DISTRICT OFFICE 67 HANSON PLACE BROOKLYN, NY 11217 (718) 260-9191 FAX: (718) 260-9099 CITY HALL

OFFICE 250 BROADWAY, ROOM 1792 NEW YORK, NY 10007 (212) 788-7081 FAX: (212) 788-7712 ljames@ council.nyc.com

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LETITIA JAMES
COUNCIL MEMBER, 35TH DISTRICT

March 29, 2011 Mayor Richard M. Daley City Hall 121 North LaSalle Street Chicago, IL 60602 Mayor Daley: I am writing regarding the billboard that was recently placed in Chicago by pro-life organization Life Always that reads, “Every 21 minutes, our next possible leader is aborted.” The image of President Barack Obama, a former Illinois Senator, is placed next to these words on a billboard on 5812 S. State Street. You may be aware that Life Always, the pro-life organization launching these campaigns, unveiled a similarly offensive billboard in February in New York City that read “The most dangerous place for an African-American is the womb.” That particular billboard featured the face of a young African American girl, whose parents had not given permission for her photo to be used in this manner. These billboards are purposefully sensationalizing, and part of a larger political campaign focused on abortion rates in the black community, as well as an agenda these organizations believe is being carried-out by Planned Parenthood. Information released by Life Always last month stated that, “During Black History Month…our future is in jeopardy as a genocidal plot is carried out through abortion.” The organization’s website at this time stated, “There is a battle being waged in the United States that has taken more lives than any foreign war or act of terrorism. The enemy is abortion.” It is not now— nor has it ever been— my intention to attack the pro-life position, but rhetoric that compares abortion to genocide or terrorism is unacceptable, and to utilize Black History Month to question the reproductive choices of Black women is highly offensive. My reaction to this billboard and this campaign was quick and decisive—I reached out to Life Always to request that they remove this offensive signage. I did not receive a response. As my staff reviewed the organization’s website, I became aware that it guided women seeking ‘pregnancy help’ to various Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), which happened to be the focus of legislation the New York City Council at the time. These CPCs are notorious for being intentionally vague concerning their agenda to deter women from seeking abortion services; and some have been accused of being deceptive about abortion risks and procedures while intentionally targeting poor and working-class women, immigrant women, and women of color to utilize their services.

Receiving no response from Life Always, I began a petition through Change.org targeting both the organization and the billboard space’s owner. Within five hours of the petition’s creation, the space’s owner received over 200 emails from signees asking that he remove the billboard. At that time, I planned to join social justice advocate Reverend Al Sharpton and Black faith leaders in a press conference to denounce the billboard’s message. But by that evening— less than 48 hours since the public launch of the billboard— my office received confirmation from advocacy organizations and the billboard space’s owner that it would be removed that day. Mayor Daley, I am fully aware that these billboards are being placed in African American neighborhoods in major cities nationwide. In fact, I understand that no less than 30 billboards are planned for the South Side of Chicago. Indeed, Life Always is wellsupported and well-funded within a larger national network. And yet within two days, with the backing of many New York City elected officials and leaders as well as the support of numerous women’s advocacy organizations and people throughout this City (including the mother of the young girl whose photo was used)— a City Council Member was able to remove that poster. So I ask you, Mayor Daley, how will you respond? Will Chicago join New York City in saying ‘no’ to Black women and children being misrepresented in political efforts to attack reproductive rights? Will you stand against the misuse of the image of the President of the United States to push this agenda? I certainly hope you will. Sincerely,

Letitia James New York City Council, 35th District

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