Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winning on Language

Today over at RH Reality Check my piece is about how the coalition that fought for choice in South Dakota ended up winning. Hint: It's not by using language like "my body, my choice":

Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota, credits the win to a well-run campaign with broad grassroots support. But it wasn't a strategy run only by outside consultants, with slick advertisements and catch phrases like "My Body, My Choice" or "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries." In fact, the word "choice" was abandoned by the coalition fighting the abortion ban in South Dakota altogether. Instead, the coalition took a pro-family approach, using the word "baby" where mainstream pro-choice groups would have used the word "fetus." One Healthy Families ad featured a woman named Tiffany Campbell, who appeared with her husband and son. In the television ad, Campbell explained that during her pregnancy they discovered twin-to-twin syndrome, a condition in which one fetus would need to be terminated for the other to survive. Campbell phrased it this way, "I would have buried two babies." Much of the language in the ads talked about families making decisions without government interference.

"We were completely ready to and did redraft all of the usual rhetoric that is used by people on our side," Stoesz said. She noted a lot of feminists on the national level were upset at a pro-choice campaign that would abandon rhetoric built on for decades, but Stoesz isn't sorry she abandoned the rhetoric. "As the head of Planned Parenthood [in the region] I'm responsible for keeping the sole abortion clinic in South Dakota open and I'm responsible for making sure there is a strong base of support for women's reproductive health in South Dakota," she said. "South Dakota isn't Manhattan. It isn't San Francisco. It isn't even Chicago and it's not even Minneapolis. It's so different. The culture is so different."

Go ahead and read the whole thing here.

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