As the single biggest women's health care provider in the United States and the largest provider of abortion services, Planned Parenthood is a regular target of conservative criticism, both on and off social media. And a tweet from one of the organization's regional branches drew even more scrutiny on Tuesday ― namely, a Planned Parenthood tweet about Disney princesses calling for a princess who's had an abortion.
The tweet has since been deleted, but it's still easy to see, thanks to the many people who took screenshots of it while it was still up. It was sent out by the Twitter account for Planned Parenthood Keystone, a branch of the organization serving Pennsylvania. It didn't only call for a Disney princess who's had an abortion, to be clear ― it also said there should be an undocumented immigrant Disney princess, a union worker Disney princess, and a transgender Disney princess.
The part about the princess who's had an abortion, however, has undeniably gotten the most attention. It was essentially a play on a meme about Disney princesses that's been popular recently, but it clearly didn't go over quite as intended. As The Washington Post detailed on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood Keystone president Melissa Reed explained the idea behind the tweet in a statement.
"We joined an ongoing Twitter conversation about the kinds of princesses people want to see in an attempt to make a point about the importance of telling stories that challenge stigma and championing stories that too often don’t get told,” Reed told the Post. "Upon reflection, we decided that the seriousness of the point we were trying to make was not appropriate for the subject matter or context, and we removed the tweet."
The tweet was deleted not long after being sent out, but not before setting off a firestorm of upset, indignant, and outraged reactions, predominantly among anti-abortion conservatives.
Reproductive rights are one of the most hotly contested and contentious realms in American politics. Republican-led state legislatures in the past several years have been fighting to reduce abortion access, whether through TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), or through passing bans based on the gestational age of the fetus.
While advocates have noted that positive mainstream portrayals of abortion could help reduce fear, stigmatization, and misconceptions surrounding the procedure, some suggested it being portrayed in Disney movies for children is a stretch. As of 2017, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, more than one in five American women will have an abortion by the time they're 45. It's worth noting that this number could reduce over time, as abortion rates in the United States have declined significantly in recent years.
Nonetheless, abortion is a personal choice many women have made, and will surely continue to make. As such, it's the kind of topic that reproductive rights advocates ― including an organization that enables countless women, especially low-income women, to get health care they otherwise might not be able to ― would like to see portrayed accurately and tastefully in mainstream media.
That same logic applies for union workers, and undocumented immigrants, and transgender people, the other ideas referenced in Planned Parenthood Keystone's now-deleted tweet. Basically, the thinking is that people and groups who're historically underrepresented or stigmatized in mainstream media can stand to benefit from having their stories told to a broader audience.
That said, the tweet itself clearly stirred up some social media reaction that Planned Parenthood Keystone either was not expecting, or did not want to be amplified, considering that it was ultimately taken down. It remains to be seen whether Planned Parenthood Keystone will address the matter any further; the Twitter account didn't reference the situation at all on Wednesday.