Chicago anti-abortion ad elicits mixed response from South Side: anger, reflection, defiance
Life Always’ latest anti-abortion billboards — called by some opponents racist for their messages targeted at the African-American communities — are still standing in Chicago; unlike their counterpart in New York City. But the billboards haven’t been left alone by those who oppose their messages and the campaign they stand for.
On top of one of the three identical boards above an empty lot on 5812 State St. — which reads, “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted,” a white banner has been hung to read: “In 21 minutes this sign should be gone”, as The Chicago Tribune reported Monday.
According to the Tribune, an unidentified group has taken credit for the ads.
Life Always has declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.
Even more than the set of three identical anti-abortion billboards using President Obama’s image that went up in Chicago last week, Toni Bond Leonard, president of Black Women for Reproductive Justice, takes issue with where they went up — not because this area of town is a heavily concentrated African-American community, but the specific lot where the group chose to put the billboards and where a press conference was held, is filled, Leonard said, with trash.
The strewn-about garbage and bits of broken bottles, is emblematic of a larger issue faced by the Chicago’s South Side community, she said — one that cannot be addressed by an expensive billboard telling black women they could be aborting the future American president.
“They came into this community and paid no attention to what’s going on,” Leonard said. “They held an actual press conference with the broken bottles. It was not lost on people. … These folks are trying to blame or accuse black women of killing potential black leaders by having abortions, but that’s not the real issue. The real issue is the lack of social and economic resources.”
Leonard said she did not think the billboards will last in the community based on the outrage the message has created among black women in Chicago — as evidenced by angry protesters at the press conference, and the anonymous banner that appeared this week.
John Paul Jones, a community organizer at Developing Communities Project, located in Chicago’s Roseland Community, where President Barack Obama worked as a community organizer at one time, said the billboards are doing their job, in that they are grabbing people’s attention. But, like Leonard, he thinks they’re missing a greater point, though a different one.
“We have a real problem in Chicago,” Jones said. “But we should be finding a way to reduce abortions that speaks to hope. … I don’t see the womb as being a dangerous place. It’s the most serene place of all. We totally have to find a way to talk about this. We have to try to find a way to minimize economic harm, and we have to restore hope.”
Jones also noted that in Chicago there is a huge backlog of child support payments, and many single mothers are having to care for their children in poverty. He said it’s a challenge for church leaders to try to fix this problem and address sex and abortion with men and women in the community, which he said is rarely brought up.
But Jones said, it takes two to make this kind of decision, and to blame women for aborting the future black leaders of America is not right.