An Open Letter to Planned Parenthood
Dear Planned Parenthood,
Ever since November 8, 2016, I’ve been thinking a lot about you. Most specifically, I’ve been thinking that you and your supporters (of which I’m a very fervent one) spend a lot of time on the defense, and I have come to believe that this uphill battle is even more difficult because of your name.
I’ve noticed that Democratic or Liberal organizations have a tendency towards clarity and logic, which means organizations have very direct, often polarizing names. While clarity and logic are good because they limit confusion, they can also limit relevance. In this regard, I have to tip my hat to our Conservative counterparts, for knowing how to position their organizations, for their far superior branding abilities.
If you haven’t guessed where I’m headed, I’ll be more direct. I think you need a new name. A name big enough to encompass, and harness, all the good you do in service of the communities lucky enough to have you. While I'm sure, having read some of your history, your name once held a lot of relevance, times and challenges have evolved, and it’s time to consider what yours means for your future brand potential.
This doesn’t mean your name has to be less clear or logical. It just also needs to be above reproach. After all, you are all too often the only place women at or below (often far below) the federal poverty level can receive quality healthcare for a range of women’s health issues, including maternal health services – protecting those unborn fetuses Conservatives care so much about – and breast, ovarian, cervical cancer screenings. Just to name the most urgent needs that I know of. How can that not be above reproach.
I think it’s time to take a page from how Conservatives brand their organizations. Let’s consider the Right to Life movement. Not only does their name automatically give them the moral high ground, because who could argue against life, but it also articulates a sentiment that would fan the flames of passion among their followers.
It also allows them to paint the other side, in their black and white, binary world, as the exact opposite. People are Pro Abortion instead of Pro Choice, which is actually a complex position. What if the Right to Choose movement had instead taken the name Right to Privacy? That automatically changes the playing field for the debate. That’s what I think Planned Parenthood needs to do. Change the playing field. And in so doing, level it. Come at it from an inarguable position. Imagine if no one ever have to make up for the name in explaining the full scope of your services again?
For example, what if your name were Reproductive Health Services? Or Human Reproductive Services? Or something else broad in scope, yet also inalienable. Because then, you could retake a moral highground. That’s what you need. A name nobody can argue with. Not even the folks who want women reproducing as often as possible.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest a new name will solve all of your problems. But at the very least, it shouldn’t help your opponents keep a myopic focus on a service that represents 3% of the scope of work you perform. After all, isn’t it part of your mission to eliminate the need for abortions, altogether? Isn’t that one big reason for the education and other services you provide?
So, in conclusion, please. I beseech you. For the love of women and men and all the small children. Please. Do the right thing. Take a new name. I’d be happy to help you.
Tamara Neufeld Brown