Hot on the heels of its controversial airing of a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl, CBS is once again facing pressure from activist groups after it emerged its outdoor ads division is hosting a series of provocative anti-abortion ads in the Atlanta area.
The company's involvement in billboards that declare black children to be an "endangered species" because of abortion is raising concerns among progressive activists about the company's political neutrality.
Two anti-abortion groups, Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation, have bought space on 65 billboards in recent weeks to run ads that link abortion to racism.
The ads are linked to a Web site, TooManyAborted.com, which asserts "abortion kills more African-Americans, per year, than heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, accidents, homicides, suicide, and cancer–combined. Black women have abortions at over 3x the rate of white women."
"The Web site connects abortion to segregation, saying that after the civil rights era, racists went 'underground,' and that today 'abortion is the tool they use to stealthily target blacks for extermination,'" the New York Times reported earlier this month.
Now a report at AlterNet says that the billboards hosting the controversial ads are owned by CBS Outdoors, which is owned by Viacom, the same company that owns the CBS TV network.
"This is not the CBS of my childhood (I Love Lucy, the Ed Sullivan Show) or of the once venerated show, 60 Minutes," the unsigned AlterNet story declares.
This is instead the CBS that “suddenly changed its advocacy policy” to air a Super Bowl advertisement earlier this month from Focus on the Family, the ultra-right conservative organization that seeks to limit the rights of women, homosexuals, and people of color generally. Meanwhile, they denied ad space to several organizations representing gay rights and gay advertising interests.
It is the CBS that then pushed for inclusion of Focus on the Family ads on the website of the NCAA.com, and for airing ads by the same during the March Madness college basketball tournament, until the latter pulled those ads in response to protests from the LGBT community and likely after someone, somewhere in the NCAA finally (re)read their own guidelines against ads coming from messengers that, for example, denigrate gay people.
Pro-life groups in the Atlanta area are mobilizing against the campaign, with SPARK Reproductive Rights Now leading a pressure campaign against CBS Outdoors to have the billboards removed.
"The goals of these billboards are to shame, demonize and blame black women, their bodies, sexualities, and capacity to make informed decision[s] about their bodies," the group says in a statement. "The anti-choice movement has a zealous and dangerous preoccupation with [black women's] fertility and our children."
The group has launched an email-writing campaign asking CBS Outdoors to remove the ads.
"The language in the billboard is using messages of fear and shame to target women of color," Leola Reis of Planned Parenthood of Georgia told the Associated Press. "If we want to reduce the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies, we need to work as a community to make sure we get quality affordable health care services to as many women and men as possible."
As the AlterNet report notes, the billboard campaign is running at the same time as Georgia's legislature debates a new bill, the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban abortions based on the race or gender of the fetus.
According to Republican state Rep. Barry Loudermilk, one of the bill's co-sponsors, the new law would apply "the same standards of non-discrimination that is current law regarding employment, education, government and housing, to the practice of human abortion."
Supporters of the bill are using similar as are seen on the billboard ads. They point to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, which show that 57 percent of abortions in Georgia were performed on black women, though black people account for only 30 percent of the state's population.
"The civil rights activists did not fight to make lynching safe, legal, and rare. They ended it," said Dr. Johnny Hunter, head of LEARN, an anti-abortion group that focuses its efforts on the black community. "We must fight to end the ugliest form of racism: abortion."
Georgia is not the only state considering such a law. Oklahoma's legislature recently moved forward on a bill that would, among other things, ban abortions on the basis of race or gender.