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Planned Parenthood Trying to Rebrand Itself As a Health Provider

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Planned Parenthood is reportedly working to reshape its image, in an attempt to survive the Trump Administration’s growing restrictions on abortion funding.

According to an article published Tuesday in USA Today, the abortion giant is now emphasizing the “breadth of care” it offers, which allegedly includes the treating of depression, screening for cancer and diabetes, and more complex medical issues like maternal mortality rates.

Though analysts have suggested that these efforts could protect Planned Parenthood from both the Trump Administration and abortion opponents, Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen admits to being cautious about the new approach. Wen doesn’t necessarily want to distance Planned Parenthood from the abortion-related services that shaped the organization’s identity in the first place. Instead, Wen is attempting to walk the line between the two approaches.

“We cannot separate out one of our services,” Wen told Kaiser Health News. “That’s not how medicine works.”

But some think that focusing less on abortion might be the right way to go. 

“The minute you start talking about abortion, it’s a risky strategy,” said Karen O’Connor, a political scientist at American University who studies the politics of reproductive health care. “It’s likely to attract strong reactions from people who see abortion providers not as reproductive health professionals but as ‘baby killers,’” she said.

“If I was doing it – and this is as somebody who studies social movements and women’s organizations – I would take abortion out of the equation and talk about ‘reproductive health is health care,’” O’Connor added. 

Pro-life advocates are already criticizing Planned Parenthood’s bid for a new identity as a more general community health care provider, claiming that it’s unlikely to be effective.

“This framing is simply a PR exercise,” said Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications at the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington-based pro-life group. “I don’t think this campaign will be successful, and I don’t think it will last long.”

Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson also spoke out against Planned Parenthood’s attempt to rebrand itself. Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, whose story is the basis for the film Unplanned

"The mission they say they are trying to promote is NOT really what they promote. It’s false," Johnson told Life Issues USA in an interview.

But abortion advocates, including Wen, believe the strategy is in line with current health standards. Wen has embarked on a national listening tour to spread the word. 

“It’s who we are," Wen said. “We are a health care organization. That’s what all of our affiliates do around the country, is meeting people where they are with the health services they need.”

So far, Wen and other Planned Parenthood officials have visited 17 affiliates in locations around the country. Wen’s staff confirmed that there are plans to visit more.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood’s national leadership is reportedly working to identify the health programs that could be expanded, and encouraging clinics around the country to consider implementing them.

But in spite of the attempt at rebranding, abortion is still said to be key for the nation’s leading abortion provider. Wen has emphasized Planned Parenthood’s abortion services at each stop along the tour, trying to weave abortion into the narrative of public health.

“Abortion is part of the spectrum of full reproductive health care, and we know reproductive health care is health care,” Wen said to applause at a news conference in Rhode Island. “And health care is a human right.”

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