Billboards Targeting Latinas Exposes Cynical Motives of Conservative Funders

As the newest campaign aimed at Latinas shows, it's likely more a case of racial opportunism, and any race will do, if it means advancing a conservative social agend.

In February, billboards in New York City warned that “The most dangerous place for African Americans is in the womb.” Now Latinos in Los Angeles learn that “El lugar más peligroso para un Latino es el vientre de su madre.” (“The most dangerous place for a Latino in in his mother’s womb.”) So what’s going on in the wombs of minority women in the United States? According to Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, which launched the Latina version last week in Los Angeles, Latina women are under attack from Planned Parenthood. Aguilar claims Planned Parenthood is systematically entering Latino neighborhoods to promote what amount to eugenic abortions.

The Latino Partnership’s initiative took its inspiration from the Texas-based anti-abortion group, Life Always, which created quite a kerfuffle in New York City this February when it previewed its billboard campaign advertising that African-American women’s wombs need protecting.

The Latino version was placed in advance of the recent twelve hour-long anti-choice conference at the LA Sports Arena. Headlining the event were anti-abortion luminaries Lila Rose and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Lila Rose came to prominence with her undercover video projects, intended to expose Planned Parenthood’s alleged bad practices. Rick Perry, a conservative kindred spirit and possible Republican presidential candidate, has marked his gubernatorial tenure with support for so-called “intelligent design” education in public schools and his disbelief in global warming.

Neither Rose nor Perry has demonstrated a particular commitment to either African-American or Hispanic women’s health but both do have a political agenda, shared with Aguilar and Life Always, to shut down Planned Parenthood by any means necessary. This of course is consistent with the agenda of many congressional Republicans, who recently succeeded in passing in the House of Representatives the Pence Amendment in to cut off all funding to Planned Parenthood (it was later blocked in the Senate).

So is the recent concern for the welfare of Latinos and African-Americans genuine or is it part of a cynical strategy within the larger Republican effort to dismantle and discredit Planned Parenthood? At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, the latter is more probable. The Latino Partnership’s sudden interest in women’s health, or more specifically Planned Parenthood, dates to well-publicized February congressional debates about whether Planned Parenthood should be eligible for any federal family planning funds (the Pence amendment). Their interest in the issue was likely piqued by their prominent board member Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and key Republican strategist, who is also a vocal advocate for defunding Planned Parenthood.

Similarly, the launch of Life Always’ billboard targeting African-Americans in New York was timed to the same debate and coincided with African-American History Month. It also turned out to be less about abortion and more explicitly about Planned Parenthood. Life Always clarified that “this campaign continues our efforts to bring awareness to the respect for life issue and accentuates the gross inaccuracies that Planned Parenthood portrays to the public.” “From sexual abuse cover up, to racism, to untruths made by Planned Parenthood executives it provides a clear picture on what Planned Parenthood is really about.”

In a similar incident last year a billboard project targeting African-Americans in Atlanta was launched by the Georgia Right to Life Committee. Loretta Ross of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective predicted it would be “a race- and gender-baiting campaign [that] would have national implications, driving a racial wedge in the pro-choice movement and a gender wedge in communities of color.”

As the newest campaign aimed at Latinas shows, it’s likely more a case of racial opportunism, and any race will do, if it means advancing a conservative social agenda that can close down Planned Parenthood on its way to making health care for women only for the privileged. Who will they use as their next target?