Anti-abortion billboards recently unveiled in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood feature a picture of President Obama and read: "Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted."
As the leader of an organization whose mission is to eliminate racism and empower women, I find this message not only misleading, but completely ignorant of the disparities facing women and communities of color. These billboards recklessly imply that women of color are simple, one-dimensional, misguided and incapable of intelligent choices related to their own bodies, families and communities.
By placing these billboards in predominately under-resourced, African-American communities, the organization behind these billboards claims to be addressing the higher number of Black women who seek abortions. However, by attempting to limit their options for reproductive choice, this message is perpetuating a cycle of systematic racism already disproportionately impacting women of color.
In the U.S., 29 percent of households headed by white women with children live in poverty, compared to 43 percent of African-American women. Under-resourced women of color are more likely to work in service sector jobs that fail to provide a sustainable wage or enough hours to receive benefits -- which jeopardizes a family's health and access to childcare. Many women of color choose abortion because they know they cannot responsibly provide for another child.
YWCA Metropolitan Chicago respects free speech, but we are adamantly opposed to this misguided use of an African-American icon, specifically in communities of color. We welcome intelligent and strategic debate on the substantive issues that impact women, including a woman's right to choose. However, we will not accept irrational commentary that insults the integrity and heritage of the women that we serve. Free speech is a right; using inflammatory advertisements that attack women of color is racist.
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