While driving through Memphis, Tenn., last spring, Cherisse Scott passed anti-abortion billboards, paid for by Prolife Across America, which stated, “Dad’s princess #︎♥︎beat at 18 days” next to the smiling face of a Black infant. Scott, founder and CEO of SisterReach, a nonprofit committed to supporting reproductive autonomy for women and girls, launched a campaign to remove the billboards from the city’s Black communities, claiming the ads are a racialized attempt to create division between Black men and women. “They are inflammatory and racist,” Scott tells EBONY. “They were put up to make us invisible and dismiss why we have to have abortions.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by age 45. Research shows Black women make up one-third of American women who have abortions, although only 13 percent of the U.S. female population. Black women are disproportionately more likely to have an abortion, a fact the Guttmacher Institute attributes to the lack of consistent access to quality contraception and health care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports Black women are also three to four times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related causes. For some, access to contraception and safe abortion care can mean the difference between life and death.
In response, SisterReach erected its own billboards to highlight the need for access to quality schools, health care, transportation and safe neighborhoods. “We’re pushing back to change the narrative,” states Scott. “We don’t need outsiders to tell us about our lives.” She says this mission is not only about abortion; it’s also about ensuring Black women can raise their families with dignity, with a living wage and without fear of violence.