Port Chester, N.Y.
In 1996 ten of the country's leading prochoice organizations collaborated to overcome many of the obstacles noted in Jennifer Baumgardner's March 5 "The Pro-choice PR Problem" by forming The Pro-Choice Public Education Project. PEP strives to energize younger women and develop the next generation of leaders.
What Baumgardner seems to be missing is that PEP is an effort to "engage young women more directly in the struggle for abortion rights." As local organizations work to build their forces, challenge antichoice initiatives and raise awareness, PEP provides tools that would be too expensive for these groups to produce on their own. PEP conducts cutting-edge research on the opinions of young women, commissions ads that can compete for the attention of young women and throughout the country introduces these findings and ads to groups through workshops. Groups in forty states have used PEP's ads and research to involve and educate young women about threats to their reproductive rights. Please visit our website at www.protectchoice.org.
THE PEP STEERING COMMITTEE
New York City
Having arranged the Open Society Institute's research support for Jennifer Baumgardner's article, I now take issue with her findings. Baumgardner is correct that the prochoice movement has faced a difficult dilemma in mobilizing young Americans who support, but are complacent about, reproductive rights. She sets up a false dichotomy, however, between efforts to engage young people through advertising and conventional grassroots organizing. In virtually all of the examples she cites the two have gone hand in hand.
Baumgardner portrays The Pro-Choice Public Education Project, a collaborative effort of ten prochoice organizations, as a prizewinning advertising campaign disconnected from the grassroots. This simply ignores ample evidence that was provided her. Groups in forty states–including local affiliates of Planned Parenthood, NARAL and The Feminist Majority Foundation–all of which work with large numbers of young people, have been using the ads at no cost to educate and inspire activism. Follow-up polling after paid placement of the ads in subways in New York and San Francisco also demonstrated considerable impact. In addition, those ads drove extensive free media coverage in magazines and newspapers across the country, which dramatically increased the value of a relatively modest investment in their production and placement.
Baumgardner, on the other hand, extols the virtues of Choice USA, a spirited organization of young women inspired by Gloria Steinem, which works primarily on college campuses. Not mentioned is the fact that Choice USA has also employed its own paid ads in college newspapers to great effect–ads featuring wholesome young women claiming the right to make responsible choices.