Planned Parenthood’s ‘Risky Strategy’ To Update Its Image

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Trump administration is pushing forward with its reproductive well being agenda. It has rolled out adjustments to the Title X program, which funds household planning companies for low-income folks, which might be designed to have a chilling impact on organizations that present abortions or embody this feature in counseling. It additionally has nominated federal judges extensively believed to assist state-level abortion restrictions.

Against that backdrop, Planned Parenthood, generally known as a staunch defender of abortion rights, is working to recast its public picture. Under its president, Dr. Leana Wen, who took workplace in November, the nation’s largest reproductive well being supplier is highlighting the breadth of care it offers — treating despair, screening for most cancers and diabetes, and taking up advanced well being issues like hovering maternal mortality charges.

This technique, analysts say, might buttress Planned Parenthood towards the efforts by the White House and different abortion opponents. But it’s difficult. Even because the group leans into its neighborhood well being work, Wen isn’t abandoning the abortion-related companies which have helped kind the group’s identification — and its opposition.

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

This effort to string the needle might, if profitable, change the general public’s notion of Planned Parenthood. But if it backfires, it might make the group much more weak. Some individuals are skeptical of the payoff, given how polarizing abortion politics are.

“The minute you start talking about abortion, it’s a risky strategy,” stated Karen O’Connor, a political scientist at American University who research the politics of reproductive well being care. It’s more likely to appeal to robust reactions from individuals who see abortion suppliers not as reproductive well being professionals however as “baby killers,” she stated.

“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.’”

Already, the brand new technique is drawing hearth from abortion opponents, who dismiss Planned Parenthood’s positioning as a frontline neighborhood well being supplier.

“This framing is simply a PR exercise,” stated Mallory Quigley, vice chairman of communications on the Susan B. Anthony List, a Washington-based anti-abortion group. “I don’t think this campaign will be successful, and I don’t think it will last long.”

Reproductive well being consultants have a distinct view, saying Planned Parenthood’s effort to advertise its array of well being care choices — together with abortion — is in step with actuality and according to prime medical requirements. To bolster this message, Wen, a former Baltimore well being commissioner and the primary doctor to take the group’s helm, has launched into a nationwide listening tour.

“It’s who we are. We are a health care organization,” Wen stated. “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 different Planned Parenthood officers have visited 17 associates in places across the nation. They plan to go to a number of extra, Wen’s workers confirmed.

The concept is to not standardize what Planned Parenthood websites provide, Wen stated, arguing that every clinic ought to take the lead in devising its personal public well being applications, primarily based on its sufferers. Even so, the group’s nationwide management is working to establish the well being applications that might be expanded and inspiring clinics across the nation to contemplate implementing these finest practices.

Recently, Wen and her crew visited the group’s Rhode Island clinic to research how it’s planning to broaden its main care choices.

The clinic, a 10-minute stroll from downtown Providence, serves sufferers of all genders and ages, its workers famous. It has upped its deal with issues like wellness visits, together with its applications to ensure sufferers who wish to have kids are wholesome earlier than they get pregnant.

Wen additionally targeted on the clinic’s efforts to cut back the world’s maternal mortality rates, an issue that afflicts low-income and black ladies at far better charges. In 2018, 18.three Rhode Island ladies per 100,000 births died from causes associated to the being pregnant; for black ladies, the determine was 47.2 per 100,000, and for white ladies, 18.1. Planned Parenthood management touted proposed state laws that may prolong Medicaid protection to doulas, non-medical delivery coaches typically seen as a worthwhile useful resource in decreasing maternal deaths.

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, speaks with workers from Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.(Anna Maria Barry-Jester)

Wen excursions a lab within the basement of a San Jose, Calif., clinic that processes checks for gonorrhea and chlamydia. “When I was in college, we did all the pipetting manually,” she advised the workers.(Anna Maria Barry-Jester)

At a Planned Parenthood Mar Monte clinic in San Jose, Calif., workers members highlighted the ability’s psychological well being companies — maintaining behavioral well being professionals within the constructing to assist sufferers transition seamlessly into care — and its in-house testing heart for sexually transmitted infections.

At each clinics, staffers talked about serving to sufferers who face a menace of home violence discover protected housing assets, and steering them towards obtainable assets for issues like wholesome meals.

Even whereas selling that work — typically neglected by the general public — Wen, a 36-year-old emergency physician by coaching, emphasizes abortion companies at every cease, attempting to weave the message into the general public well being narrative.

In Providence, the Planned Parenthood crew stopped by a information convention to speak a few native invoice that, if the Supreme Court scales again Roe v. Wade, would explicitly legalize abortion protections in Rhode Island.

“Abortion is part of the spectrum of full reproductive health care, and we know reproductive health care is health care,” Wen stated to applause. “And health care is a human right.”

But it’s unclear how the listening tour and messaging efforts will pan out politically. While a majority of Americans have optimistic opinions of Planned Parenthood, they’re, polling suggests, evenly cut up on abortion.

“Planned Parenthood to some extent is taking a risky strategy by trying to thread these two. I see these as very different messages,” stated O’Connor, the political scientist. “If you take out the ‘abortion is’ and go to reproductive health, you have a winning message that is very simple.”

In different methods, although, this branding effort maybe comes on the proper time, advised Lucinda Finley, a regulation professor on the University at Buffalo. She ties the group to what polling suggests is voters’ No. 1 concern, particularly going into the 2020 election: well being care.

Framing it as “‘Abortion is health care, health care is a human right’ links it to the larger debate about health care, and how we should provide health care to people in this country,” Finley stated.

When requested if this messaging might politically insulate Planned Parenthood from conservative assaults — or win the group new supporters — Wen advised the neighborhood well being emphasis is solely a response to medical wants.

“I don’t want people to think we are doing this because it’s politically the right thing to do,” she stated. “It’s the right thing to do because that’s what our patients are requesting.”

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