Planned Parenthood has become a hot topic in the 2016 presidential election. Though the public in general approves of the organization's efforts, vocal opposition to the organization's very existence on the conservative side has become the norm—even when its opponents are a bit confused about what Planned Parenthood does and does not do.
At its base, Planned Parenthood was created to provide health services and information to women looking for assistance. But, when you look at advertisements for Planned Parenthood both old and new, another thread emerges: While the theme of information never goes away, the target audience seems to change. From the 1940s to the present day, Planned Parenthood's ads shift from a focus on nuclear families, and women being a part of a male-dominated structure, to a focus on an independent woman, making choices for herself.
Early Planned Parenthood advertising mostly took the form of pamphlets, like these found in the Harvard archives. The pamphlets stress family-planning and appear to be aimed at married couples and nuclear families who found themselves in the middle of the Baby Boom.
The following three come from Abraham Stone, who Harvard describes as the "Medical Director and later Director of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau in New York City," and later the "administrator at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the International Planned Parenthood Federation from the 1940s until his death in 1959."
Issues like "child spacing" were a concern in these times and Planned Parenthood was offering to help.
This 1947 ad expresses similar themes, saying Planned Parenthood "saves lives - saves homes."
Other pamphlets like the one above stressed "health and well-being." This pamphlet also marks one of the earliest uses of photography instead of illustration in Planned Parenthood advertising.
Here two women set up a Planned Parenthood display that uses the organization's slogan "Every baby wanted and loved." It stresses "healthy mothers" and "happy families."
The slogan was soon shortened to "Every Child A Wanted Child," as seen in this ad in the Toledo Blade in 1959.
(Certain segments of the anti-reproductive rights movement have equated this slogan with eugenics.)
This one has been used a lot by anti-reproductive rights protestors, too, because, in advertising birth control, it says:
abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun. it is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it. Birth control merely postpones the beginning of life.
Another newspaper ad, this one from 1966, calls for people to request literature about family planning or even work/volunteer for the Toledo chapter.
As the sexual revolution progressed, "choice not chance" became the more dominant theme. A shift is signalled. Take this Schenectady Gazette ad from 1968.
The 1972 ad above stresses the financial impact having a baby can have. It reads, in part: "We think children are priceless, too. But if a child happens to be unplanned, it could mean financial pressures…it's a whole other life to provide for."
This one is from the 1980s, and interestingly (to me) it's from the Utah branch of Planned Parenthood.
The overarching theme becomes women being responsible for themselves:
That's Marcia Goldstein, the organizations's publicity director at the time, in 1967. That ad was going to be displayed on buses in New York City; decades later, that message carries through, with the slogan "The choice is now in your hand."
In the beginning of the 21st century, with public knowledge pretty high, the organization, at least in New York, touted its services.
More recently, the ads have reatined more of a marketing firm feel, though they remain punchy and effective and focused on the single "You." The use of first person plural lends itself a sense of familiarity and community.
The anti-reproductive rights blog where these were found called the ads "cheeky" and "tawdry." They offer "an open-minded" or "discreet" environment. Scandal!
The punchiness has remained and can now be seen on the posters that appear on podiums or elsewhere at Planned Parenthood events.
(That's Gen. Wesley Clark back in 2004.)
Though the ads, and the theme of the ads, have changed, Planned Parenthood still, at its heart, provides information. They're still making pamphlets for anyone who needs help.
Read more of Fusion's Planned Parenthood coverage here.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org