Case Study #2
Planned Parenthood Is an important organization, especially to poor women and teen girls; the organization provides vital health care to the communities it serves, from general preventative care to screening for sexually transmitted infection to, yes, even providing abortions.
PP has a long history of being opposed by anti-choice factions, from politicians to protesters, and during that history, PP has strongly opposed restrictions placed on family planning, women’s reproductive health, and attempts to limit poor women’s access to adequate, affordable health care. I will attempt to abbreviate that history as much as possible by only including the aspects of it that relate to the #StandWIthPP campaign.
PP’s roots date back to 1916 when Margaret Sanger, along with her sister and a friend, opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. At the time this clinic opened, women had few rights; they could not vote, divorce abusive husbands, have bank accounts, or, thanks to Comstock laws, even control how many children they had. Sanger was well aware of the problems caused by unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions, thanks to her years working as a nurse among immigrant families in New York’s Lower East Side. To that end, Sanger founded The Birth Control Review, the first scientific journal devoted to contraceptives, appealed her conviction, which resulted in more a more liberal interpretation of New York’s contraceptive laws, and, in 1923, opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in Manhattan with the intent to distribute contraceptives and collect statistics in order to prove not only their safety, but their long term effectiveness. Also in 1923, Sanger incorporated the American Birth Control League, an organization meant to embrace such global issues as world population growth, disarmament, and famine. Eventually, the two organizations would merge and become Planned Parenthood® Federation of America, Inc.
During the 1960s, PP was instrumental in the push for increased access to birth control, the creation and funding of family planning, both domestically and internationally, and was crucial to the development of the birth control pill and intrauterine device. The organization also played a large role in the striking down of state laws banning the use of birth control by married couples, the liberalization of family planning legislation in at least 10 states, and the liberalization of abortion laws in at least 14 states. PP started an international program in 1971, largely funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and, within 15 years, became the largest U.S.-based nongovernmental provider of family planning in developing countries.
During the late 1970s PP and other groups fought against the Hyde Amendment as well as the passing of more restrictions placed on federal funding for abortions, meaning fewer and fewer women are able to get federal assistance for abortions.
In 1984, after the announcement of the ”Mexico City policy,” the International Planned Parenthood Federation has $40 million of federal funding stripped away after refusing to not provide abortion counseling and abortion referrals as part of its international family planning programs. While PP is able to get court orders to continue funding, a joint lawsuit with the United Nations Population Fund fails.
Throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations, PP personnel and patients were frequent targets of violence and harassment; however, FBI Director William Webster refused to consider these attacks acts of terrorism.
The #StandWithPP campaign began after the release of a series of secretly recorded, heavily edited, videos that featured PP executives discussing fetal tissue. When asked about the controversy, a representative from PP told CNN that PP follows federal guidelines, which prevents the sale of human tissues but does allow reimbursement for reasonable costs. Shortly after th
The first hashtag related to PP to come out after the release of the videos was “#ShoutYourAbortion.” This hashtag was started by Lindy West and Amelia Bonow when West tweeted an image of Bonow’s Facebook status.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The campaign to defund PP "relies on the assumption that abortion is to be whispered about." <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShoutYourAbortion?src=hash”>#ShoutYourAbortion</a> <a href=”http://t.co/r1ilpCVr30″>pic.twitter.com/r1ilpCVr30</a></p>— Lindy West (@thelindywest) <a href=”https://twitter.com/thelindywest/status/645368432666374144″>September 19, 2015</a></blockquote>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>The <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShoutYourAbortion?src=hash”>#ShoutYourAbortion</a> hashtag is literally a movement of women who are proud of killing their babies. A new low point for humanity. So sad!</p>— Mathews Michelle (@TheMathews04) <a href=”https://twitter.com/TheMathews04/status/646221023638122496″>September 22, 2015</a></blockquote>
.#StandwithPP started after as a replacement for #ShoutYourAbortion when the government was set to vote on cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, and was used as a way to show support for PP and PP president Cecile Richards during the hearing. The hashtag received support from several celebrities, including Ariana Grande, Lena Dunham, and Kerry Washington. Examples of those tweets are located below, but, as a warning, they all have some pretty disgusting replies, so just look at the embedded tweets.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>There has never been a more urgent time to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/StandwithPP?src=hash”>#StandwithPP</a> <a href=”http://t.co/VSPikSKRbO”>pic.twitter.com/VSPikSKRbO</a></p>— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) <a href=”https://twitter.com/lenadunham/status/626064590498086913″>July 28, 2015</a></blockquote>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProudFeministTweet?src=hash”>#ProudFeministTweet</a> I stand with <a href=”https://twitter.com/PPFA”>@PPFA</a> in the fight against the attacks on women and our repro health freedom. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/StandwithPP?src=hash”>#StandwithPP</a></p>— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) <a href=”https://twitter.com/kerrywashington/status/628308822549893120″>August 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
As noted in an article by Beth Kanter, PP was able to reach out almost immediately to it’s extensive network of supporters and allied organizations to start a campaign of tweets, Facebook posts, and letters to Congress; in fact, Kanter cites over 27,000 tweets using the #StandWithPP hashtag within the first couple weeks of the campaign. Kanter also noted that, largely due to past experience with opposition attempting to defund or shutdown PP, the organization was ready to go into action almost as soon as the edited video was released. She listed the following ways PP handled the situation properly:
- Prepared – It already had a crisis communication plan in place that it could tailor and put into action quickly; it recognized more attacks were coming and prepared its supporters to brace themselves.
- Decisive – It responded quickly (with the facts in hand) and decisively through written and digital channels (email, video, Twitter).
- Empathetic – PPFA’s response struck the right tone. It was strong and did not concede wrongdoing but acknowledged that the optics weren’t optimal.
- Engaging – Planned Parenthood’s supporters are passionate and ready to act – through Twitter, blog posts, emails to Congress, etc. The group used the power of personal stories to connect with people on the issue.
- Connected – PPFA prioritizes building and maintaining strong ties with allies and decision makers willing to stand in support of the organization
Unlike previous Planned Parenthood related hashtags, there wasn’t a lot of evidence of this hashtag being hijacked.