Society

Abortion Advocacy Gets Ugly

As the appeal of "choice" wanes, abortion promoters seek new ways to keep abortion legal.

Abortion Advocacy Gets Ugly

Ken Fager

What’s the toughest job in America?

Not motherhood. That’s a breeze compared to the job of rebranding abortion, now that the country has awakened to the humanity of babies in utero and is discovering the terrible, silent grief carried by the many millions of women who once believed the lie that abortion was nothing more than a “choice.”

The “pro-choice” slogan served the abortion industry well for decades, capped off with its adoption by NARAL in 2003, when it became NARAL Pro-Choice America, abandoning a commonality in its three earlier names, all of which included  the “A” word. From that point, many of the NARAL ads and promotional pieces prominently featured American flags and the head of the statue of liberty (which is still in their logo). Really, what could be more American than having a dizzying array of choices? Just check out the cereal aisle.

The weakness of pro-choice as a brand was, of course, inherent. While “pro-choice” appears to be perfect for our time—tolerant of all views and nonjudgmental (“I’m not in favor of abortion and would never have one personally, but I think every woman should be able to make that choice for herself”)—the problem is that choice implies an object or action to select over other objects or actions. And, unlike the cereal aisle, there are only two possible choices regarding an unwanted pregnancy: the child’s life or death.

In, time, the pro-life community won over a sizeable majority of Americans to the view that a choice involving the death of an innocent human being is not a choice they can rally behind.

Especially the youth who are an idealistic bunch. The cracks in the pro-choice façade were becoming obvious by 2010 when Nancy Keenan, NARAL’s president, referred to herself in a Newsweek interview as part of the “postmenopausal militia.” She confessed her shock at “stumbling” upon the 2010 March for Life in Washington (400,000 or so strong) and finding that “they are so young. There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

It served as quite a contrast to the counter-demonstration of about 2 dozen women carrying placards (depicting coat-hangers) in front of the Supreme Court building. NARAL’s own research was even more troubling: among pro-life women under-30, 51% thought abortion was a “very important” issues. Among pro-choice women under 30, only 26% saw it as “very important.”

How to recapture the youth and stem the tide of state pro-life laws is a tall order. The phenomenally well-funded Emily’s List—which in 2012 spent close to $8 million on pro-abortion female candidates and against pro-life ones—has produced a “tool-kit” for “candidates and activists” of the pro-abortion persuasion to stress anything-but-abortion-rights: “economic policies for women, including paid leave, higher minimum wage, equal pay … and birth control coverage,” according to the New York Times.  

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), and Dawn  Laguens, in charge of PPFA’s political advocacy arm, also urge moving away from the words abortion and choice in favor of more broadly acceptable appeals to “access to health care,” “women’s health” and “economic security.” Such approach may get abortion supporters elected under the radar, but it does nothing to enhance the perception of abortion as a good thing.

There are other voices among abortion supporters who are showing growing impatience with the vague “choice” branding and anything-but-abortion strategy. And they’ve introduced a new “ugly” into abortion advocacy.

Janet Harris, in a recent Washington Post op-ed entitled