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The Abortion Battle Writ Large: Atlanta Billboard's Muddled Message

5 years ago
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Mention abortion and you have a fight. It's pro-choice vs. pro-life with nothing in between. If you believe that abortion is murder, there is no room for compromise. And if you insist that a woman -- after consultation with whomever she chooses -- gets to decide what is or is not done to her body, then there's nothing left to say.

In the abortion-rights wars, advocates on both sides are so firm in their convictions that a so-subtle-you-could-miss-it Super Bowl ad featuring a pro-life message and a quarterback's mom is cause for a major dust-up. That incident had Sarah Palin and NOW facing off.

The latest skirmish concerns an Atlanta billboard -- actually, 65 of them, and soon to be 80 -- as reported in The New York Times. Anti-abortion groups have sponsored the eye-catching statements that feature a close-up of a beautiful and stressed-out African-American boy and the message: "Black children are an endangered species."

According to Catherine Davis, the minority outreach coordinator for Georgia Right to Life who is quoted in the story, the billboards aim to highlight the disproportionate number of abortions by black women in Georgia. Her organization is sponsoring the project in partnership with the Radiance Foundation, an Atlanta-based group that encourages adoption. The ads were created with the Web site, which offers what it calls "The Truth (in Black & White)." The site reads: "The perpetuation of the lie of 'Reproductive Freedom' has been championed, in particular, by America's elite (of any race). It was an elitist mentality that forged the pseudoscience of eugenics, that drove America's race-based segregation laws."

The Times lists 2006 figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control that 57.4 percent of the abortions in Georgia were performed on black women, while blacks make up about 30 percent of the population.

Abortion-rights supporters are attacking the billboard campaign. The executive director of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective in Atlanta, Loretta Ross, told The Times that the billboards painted black women as either monsters intent on destroying their own race or victims of whites who control abortion clinics. "Controlling our fertility was part of our uplift out of poverty strategy, and it still works," she said.

The motives of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and the political implications of birth control have long been debated. When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg weighed in last summer with some controversial words about certain "populations," it started a discussion joined on Politics Daily by Melinda Henneberger, Carl M. Cannon and guest contributor Ellen Chesler.

Of course, we all come to the issue abortion of with opinions, so I'll admit mine right up front. I believe (and my faith teaches) that each human being is unique and whole at conception. But I also think that erasing Roe v. Wade would not make women who now choose abortions content to carry a child to term, and it could lead to desperate searches for unsafe alternatives. The insistence on rights too often disappears the moment the child is born and needs -- along with the new parent -- actual help and hope.

From the other side, I am troubled by an almost reflexive rejection of the notion that abortion is more than a medical procedure, that it might be a tragedy for all involved. I don't comprehend the casual assumption that abortion is the only logical choice for a young, single or poor mother. Many women I know are a little too eager to dismiss certain children as unwanted and therefore unworthy.

The larger-than-life Atlanta billboards are shocking and provocative. Demonizing women who make difficult choices and making your point by labeling black children a "species" is not the best way to make a point.

But I can understand wanting to make it.
Filed Under: Abortion, Woman Up
Tagged: abortion

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