Forty years after Roe, Planned Parenthood is calling for changes in its PR strategy.
As the United States –– with over a million abortions a year, one of the highest abortion rates among Western industrialized nations –– prepares to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion activists are quietly launching a new public relations strategy. Planned Parenthood, after admitting to selected reporters that the “pro-choice” label has lost its appeal, is moving to more “nuanced” language that conveys the “complicated” nature of abortion. The need for an abortion, claims Planned Parenthood, is “situational” and “depends on an individual’s circumstances.” Since no one else can know those situations or circumstances, Planned Parenthood has declared (with its superior standards of morality) that it is “wrong to make a judgment” about aborting a baby.
It appears that Planned Parenthood is responding to a Gallup poll: Americans now tilt pro-life by 9 percentage points, polling 50 percent pro-life to 41 percent pro-choice –– a record low for pro-choice support. Even more ominous is the fact that 42 anti-abortion measures were enacted in 25 states during 2012. One abortion advocate described the pro-life victories as “death by a thousand tiny cuts.” As a result, abortion advocates are facing criticisms in their own camp that they are “tone-deaf” to the “current reality.” Former NARAL president Nancy Keenan, in a stark assessment of the pro-choice movement, said it suffered from “waning enthusiasm and aging leadership,” whereas the expanding pro-life movement is “energetic and intense.” Its own critics acknowledge that the abortion industry’s extreme positions and their radicalism have alienated all but the die-hard, unquestioning loyalists and caused those in the uncommitted middle to avoid being associated with the label “pro-choice.”
A Planned Parenthood official described the “pro-choice” label as “frivolous” and Frances Kissling, well-known abortion advocate, lamented its lack of “gravitas.” With numbers declining for the “pro-choice” position, abortion advocates think that their new gobbledygook will obscure the tragic reality and finality of the abortion “choice.” Also importantly, a nuanced “choice” position will be harder to poll as the sole contrast to the pro-life position.
Planned Parenthood’s new “Not in Her Shoes” campaign emphasizes the importance of being non-judgmental; its YouTube ad features one student who rejects the idea of “defining one another” or putting labels on “this term” (abortion) that “don’t even make sense.” Another student wants to avoid putting “people in boxes” because “abortion is not a boxed-in issue.” A third student goes more universal and philosophical, declaring Roe to be a “symbol of progress for our nation”; therefore, we should remove all the labels, avoid judging others, and “move towards a notion of reproductive justice and equality.” As Steve Ertelt quoted one feminist leader observing, “Most Americans are pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and ‘my situation.’”
The bottom line is that Planned Parenthood is going warm and fuzzy rather than put forward logical factual arguments. One writer described the goal as wrapping advocacy in “rhetorical gauze to soften the blow.” These advocates will talk about being non-judgmental, not putting people or issues in boxes and they will appeal to “reproductive justice and equality” in order to broaden their agenda to address what they view as related issues (child care, homosexual rights, health insurance, and economic opportunity). With nearly 30 percent of the public falling in the “ambivalent middle,” on controversial issues, Planned Parenthood has crafted a strategy to grab that ambivalence, hop on the non-judgmental bandwagon, and provide a deliberately hazy concept enabling individuals to shape their attitude toward abortion into whatever contours fit their preference.
After all, they want to convey, it’s just the wrong words that cause the problems –– in other words, abortion in and of itself is not the problem; it is just the way everyone talks about abortion. Planned Parenthood, and the abortion industry in general, seems to think that they can continue to operate with less regulation than veterinary clinics, treat women with less care and follow-up than a beautician, and everything will be fine as long as they use more nuanced words in their advertising and public relations brochures. Their new approach uses the same deceptions that have misled abortion clients in the past and they are capable of the same pain that has damaged millions of women since Roe. The message is new, but the reality remains the same.
IRONICALLY, PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S new deception strategy coincides with a recent cover story in Time magazine reporting that pro-abortion forces have been losing on the abortion issue –– both at the federal and, especially, at the state level –– in the four decades since Roe v. Wade made access to abortion a “constitutional right.” A “constitutional right,” by the way, that, though they continue to tout as the “crowning achievement of the 20th century women’s movement, came about when seven male Supreme Court Justices (in what many constitutional scholars view as one of history’s worst judicial rulings) imposed the law by judicial fiat.
Other mainstream media have, likewise, chimed in to note the successes of the Pro-Life movement. A Washington Post article by Sarah Kliff spread the alarm, “It’s never been this frightening before!” Kliff came to similar conclusions as the Time magazine article: that the pro-life movement’s incremental strategy is working and the pro-abortion movement is in trouble. As Michael New (political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn) noted in a LifeNews.com article, both Time and the Washington Post are worried about “young physicians” who don’t want to provide abortions and “young professionals” who are not interested in “abortion-rights activism.” New calls attention to the fact that both articles portray abortion advocates as “more pessimistic than they have ever been.” It seems the abortion movement elite leadership is worried that this trend will ultimately translate into a drying up of pivotal fundraising streams. This would explain the recent trend to push for more and more taxpayer funding of the abortion cause.
