Life Always' controversial billboard that was taken down. (Image: Life Always)
The Planned Parenthood Federation of American has been splashed across the headlines as of late. From the Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives voting to strip the health care provider of federal aid to pro-life organizations releasing video footage of undercover stings, it’s clear that a war is brewing and a line is being drawn in the sand over a hot-button issue—abortion.
The issue took on a decidedly racial tone this week when non-profit and anti-abortion organization Life Always unveiled a billboard in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City. The controversial billboard featured a young African-American girl with the tagline "The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” The ad was taken down Thursday amid neighborhood outrage, ultimately staving off a protest from Rev. Al Sharpton. Life Aways is waging a campaign against not only Planned Parenthood but “mainstream media and liberal representatives in government” as well, says Pastor Stephen Broden. (Calls made to to Life Always representatives were not returned).
When a sensitive topic like abortion comes into play, the facts can often get lost. So what’s the truth? Is Planned Parenthood an abortion factory, and is it targeting Black babies?
For more than 90 years, Planned Parenthood has opened its doors to people who may not have access to health services anywhere else. Planned Parenthood leads the nation in providing sexual and reproductive health care to millions of women across the U.S, many with low incomes or, worse, no health insurance, via their 820 health centers nationwide. In addition to providing testing for HIV/AIDS, Planned Parenthood also offers testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), breast-cancer screenings, and family planning. It’s no secret that the health care provider performs abortions; however, the number of pregnancy terminations is relatively small when compared to other available services. “More than any other organization,” said Veronica Byrd, director of African-American media of Planned Parenthood, “Planned Parenthood works to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortions.
African-Americans make up approximately 15 percent of PPFA’s clients, translating to roughly 400,000 people, according to Byrd. Despite the charges that their health centers set up shop in predominantly Black communities, she says, “A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute released in January proved that less than 1 in 10 abortion clinics nationwide are in majority African-American communities."
When asked about why groups like Life Always feel that clinics that provide abortion services are targeting Blacks, Byrd pointed to the health disparities experienced by African-Americans, as well as economic factors. “Very little attention is given to finding the root causes of the various health disparities, from breast cancer, diabetes, to the high abortion rates, and what’s really behind those high rates... The groups behind these billboards do absolutely nothing to help these women or the millions of children who are already here who need health care.”
On the national front, Planned Parenthood is prepared for a long fight on Capitol Hill. While it is highly doubted that the current push to slash the health provider’s aid will ever become law, clinics that provide services similar to Planned Parenthood are taking up arms. If the law were to pass, close to 50 percent of Planned Parenthood centers would be forced to close, along with other service providers. And while champions for the pro-life movement would applaud, there could be other far-reaching affects, including increases in sexually transmitted diseases and other illnesses that can be prevented or treated, if caught in the early stages.
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