Feb. 22, 2010— -- Controversial billboards are going up in the heart of black neighborhoods across Atlanta.
The message is simple and alarming -- that African-American children are an "endangered species" because there are "too many aborted" in the black community. The words are written over the face of a young black child.
There are now more than 60 of the giant billboards in Atlanta's black neighborhoods, where a majority of Georgia's black residents live, and the message isn't going over well.
"They need to tear it down; they just need to put something else up," said Atlantan Ashley Varner. "I think they could get their point across without just targeting black people."
Another, Carrie Logan, went further. "I think it's just a racist thing that they put out," she said.
To the surprise of many, the anti-abortionists behind the billboards are black themselves and say they were motivated by a record number of abortions among black women. Of the 36,094 women in Georgia who had abortions in 2008, nearly 21,000 were African-American, more than twice the number of white women. Nationally, the CDC says black women are still three times more likely than white women to get an abortion.
Ryan Bomberger, who designed the billboards, is "trying to raise awareness in the African American community." he told ABC News, "to say, 'Look, here are the numbers. Here's what's happening,' and it should be alarming to civic leaders and to black pastors."
Bomberger's group, The Radiance Foundation. has also set up a Web site, toomanyaborted.com, laying out the argument behind its attention-getting headline.
Georgia Right to Life helped pay for the signs. It now has a division that addresses minority concerns. Catherine Davis, who is also African-American and leads the division, said that while most people think the anti-abortion movement consists of "just old white men, that's not the case."
Davis says the billboards are meant to sound the alarm in the black community. "It is a shocking message," she said. "My people are dying. I want people to look at this -- is there any truth to what we are saying? If there is truth, let's do something about it."
Old Argument Makes a Comeback in Black Communities
Among African Americans, the argument that abortion is bad for the race is an old one, but it's not usually debated so openly.
As far back as the 1940s, many black Americans resisted abortion, quietly fearing that it was an attempt at black extermination. In the 1970s, though, opinions began to shift. Women's groups convinced civil rights leaders that they were both fighting for a similar cause -- the right to control their own bodies.
But in recent years, the billboard's argument that abortion is genocide has made a comeback in some parts of the black community. An underground DVD pushes the message, along with an Internet documentary.
"Abortion should be more of a concern to our people," the DVD says. "Legalized abortion is more than just a crime against humanity, it is also the continuation of a 150-year racial agenda that was in black genocide."
Loretta Ross, a longtime advocate for women of color, says the genocide argument is nonsense. She is the head of a group called Sister Song, which has fought to provide black women with access to contraceptives, reproductive health care, and abortion services.
"To a black woman, when you talk about not being able to control the timing and the spacing of children, guess what that harkens back to? Slavery," Ross said. "Why should we be discriminated against and have you suggest that it's for the good of the race!" She continues that "it's wrong for these people to say that black women are architects of our own genocide."
Ross says it's a shame the billboards attempt to shame black women and black people. The people behind the billboard say that at least they're talking.