By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRLC Director of Education & Research
If you turned on one of the cable TV news shows today, you may have seen it. It has been running for several weeks now. Spoiler alert: Never in your wildest imagination did you anticipate seeing this.
The commercial begins with pensive music playing and an attractive young woman looking up at the camera. A subtitle identifies her as “Adeline, a Planned Parenthood patient and supporter.” Well, we know what’s coming, right? Wrong.
Narration begins with Adeline relating that she found out she was pregnant, saying that it was not planned. The camera switches to a side view with Adeline, now speaking in her own voice, declares ominously, that “The most pragmatic option was to get an abortion.”
Adeline made an appointment at Planned Parenthood and showed up “very conflicted.” When she went in to see the physician, Adeline says, “I was a wreck.”
The Planned Parenthood physician took a look at her and told her “something tells me that today is not the day. Sleep on it and then reschedule.”
The next thing you hear and see is child saying “Mama” running into his mother’s arms.
Adeline continues the narration. “I wish I knew her name so that I could thank her for the role that she played in making me a mother.”
Planned Parenthood talking women out of abortions and into motherhood? It’s a shock for people and it’s meant to be.
As more and more states ask themselves why aren’t they spending family planning money on full-service health providers who do not perform abortion, the intent of the ad is obvious and overt. It is designed to be a counter-intuitive challenge to the popular image of Planned Parenthood as the nation’s biggest promoter and performer of abortion.
The problem (from PPFA’s perspective) is that this reputation is no stereotype but a well-earned, richly-deserved reputation.
No Place for Babies
What the ad depicts is something that rarely happens at Planned Parenthood. How do we know that? We look at their own statistics.
According to their most recent annual report, how many women received abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in 2014? It was 323,999.
How many received prenatal services? Just 17,419.
In case you didn’t do that math, that’s nearly 19 abortions for every prenatal visit. This discrepancy is even more remarkable because while you might have multiple prenatal visits for each child, you generally only abort a child once.
The most recent Guttmacher figures for 2014 reveal, there were 18.8 abortions for every 100 pregnancies ending in abortion or live birth– more than four births for every one abortion. But the situation is radically reversed at Planned Parenthood, where a pregnant woman is nearly 19 times more likely to be sold an abortion than to receive prenatal care.
If you’re looking for prenatal care, you’ll have a hard time finding it at Planned Parenthood. A recent nationwide undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood clinics by LiveAction found very few offering the such services (LiveAction press release 1/24/17).
Abortions are offered by more than half of Planned Parenthood’s 650 odd clinics, but if you want your baby delivered, you’ll have to go somewhere else.
No matter what the commercial says, it’s abundantly clear that Planned Parenthood’s plans rarely involve parenthood.
Further Distortions in the ad
The ad featuring Adeline and her young son were originally part of a 12-part series of show videos produced by award winning filmmaker Brooke Sebold in cooperation with Planned Parenthood’s Pacific Southwest affiliate (18 clinics in the area around San Diego, California). Those short films first debuted on-line in the summer of 2016, but slightly shorter versions of them recently began appearing as TV commercials earlier this year.
Sebold said she saw it as a real opportunity “to explore all these complicated narratives,” telling stories of a pregnant abortionist, or “a spiritual Catholic who also supports Planned Parenthood.”
There’s something really incredible about these stories in the sense that they’re so nuanced and they are so grey. And it’s here, it’s the intersection of the black and white, it’s this grey areas, where maybe actually some productive conversation can come; in a way where we can actually look at what brings us together as opposed to what divides us.
Seebold dreams that her “storytelling” can help “create some change in the world.”
In the series first film, Sebold ‘s narrator says that there’s a “fundamental understanding about what goes on behind them [Planned Parenthood’s doors].” It’s clear that Sebold wants to change perceptions and rehabilitate the image of Planned Parenthood in the world. However reality and presentation keep colliding.
One of the videos features “Yulinda,” a 22 year, identified as a “spiritual patient” who says she is a “practicing Catholic.” The video is clearly meant to undermine religious opposition to Planned Parenthood, to somehow make the case that people can support Planned Parenthood’s mission and remain faithful.
Exactly what that means to Yulinda, though, or how she reconciles the teaching of her church with her support for the nation’s largest abortion performer, is never made clear.
Subtly or not so subtly, another video tries to challenge perceptions that Planned Parenthood is somehow un-American or unpatriotic because of what it does and stands for, while trying to expand public perceptions of the organization by showing that they serve men as well as women.
“Sally” is a Planned Parenthood nurse who served three military tours in Iraq. Sally is shown talking to J.C., a young man, sharing how his HIV test has come back negative. The clinician says she was fighting for freedom of speech in the military and is now providing services, which might be “controversial” but are “much needed to our country.”
Freedom of speech may be a real value, but it is hard to see how the freedom to choose to KILL your child is somehow compatible with the first, most basic human right, the right to life. And while Planned Parenthood does some limited services to men,, they still represent only a very small part of Planned Parenthood’s business (13% at Planned Parenthood’s Pacific Southwest affiliate ).
In Part Two, which will appear Monday, we will discuss more of the PPFA ads and how they are a response to undercover videos which provided proof-positive of Planned Parenthood’s callous, cavalier approach to unborn human life.