Life Always, a “pro-life” group based in Texas, has created a lot of controversy recently from the billboards that is has put up in New York, Chicago and Atlanta. The first billboards to go up in Chicago read “Every 21 minutes our next future leader is aborted” and have a picture of President Obama. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, shortly after the billboards went up a group of community stakeholders covered up two of the signs with banners that read “Abort Racism” and “In 21 minutes this sign should be gone.” Undeterred, Life Always seems to be continuing in their plans to put up 30 such billboards around Chicago’s South Side. There are at least six in my neighborhood already.

Photo credit: Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune / April 4, 2011

I’ll admit, abortion is a fuzzy and conflicting ethical issue for me. I’ve written before regarding my thoughts on the matter: Pro-Life: Call It Like It Is and A Further Thought on Being Pro-Life. Abortion makes me squeamish. I’m not wild about the idea. Then again, the people who I’ve known who have had an abortion weren’t wild about the idea, either. Contrary to the way that some pro-life extremists paint it, I doubt any woman who gets an abortion does so flippantly; I doubt anyone considers abortion the ideal choice. I’m also squeamish that any legislation that is passed regarding abortion comes from a political body comprised of 83% men. In case you were wondering, men don’t have abortions.

But enough rambling; to the heart of the matter. Life Always is not pro-life. What they are is anti-abortion. There’s a distinct difference. Let’s break down the etymology of the name “pro-life.” The prefix “pro” comes from the Latin “pro,” which means “for.” The root “life” comes from the English word “life” which means “life.” Being pro-life also means you’re anti-death. Texas, the home state of Life Always, has executed more people than any other state… by 400%. Yet instead of focusing on state-sponsored murder in their own state, the group from Texas is putting up billboards in Illinois. Life Always wants people to choose life… as long as those lives are babies and not adults. Sure, plenty of the people who are executed in Texas did bad things, but can one really be “for life” and approve of killing people. Can you really call yourself “Life Always” and remain silent to the murder being committed in your own back yard? (I could go on about the vast racial inequalities of Death Row and the entire prison-industrial complex, but alas… we’ll save that for another post).

This is the real reason that the ad campaign by Life Always is ineffective. They don’t actually care about the lives of the people who see the billboards. If they actually cared, they would have engaged the community in a meaningful way. Instead, they chose to lob condemning, guilt-laden messages onto billboards 1000 miles away, where they’re safe and sound from having to actually relate to the mothers who live in these communities.

Life Always cares about life? What do they know about the life of a child in Woodlawn, Englewood or Washington Park? Nothing, clearly. The women of my community comprise the backbone; without their leadership our community would crumble. Yet Life Always chose to target them with their messages of condemnation. Has anyone from Life Always made the choice to raise a kid in a neighborhood like Woodlawn? Doubtful. Otherwise, they’d understand–for example–that a mother of four might be hesitant to bring another boy into the world when, in her community, 80% of the men have a criminal record, kids join gangs and get shot, and men are more likely to go to prison than college.

It’s abundantly clear that Life Always is completely oblivious to the real message that they’re sending. That message is this: We don’t care about you or your situation.

If Life Always actually cares about babies on the South Side of Chicago, perhaps a better way to demonstrate that is to help our community instead putting up condemning billboards. Find a pregnant, single mom who is thinking about an abortion and adopt her kid. Or take her shopping and buy groceries for her every once in a while. Or volunteer to play child support. Or mentor a kid. Or start a scholarship fund. Hell, I don’t care what they do. Just do something helpful and productive, something that lets us know they actually value our life.

Go ahead, Life Always. Put up as many billboards as you like. Nobody is listening.