NARAL begins campaign to take down anti-abortion rights billboards targeting African-Americans

 Matt MahurinThey started popping up in Houston. But when a billboard appeared in Austin, featuring a smiling African-American child and the words "The most dangerous place for some children is in the womb," the Texas branch of pro-abortion-rights group NARAL, decided to act in countering Heroic Media and its anti-abortion rights message.

Partnering with SisterSong, an Atlanta-based abortion rights advocacy group and a member group of the black women's consortium Trust Black Women, NARAL has started a campaign to bring down the billboards. The most notorious billboard linked to Heroic's strategy targeting African Americans was a short-lived advertisement in New York City saying, "The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb."

The first step, said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Sara Cleveland, is to figure out "what we're up against in Texas." She said they've identified four billboards which have gone on a Google Map that will be updated as more anti-abortion rights billboards targeting the African-American community are identified.

Though talks to fight the billboards began last December, Cleveland said NARAL decided to ramp up its action a few weeks ago. The decision was motivated by a former intern and University of Texas at Austin student who said she was sick of driving by the billboard above 9th Street and I-35 every day.

Once billboards are identified, Cleveland said the next step is to contact the billboard companies who have created and erected the signs. Thus far, two companies have been identified: CBS Outdoor Corporate and Dinosaur Outdoor Advertising.

The group has also created a petition asking Heroic Media founder Brian Follett to end the racially motivated billboard campaign. About 200 people have thus far signed the petition.

SisterSong has already proven that it can successfully run a race-based anti-abortion rights billboard campaign into the ground. Last December, the group mobilized their efforts to quash a race-selective abortion bill that was introduced after 65 billboards were erected by anti-abortion rights groups claiming that "Black Children are an Endangered Species."

Though Cleveland said NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has been focusing on the more than 30 pieces of anti-abortion rights legislation that have hit the Texas House floor this legislative session, she said hurting Heroic's ad campaign is the first step to quash what it is advertising: crisis pregnancy centers.

"CPCs exist to emotionally manipulate women," Cleveland said. "They distribute medically inaccurate information. Instead we should fund family planning centers that actually prevent unwanted pregnancies."

Of course, Heroic Media is not the only organization that has put up billboards with racially-motivated slogans -- in Georgia, it was Right to Life and Radiance Foundation. But just as Planned Parenthood has become the scapegoat for abortion providers in this country, Heroic Media has seemingly become the scapegoat for racist/anti-abortion rights sentiment.

Next month, Heroic Media is scheduled to hold a fashion-show fundraiser, with clothes supplied by Dillard's, at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Houston to raise funds for a new anti-abortion rights advertising project that will target the Houston community. Later in the month, on April 26, a dinner fundraiser will be held in San Antonio, perhaps meaning the city could get its own billboard sometime in the near future.