The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is selling T-shirts on its website that proclaim the message, “I Had An Abortion.” The shirts are advertised as “a powerful message in support of women’s rights” and can be purchased for $15 (US). Although they are not currently being sold in Canada, there was swift reaction to the publicity stunt on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. And it is not only pro-life supporters that are appalled by the shirt; some abortion advocates have spoken out against it as well.
According to Planned Parenthood, the message of the shirt “is intended to confront and subvert the sense of shame surrounding abortion that has been so deliberately created by the anti-choice movement.” Anne Kingston, a National Post columnist who supports abortion, says the shirts are “a defiant response to anti-abortion groups.”
The purpose of it is obvious to Gillian Long, executive director of Campaign Life Coalition Youth, who says it “shows a desperation to de-stigmatize and a desire to normalize abortion.” Trying to make abortion an everyday part of life, stripping it of its association as a taboo, allows Planned Parenthood to ignore the fact that abortion hurts women. Long says this tactic shows it is “very clear that Planned Parenthood is not available to prevent abortions or to help women” but to “promote abortion without restriction.”
Many groups have voiced their opinion from both sides of the abortion debate regarding these T-shirts. Many pro-life groups are disgusted at the very idea of a shirt that broadcasts the killing of a child. Jim Sedlak, executive director of American Life League’s STOPP International, said the shirt “confirms that the abortion chain lacks any sense of integrity, tact and compassion. This shirt’s message celebrates an act of violence that is traumatic for women, and worst of all, kills an innocent child.” Olivia Gans, director of American Victims of Abortion, said, “It is pretty clear that Planned Parenthood puts promoting abortion above concern for women.”
There are also pro-abortion people who have expressed their disapproval. Three Planned Parenthood state affiliates are opposed to the selling of the T-shirt: Idaho, North Carolina and South Carolina. Rebecca Poedy, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Idaho, said the purpose of the organization is to “prevent unwanted pregnancy” and the T-shirts were “a poor decision” that her affiliate does not support. Brian Lewis, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Health Systems of North Carolina, is concerned that it is “offending people.” Yet despite their disapproval, Gloria Feldt, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president, maintains that the shirt allows women to “stand up for choice.”
The Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada does not sell the shirts, nor does it appear it has plans to do so any time soon. PPFC’s website states, “As the T-shirt is not PPFC’s campaign, we cannot comment on the approach. Instead, we can direct individuals to Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s website.”
Linda Capperauld, executive director of Planned Parenthood Canada, said that it is “unlikely” her group will “try a similar tactic, because the environment in Canada is different from that in the U.S.”