For the past few years, the anti-choice community has erected racist billboards in cities across America. These billboards seek to shame and scapegoat women of color with messages that stigmatize abortion in their communities. Such billboards have appeared in cities across the country, including those listed below.

Reproductive justice advocates are fighting back against this racist attempt to shame women of color for having abortions; the Trust Black Women Coalition, led by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, specifically aims to attack the racialized language used by campaigns like these and educate their communities about the real issues facing Black families. Many reproductive justice organizations have used these billboards as an opportunity to speak out against anti-choice organizations and their lack of interest in truly improving racial disparities in health, including reproductive health. In an exciting development, reproductive justice advocates have begun using billboards as a tool to advertise their values.

The National Institute stands with the reproductive justice advocates who are launching grassroots and public education efforts to counter these racist, anti-choice billboards.


Proactive Billboards

2016
In 2014, Ohio Right to Life erected anti-choice billboards in Cleveland targeting the racial disparity in abortion rates. New Voices Cleveland rallied against the billboards and the following year, they erected billboards of their own. Their billboards, featuring artwork from the Repeal Hyde Art Project, took on police violence as a reproductive justice issue in the wake of the murder of Tamir Rice. In the beginning of 2016, Preterm Cleveland, an abortion clinic committed to the reproductive justice movement, launched a billboard and bus shelter ad campaign to fight abortion stigma and promote their abortion storytelling website, MyAbortionMyLife.org. These billboards were not framed around abortion rights as a reproductive or racial justice issue as New Voices Cleveland’s had been, but worked as a complement to retake the abortion conversation from the anti-choice movement locally and throughout Ohio.

2014-2015

2016

  • Mashable covered the launch of the billboards in an article featuring photographs of several of the campaign designs.
  • Visit org.

2015
In May 2015, Prolife Across America of Minnesota erected billboards in two Memphis neighborhoods with photos of Black children that said “Dad’s Princess: heartbeat at 18 days” and “heartbeat at 18 days: life begins at conception.” In response, the reproductive justice organization SisterReach organized a justice-focused proactive billboard campaign urging Memphis community members to “trust black women.”

  • Read news coverage describing the controversy caused by anti-choice billboards in Memphis here.
  • Colorlines and Words of Choice highlighted the reproductive justice response to the billboards led by SisterReach, who erected billboards urging the community to “Trust Black Women.”
  • Cherisse Scott, the CEO of SisterReach, wrote an overview of the anti-choice billboards and her organization’s powerful response in RH Reality Check.
 

Anti-Choice Billboards with Proactive Response

2011
Life Always erected anti-choice, racist billboards in Chicago in 2011. These billboards declared that “every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted,” with an illustration of President Obama’s profile. In response, an anonymous group of activists covered the billboards with fabric banners painted with phrases like “in 21 minutes this sign should be gone” and “abort racism.”

In 2011, the anti-choice Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles began a billboard campaign in Los Angeles targeting abortion in the Latino community in Los Angeles. California Latinas for Reproductive Justice led the effort to have the racist billboards removed, and the advertising company agreed to remove them.

The Texas-based anti-choice organization Life Always erected an anti-choice billboard in 2011 in New York City that read “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” The Trust Black Women Partnership and the Women of Color Partnership Network advocated successfully for the removal of the billboard. The same billboard appeared again in New York City in 2014, and it was swiftly taken down after protests from members of the community and reproductive justice advocates.

In 2011, the Radiance Foundation financed the 4 Life Foundation to erect “Black is Beautiful” billboards in Oakland that advertised an anti-choice website. In response, reproductive justice advocates organized an online petition and campaign to the company that had rented the billboards to 4 Life, demanding that they be taken down.

In 2011, Missouri Right to Life conducted a fundraising campaign to erect an anti-choice billboard in St. Louis, stating that “The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American Baby is in the Womb.” Local reproductive justice advocates sent a letter to the billboard’s owner demanding its removal, and they organized to ensure that every member of the African-American caucus of the St. Louis Board of Alderman signed this letter.

2010
In 2010, the Radiance Foundation partnered with Pro-Life Wisconsin to erect thirteen racist, anti-choice billboards around Milwaukee, with statements like “Black & Beautiful” and “Black children are in danger.”

In December 2010, Heroic Media erected an anti-choice billboard in Austin, TX, featuring the commonly-used slogan “the most dangerous place for an African-American child is in the womb.” The billboards redirected to dangerousplace.org, a now-defunct website that promoted racist, shaming connections between abortion and race. In March 2011, the billboard was taken down, but a similar billboard featuring a Latina girl remained in another area of the city.

2009
In 2009, anti-choice organizations Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation erected billboards around Atlanta proclaiming that “Black children are an endangered species.”  The reproductive justice community in Atlanta, led by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, responded powerfully and swiftly, and turned these racist billboards into an opportunity for nationwide organizing and education.

  • Read coverage of the controversy from the Huffington Post and the New York Times.
  • SisterSong convened a national coalition to fight back against these racist billboards, the Trust Black Women
  • Loretta Ross, then the National Coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, wrote an in-depth history of the reproductive justice response to these billboards.
  • A notice about SisterSong’s activist day.