A controversial pro-life billboard in New York City’s busy SoHo neighborhood has been taken down following complaints, threats and a planned protest.
Peter Costanza, the general manager of Lamar Advertising, told the New York Times Thursday that the billboard that depicts an African American girl along with the message, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb,” was taken down because he did not want violence to occur near the buildings where the billboard was located.
The sign’s message created tension for the businesses located nearby. According to Lamar Advertising, employees in the Mexican restaurant below the sign were being harassed by people angered by the billboard’s message.
The Rev. Al Sharpton expressed that many in the black community found the sign offensive. Letitia James, a New York City Council member representing parts of Brooklyn, said she was outraged that the billboard was put up to coincide with Black History Month.
Another council member, Christine C. Quinn, issued a statement saying, “To refer to a woman’s legal right to an abortion as a ‘genocidal plot’ is not only absurd, but it is offensive to women and to communities of color.”
The mother of the six-year-old girl featured on the ad was also upset. Tricia Frasier said she didn’t anticipate that her daughter’s photo would be used next to that message when she had Anissa photographed at a modeling agency two years ago.
“I was devastated that they portrayed her like that,” the mother stated.
Sharpton praised the decision to take down the sign and has cancelled the planned protest. "They got a lot of attention, but they may not have gotten a lot of support," Sharpton told television station WCBS-TV.
However, Life Always, the organization behind the ad, says the real message has been misconstrued.
Life Always supporter, the Rev. Michel Faulkner of the New Horizon Church of New York City said in a statement, “While this billboard causes a visceral reaction from many African-Americans, it addresses a stubborn truth that 60 percent of black babies do not make it out of the womb.”
A recent report by the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that the abortion rate in 2009 was 41 percent. The rate among black women was 59.8 percent.
Faulkner contended, “Instead of challenging the design of the ad, we should ask why the message is true and how can we change the fact that the leading cause of death for African-Americans is abortion.”