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Company stops placing abortion-rights groups’ billboards after misinformation complaint

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(The Center Square) – Nebraska Right to Life pushed Lamar Advertising in the fall of 2023 to not renew contracts with abortion-rights groups. Now, that same advertising company refuses to run abortion-rights groups’ billboards in Chicago.

In September 2023, Nebraska Right to Life fought to get an abortion-rights’ group’s billboard stating Nebraska “women are going to jail because of Nebraska’s abortion ban” removed. Lamar Advertising eventually agreed the billboard could have been misinformation and didn’t renew its contract with a Washington D.C. abortion-rights group called Free and Just.

Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Sandy Danek said she’s not sure if Lamar is necessarily taking a position on abortion by refusing to renew the contract with Free and Just.

“They [Lamar] did determine that the information could be considered misinformation,” said Danek.

Chicago Abortion Fund, Hoosier Abortion Fund and the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin said Lamar Advertising refused to run the coalition’s billboards in the Chicago area because they provide funding for abortions.

“CAF, HAF and WMF of Wisconsin recently tried to launch a multi-state pro-abortion billboard and ad campaign in their respective states to assure abortion seekers that they are loved and supported, a welcome sight amidst the plethora of anti-abortion billboards that already line those same highways with seemingly no issue. Their [the coalition’s] message was simple: ‘In the heartland, we look out for each other. Abortion funds are here for you,’” stated an email from Annika Shamachar, an account coordinator for public relations firm BerlinRosen.

Danek said abortion groups aren’t held to task when spreading misinformation.

“Whether they are taking a position saying, ‘we no longer want to support abortion performance in any way…’ you’d have to talk with Lamar Advertising. The gentleman I worked with [at the time] did tell me they agreed that this [the 2023 billboard in Nebraska] could be considered misinformation,” said Danek.

The abortion-rights coalition said Lamar’s rejection demonstrates the stigmatization of abortion and that it further silences and shames those seeking reproductive care.

“Never do our laws reflect that we will go after the woman if she has an abortion. We see her as a victim. We urged them for several weeks to take the billboard down. At first they were resistant,” said Danek. “Discussion was given to the situation and I think that largely they [Lamar] made a decision to not renew the contract with Free and Just.”

Abortion-rights groups have pivoted and found another vendor that has agreed to put up pro-abortion billboards in Chicago and in Wisconsin.

Danek said the billboard in Nebraska came on the heels of a 17-year-old girl who took illegal chemical abortion drugs and took the life of a 30-week gestational baby.

“Because the mother procured the drugs illegally, in addition to lying to authorities and improperly disposing of a body, she was sentenced to jail,” said Danek. “The young mother also received a sentence, not because she had an abortion, but because she illegally disposed of a body.”

In the spring of 2023, Celeste Burgess, 18 at the time, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of concealing or abandoning a dead body. The fetus was found buried in a field in northeast Nebraska.

Danek said the billboard that said “women are going to jail because of Nebraska’s abortion ban” was misinformation.

“We implored them [Lamar] that if they were going to receive such a divisive statement it really is their responsibility to validate if it’s truly information. Women are not going to jail because of the abortion ban, it had nothing to do with the abortion ban,” said Danek.

CAF, HAF and WMF of Wisconsin said Lamar’s refusal of advertising isn’t the first time it’s happened.

“Back in 2020, advertising companies also rejected billboards in Champaign, Illinois and Austin, Texas, for speaking out for abortion access,” stated Shamachar. “Illinois is widely thought of as one of the most progressive states in the country, with some of the strongest protections for those seeking abortion access. So why were a coalition of Midwest abortion funds rejected when they tried to put up billboards in Chicago and Indiana expressing support for abortion seekers?”

The Center Square attempted to get a comment from Lamar Advertising but did not immediately receive a reply.

Abortions in Illinois have increased by 72% since 2020.