At the bleak intersection of Broadway and Newton Avenue in Camden, a man reverently kisses the bare belly of a beaming, very pregnant woman.
The couple – who are African American – are in a photograph on a billboard, but the image is startling nevertheless. And so are the words that accompany it:
“Fatherhood begins in the womb.”
“Black children are beautiful, and too many are being aborted,” says Ryan Bomberger, of the Radiance Foundation, which opposes abortion and promotes marriage.
The Virginia-based organization that Bomberger and his wife, Bethany, founded in 2009 designed the billboard and 400 others nationwide. Camden is the group’s first site in New Jersey.
“Deterioration of the family is the core issue facing Black America, and we’re calling Black men back to responsibility,” adds Bomberger, 41.
The biracial father of four – two of whom are adopted – describes himself as the child of a rape victim who decided to give him up for adoption, rather than have an abortion. Among Blacks, the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion is an “epidemic,” he says.
“We want to create awareness of the issue, like they do with breast cancer,” says billboard supporter Jimmie Hollis, 67, who has two grown children and a grandchild.
“Fatherlessness and abortion are issues in every community, but they’re prevalent in the Black community, and we have to get our arms around this,” says Hollis, who is Black.
According to the U.S. census, nearly two out of every three families with children in Camden was headed by a single mother in 2010. Among Black families, nearly three out of four were headed by a single mother.
Of Camden County families with children, 28 percent overall and 53 percent of black families was headed by a single mother.
“We have too many homes without fathers, and too many abortions,” says Hollis, a Millville resident and retired Air Force master sergeant, who belongs to Project Courageous for Life.
The South Jersey group raised $750 to rent the billboard for a month as part of its grassroots campaign against abortion, says Tracye McArdle of Voorhees. The retired public health administrator is a Project Courageous member.
I meet Bomberger, who is originally from Lancaster along with Hollis and McArdle at the billboard.
It rises dramatically above a woebegone stretch of the city’s former shopping district, diagonal from the columned facade of the long-departed Broadway Trust Co.
Seconds after I pull up, a pale young woman appears from nowhere and tap-tap-taps at my car window, eager to sell herself on a sunny spring morning. Rejected, she joins the other haunted-looking people who wander in and out of traffic.
To conservatives like Bomberger and Hollis, the scene of economic, social, and spiritual impoverishment is the result of “do-your-own-thing” liberalism, just like abortion.
While the billboard makes no mention of organizations such as Planned Parenthood, it does contain the address (toomanyaborted.com) of a Radiance website that lambastes providers of abortion services.
“I have not seen the billboard, and I would need to see it before I can comment,” says Lynn Brown, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey, whose office is a half-dozen blocks north on Broadway.
“Certainly Planned Parenthood wants all families to be planned, and all children to be wanted.”
Children do better with both of their parents, and fatherhood is a responsibility at which plenty of Black men excel. Plenty of White dads go AWOL, too.
All of this puts me in mind of a scene I witnessed in my neighborhood the other day.
A new father lifted his baby high, their faces meeting for a kiss after every flight.
The delighted baby knew that Daddy would never let him fall.
By: Kevin Riordan