NEW YORK (AP) — An outdoor advertising company has taken down an anti-abortion billboard that pictured a black girl along with the tagline, “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.”
Some residents had said they found the billboard offensive, and members of the black community were especially outraged by it.
A spokesman for Louisiana-based Lamar Advertising, Hal Kilshaw, said that while the company respects the right to freedom of expression, the decision to take down the billboard Thursday night was for “public safety.” He said waiters and waitresses at a restaurant in the building where the billboard was placed had been harassed.
The Rev. Al Sharpton praised the decision and canceled plans to protest the billboard Friday. The civil rights activist said the billboard “depicted black women in an unfair way.”
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The billboard was placed in the busy Soho neighborhood of Manhattan by the group Life Always as part of a national campaign tied to Black History Month. The group said its message highlights Planned Parenthood’s “targeting of minority neighborhoods.”
Planned Parenthood called the ad a “condescending effort to stigmatize and shame African-American women.”
Life Always said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees” with Lamar’s decision to remove the billboard. The organization said “the intent of the board is to call attention to the tragedy and the truth that abortion is outpacing life in the black community.”
Sharpton said he was open to discussing the subject of abortion in the black community and did not dismiss it outright. But he called instead for a “sober analysis” and said he would call a community meeting to address it publicly.
“The way you address that is not by demonizing black women,” he said.
In December, the city’s health department released statistics showing 41 percent of pregnancies in the city were aborted in 2009. The rate was close to 60 percent for blacks.
Associated Press writer Tom McElroy contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.