This past Saturday, the Chicago Abortion Fund took action in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. They spent hours cleaning up lots in the community where billboards have been posted by a Texas-based anti-choice group called Life Always. We covered details of these billboards here.
“The Chicago Abortion Fund‘s Executive Director, Gaylon Alcaraz, said the cleanup was a symbolic effort to highlight that her group and others are committed to improving the community. The same group protested the arrival of the billboards earlier this month, predicting the group which sponsors the ads wouldn’t invest in the community. “People from outside of this community come into this community for shock value and a little news attention,” she said at the time. “Then they’ll leave and they won’t do anything for these communities.””
Following the clean up, Chicago Abortion Fund volunteers distributed information on women’s healthcare and low-cost birth control options, which Alcaraz said is the responsibility of community groups.
But Life Always continues to defend the billboard campaign:
“Pastor Stephen Broden said Obama’s face was specifically chosen to target African-Americans on the city’s South Side because it’s where the disparity in abortion rates is occurring. “The highest level of success obtained by any African-American has been obtained by Barack Obama,” he said. “We’re simply saying to the community that we could be aborting the next leader of the free world. The next person who can contribute to humanity.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women accounted for more than 36 percent of U.S. abortions in 2007, the second highest in the nation. Broden said he stands by his group’s “confrontational truths” because of those statistics. “We’re being accused of race baiting. But the numbers are irrefutable and undeniable,” Broden said. “I’m an African-American, and we’re coming to the black community because we are a part of the black community.””
The Boston Herald also covered the story. Roxy Trudeau of the Women’s Health Center was quoted in the article saying: “Several people in my life have had abortions, and people I don’t know need access to abortions,” she said. “It’s their choice and it’s their body.”
Roxy and Gaylon have it right. Chicago Abortion Fund has taken the courageous step of taking real action in the communities of Chicago that have been targeted by the Texas-based Life Always group. These outsider anti-choice groups need to hear from the people in these communities directly and from black women themselves. They do a disservice to these communities by ignoring the realities of their lives and the choices they have a right to make over their own bodies and for their own families.
Black Women for Reproductive Justice is planning five Black Women’s Speakouts. The first will be Wednesday, May 18, 2010, 6pm-8pm at the Chicago Park District, Jackson Park, 6401 South Stony Island Avenue. The City of Chicago’s
Advisory Council on Women has graciously agreed to co-host this event. They will be helping to pull together local, county, and state resource information to hand out at the speakout. There will be space available for other groups to participate, and they are looking for organizations who would like to co-sponsor this event.
In the meantime, check out this helpful map created by BWRJ to track the racist anti-choice billboards popping up across Chicago.