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Politics & Policy

Planned Parenthood Edited Colorado Secretary of State’s Press Release on Alabama Abortion Ban

Demonstrators at a Planned Parenthood rally outside the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, in 2017. (Ilana Panich/Reuters)

According to new reporting from 9News in Denver, the office of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold asked Planned Parenthood executives for help revising a press release calling for a boycott of Alabama in the wake of the state’s recent prohibition on abortion.

Late last week, Griswold, a Democrat, announced that she would limit employee travel to Alabama due to the abortion ban, and shortly afterward, her communications director Serena Woods emailed a draft news release on the subject to Whitney Phillips, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Jack Teter, Planned Parenthood’s political director.

Here’s more from 9News reporter Marshall Zelinger:

In an email dated May 16 at 12:24 p.m., Woods wrote Phillips and Teter:

Whitney & Jack,

Draft of what we are thinking attached. LMK thoughts/edits. If you could turn around as quickly as possible that would be great because SOS wants to move fast.



. . . Phillips responded to that email at 12:47 p.m.:

Thanks Serena, I believe our CEO is going to call the Secretary and share some additional feedback. In the meantime, my feedback on the media release is attached. It feels to me the Election Center part is a little inside baseball for most folks and the travel authorization is a little more digestible for the mainstream/media.”

Phillips subsequently offered an edit to the draft title, which invoked the “right to choose,” saying the following: “We don’t recommend using right to choose/pro-life/pro-choice language anymore, all polling indicates it is further polarizing and turns folks off.” The final release from Griswold’s office did not include the phrase “right to choose.”

Another draft sentence, which Phillips suggested was necessary, was excluded from the final release.

In response to a request for comment from 9News, Griswold said in part, “I consulted with Planned Parenthood about this decision, as they are one of the largest providers of, and leading experts on, women’s health care.” Phillips, meanwhile, told 9News via phone that it was appropriate for Planned Parenthood to offer feedback because “PP (Planned Parenthood) provides messaging guidance around abortion. That is our job as reproductive-health experts.”

This report has surfaced just a few days after NPR reminded its journalists of “longstanding guidance” about which words and phrases are acceptable to use in reporting on abortion. The guidance noted, among other questionable assertions: “Babies are not babies until they are born. They’re fetuses. Incorrectly calling a fetus a ‘baby’ or ‘the unborn’ is part of the strategy used by antiabortion groups to shift language/legality/public opinion.”

Planned Parenthood’s slippery talking points about abortion — and disguising the reality of abortion — tend to dominate our public conversation, and stories like this make it very obvious how the country’s largest abortion provider manages to pull that off.

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