New Planned Parenthood campaign “Not in Her Shoes” seeks to go beyond ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ labels [Video]

Over the weekend we highlighted new polls which show that Americans are dissatisfied with the labels “pro-life” and “pro-choice” and reported that Parenthood hopes to move beyond them in the future. Lots of smart people had interesting takes on this including Anna North at Buzzfeed and Amanda Marcotte on Slate.

If you’re like me, you assumed “the future” meant sometime in a distant fuzzy world, but in fact Planned Parenthood, being that fast-moving superstar that it is, released a new video today “Not in Her Shoes” that utilizes this new “post-label” strategy and better mimics ways in which the organization believes that Americans — especially young people — think and talk about abortion today.

Here at Feministing we have lots of THOUGHTS on this latest move that we will be publishing shortly. Suffice it to say, some of us in the crew are more convinced than others that this is a strong and feminist framing for one of the movement’s flagship issues. I for one am excited to see a bit of nuance and creativity in the national conversation around abortion and reproductive justice, but I’m not convinced that this latest campaign amounts to more than a pretty and polished way of skirting the issue. In the meantime, while we sort out our views and get ready to present them to you on a silver feminist platter, check out the video above and the accompanying site

Transcript below the jump:

Most things in life aren’t simple. And that includes abortion.

It’s personal. It can be complicated. And for many people, it’s NOT a black and white issue.

So why do people try to label it like it is? Pro-choice? Pro-life? The truth is these labels limit the conversation and simply don’t reflect how people actually feel about abortion.

A majority of Americans believe abortion should remain safe and legal. Many just don’t use the words pro-choice. They don’t necessarily identify as pro-life either. Truth is, they just don’t want to be labeled.

What they want is for a woman to have access to safe and legal abortion, if and when she needs it.

But when it comes to abortion, who decides?

Her congressman? Her governor? Her president?

Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. And they shouldn’t. Politicians don’t belong in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.

When it comes down to it, we just don’t know a woman’s specific situation. We’re not in her shoes.

Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.

So the next time you talk about abortion, don’t let the labels box you in.

Have a different conversation.

A conversation that doesn’t divide you, but is based on mutual respect and empathy.

To learn more, go to

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation

  • Nicki Meier

    As unforgivingly pro-choice/pro-reproductive freedoms as I am I’m not so sure that I hate this.. it’s definitely interesting. I need to think about it a bit more… However, if the goal is to remove the current discourse and labels that have polarized the movement to start over or make a compromise in order to reroute the past political conversation that’s got us stuck… this could possibly help.

    At very least I appreciate the way they’re discussing the situation as a continuum rather than binary. Granted, legislation is rarely grey, I understand that. I think it’s an interesting political decision here at least. PP is clearly trying to convince more folks to join the cause for reproductive justice.

  • Jessica

    I agree with this action. If I were to “label” myself, I would identify as pro-life. The reason for that is because I am generally against abortion in most circumstances. But, at the same, I am against criminalization of abortion. Already certain states that have enacted anti-choice laws are arresting women and putting them in jail for miscarriages and stillbirths. Pregnant women are not slaves!

    I am also extremely PRO-contraception. Contraception prevents abortions. Duh! Which is why I don’t fit into the pro-life movement, and never will, even though I am anti-abortion. I say can the labels.

  • Tryingtosmile

    This, this, this!

    I’m not gonna lie, I have a complicated relationship with abortion, as I think many people do. I’ve always identified as pro-choice with an emphasis on the choice, but the connotation can be overwhelming. It means that more than one sexual partner in the past automatically assumed that I would plan to have an abortion if a pregnancy resulted from our activities. It means that important people in my life who also have a complicated relationship with abortion were very tentative in talking with me about their decision making process when it came to abortions. For me it’s been a very constricting title that I’ve taken on only because the other option didn’t fit me at all.

    Creating this sort of continuum around the abortion debate can be an incredibly important step in taking down the us vs. them mentality that seems to permeate and often stifle most discussions about abortion that I get into.

    For me this line is the key, “Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family, and her faith, with the counsel of her doctor or health care provider.”

  • Nonsequiteuse

    I definitely think there are problems with the term ‘pro-choice,’ and have read some good critiques of it. I also think this video pretty much gets it right, even though I don’t know why we always have to say that a woman should have to consult her faith about the decision to have an abortion. Except I do know why we always say “her faith,” which is the same reason we came up with ‘pro-choice’ in the first place – we let the other side set the terms of the debate, and they are a side that does believe in all-or-nothing, right-or-wrong, this-or-that thinking. We have to kowtow to faith to try to keep anti-abortion people from accusing us of being anti-religious. We have to say pro-choice so that no one can say we are pro-abortion. Except that in many instances, plenty of people are pro-abortion. We tend to also be pro-letting-the-woman-herself-decide.

