Barack Obama is back in Chicago, looking over the South Side of the city from a billboard above in an empty lot on 58th and State streets.
The billboard, which features an image of Obama frequently used on "Hope" or "Change" posters during his 2008 presidential campaign, comes with the slogan: "Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted." The ad then directs the viewer to ThatsAbortion.com, which is a Life Always website. Another website used for some of the group's other African-American-centered anti-abortion campaigns is PPabortsAA.com. (Both Web domains are owned by Majella Cares, under which both Life Always and Heroic Media are registered in their IRS filings.)
The group has gotten away with such billboards in Jacksonville, Fla., and cities in Texas, but when a Life Always billboard popped up in New York City last month, not only did incessant protesting cause the billboard to come down after less than 24 hours, but it brought national attention to the ad campaign.
In Texas, Heroic Media's home base, the abortion rights advocacy group NARAL has started its own campaign to fight down the billboards.
So now it's time to see what happens in Chicago, which if all goes according to plan, will be the home of about 30 anti-abortion messages warning the black community that an abortion could cost the world another Barack Obama. The first billboard went up Tuesday during a press conference featuring three reverends and one pastor.
In Chicago, there are seven Planned Parenthood clinics, only two of which offer abortion services. The spot where the billboard has been erected, in an empty lot on 5812 S. State St., is 2.63 miles away from the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, in Englewood, which does not offer abortion services. The nearest clinic that does offer abortions is about nine miles away, on the near north side of the city.
The Chicago billboards offer a different slogan than the one used in the other cities, that being, "The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb."
Obama has frequently been lambasted by anti-abortion rights groups, congressmen and political pundits for speaking at Planned Parenthood fundraisers. Early this month, conservative media picked up a LifeNews story that Michelle Obama invited Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to a White House celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day.
The president has been heavily criticized for voting against "partial birth abortion" bills when he was a senator in the Illinois Legislature.
Independent News Site ColorLines points out the irony of Life Always using his image for their message.
"The first billboard, which declared, 'The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb,' ran on Welfare Queen fumes," ColorLines' Akiba Solomon writes. "The latest capitalizes on the African American community's legitimate fears about how white supremacy, gun violence, police brutality and mass incarceration endanger the lives of black men."
Independent filmmaker and photographer Stacey Muhammad has taken that sentiment and made digital versions of two Life Always' billboards revising the first to read: "The most dangerous place for an African American is in a world that criminalizes its mothers" and the second: "Every minute our next possible leader scholar hero is murdered."
The Chicago Abortion Fund, which assists low-income women in Chicago obtain abortions, by providing them with clinic referrals and financial assistance has condemned the billboard in a media statement: "The ongoing anti-choice movement to target women of color in cities across the country is both despicable and deplorable. … Not only is the ad attempting to shame black women but placing a picture of the President Obama alongside the message is cynical and misleading."