A little antiabortion propaganda for your commute

Riders on the Bay Area's transit system deface Roman Catholic group's ads.

Published January 13, 2006 6:55PM (EST)

Ads, paid for by a Roman Catholic group, that ask "Abortion: Have We Gone Too Far?" aren't faring very well on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

"One ad, headlined '9 months' in large letters, features nine months of a calendar and reads: 'Because of Roe vs. Wade, this is the amount of time the Supreme Court says it's legal to have an abortion,'" the paper reported. "The other contains the message: 'The Supreme Court says you can choose: after the heart starts beating, after its arms and legs appear, after all organs are present, after the sex is apparent, after it sucks its thumb, after it responds to sounds, after it could survive outside the womb.'"

The campaign, which began three weeks ago, and cost $43,200, consists of 280 ads on BART cars and 48 larger versions in train stations. It was paid for by Respect Life Ministry of the Oakland Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. BART says that it had to accept the ads, since they're a form of free speech under the First Amendment. But the campaign is seeing some vocal dissent from BART riders:

"Critics of the ads also seem to be taking matters into their own hands. Hundreds of the ads have been defaced with markers, had stickers placed over them or have been torn down and ripped up, according to Monika Rodman, coordinator of the group that placed the ads.

"'The defacement has taken to religious epithets, profanity, everything you can think of,' she said. A billboard at the MacArthur station in Oakland was torn to shreds, she said, and mini-essays were written on others.

"So many of the ads have been destroyed, she said, that a supply of a couple of dozen extras has been exhausted, and the ministry has ordered reinforcements from its printer. The group, which funded the campaign through donations, according to Rodman, is also asking BART's ad agency, CBS Outdoor (formerly Viacom Outdoor), for extra display time to compensate for the vandalism."

Let's hope that the controversy over the defacement of the ads doesn't help the Catholic group's fundraising so Bay Area commuters won't have to put up with still more of this nonsense on the way to work.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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