The big news this month, of course, has been the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade. This is the first of two articles I’ll be writing about the ruling.
This week’s theme: both supporters and opponents need words. We need to rebrand the abortion debate.
It used to be easy to communicate someone’s position on abortion. If you generally supported a woman’s right to an abortion, as defined by Roe vs. Wade, you were Pro Choice.
If you were against the idea of choice as defined by Roe vs. Wade and wanted tighter restrictions, you were Pro Life.
It was easy: two options, well defined. The brands were clear. One could argue that the abortion opponents had the higher ground in terms of wording. Life trumps Choice.
Now that Roe vs. Wade has been struck down, things aren’t so simple.
What does Pro Life now mean? It isn’t clear. It can’t be opposition to Roe vs. Wade since that is no longer a factor. Is it opposition to any abortion, even if the mother’s life is in danger? How about in cases of rape and incest?
Maybe being Pro Life means that contraception isn’t ok since there is the potential for life.
In terms of enforcement, what do Pro Life supporters believe? Should local police officers be able to search a house looking for abortion medications, or seize an iPhone looking for search terms? How should law enforcement deal with women who suffer from a miscarriage, when the cause isn’t entirely clear? Should physicians who treat women who have side effects after taking abortion medication be sent to jail?
Should police officers battling drug use and violent crime be redirected to finding women who take abortion medications or have a miscarriage?
Being Pro Life isn’t defined anymore – the brand has lost its meaning.
How about Pro Choice? What does that mean? Is that favoring no restrictions at all? Or is it supporting abortion in limited circumstances? Is 16 weeks a magic number? How about 8 weeks?
Polls tell us most people fall in the middle, supporting some restrictions but not too many. There are no words for this middle ground.
We need new brands that communicate more precisely in this fluid world. Choice and Life are binary and far too blunt. We need to rebrand the discussion.
Supporters of various positions might create these brands, using positive words that have broad support. Maybe Freedom, Independence, Balance, Liberty, Family, Faith, Child.
More likely, perhaps, political opponents will create them, using negative words. Crazy, Extreme, Rabid, Dictator, Czar, Terrorist.
Defining these brands early is critical. People against abortion are at risk of being labeled extremists or dictators. People supporting some abortions are at risk of being defined as anti-family, anti-child, crazy-choicers.
Watch for the brands to catch on as we head into the elections. Maybe: Crazy Lifer, Balanced Freedom, Independent Thinking, Reasonably Restricted.
Which terms will stick? Which brands will emerge? This will be interesting to watch, and profoundly important.