Black lives continue to be devalued; in Charleston, in Albany with the arrest of Kenlissia Jones, our interaction with law enforcement, the list goes on. It saddens me that we live in a country that boasts the mantra, “land of the free," but mothers– Black mothers in particular, often experience a different reality. They are forced to accept the likelihood that their children will experience police brutality; and are more likely to experience subpar education, higher rates of poverty, jail and health disparities than their White counterparts.
This doesn’t look like freedom to me.
And yet within this reality, the anti-choice leaders are far from the front lines of justice. Instead, they are using this moment to further their agenda that violates a woman’s human right to self-determination. One anti-choice group, Pro-Life Across America, is spreading its message across the country through a massive anti-abortion billboard campaign and in places like Atlanta, Memphis and Charlotte. These billboards are showing up in predominately Black communities across the South and we consider this a blatant form of reproductive oppression. Dishonest campaigns like these intend to divide us while disregarding the distinctive issues facing Black communities.
This campaign is part of a media strategy advanced by anti-choice organizations to disrepute and nullify an African American woman’s personal decision-making. The mere fact that this organization, one that is not led by people of color, would have the audacity to create billboards coercing and shaming Black women and targeting Black men implies something more unsettling; this is a racially-charged attempt at dividing our people. To have a disingenuous, pro-birth campaign in this particular moment is especially painful. The architects of this campaign are clearly not invested in the communities in which they erect these billboards and the use of this propoganda highlights their egregious motives and lack of willingness to work with communities to change the lived conditions of the people within them.
Furthermore, the expansion of these billboards to more urban cities is an emotional scheme to impede a pregnant woman’s autonomy and decision-making for herself and her family. We cannot allow campaigns to intentionally target those who may decide to end their pregnancy, especially when they incorporate racial components to shame women or misinform the public.
Pro-Life Across America has launched an assault on Black women’s reproductive freedom. The use of unscrupulous anti-abortion messaging that erases Black women is also a way to attack Black women, belittle those who don’t carry their pregnancies to term, and stigmatize abortion overall. We will not permit it.
We don’t need efforts that seek to curb Black self-determination or autonomy. We need advocates willing to work with our leaders and for our communities in need. And we need to acknowledge that these issues are all interconnected. All people should be able to fully and freely implement their human right to make their own decisions over their bodies, relationships, and families, including the rudimentary right to have children, to not have children, and raise the children we have in safe, healthy environments.
So I say to Pro-Life Across America, if you truly care about the communities you are attempting to influence, take down the billboards and take on the fight for justice.
Monica Simpson is Executive Director of SisterSong, a national reproductive justice collective working to amplify and strengthen the voices of Indigenous women and women of color and provide needed access to essential reproductive healthcare services.