I saw an interesting article in the New York Times this morning. Tricia Fraser is suing the anti-choice organization Life Always for using her young daughter’s image on a billboard that contained the text, “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” Ms. Fraser’s daughter is African-American. (Life Always is the same organization that recently used the famous “Hope” image of President Obama for another astoundingly offensive billboard.)
The billboard was denounced as racist and offensive almost as soon as it went up in the Soho neighborhood in New York City. Similar billboards went up in Atlanta early last year; those ads, sponsored by Georgia Right to Life and the Radiance Foundation, used an image of a different child and different text, but their message was the same. While those billboards were also met with controversy and disapproval, the lawsuit filed by Ms. Fraser is a first.
The suit claims that Life Always was promoting an “offensive, racist message.” While Ms. Fraser did sign a release for pictures to be taken of her daughter, who was four at the time, her attorney has said that the release “was very clear that the image was not to be used in a way that would defame her daughter or hold her up to ridicule in public.” Life Always has not yet responded to the allegations. However, the suit also claims that a representative from the organization said the child was a “prop” whose image was chosen due to her innocence.
It’ll be interesting to see how this suit unfolds. Personally, I’m curious about why Life Always didn’t use a picture of a child of one of its supporters – that is, why it couldn’t find a definitively anti-choice family that would allow their child to be used in this campaign. Perhaps that’s a simplistic way of looking at how an anti-choice campaign is created, but I can’t help thinking that it would prevent a lot of headaches on all side if, when putting together a provocative message about a perpetually intense subject, some sort of due diligence were done to ensure that everyone involved with the message actually believed in it.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.