“On the Offensive”
The Early History of the Media Monopoly’s Coordinated Assault on Crisis Pregnancy Centers
The cooperation between the seven major media monopolies and Planned Parenthood was vividly illustrated in a series of coordinated stories during the eighteen months between October 1985 and March 1987 and again during the summer of 1992.
Concerned that the grassroots pro-life movement was at last gaining an upper hand in the abortion battle, Planned Parenthood put together a well-orchestrated, heavily-financed, no-holds barred, negative public relations campaign. The campaign was aimed at the more than three thousand counseling centers established by pro-lifers in order to offer women, in the midst of crisis pregnancies, abortion alternatives and genuine help.
The centers, which were typically small, poorly financed, and run by volunteers, apparently had begun to substantially cut into the abortion trade. But, perhaps more importantly, they had also begun to steal Planned Parenthood’s thunder. The centers were receiving favorable publicity from many quarters for their “helpful contributions to the process of developing informed choice on abortion.”
Planned Parenthood argued that many women were making appointments at the alternative centers thinking that they were actually abortion clinics. From time to time the volunteers at a few of the centers would allow that illusion to persist in the hopes of gaining a fair hearing on the facts of fetal development and the risks of abortion procedures. Although such tactics were extremely few and far between, Planned Parenthood saw in them a golden opportunity.
Amy Sutnick, a public information associate for Planned Parenthood of New York City, wrote several news releases and put together a press packet labeling the alternative centers as “bogus” and “deceptive,” luring clients in by “masquerading” as abortion clinics and then “terrorizing” them with “horror stories,” “gory photographs,” and “brainwashing techniques.”
Sutnick approached a sympathetic reporter at the New York tabloid, the Daily News, with her packet and a proposal for a story. The reporter took the assignment and published a piece written along the lines of Sutnick’s news releases, often even using the same wording.
With the Daily News article now in hand, Sutnick began to call on other pro-abortion journalists in the city. Before long, she was able to place similar stories on virtually every New York television station, including the network affiliates, and in the other New York newspapers.
Soon the strategy began to snowball. Sutnick sent her growing pile of clippings along with her press packet to Planned Parenthood affiliates, clinics, and chapters around the country so that they could contact their local media outlets. Meanwhile, she also contacted all the various women’s magazines.
Hundreds of articles, stories, editorials, profiles, and news features resulted. From Vogue, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan to the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times, Planned Parenthood’s smear campaign confronted consumer audiences everywhere. Continue reading