Family Research Council

Why Is Planned Parenthood Abandoning Choice?

By Cathy Cleaver Ruse


Cathy Cleaver Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Human Events on January 23, 2013.


Last week America's abortion giant Planned Parenthood announced that it will be moving away from the slogan "choice" as a way to describe killing a child in the womb.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told a press briefing that abortion is "complicated" and that the "pro-choice" label was unacceptably limiting.

That's the spin. Here's the truth: The term has become a political loser.

Today more Americans know the science of the developing child and the reality of what abortion does to her and to her mother, and increasingly they refuse to cloak themselves in the propaganda that the abortion industry pushes. Thanks to technology, parents can see the development of their children with their own eyes. I watched the fluttery pulse of my daughter's heartbeat during an early obstetric ultrasound at just four weeks' development. The ultrasound most parents see at 20 weeks' gestation lets them watch their child clasping his hands, sucking his thumbs, yawning, stretching, even smiling.

In 1995 when the Gallup polling organization asked Americans whether they consider themselves "pro-choice" or "pro-life" on abortion, the "pro-choice" label had a wide lead: 56 percent "pro-choice" to 33 percent "pro-life."

But "pro-choice" has been losing ground ever since. In fact, in 2009 for the first time more Americans identified themselves as "pro-life" than "pro-choice." Last year "pro-life" out-polled "pro-choice" by nearly 10 percentage points.

While post-election polls showed the labels polling close again, "choice" has never delivered the tremendous rhetorical cache it once did; hence, the search for a new gimmick.

Planned Parenthood Vice President Dawn Laguens was more candid, worrying out loud that "choice" as a slogan for abortion may sound a bit "frivolous."

She might want to have a word with Planned Parenthood activist Amy Richards, who told the world (through the vehicle of the New York Times Magazine) that she paid an abortionist to kill two of her three unborn children not because she had to, but because she wanted to.

Richards cited, among other things, her desire not "to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise."

In fact, unwanted lifestyle changes is plenty justification for a legal abortion under Roe v. Wade. The Court ruled that abortion must be permitted for any reason a woman chooses until the child becomes viable; after viability, an abortion must still be permitted if an abortion doctor deems the abortion necessary to protect a woman's "health," defined by the Court in another ruling issued the same day as "all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient."

As journalist David Savage of the Los Angeles Times reported, the Supreme Court has created an "absolute right to abortion" under which "any abortion can be justified."

And therein lays the problem that Cecile Richards and her comrades face, and that no army of PR wizards or focus groups can change.

It will be interesting to watch Planned Parenthood try to hide it.

Meet The Author
Cathy Ruse Senior Fellow - Legal Studies

Cathy Ruse has devoted her professional career to promoting the dignity of the human person. Her professional experience spans the fields of communication, public policy, and law. (Full Bio)

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