which are "notorious for being intentionally vague concerning their agenda to deter women from seeking abortion services; and some have been accused of being deceptive about abortion risks and procedures while intentionally targeting poor and working-class women, immigrant women, and women of color to utilize their services." According to Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of the organization’s health services are abortion services, while an overwhelming 82 percent are services to prevent unintended pregnancy.
But Life Always is focusing on this statistic from the NYC Health Department: Blacks had the highest number of abortions in 2009, with 40,798. (Hispanics had the second highest at 28,364.) NYC's abortion rate was almost 40% that year, and the three Planned Parenthood facilities nearest the billboard reported nearly 17,000 abortions in 2010. Asked for his reaction to the billboard yesterday, one man on the street told WCBS, "I think they’re trying to send a message to us African-Americans because we do do a lot of abortions and I think we shouldn’t be doing it."
In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the billboard "a reprehensible tactic. Planned Parenthood knows that every woman, of every background, takes her health decisions seriously and makes deeply personal decisions after consulting with her doctor and with loved ones she trusts." This Saturday, pro-choice groups will be holding a rally to protest a recent bill passed in the House of Representatives that would block federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The rally will be held at Foley Square, downtown by City Hall, from 1 to 3 p.m. Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Turner, and Kathleen Hanna are among the scheduled speakers; Nellie McKay and The Mountain Goats will perform.