The billboards in Chicago that featured a likeness of President Barack Obama as well as the phrase “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted” was panned as needlessly offensive by both activists and city residents alike.
Now, it appears that the billboards are illegal as well.
On March 29, 2011, a Texas-based pro-life organization began installing billboards with an anti-abortion message on the South Side of Chicago. They use an image of President Obama to discourage African American women from their legally protected rights to a full range of reproductive health options. Since then, we have learned that these billboards are unpermitted, and a violation of City of Chicago signage ordinances (Chapter 17-12). The billboards are the result a private deal with Lake Outdoor Advertising and the landowner at 5812-20 S. State Street, and thus an illegal use of public land for private profit.
The billboards were just the latest stunt in an attempt to draw people on both sides of the abortion issue into a fight over racial issues, as well as use over the top imagery in an attempt to garner free publicity for the anti-abortion cause. A prior effort, signs in New York that declared the most dangerous place for an African American is “in the womb,” was so offensive that even the mother of the child used in the picture was demanding it be removed.
These efforts don’t elevate the discourse over abortion, they only seek to divide us even further, causing a chasm not just between pro-life and pro-choice but by race, too. To find out that they are illegal as well is not a shock.
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