The billboards say that the #1 cause of death in the black community is abortion. The message was crafted by Cincinnati Right to Life Development Director Mo Riggins.
“This is so much bigger than advocating for life, but the billboards came about because I wanted to work with these donors on how to get the message across that abortion is genocide in black America, and let’s be honest, some people will disagree,” Riggins said. .
Someone who disagrees is the president and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, Renee Mahaffey Harris.
“So, first of all, this is inaccurate,” she said. “That’s not the #1 cause of death in the black community, that’s cardiovascular disease.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for black Ohioans and Americans. In an emailed statement, Ken Gordon of the Ohio Department of Health said, “In 2021, the latest year for which finalized data are available, the leading causes of death among blacks in Ohio were heart disease ( 3,691), cancer (2,821), unspecified causes such as “old age” (2,458), COVID-19 (2,160) and accidents (1,603).”
Despite these reports, Cincinnati Right to Life executive director Laura Strietmann stands by her message. She said 20 billboards were put up across the three states on Feb. 1 for Black History Month. They were supposed to be up for a month, but she said the billboard company hasn’t taken them down yet.
Mahaffey Harris said this type of misinformation is not new, but it is unfortunate.
“I think the fact that there are issues that undermine the lives of individuals on a daily basis, specifically within the black community, the reality of the data shows that disparities and disproportionate mortality and morbidity and almost every major disease for black and brown populations is the fact, so that should be the crisis,” she said.
Riggins said he got both positive and negative reactions.
“Some of the people say you’re empowering us to take a stand as well and then we have people who call and are angry,” Riggins said.
He said his goal was to start a conversation.
“We’re not here to offend anyone, but we’re here to be bold,” he said. “We don’t want you to take our word for it. We want you to do your research. We want to provide you with information that we know will help you.”
“I think most people’s response will be, ‘Hmm, that doesn’t make sense.’ I hope that’s how they respond,” Mahaffeey Harris said. “I would say they put this up to spark conversation, but it’s unfortunate because it’s inaccurate information.”
The Ohio Department of Health reports that there were 21,813 induced abortions in 2021. White women make up 40.3% of that number, Black women 43.3%, and Asian/Pacific Islanders 2.8%. You can read the entire induced abortion report here.
The 2022 United States Census reports that black or African-Americans make up 13.2% of Ohio’s population. It does not specify the percentage of black women living in Ohio.
While the Cincinnati Right to Life states that abortion is the leading cause of death for the black community, the Ohio Department of Health says that heart disease is the leading cause of death for the black community.