BuzzFeed reported yesterday that Planned Parenthood is quietly rolling out a new media strategy downplaying the “pro-choice” label in favor of “a more nuanced statement of principles” to reflect the fact that abortion is an issue that’s “too complicated to be divided into two sides.” The move comes in response to polling and focus-group research conducted by Planned Parenthood that found many women don’t describe themselves as either pro-choice or pro-life:
“I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” said one woman in a focus group commissioned by Planned Parenthood. “I’m pro-whatever-the-situation is.” Said another, “there should be three: pro-life, pro-choice and something in the middle that helps people understand circumstances […] It’s not just back or white, there’s grey.” . . .
Polling conducted on Planned Parenthood’s behalf appears to show some dissatisfaction with the labels. In one 2012 poll, 35% of voters who identified as pro-life also believed Roe v. Wade should not be overturned (7% of pro-choice voters, meanwhile, thought it should be). And in an online survey of recent voters, 12% said they were both pro-life and pro-choice, and another 12% said they wouldn’t use those terms. When asked for their moral opinions on abortion, 40% of those voters said “it depends on the situation” — far more than called the procedure either acceptable or unacceptable.
It’s not news that the number of Americans identifying themselves as pro-choice has been declining: Gallup reported last May that it was at an all-time low of 41 percent. But their survey also found that, despite this shift, Americans’ underlying views about the morality of abortion and under what circumstances it should be legal had remained steady. Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens has a theory for the declining appeal of the “pro-choice” label, according to BuzzFeed:
“When ‘choice’ got assigned,” she explained, “women didn’t have as many choices” in any area of their lives. Now that women have more rights and freedoms, she said, maybe “‘choice’ as word sounds frivolous.”
It will be interesting to see if other pro-abortion groups, politicians, and activists follow suit. Feminist writer Amanda Marcotte, for one, is irritated by Planned Parenthood’s new stance; she says she will continue to advocate against “forced birth” under the pro-choice banner.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo also might need some convincing that “choice” isn’t necessarily a winning word. In his state of the state speech on Wednesday he bellowed, “Enact a Reproductive Health Act because it is her body, it is her choice! Because it’s her body, it’s her choice! Because it’s her body, it’s her choice!”
That’s not a slogan you’ll be hearing anymore from Planned Parenthood, apparently.