Racist Anti-Choice Billboard Campaigns Spreading Throughout US

The billboards in Los Angeles read, in both Spanish and English, “The Most Dangerous Place for a Latino is in the Womb.” Samhita at Feministing said that by targeting Latina women in this way, the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles (the group who took responsibility for the billboards) was “strategically playing on racist anxieties.” She stated that this kind of anti-choice campaign is “not effective in actually reducing how many women need abortions or access to forms of birth control, it just divides communities of color and shames women.”

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, along with Trust Black Women and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice condemned the campaign. The Institute “denounced the deeply offensive and racist billboard campaign.” The organization stated that “As the only national Latina reproductive health and justice organization, we are outraged by these condescending ad campaigns.  These offensive ads have no place in our communities.”

Veronica Bayetti at the Ms. Magazine blog points out that the billboards “attack all women and promote the notion that women cannot be trusted to make personal decisions about their own bodies and their families” without addressing the inequalities that cause the disproportionate number of unplanned pregnancies and abortion in women of color. Indeed,

Women of color are disproportionately barred from access to the most basic of reproductive health services, including birth control, and therefore have higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. But instead of expanding the range of reproductive health care options available to women of color, the billboards focus on sensationalizing unintended pregnancy and abortion. They fail to acknowledge the structural inequities at play, such as the distressing fact that Latinas have the highest rates of uninsurance out of any other group of women… Immigration plays a role in that: Immigrant women are often ineligible for public programs, such as Medicaid, that could help them have access to comprehensive reproductive care–from pap smears to birth control./blockquote)

After an uproar by numerous groups who took offense at the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles use of racism to push their anti-choice agenda, the Los Angeles billboards were removed. Miriam at Feministing called the removal of the billboards “a win” for those campaigning against the billboards which she called “tantamount to hate speech.”

However, the fight to stop anti-choicers from putting up racist billboards is not over.  Targeting women of color in anti-choice campaigns began with an initiative in Atlanta  which claimed “black children are an endangered species,” referencing the fact a black woman in the US is four times more likely to have an abortion in her lifetime than a white woman.  However, like the racist signs targeting Latinas, an article for Colorlines points out that these billboards make no attempt to raise awareness about the fact that this disparity is caused by a relatively high rate of unplanned pregnancies among black women, an “imbalance that derives from larger health disparities: lack of access to health care, lower rates of contraceptive use, and higher rates of untreated STDs and of preventive disease overall.”

Unfortunately, despite protestations from advocacy groups, racist anti-choice signs are appearing in more and more cities. This month at least 25 billboards in Oakland, CA appeared emblazoned with the slogan “Black and Beautiful” with a link to an anti-choice website. The sign is similar to those that have already appeared in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The California NAACP stated that the Oakland billboards are racist “and urged groups to pressure any billboard company that decides to conduct business with the Radiance Foundation [the organization responsible for the signs] or any group affiliated with it.”

Racist anti-choice billboards targeting women of color are not only insulting, but neglect to address the injustices that cause the disproportionate rate of abortions in minority communities-namely, an increased rate of unplanned pregnancies cause by lack of access to adequate health care, birth control, and education about reproductive health. Though advocacy organizations have managed to get the Los Angeles billboards targeting Latinas taken down, more racist billboards are appearing all over the country. You can learn more about this disturbing trend in anti-choice campaigns by reading the entire Colorlines article here.

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