Pro-lifers have always pointed out that the “pro-choice” branding is purposely misleading; women generally choose abortion when they think they don’t have a choice. Often the woman is told that if she does not “get rid of the problem,” the man is “out of there.” Many women are painfully conflicted by their “choice” to abort their unborn child and recognize at some basic level that their “choice” is “wrong.” In fact, the Time article chillingly observes, “In journals scattered throughout the clinic in which women are invited to express their feelings, patients write about non-supportive husbands and boyfriends.” In their discomfort, fear, and innate guilt, they write to “ask God for forgiveness.” Planned Parenthood does not deal with that aspect of women’s health. Where is its concern about that?
Instead of focusing on these hurting women and what is best for all women, the “pro-choice” groups are perpetuating the myth that “most” Americans are on their side in pushing taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, all-the-time, for-any-reason, without any restrictions or regulation. Obviously, the “pro-choice” activists hurt their cause when they are so unreasonable and oppose any and all restrictions on abortion; for instance, Gallup Data shows that 60 percent of supposedly “pro-choice” Americans support waiting periods and parental consent laws, but pro-choice organizations actively work against such laws. In addition, they oppose reasonable regulations that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals (thus appropriate credentials), to ensure women’s safety.
Technology has revealed the reality that contradicts the pro-choice rhetoric; now doctors and patients can see inside the womb and they recognize what they see as a yet-to-be-born baby. Those mothers-to-be who want their baby post the sonogram images on the refrigerator door; those mothers-to-be who opted for abortion look away from the thumb-sucking or smiling pictures from the womb. This is the main reason they are adamantly against providing women with sonograms; it not to their advantage for women to know the truth.
Abortionists also recognize that as business declines at their clinics, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are springing up everywhere. During the time that the number of CPCs has more than doubled, 70 percent of abortion clinics have closed their doors. During 2012, an average of 7 abortion clinics closed each month. At a time when unaffiliated abortion clinics run by doctors and hospitals are disappearing, Planned Parenthood’s abortion business is booming. Last year, it performed a record high 333,964 abortions, while its screening and prevention services dropped by nearly 30 percent (29%). No doubt the cover provided by its reputation for “reproductive health” and the overly-generous support from government grants enables Planned Parenthood to thrive while less deceptive abortion clinics without government largess cannot survive. No wonder Planned Parenthood wants to be even more “nuanced” (or conning) in its rhetoric, continues to talk (falsely) about providing mammograms (no Planned Parenthood clinics have the licenses or the expensive machines required to provide breast cancer screening — there’s little to no profit to be had) and promotes the myth of being primarily a “women’s health facility.”
Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) report, “Cutting the Cord,” summarizes exposés from LiveAction that have revealed numerous unsavory details about the operation of Planned Parenthood clinics, documenting cases of clinics not reporting underage rape and abuse. More than 100 criminal charges were brought against clinics, including “felony charges of late-term abortions and falsifying documents.” Fraud and financial abuse charges –– to the tune of millions of dollars –– allege misuse of taxpayer funds and overcharging the government. Undercover videos reveal some of the more unsavory aspects of Planned Parenthood’s dealings with clients (such as advising how to falsify birthdates to avoid triggering a mandatory police report of statutory rape). While the public is shocked and appalled, most of the mainstream media have ignored the evidence and refused to report the problems.
MANY AMERICANS ARE ALSO shocked to learn about Planned Parenthood’s finances. While abortions were at a record-high, other services declined significantly and federal funding was also at a record high ($542 million in government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements, totaling 45.2 percent of the group’s annual revenue). Planned Parenthood, according to Americans United for Life, functions under an “abortion-centered business model” that now requires “every affiliate to operate at least one clinic that performs abortions.”
Shockingly, Planned Parenthood performs an abortion every 94 seconds –– repudiating any suggestion that Planned Parenthood exists to promote women’s health. According to Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), “Abortions make up 92 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals account for less than 8 percent.” Obviously, Planned Parenthood’s financial survival is dependent upon the funds brought in by that 92 percent of abortion services; no wonder it is cloaking its radical agenda with “nuanced” language and rhetoric that makes abortion more palatable. But the evidence is clear: Planned Parenthood is as radical as ever, perhaps even more so.
As it embraces “reproductive justice,” Planned Parenthood targets minority women for abortions: Black women have 3.5 times the abortion rate of white women; while blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they have 35 percent of the nation’s abortions. Further, research by Life Issues Institute reports that 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are in minority neighborhoods. In addition, ironically, 51% of Planned Parenthood’s “family planning clinics” are in minority neighborhoods.
