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Planned Parenthood drops ‘pro-choice’ label, emphasizes being ‘in her shoes’

by Mattie Quinn
Jan 22, 2013


Mattie Quinn/MEDILL

Timeline of women's reproductive rights in U.S. CLICK on image to see full-size graphic.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest nonprofit women’s health care provider, is dropping the “pro-choice” label from its rhetoric and has launched a campaign called “Not in her shoes” that emphasizes each woman’s individual decisions.

It has been a tough year for Planned Parenthood. It was briefly defunded by the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation, and then refunded. Texas withdrew all public funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, including those that do not offer abortion services. And anti-abortion groups have been challenging the organization in courts and state legislatures across the nation.

“In our research we’ve found that labels are limiting and not working, and they just don’t reflect the real issues,” said Carole Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. “We’ve found that most people agree that abortion should be safe and legal, but don’t necessarily consider themselves ‘pro-choice.’”

As part of its move away from the label, the organization created an animated video questioning the value of labels and emphasizing the different choices women make based on their faith, family and counsel of their health care providers. The video is on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s website and the Planned Parenthood Action Facebook page.

The move away from a politically charged label won’t affect any of the current practices at Planned Parenthood locations, according to Brite.

For Fay Clayton, longtime donor and board member for the Illinois office, the change is a bit surprising but not unwelcome.

“I come from a different generation, where ‘pro-choice’ is a term we rallied around. But I understand that language needs to change as generations do,” Clayton said. “If the communication experts at Planned Parenthood think it is best, then I support it. I’m glad that women are starting to understand that reproductive choices are just the same as any other choice, like a choice to smoke or eat healthy.”

While the decision to remove a political label may seem like a compromise after recent controversies, it has not stopped anger from the pro-life movement.

“This is just an attempt to tone down their rhetoric so as not to turn off pro-lifers,” said Bill Beckman, executive director of Illinois Right to Life. “If anything this is just going to make us want to protest them more. They are trying to make it seem like they are not all about abortion, and we believe they are.”

Brite said she hopes the change will help women make the best decision for their health, and said it is unrelated to the organization’s fund-raising.

“Women don’t consult politicians when getting health care, and furthermore we don’t know a particular woman’s life story when she comes into the clinic,” Brite said. “A woman needs to make a decision that’s best for her life. Let’s open up the conversation.”