ATLANTA — The message on dozens of billboards across the city is provocative: Black children are an "endangered species."
The eyebrow-raising ads featuring a young black child are an effort by the anti-abortion movement to use race to rally support within the black community. The reaction from black leaders has been mixed, but the "Too Many Aborted" campaign, which so far is unique to Georgia, is drawing support from other anti-abortion groups across the country.
"It's ingenious," said the Rev. Johnny Hunter, national director of the Life Education and Resource Network, a North Carolina-based anti-abortion group aimed at African-Americans that operates in 27 states. "This campaign is in your face, and nobody can ignore it."
The billboards went up last week in Atlanta and urge black women to "get outraged."
The effort is sponsored by Georgia Right to Life, which also is pushing legislation that aims to ban abortions based on race.
Black women accounted for the majority of abortions in Georgia in 2006, even though blacks make up just a third of state population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, black women were more than three times as likely as white women to get an abortion in 2006, according to the CDC.
"I think it's necessary," Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, said of the billboard campaign. "Abortion in the black community is at epidemic proportions. They're not really aware of what's actually going on. If it shocks people … it should be shocking."
Anti-abortion advocates say the procedure has always been linked to race. They claim Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger wanted to eradicate minorities by putting birth control clinics in their neighborhoods, a charge Planned Parenthood denies.
"The language in the billboard is using messages of fear and shame to target women of color," said Leola Reis, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Georgia. "If we want to reduce the number of abortions and unintended pregnancies, we need to work as a community to make sure we get quality, affordable health care services to as many women and men as possible."