Nebraska Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, is slyly taking credit for the removal of pro-choice billboards in the state when, in fact, the ads were already slated to come down. It’s just the latest example of how anti-abortion activists and politicians often resort to lies to support their twisted narratives and policy goals.
A reproductive justice group called Free & Just launched a billboard campaign in early August to highlight that a Nebraska teenager had been sent to jail for disposing of a stillborn fetus after using abortion pills, and that her mother is awaiting sentencing for obtaining the pills, which the state claims is providing an illegal abortion. (Self-managed abortion is not explicitly banned in Nebraska, but that didn’t stop the prosecutors.) The red billboard has white text that reads: “Women are going to jail under Nebraska’s abortion ban.” The group purchased space on five billboards around Omaha.
Sandy Danek, the president of Nebraska Right to Life, told a local news outlet that the billboards were “irresponsible” because the state’s abortion ban exempts pregnant people from any fines or criminal charges. “Never have we written legislation in Nebraska that holds a woman accountable for an abortion,” Danek said. And she told the Nebraska Examiner her organization tried and failed to get Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which rents out the billboard space, to take down the ads. On August 30, the group urged supporters to contact Lamar directly by phone and mail. Danek told the Examiner that, within the hour, she heard the company would “be taking action against the messaging.”
The Examiner’s headline is “Some Nebraska abortion-related billboards lose their spot along I-80 in Omaha.” It’s an interesting, if evasive, verb choice. The story says Lamar confirmed the billboards would no longer be up but “could not comment on whether [the company] asked for the billboards to be removed or if a contract with Free & Just had expired.” So I contacted Free & Just for comment—and the group told me the contract had, in fact, expired.
Here’s what senior campaign director Chrystian Woods had to say in a statement:
“The contract for our billboards expired on August 31—plain and simple. This is a sad and desperate attempt by Nebraska Right to Life to gain relevance and claim victory when they know their dangerous and extreme positions are unpopular among the majority of Nebraskans.”
So, to recap: an anti-abortion group got mad that a billboard correctly noted that women are facing jail time for seeking abortions in Nebraska, initially failed in getting the billboard removed, and then acted like their call-in campaign was a success when in reality the billboard was already coming down on August 31 no matter what. *Chef’s kiss gesture*
Later this month, Nebraskan Jessica Burgess will be sentenced for giving abortion pills to her teen daughter in violation of the state’s 20-week abortion ban that was in place at the time. (The state now bans abortion after 12 weeks.) The case punches a giant hole in the anti-abortion narrative that bans won’t ever harm women and girls who end their pregnancies—they will, and they’ll also harm the people who help them. It takes a lot of effort and support to get an abortion in another state or outside the medical system, and prosecutors keep showing us that they can and will go after everyone they can.
Anyway, hope Nebraska Right to Life has a nice time Googling the “Streisand Effect.”