    Sorry to ramble, but I just worry that the more we try not to say abortion, and try to talk around it, the more we lose ground that we can little afford to yield.

    I also wonder what happens to NARAL Pro-Choice America if Planned Parenthood goes on a campaign to stop using the term pro-choice? NARAL used to just be NARAL, then adopted the “Pro-Choice America” I suppose to not sound as though they were pro-abortion … sigh …

    Much to consider.

    • Kelly

      PP isn’t trying to stop people from using ‘pro-choice’ they are just trying to show that the issues surrounding abortion are more than just the labels. The point of the video is to reach the people who wouldn’t ever identify as pro-choice, but who also don’t want to see abortion made illegal.

      The majority of people in this country are THOSE people – not pro-choice or anti-choice – people who don’t like labels but who don’t want to see politicians involved in ANY of these decisions women make with their doctors, families, and yes, their faiths.

  • fyoumudflaps

    I’m not sure what they plan to accomplish. You’re either pro-women-are-not-aquaria-for-white-babies or you’re not. Surely we must hope this is not PP’s way of capitulating to the pro-aquaria camp.

  • QuantumInc

    This is very surreal for me to watch. They’re making a big gesture differentiating their new stance from “pro-choice” and “pro-life” but the actual ideas they present in the video are all stuff I’ve heard from pro-choice arguments. If government stayed out of abortion, that would be a pro-choice victory. Saying whether or not to have an abortion depends on the individual woman and her circumstances is the definition of “pro-choice”. Different women are different, which is why they CHOOSE. Meanwhile it is the Pro-Lifers oppose the message of “it’s complicated” not because they like to simplify, but because they believe that fetuses and embryos constitute human lives, and that ending human lives is inherently and obviously wrong.

    However there are a lot of people who feel both pro-choice and pro-life. Few people believe women should be required to be mothers, even if they happen to have a live embryo growing inside their body. Most people know that accidental pregnancy is a thing, and people need a way to deal with that which doesn’t involve bringing a new person into the world. However most people also feel disgusted at the idea of killing unborn babies. You could debate whether a fetus counts as a person or not, but most people recoil at the idea of killing one.

    I also have to wonder if the reason for this add is because Planned Parenthood decided those terms were too politically and emotionally charged for one to have a rational conversation. They counsel their patients, and they don’t need counseling sessions to turn into ANY sort of a political debate.

  • Monica

    I don’t really see why the pro-choice label generates such a mayhem. In my opinion, it’s quite accurate. It’s not pro-abortion, it’s not anti-life, it’s not pro-annihilation. It’s pro-choice, as in I want every woman, in her personal circumstances to be able to evaluate what is the best option for her and make a choice. One might be personally convinced that she’ll never have an abortion but we suspend judgement when it comes to other women. I like the whole “we are not in her shoes” idea but I don’t see how that’s any different than the pre-existing one. My fear is that in making labels fluid, one risks losing the firm stance that is necessary to contrast all those government-shouldn’t-touch-my-money-but-it-can-totally-decide-on-female’s-bodies types that exist everywhere in the world.

    • honeybee

      Me too – I also find “pro-choice” to be quite accurate and description while not conveying any kind of evil connotation (the way “pro-abortion” would).

  • Jessica

    Monica, the pro-choice label has been associated with “loving to kill unborn babies,” or in other words, pro-abortion. It is true. There are a few NOW members who counter-protest the March for Life, and some members say “I am PROUD of my abortion!” No offense, that makes those who identify as pro-choice look bad. Abortion is wrong, but I am not for making it illegal either. Like I said earlier, some states who have enacted anti-abortion laws are already arresting women who have either miscarriages or stillbirths on the suspicion of an abortion or harm to the fetus. Roe vs. Wade needs to stay. But I feel abortion is wrong and we need to look to other options first. Like adoption, helping pregnant women with their expenses, making contraception so easily accessible and practically free, among other things I feel are necessary to lower the abortion rate.

    Technically, if I were to label myself, it would be “pro-choice, anti-abortion.” That label means that yes, I am for keeping Roe v. Wade law, but I am against abortion morally. But, when I talk with other people, I need to label myself pro-life in order to avoid the stigma of being looked down upon as being for abortion. I’m not. But I don’t want it criminalized either because of the terrible repercussions.