Lawsuit Filed Against Anti-Choice Organization

The image at the center of the lawsuit

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.

About Sarah:
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


  1. That little girl deserves better than what those assholes are selling. I applaud this mother for taking a stand against their ignorance and racism.

    Good one, Sarah!

  2. I’m glad the mom is speaking out. Good for her.

  3. The message was racist and offensive? I understand if pro-choice advocates disagree with the message but what they’re trying to convey is that the Black community is being targeted by Planned Parenthood specifically.

    • Robin, the billboards ignore issues of gender, race, and class that help explain why women seek abortion. And they’re racist because they assume that women are being snookered into health care decisions – that they’re too stupid to make the decision on their own. Does anyone honestly believe that Planned Parenthood has malevolent abortion recruiters who tackle pregnant women and drag them to the abortion clinic?

      It’s undeniable that class has a racial component in this country. The Census data will support that argument. Planned Parenthood has clinics in low income neighborhoods because women with less money need Planned Parenthood’s services. Clinic locations have everything to do with accessibility, not some sinister plot.

    • Actually, most abortion clinics are NOT located in predominantly black neighborhoods. You should check out the recent review by the Guttmacher institute

      I LOVE that this mother is filing the lawsuit, and love even more the fact that’s it’s getting coverage in the NYTimes. No matter what the outcome of the suit is, it’s now clear that the mom and her family are not at all in support of Life Always or their racist campaign.

  4. If abortion was helping disadvantaged (whatever their racial, socioeconomic background might be) then why are the clinics still “needed” in those neighborhoods 35 years after the fact? I dont think that Planned Parenthood has malevolent abortion recruiters attacking women and dragging them to the clinic but when you look at Planned Parenthood’s history and some of the Live Action videos that come out-maybe some things that Planned Parenthood (and other clinics too) aren’t done with the most altruistic motives.

    That is NOT to say, however that everyone who works for Planned Parenthood has evil intent-I think that most of them truly have women’s best interests at heart but I disagree with the abortion aspect of it. Pro-life organizations I’m sure have done wrong things too, put out wrong information, and sadly, the most extreme ones encourage demented people who think that killing a doctor is the answer to abortion. I’ve heard the argument too, that most abortion clinics aren’t located in predominantly Black neighborhoods-then there’s the pro-life folks who say the opposite. That is one of the things in this debate that’s frustrating I think…there are only a handful (seems like) of facts both sides agree on. I’ll check that link-but is there any NEUTRAL site available??

    Or what I’d love to see is “experts” have a (God forbid, lol) civil debate on this issue…or perhaps Leroy Carhartt and a representative from Pro-Life Physicians debate/give perspectives on why they feel so differently on late-term abortion. Sorry so wordy…

    • Robin, Planned Parenthood clinics provide more than abortion services; abortion makes up a very small percentage of their clinical work. These clinics provide check-ups, cancer screenings, STI testing, and other necessary services – so yes, they are still needed in communities. Also, the Live Action videos that you referred to have a history of being heavily edited and taken out of context, so they should be viewed with skepticism.

      You might be interested in this USA Today article about Live Action’s tactics:

  5. I’ll check out the link because I think it’s important to get a balanced view. Thanks for the info about the other services that Planned Parenthood provides-I was already aware of that however. I am on medi-cal, though, and there are other clinics available besides Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care that do not offer abortions-I went to one for my birth control, pap smear, and treatment for precancerous cells (cervical). I will never go to a Planned Parenthood because I feel I would be the ultimate hypocrite as a pro-lifer and feel that it’s important for reproductive health services to be available in regular OB/GYN’s offices, especially for those of us, like myself, who are pro-life.

    • Serena says:

      Robin, I can respect that point of view – and that’s your personal choice to do so. At least you’re consistent with your framework.

      One thing that used to slay me when I was a clinic escort was when people would come to the clinic and swear up and down that they were pro-life as I opened the door for them. That’s fine – welcome to Planned Parenthood, and have a nice day. Everyone is welcome to utilize the services that are available at their clinics.

      Robin, you might be interested in this post we ran a long time ago – it’s about an interesting interaction one of our writers had with Randall Terry from Operation Rescue. Their discussion over a shared cigarette was fascinating – they bring up the point about consistent frameworks.

  6. Well after checking out the link-what seemed to be the main gist of the concern was that Lila Rose is being “dishonest” because the patients in the videos are there for investigative purposes rather than reproductive health care. I consider that to be soemthing different than investigating-but it gave me a good nugget of thought.

    If those folks who are going into the clinics you used to escort at felt they needed to swear up and down how pro-life they were….they need to practice what they preach. Though I think what you and I are doing on this blog-respectfully debating is more helpful than clinic confrontations. For your respectful view on things and insight you’ve given me-hats off and kudos! :)

    • Robin, I agree that Lila Rose isn’t “investigating” – she’s being deceptive and setting people up with her little videos.

      Glad you feel like we’ve got a welcoming atmosphere here on the site for debate. There is room for everyone at the table – as long as we all keep things civilized. :)

  7. Well…isn’t investigating deceptive in its very nature? If some of the folks in those clinics gave the same staff members interviews, only from an openly pro-life perspective, it would stand to reason that in some cases, at least, she would get different results, thus the need to “investigate.” I know some people feel the videos are taken out of context and I’m not sure what her critics feel is missing, but it does bring up a point worth considering.

    Thanks for making me feel welcome, btw….it’s just too bad that more people on both sides can’t keep things more civilized. Speaking of which-do you have any articles or opinions on the former Planned Parenthood director (Abby Johnson) who left the industry and wrote a book? I havent read the book yet, but one thing I found refreshing is she states on her site I believe, that there are wonderful people to be found on both sides of the debate. You know, people like YOU!

    • Serena says:

      We wrote a couple of articles about Abby Johnson – you can use the search function at the upper right corner to find them. We had to turn off the comments feature on one of them because folks were getting overly hostile.

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