Yesterday marked Juneteeth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in America, but a group of anti-choice activists is exploiting that dark chapter in American history to push their political agenda. The conservative Radiance Foundation, which is behind several other offensive anti-abortion media campaigns, takes advantage of the day marking emancipation to roll out billboards in African American neighborhoods in Atlanta and elsewhere, which read in giant letters, “The 13th Amendment Freed Us. Abortion Enslaves Us“:
Another version of the billboard declares, “Abortion Makes Three Fifths Human Seem Overly Generous” — a reference to a clause in the original version of the Constitution which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. “Roe v. Wade has made a mockery of Civil Rights history by offering destruction and bondage instead of possibility and freedom,” a spokesperson for the group said in a press release.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued a statement condemning the “the race-based attack on a woman’s right to choose”:
“I am deeply offended by the race-based billboards that are being displayed in my congressional district by the Radiance Foundation and Issues4Life,” Congresswoman Lee said. “These billboards stigmatize women of color and perpetuate myths about parenting skills and the types of women who seek and use abortion services.”
Like other similar campaigns, the new slavery billboard is based on the conspiracy theory that abortion is actually a secret plot by groups like Planned Parenthood to execute “Black Genocide,” since the African American community has a higher rate of abortions than whites. In reality, as the Guttmacher Institute notes, the higher abortion rate reflects a greater prevalence of unintended pregnancies resulting from, among other factors, a lack of access to effective contraception. This problems, ironically, is exactly what groups like Planned Parenthood actively seek to solve.
But this theory, nonetheless, has some some powerful believers. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said last year that African Americans were better off under slavery than they are now, because abortion was illegal then. Franks also has a bill to criminalize race- or sex-based abortions. GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain actually served as a spokesman for a group pushing the black genocide theory, cutting a radio ad that accused Democrats of wanting to kill “black babies.”