Planned Parenthood's PR Nightmare

By Echevarria, Laura | The Human Life Review, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Planned Parenthood's PR Nightmare


Echevarria, Laura, The Human Life Review


For months now Planned Parenthood's public relations teams (yes, it has more than one) have been working overtime trying to get ahead of the scandal caused by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos. As any good public relations team knows, a crisis communications plan is a must. But are all the smoke and mirrors employed by such a plan enough to counter the flippant tone of several Planned Parenthood executives, the horror of discussing "crushing" a fetus while chomping on a salad, and the macabre scenes of employees sifting through the remains of aborted babies while talking about fetal tissue requests for whole "orbits"? Abortionist and Senior Medical Advisor for Planned Parenthood Dr. Carolyn Westhoff expressed concern about the conversations: If they became public, ". . . We would have the potential for a huge PR issue ..

Thanks to CMP, the conversations did indeed become public, offering the abortion giant as a classroom in crisis management. Only, thus far, as I write (in late October 2015), despite all the big guns, the media savvy, the friends in high places, Planned Parenthood has been far from achieving a public relations coup. Just recently, Planned Parenthood was backed into announcing that it would no longer seek "reimbursement" for fetal tissue that is harvested by PPFA during abortions. However, this concession is a political and public relations ploy designed to reinstate the organization's positive image among members of the general public. What led up to this decision? And why now? Let's look at Planned Parenthood's response to the CMP's video releases- in particular, its first crucial response to them-to see how CMP played its cards right for maximum impact, and how Planned Parenthood's early decisions opened it to the kind of short- and medium-term harm (we cannot yet tell if there will be long-term damage) that is perhaps unprecedented in its history.

Crisis Communications-Lives/Safety

In the field of public relations, it is generally agreed that crises arise around one of three main areas: human lives/safety, finances, or reputation. When such a crisis occurs, a company or organization has to assess current and future impact of the crisis on customer lives/safety, company finances, and the future reputation of the company or organization. Information designed for the public must then be geared toward damage control in those three areas.

How well did Planned Parenthood's public relations machine deal with the CMP videos describing the sale of fetal body parts? In some ways, their PR machinery excelled; in others, it fell short of what was needed to dissipate negative reactions.

Key to Planned Parenthood's PR performance was their first response. Two days after the first video was released on July 14,2015, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, released a video statement in which she stated:

Hello. I'm Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Planned Parenthood provides a full range of health care services to millions of women, men, and young people every year, including cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and abortion.

And we provide much more than health services-we support millions of people as they build their futures and pursue their goals.

Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortion used secretly recorded, heavily edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate fetal tissue for medical research.

I want to be really clear: The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true. Our donation programs-like any other highquality healthcare provider's-follow all laws and ethical guidelines.

Over our 100-year history, we have continually engaged leading medical experts to shape our practices, policies, and high standards-and always will. Our top priority is the compassionate care that we provide. …

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