New Orleans to re-evaluate lamppost advertising policy after anti-abortion banners cause a flap

City Hall will re-evaluate its policies for what types of banners can be hung from city-owned lampposts after some City Council members and residents questioned the decision to let an anti-abortion group put signs featuring a picture of fetus on some St. Charles Avenue posts.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration said Wednesday night that it will stop approving new banners “for a review and evaluation period” that is expected to take one to two months.

The banners that sparked questions about the policy will remain up until the end of the month, when they were already scheduled to be taken down, according to the city’s announcement.

The statement did not specifically refer to the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, which received permission to put up banners featuring the picture of a fetus and the slogan “Give her life a chance!” in December. But it came after groups and residents questioned whether it is appropriate to hang politically charged messages from city property.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry, whose district includes the site where the banners fly, joined the controversy Thursday, saying in an email that she had told the administration “that these banners should be removed and in the future banners of this nature should be prohibited.”

“It is unfortunate that as long as the banners remain, some people will believe that the message they give is condoned by the city,” Guidry said. “I can assure you that this is not the case. I have agreed to work with the administration to clarify the law and policy that regulate the placement of banners on city property, so as to prevent this from happening again.”

Online petitions calling for the banners to be removed have gained more than 19,500 signatures, and Councilwomen Stacy Head and LaToya Cantrell raised questions last week about whether the banners should remain in place.

City policies allow “community awareness” banners to be put up on lampposts, banning only those that directly advocate for a specific candidate or ballot measure or that have a commercial purpose.

Because the anti-abortion banners do not deal with a specific election, the city did not consider them political when the Louisiana Right to Life Federation’s application was approved, officials said.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.

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