“Race-Baiting for Life”: Why Cleveland’s Latest Anti-Abortion Billboards Must Go

They’ve been called out, sued over, and otherwise panned as racist and offensive whenever they pop up, but somehow, anti-abortion activists can’t seem to resist targeting African American communities with their own personal billboards while trying to convince that particular group not to terminate pregnancies. This time, the campaign is happening in Cleveland, Ohio, where Ohio Right to Life has embarked on a personal quest they have dubbed “concentrated urban outreach.” As part of that outreach, the group has purchased two different billboard messages, one declaring abortion “violence,” another urging men to “support women” and remember that “Fatherhood begins in the womb.”

“African Americans experience a shockingly disproportionate number of abortions,” Katherine McCann, public relations manager at Ohio Right to Life said in press release announcing the campaign. “We constantly hear about the racial disparities in infant mortality, gun violence and voting. Our goals with this campaign are to spread awareness about the racial crisis of abortion, and most importantly, to save lives in Cleveland, Ohio’s abortion capital.”

ORLT is correct in that there are racial disparities in the abortion rate. The African American population in the state represent nearly 42 percent of all abortions despite being only 13.4 percent of the residents. Yet their approach to addressing this issue — by pushing a campaign to try to guilt those with an unwanted pregnancy to give birth or convince their partner to do the same, rather than address the issues causing these unwanted pregnancies in the first place, such as inadequate access to affordable birth control options due to anti-abortion activists’ attempts to cut off family planning funding — leaves their sincerity in wanting to fix “disparities” in doubt.

Reproductive justice advocates in the area for one are not letting ORTL get away with their blame and shame tactics in Cleveland. A new advocacy group, New Voices Cleveland (NVC), has sent a letter to the president of ORTL demanding the group remove the billboards, which they call harmful, and urging ORTL to look to real solutions to assist women of color in the state. “New Voices Cleveland is outraged at your current billboard campaign targeting Black communities on the east side of Cleveland,” the group wrote in their letter. “These billboards are part of a troubling history of exploiting and controlling Black women’s bodies for political gain. These billboards and the associated fatherhood campaign are intended to shame Black women as a means to restrict access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive healthcare. We call upon the entire community of Cleveland to trust Black women for the decisions we make for ourselves and our families.”

“Ohio Right to Life, we know that your agenda is not in the best interest of Black women and our families. Your attempt to use Black women as political pawns in your ideological battle ends today,” NVC declared.

Local media has already taken an interest in the racial politics at play, with columnist Connie Schultz calling the billboards “race-baiting for life.”

“Both billboards telegraph a sinister message, that black women are witless dupes who cannot be trusted to make their own decisions for their own bodies,” writes Schultz. ”One accuses black women of murder; the other urges black men to overrule and intervene.” Noting that similar billboards have been purchased, erected and criticized in the past, Schultz states, “Those billboards failed to dissuade the majority of black women who supported abortion rights, and the same will be true of this round. Apparently, Ohio Right to Life loves to waste donors’ money.”

Attacks on abortion from a racial basis have been happening for decades, from accusations of abortion and birth control as a eugenics plot to more recent lawsuits stating that because more people of color access abortion, funds being provided to them to do so should be cut off. While African-American anti-abortion activist groups like Radiance Foundation have continued to push genocide claims, reproductive justice groups like SisterSong have steadily pushed back those arguments and reinforced every person’s need to control her own body and reproduction as the only means of true freedom.

Is Ohio Right to Life really seeking to represent the best interests of people of color when it comes to their reproductive health? If so, they should be fighting more to get access to low cost health care, birth control, child care and schools, rather than focusing on funding crisis pregnancy centers, defunding family planning clinics, reducing assistance for low income families needing supplemental  benefits and advocating for outrageously high tax credits for families seeking to adopt while doing nothing to up benefits for families to help them keep their children.

Instead, they just keep buying billboards.

Photo credit: New Voices Cleveland Facebook


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek3 years ago


Phil M.
Phil M3 years ago

John H. "..women are using abortion as a form of birth control..your sick."

Oh sure John , whatever . Let's see what birth control gets you harassed and heckled and threatened when you go to obtain it ? Neither the pill, IUD, nor the male&female condom . Never mind the pain ,financial burden and health risk of an abortion . So your comment is about as ludicrous as it can get.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

WOW @JACarlton, that’s a bit har….um, no, actually that is spot on. SO I am going to repost it. Cheers and thanks!

well john h... lemme tell you a little something... if you've ever had an abortion, you would know full well that there is NO WAY any woman is going to use it as a form of birth control. "Why" you might ask?

1) it hurts like a mf.

2) it's expensive...several hundred dollars at the very least and that's without an unwanted and unnecessary vaginal rape... I mean ultrasound.

3) condoms are what... $2.50 - 5.00 per pack depending on quantity? Let's see... $5.00 vs. $300 - 700 - 1,000? ... I know what I'd choose to spend.

4) birth control pills... $35 bux a month IF that much when attained through planned parenthood or some other provider... again... weigh the cost against a several hundred dollar abortion....

5) until you grow a uterus or use a condom 100% of the time, or you grow a fetus you DON"T GET A SAY so you and all the other men who think they have a right to an opinion that doesn't support WHAT THE WOMAN WANTS just need to go shut your cakeholes and spank your willies cause dog knows... I'm praying you'll never get another piece of female a** for the rest of your misogynistic totalitarian dic(k)tatorial lives!

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

John H, what are YOU doing to prevent pregnancy? Do you leave it all up to your female partner(s)?
I worked at a family planning (NOT abortion) clinic and only met ONE female (a totally irresponsible teen) who was using abortion as birth control. All the others were responsible adults taking care that, if their partner was too damn lazy to use a condom, they were protected from pregnancy.
BTW, condoms also protect against STDs. Can't say that about the pill, IUD, diaphragm or other contraceptives.

Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Truth to fact not fiction ... disparity IS rampant.

Awareness is just another word for education amd is not guilt-based. Children having children, without a parenting clue and no dads in the picture will never be solved by abortion alone.

Let's hear it for counter balance, two sides to everything. Once ingested, back to personal and free choice ... nothing more American than that.

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Let’s pretend that reincarnation is true

@john h.

On the astral plane where your angry racist soul will go when you die for reassignment, I have a fair amount of authority.

So when you get there and it’s time for you to plan out your next life,

I’m going to make sure that you get to come back in your next life as an African American female.

This way, we can make sure that you get to see first-hand how not only women are treated differently but how African American women are treated.

I’m pretty sure, after a few lives like this it will have cleansed you of your hateful misogynist, and racist beliefs on these issues.

Now, it wouldn't be done as a way to punish you, but it would be done to make you grow up and realize how you have formed horrible ideas about race and gender that really, really, really need to be changed.

pam w.
pam w3 years ago

timothy m....so? Ancient history. If THAT is the only negative you can find about Planned Parenthood, they'll be happy. Hitler was Catholic....shall we slap all of them with the "anti-Semite" view he held?

john hall
john hall3 years ago

This isn't race baiting when you try to inform the black or any community of how many abortions are going on..don't like the numbers then start acting responsibily with your sex life. With all the information and birth control available women and men act like damn fools..women are using abortion as a form of birth control..your sick.