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Controversial billboard focuses on African-American abortions

By Jordana Ossad, CNN
The billboard is located roughly a half mile from a Planned Parenthood facility in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood.
The billboard is located roughly a half mile from a Planned Parenthood facility in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A New York billboard focused on exclusively on African-American abortion rates
  • The billboard is located roughly a half mile from Planned Parenthood abortion facilities
  • Blacks tend to have high abortion rates compared to other groups, research center says

New York (CNN) -- A billboard has sparked controversy in New York after an anti-abortion group erected a sign focused exclusively on African-American abortion rates.

The sign -- which was paid for by an organization called Life Always -- reads: "The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb."

The billboard -- located roughly a half mile from a Planned Parenthood facility in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood -- features an African-American girl.

"They're attacking women for choosing abortion while simultaneously destroying family planning," said spokeswoman Mary Alice Carr for the New York-based National Institute for Reproductive Health. "Their hypocrisy is as large and as obnoxious as this billboard."

But Pastor Stephen Broden, a Life Always board member, told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that "it's hard to celebrate Black History Month" with abortion "hanging over our community."

"Abortion is out-pacing life in our community" and he said the billboard's message is meant to be a "provocative" way to illustrate the problem.

African-Americans tend to have high abortion rates when compared to other demographic groups, according to Rebecca Wind, a spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based research center for sexual and reproductive health.

The disparity is in part attributed to a "lack of adequate services" in many black communities, which "has resulted in more unintended pregnancies," Wind said.

According to the Life Always website, the move is an attempt "to raise public awareness of Life issues through advertising and raise truths about Life issues to educate and empower individuals."

The sign is part of a national campaign where more billboards will appear over the next couple of months across the country, Life Always spokeswoman Marissa Gabrysch said.

Critics say the message is misleading.

"The issue is here they are doing a campaign, targeting one group of women and making them feel guilty and shameful about family choices that they are making," Carr said. "You can't take a woman and lift her out of her experience."

But Rev. Derek A McCoy, another Life Always board member, told reporters something needs to be done about abortion in the black community and this is "calling attention to a dramatic event."

"This is a truth and tragedy," he said.

Broden said "The child (in the billboard) was selected for her innocence."

 
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