Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anti-abortion groups step up attack on Planned Parenthood with Madison billboard

Pro-Life Wisconsin has teamed up with a national anti-abortion campaign to put up a billboard near a Madison Planned Parenthood clinic today. "CHOICE KILLS THOSE WITHOUT ONE," the sign says in giant letters. A photo of an African American baby is in the center of the letter "O," a slash across it.
The billboard has been placed near the Planned Parenthood clinic on South Park Street.
It is the latest salvo in what has been a stepped-up campaign not just against abortions but against sex education and family planning and birth control programs across the state. It is also an example of the anti-abortion movement's efforts to revive old and widely debunked charges that Planned Parenthood has links to the eugenics movement.
“Abortion is not a true choice for the unborn, for women or for men. Abortion providers prey on those who feel they have no choice, and this campaign highlights this daily reality,” says communications director Virginia Zignego in a press release.
Pro-Life Wisconsin opposes sex education and the use of all forms of contraception. The group has been invigorated by the Republican charge in Wisconsin to defund and shut down various family planning programs across the state. The Governor's budget includes significant funding cuts and the elimination of some of these programs.
So if the group opposes sex ed and birth control, what alternatives are there for poor women who want to avoid or end unintended pregnancies? I asked Zignego. Adoption and crisis pregnancy centers supported by anti-abortion groups, she said.
The Madison billboard takes aim at Planned Parenthood for what the group’s press release describes as a "history of racism and the continuing eugenics movement in Wisconsin."
The billboard is just a small example of what has been a ferocious attack, even including undercover sting operations, by anti-abortion activists against Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
The Madison billboard refers viewers to a website called, run by a group called The Radiance Foundation and headed by Ryan Bomberger, who the press release points out is biracial. 
 “Our goal is to expose an industry that doesn’t trust women enough to tell them the truth, injects gender animosity by demonizing men, and targets minorities resulting in hugely disproportionate rates of abortion in the urban community,” Bomberger says in the release.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood point out that the clinics are often the only affordable providers of not just family planning services, but of much needed health care in many minority neighborhoods.
Every year, says Amanda Harrington of Planned Parenthood, more than 11,000 Wisconsin women receive screenings for cervical and breast cancers, annual check ups, STD testing, and family planning services that many of them can not get anywhere else. "The simple fact is that many communities in Wisconsin suffer from a lack of access to basic health care. An inability  to access preventative health care leads to many health disparities," she says.
Last December, the Radiance Foundation worked with Pro Life
Wisconsin to put up 13 billboards in mostly minority neighborhoods
in Milwaukee. "Black children are in danger: too many aborted,"
some said. Others read "Black and Beautiful: Too many aborted."

At that time, Amanda Harrington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, called the charges against her organization "lies and distortions" and the billboards "reprehensible."
"They are using racism to interfere with a woman's ability to access health care," she told me, as quoted in my Vital Signs post.
Harrington called Planned Parenthood "the state's largest and most trusted health care provider," with "doors open to all."
Racial disparities in abortion rates are not the result of a conspiracy, she said. They occur because minorities experience greater numbers of unwanted pregnancies because they lack access to adequate sex education and affordable health care including birth control.
"If organizations like Pro-Life Wisconsin were truly concerned about reducing unintended pregnancies, they would work with us to increase access to sex education and affordable birth control," Harrington said. "Instead, they work against us to eliminate health care to women who really need it."
Just days after the Milwaukee billboards equating abortions with black genocide, Pro-Life Wisconsin erected two signs in La Crosse featuring ultrasound images the organization claim represent the baby Jesus in the Virgin Mary's womb. Here is an image of that bilboard.
Placed over the fetus in the billboards was a miniature halo. "He's on His Way. Christmas Starts with Christ," the sign read, linking viewers, described by a Pro-Life press release as a Christian nonprofit in England that sponsored the campaign there.
In my post about the La Crosse billboard, Zignego said the group planned to step up its anti-abortion work in Wisconsin, targeting the state's controversial sex education law, passed last year.

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