While pro-choice activists claim a desperate need for abortion-on-demand to save women’s lives, the facts stubbornly reveal that women seek an abortion for reasons unrelated to health. According to the Allan Guttmacher Institute, about three-fourths say a baby would interfere with their work, school, or other responsibilities. About three-fourths say they cannot afford to have a baby and about half do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with the father of the baby. The National Abortion Federation reports that only 12 percent of women claim a health problem is causing them to seek an abortion and that only 1 percent report that the baby was conceived in rape.
Other uncomfortable facts that abortion advocates try to avoid concern repeat abortions. As reported in Children at Risk: More than half of the women who seek an abortion already have at least one child; more than a third already have two or more children. Between 8 to 10 percent of women having abortions have had multiple abortions –– as many as three or more –– to the point of using abortion as a form of birth control. Over time, the percentage of repeat abortions has increased, with over half of all abortions to women who have had previous abortions. Tragically, we have come to the point that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45.
WHILE ACTIVISTS PORTRAY abortion as a “minor procedure that resolves a major problem,” the facts tell a different story. We do a grave disservice to women to falsely reassure them despite the potential health problems, leaving them to deal with the unforeseen consequences when they are often “not even aware of the worst possible complications.” A study in Finland, using official government data, showed associations (there is no way to show causality) between abortion and dire outcomes: in a one-year study, abortion was 3.5 times deadlier than childbirth, suicide was 7 times higher among post-abortive women, and deaths from homicide were 4 times higher among post-abortive women. A British study (published in the British Journal of Psychiatry) reviewed over one hundred international studies and found a link between abortion and mental health problems.
Abortion advocates have gone to great lengths to discredit the evidence linking abortion and breast cancer. They point to nearly a dozen articles denying the link; yet a peer-reviewed analysis of those articles published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons points out serious methodological weaknesses and flaws in the studies denying a link, concluding that there is, indeed, an increased risk for breast cancer after an abortion.
Obviously, not all women suffer serious consequences from abortion, but abortion activists are unwilling to be rational or even truthfully acknowledge possible consequences; nor are they willing to fully inform women of the possible dangers. Problems are so prevalent, in fact, there is a medical designation: “post-abortion syndrome.”
Another disturbing aspect of today’s abortion problem are the so-called “therapeutic” abortions. At least “92 percent of babies found in prenatal testing to have Down Syndrome are aborted” and at least 73 percent (some researchers believe the rate is 80 to 100 percent) of unborn babies believed to have neural tube defects such as spina bifida are aborted. In effect, the doctors and abortion advocates are playing God and “saying that human beings born with physical and mental disabilities are not fit to live.”
There is also the ugly contradiction between the fact that abortion is being “sold” as a matter of “women’s rights” when at the same time the more frequent target of abortion is the “girl child” in the womb. The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) ) reported in 2007 that there were at that time at least 60 million “missing” girls as a result of sex-selection abortions or neglect of the girl child.
Time magazine points out that the abortion activists oppose “nearly all abortion-specific regulations,” making it chillingly obvious that Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry are driven by bottom-line financial considerations and that, in spite of the caring rhetoric on their PR materials, their concern for the health and well-being of women is minimal. Planned Parenthood pushes the idea that women facing abortion are alone; that nobody understands them and abortion is a quick fix without consequences.
The Pro-Life message is that women in a crisis pregnancy are not alone; they have choices, including adoption, and that help is available. Many of the women at Crisis Pregnancy Centers have gone through similar experiences and now they can help others make better choices. Churches, counselors, and caring communities can convince the girls and women that their life is not over and they can still realize their dreams. These very committed people truly care about women and they know that God can redeem any situation, no matter how difficult, and turn it into good for those who believe and trust His grace and mercy.
Margaret Cho, a stand-up comic who is ardently pro-abortion, even militantly so, described pregnancy in a way that is more revealing than she intended. She said, “pregnancy feels like there is somebody in there.” Not something, but “somebody.” With callous indifference, she went on to say about her own abortion, “The tenant was evacuated.” Abortion advocates are having to face the reality that women don’t move on and forget an experience like that, if it happened to a friend. The “Silent No More” campaign which has given increasing visibility to thousands of women who regret their abortions has also helped expose the term “pro-choice.” The experiences of post-abortive girls and women combined with the facts about the child in the womb revealed by science and technology, are changing America’s view of abortion. “One study tracked seventy-five patients and all but five changed their minds about an abortion after seeing a sonogram of their baby in the womb.” Even the cynical and hardened Cho revealed that her abortion left her feeling “hollowed out and alone.”
This is the Catch-22 confronting the abortion movement: the unborn child can be “evicted” from a woman’s body far more easily than it can be blotted out of her heart and mind. As women experience first hand the pain — suppressed or not — of abortion or even if they just see the complicated, conflicted emotions of a friend after an abortion, the truth cannot be contained. Neither nuanced rhetoric about the complicated nature of abortion nor hip younger leaders are enough to sustain a movement which at its heart is characterized by “hollowed-out emptiness.”
Mario Diaz is legal counsel and director of legal studies for Concerned Women for America.
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