By J. Coyden Palmer, Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Crusader –
During a press conference in Washington Park last week, a Black Texas minister announced he was starting an anti-abortion campaign aimed directly at the African American community.
Rev. Stephen Broden, pastor of Fair Park Bible Fellowship Church, said he is placing the billboards in Black communities across the nation in an attempt to draw attention to high abortion rates within the community. His first billboard in Chicago went up in the 5800 block of South State Street. Broden had billboards in New York City, but they were taken down after controversy ensued.
That could also be the fate in Chicago as several people the Crusader spoke with said they did not approve of the image of President Barack Obama being a part of Broden’s campaign. Obama’s likeness appears on the billboard along with the words “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.” Broden said he used a likeness of the President’s image to try to convey the message that future leaders in the Black community are being aborted.
“I think the potential of this community lies in its children,” said Broden, who is a board member of the anti-abortion group Life Always.
“Too often we say we’re doing things for our kids, but do we really mean it? When we are aborting fetuses, we are basically taking away a life that could help us solve some of the issues in our community.”
Several people who were walking by during the press conference stopped to confront Broden and offer their opinion. Some said they agreed with his position on abortion, but did not agree with the tactics he was employing.
Joanne Fishback, 30, said she had an abortion at 15 and regrets it every day of her life. But, she was offended by the Life Always billboard because it featured Obama.
“During his campaign the President said he supported a woman’s right to choose, so I don’t see why they would put him on an anti-abortion campaign,” Fishback said.
“I think it is disrespectful to the president and his family. They could have gotten their message across without Obama’s face on it.” Teddy Williams, a local plumber, said he was upset not just with Obama’s image, but the campaign in general. Williams, 56, and a father of three adult women, said he has always told his daughters not to allow any man to tell them what to do with their bodies. He sees anti-abortion activists as a threat to the message he instilled in his own children.
“I think women are constantly being told, by men none the less, what they need to do with their bodies,” Williams began. “We want women to look a certain way, dress another way, talk this way…now we’re trying to shame them into keeping a baby that may not be in the best interest for them to have. I think we should provide women contemplating an abortion with the best information possible on the subject and then let them decide.”
For decades, abortion has been a politically divisive issue. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case of Roe vs. Wade made abortions legal. But, that did not end the debate and on a regular basis, pro-life groups are seeking ways to overturn the court’s ruling.
Life Always is planning on placing more than 30 billboards in African American neighborhoods throughout Chicago. The group said it used data from the U.S. Census and Centers for Disease Control when stating that Blacks are less than 13 percent of the population and about 36 percent of the country’s abortions.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 25,196 abortions in Cook County, Illinois in 2009. Those who work at women health centers were critical of the Life Always campaign.
Cherisse Scott, a health educator with Black Women for Reproductive Justice attended the press conference to confront members of Life Always and give her viewpoint as a person who works with many women who must decide whether to give birth after an unexpected pregnancy. Scott said many anti-abortionists only focus on the woman giving birth and do not consider the quality of life issues once the child is born. In her work with clients, Scott said many women who choose to have an abortion do so not because they do not want a baby, but because they do not believe they can afford one.
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