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By Courtney Bowie, Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program

This week in New York, there has been media coverage of an anti-abortion billboard several stories high outside of the Holland Tunnel declaring "The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb." It features the picture of a beautiful black girl in a pink sundress with a bow in her hair. The Dallas-based anti-abortion organization behind the billboard is trying to make the point that black women have abortions at higher rates than women of other ethnic groups in New York City.

I find the advertisement offensive for a number of reasons. In addition to being offended as a black woman, I am offended that groups such as this one would deny a black woman facing an unintended pregnancy the ability to make the best decision for herself and her family and would ignore the danger to black children after they are born.

About 34 percent of black children live in poverty, compared to 30 percent of Hispanic children, 15 percent of white children and 19 percent of children overall. Thirty-five percent of black children live with two married parents, compared to 67 percent overall. Statistically, every place in this country is a dangerous place for a black child. The infant mortality rate for black children in Washington D.C. rivals that of undeveloped nations in Africa. Seriously. Memphis is like a Third World country for black children.

The Mississippi Delta is even worse. Infant mortality is high. Illiteracy rates are staggering. Graduation rates are abysmal. There are no billboards expressing outrage about any of these issues. Black children are pushed out of school without an education or the ability to earn a living wage. Their life chances are extremely limited. There is no outrage about this. In the Mississippi Delta, school is a dangerous place for a black child.

A word about DeSoto County, Mississippi. It is just below the Memphis, Tennessee, border and for many years, it was the destination of white parents escaping Memphis schools and the city's perceived crime. The ACLU recently settled two cases against the DeSoto County School District. The legal issue in the case involved a gang policy so broad and vague, innocent conduct could lead to expulsion and no parent or child would know what conduct, in fact, was prohibited. This ended up giving school administrators and school police officers unchecked discretion to use the policy to expel students they no longer wanted in the school. Black students ended up being the victims of this policy. Four years ago, the punishment for violating the policy was changed from suspension to expulsion.

Assuming the gang threat is real, expulsion only increases a community’s gang problem. The real issue is that the gang policy’s vagueness allowed school administrators to racially profile and expel black students from this white flight district. Where’s the outrage? There are not any billboards expressing the suffering of black parents who either bought property or paid rent in DeSoto County, yet through no fault of their own, were denied the benefit of a public school education for their children.

These policies, and others like them that push black children out of school, have to be challenged. The failure to educate black children, the increasing achievement gap, and the increasing poverty rates and isolation of black children are signs of how we value these children after they are born. It sends a message to the child and to the community, and it is devastating.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, a black child is suspended from a public school every four seconds. A black child is arrested every minute. A black high school student drops out of school every 39 seconds. While it is impossible to know the individual circumstances of each of these cases, for the black children we represented in DeSoto County, we know that the subjective enforcement of the gang policy allowed our clients to be pushed out of the district for harmless activities that many children do and have done. They just happened to be the students the district wanted to get rid of.

The billboard in New York will be removed due to public outrage over its message. But that doesn't change the fact that the most dangerous place for a black child isn't the womb. It's any public space, including school.

Originally posted to ACLU on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:16 PM PST.

Also republished by The Amateur Left.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One of the best rants here in awhile (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackSheep1, IndyRobin, ilovecheese

    ...and of course there's plenty out there to rant about.  It's pecome pretty dangerous to be healthcare providers in several states as of this week, too, if loonies care to act out on their feelings about whether abortions should be safe and legal.

    It's an absurd campaign, and I'd guess it earns them much more hate than praise.

    "Limited government only sounds good as an abstraction, but the principles of the free market won't get you too far when your house is on fire." ~Joshua Holland

    by MsGrin on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:25:15 PM PST

  •  I found the ad to be thought provoking. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    1918, rosabw, HylasBrook

    In any given year, twice as many African Americans die from abortion than from violent crime, accidents, heart disease, cancer and AIDs, combined - near genocide numbers.  In NYC, the percentage is almost 60%.  

    People need to know that, and ask why.  The number should not be that high and I, for one, have no problem with someone pointing that out.  It's not an indictment of mothers of color.  It's more of an indictment of a health care system that makes it harder for women of color to obtain sex education, birth control and, as a last resort, low cost abortions, so that they don't have to resort to abortion as a form of birth control in the first instance.  

    I don't think anyone is against trying to reduce the need for so many abortions.  

    If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.

    by SpamNunn on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:35:28 PM PST

  •  Here's the comment I made in the NYTimes (6+ / 0-)

    City news blog regarding their article about the very offensive billboard.  (I realize I'm preaching to the converted here, but I'm proud of my comment.)

    As usual, the anti-abortionist focus on the results instead of the causes - of an unplanned pregnancy.

    Republicans have identified themselves as the anti-abortion party.  Yet, look at what Republicans do to that African American woman they want to bring her pregnancy to term:

    - Slash funding for sex education programs that teach other forms of birth contro in addition As usual, the anti-abortionist focus on the results instead of the causes - of an unplanned pregnancy.

    Republicans have identified themselves as the anti-abortion party.  Yet, look at what Republicans do to that African American woman they want to bring her pregnancy to term:

    -  Slash funding for sex education programs that don't teach abstinence  as the only form of birth control.

    - Try defund Planned Parenthood which provides affordable health care for women including cancer screens and other health services for women without health insurance.

    - Pass laws that block access to affordable contraception pills and devices.  This includes laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to sell prescribed contraceptives to women

    -Pass laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to sell the 'morning after' pill to women.  Even to women who have been raped.

    -Slash funds for programs that provide free pre-natal care to women.  This is especially important for poor African-American women who statisticallyare more likely to have low birth weight babies.   Babies with low birth weight have health and learning problems for the rest of their lives.

    - Slash funds for medicaid which provides affordable well baby care for infants.  This includes free vaccination.

    - Slash funds for WIC programs and Food Stamps which help mothers feed themselves and their children.

    -Slash funds for programs that provide affordable day care.

    - Slash funds for training programs that can provide an opportunity for a better paying job in low income areas.  A better paying job would allow the parents to provide more for their children.

    - Create a class of 'working poor' by not raising the minimum wage for the entire 8 years of the Bush Presidency.  Vote unsuccessfully against a raise in the minimum wage by the Obama administration.

    - Slash funds for welfare.

    And, finally, demonize women who are on welfare so they can support their children as "Welfare Queens" "Welfare moms that keep popping out babies to get more welfare money"

    Many women terminate their pregnancies because they cannot afford to have a child.   Perhaps if the anti-abortionists provide funds to make parenthood affordable in poor neighborhoods, the abortion rate would be reduced.

    HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

    by HylasBrook on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 03:26:52 PM PST

    •  There's your answer... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HylasBrook
      And, finally, demonize women who are on welfare so they can support their children as "Welfare Queens" "Welfare moms that keep popping out babies to get more welfare money"

      Can you spell hy-po-crite??

      It doesn't matter if i'm wrong or right--i just love to argue.

      by rosabw on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 05:20:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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