After the removal of a billboard in New York City which charged that abortion makes a mother’s womb the most dangerous place for African Americans, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan condemned the move as an intolerant “gag order.”
Likening the ad to anti-smoking campaigns that show the graphic affects of nicotine addiction or world hunger organizations that show pictures of starving children, the New York archbishop said that being “confronted by the truth can often be unpleasant.”
In a Feb. 25 post on his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age, Archbishop Dolan said that the removed ad is so upsetting because its “message is somberly true.”
The billboard, sponsored by the group Life Always, measured 29 feet high and 16 feet wide and was erected on the night of Feb. 22. It depicted a young black girl beneath the phrase “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
Pete Costanza, the general manager for Lamar Advertising, said the billboard was being taken down because an objector to the billboard harassed the waiters and waitresses in the Mexican restaurant below the sign.
The restaurant has no affiliation with the billboard company or the pro-life group.
“I don’t want any violence to happen around the buildings there,” Costanza told the New York Times. His decision was not about politics, but safety, he remarked. He said he was not inundated by requests for the ad’s removal.
Lamar Advertising spokesman Hal Kilshaw told the New York Times that Costanza was worried about the safety of the restaurant staff and also about reports of a protest against the billboard.
In his recent blog post, Archbishop Dolan cited New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which reported last year that 59.8 percent of African American pregnancies in the city ended in abortion.
“That’s even higher than the chilling city-wide average of 41 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion,” he said.
The archbishop then asked what it was “that moved many of our elected officials to condemn this ad and call for the gag order?”
“Are they claiming that free speech is a right enjoyed only by those who favor abortion or their pet causes? Do they believe that unpleasant and disturbing truths should not be spoken?”
“Or,” he added, “are they afraid that when people are finally confronted with the reality of the horror of abortion, and with the toll that it is taking in our city, particularly in our African-American community, that they will be moved to defend innocent, unborn, human life?”