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“The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb” read the anti-abortion billboard on Watts St and 6th Avenue in lower Manhattan. The billboard showed an innocent looking young black girl. The sign created city-wide outrage by pro-choice activists and like-minded residents opposed to the attack on African American women, but there were also people who were upset, paradoxically, because the sign was taken down.

The billboard was taken down on February 24 by the advertising company in response to public safety concerns from people in the neighborhood. The anti-abortion group that created the sign, Life Always, stated that it was meant to create controversy and bring awareness to the problem that abortion poses to the African American community. The organization’s spokesperson has also argued that Planned Parenthood was targeting African American communities. Life Always has continued strong with their awareness campaign, erecting similar signs in St. Louis and in Chicago, the latter with a picture of President Barack Obama and the statement “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.”

My initial reaction to the billboard was similar to that of Rev. Al Sharpton and Planned Parenthood who have both responded to the sign by calling it a "condescending [and demonizing] effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women." But within the New York City and African American community there are many individuals who feel the sign brought attention to the real threat abortion poses to African-American families.

Statistics clearly show that there is some kind of correlation between race and abortion rates. The Guttmacher Institute’s Abortion Fact Sheet shows that “30% of abortions occur to non-Hispanic black women, 36% to non-Hispanic white women, 25% to Hispanic women and 9% to other races.” According to these statistics, white women’s abortions account for slightly more of all the abortions made in the U.S yet the rate that black women have abortions is almost five times that for white women proportionately.

Understanding these statistics, one can only help but wonder why there is such a disparity between racial groups. The Guttmacher Institute provides an possible explanation, revealing that abortion
rates coincide with the rates of unintended pregnancies. Black and Hispanic women also have much higher rates of unintended pregnancies. If a community wants to combat abortion rates it seems only logical to foremost prevent unintended pregnancy.

There are many factors that can affect unintended pregnancy rates such as a lack of  sex-education in the community and a lack of contraceptive resources, but the overall theme throughout the factors influencing unintended pregnancies is poverty. Statistics show that 42% of women who have abortions are below the poverty line, a much higher rate than the African American women who have abortions. It is clear that African Americans and Hispanics suffer higher rates of poverty than do Caucasians-- In the United States in 2009, the poverty rate was 35% for African Americans, 34% for Hispanics and 13% for Whites. The ability to provide for a child is a strong factor in the decision to have an abortion or not. In addition poverty has a negative effect on resources that could help prevent unintended pregnancies and subsequently, abortions.

The billboard, though warranted statistically, unfairly focuses on race when it should focus on class. While the intent of Life Always may have been to bring awareness to the issue of abortion within the African American community, the analysis was narrow and didn’t get down to the real issues behind abortion and unintended pregnancies such as poverty and lack of sex education. Instead of focusing on Planned Parenthood’s supposed plot to rid the world of African American babies, they should focus on the reasons why African American communities and communities below the poverty line are overwhelmingly having more unintended pregnancies than Caucasian communities. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons