How 6 Ad Women Would Rebrand Pro-Choice

Updating a label that's not resonating with younger women

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Where a politician stands on women's issues may be a tentpole of election season but, according to The New York Times, an enduring label of modern politics—pro-choice—has lost favor. Why? Because the term doesn't accurately reflect the range of women's health and economic issues that are debated these days. As Janet Colm, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina, told the Times, "The labels we've always used about pro-choice and pro-life—they're outdated and they don't mean anything." So, given that reality, Adweek put the question to a cross-section of women in the agency world: How would you rebrand pro-choice?

Carol Fiorino, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness:

[It's] a broader discussion about rights. Women need to understand that equal rights—any rights—are not a given. I think that women need to be diligent in safeguarding their rights, especially rights in reproductive health, to maintain sole responsibility for their lives. Socioeconomics may have liberated women from the old roles, but it won't protect them from shifting viewpoints about religion and philosophy, and how those trends change legislation. But how do you communicate that? I recommend messaging that convinces men and women that pro-choice is pro-women and not anti anything. It's pro-independence, pro-freedom, it's pro everything they take for granted.

Amanda Hughes-Watkins, creative director, Kettle:

This is a generation of women who have been raised with greater acceptance of race, sexuality and opportunity. So it’s news to them that despite being told they can do and be whatever and whomever they want to be, that actually when it comes to making the very personal decision as to whether or not to have a child, it’s a discussion the government wants to be involved in.

Pro-choice glosses over the heart of the matter, which is women still need to actively protect their rights as human beings. Simply evolving the language and sentiment from pro-choice to something like pro-me would acknowledge that reproductive rights are a personal decision, one of many, that young women actively participate in every day. It’s shifting it from a feminist issue to a humanist one, which I think the younger generation would relate to more authentically.

Shireen Jiwan, founder, Sleuth:

Pro-choice sounds stark, institutional and impersonal—like something on a protest sign versus something that can actually happen to you. Also, it belongs to a time when women had fewer choices in life overall.

The truth is that unwanted pregnancy happens all the time. No girl dreams of growing up to get an abortion. But when faced with that decision, abortion stops being a black-and-white political issue and becomes complicated and hugely personal. Suddenly, the idea of government limiting your full participation in the world (professionally, economically, socially, et cetera) simply because you have a vagina becomes an insufferable limitation of rights and freedoms. Younger generations of women have grown up in the era of personal initiative and empowerment where technology has afforded more access and freedom to more people than ever. Personal freedom is paramount.

Today, the issue is more about the freedom than choice—and not just freedom for all of us, but freedom for each of us.

Katie Rogin, managing director, Havas Worldwide Tonic:

Pro-choice needs a new positioning and a new lexicon that resonates with the millennials’ balancing act of tolerance of diversity, lack of judgment of others and their sense of entitlement to live their individual lives as they see fit. As digital natives, personal choice has been turbo-charged in every aspect of their lives and must feel like a stale option at this point. Messaging needs to focus on what people gain, not what they might lose. The new positioning needs to serve personal as well as community needs for a millennial and is likely found in the territory of health equality.

Jessica Roubadeaux, strategist, Mother New York: 

In a political landscape where language is paramount, the decision to evolve beyond the limitations of pro-choice feels apt. There is an opportunity to develop a term that gets at the heart of the issue—to strategically reposition the argument away from choice and into an undeniable call to support women's equality, health and safety. For me, that's the brief: unite and inspire versus fuel another divisive pro/con debate. 

Sandy Sabean, founder and chief creative officer, Womankind

It has been purposely spun to have people believe that pro-choice women are pro-abortion and we are not pro-life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What needs to be made clearer is that what we are against is anti-choice. The battle continues for women to retain the right to choose for herself and not be mandated by the government to go through with an unwanted pregnancy.

It is imperative to have young women understand what is really at risk here: their rights. The choice they have today and the laws that provide that right, are in danger of being rescinded. What’s next?

The insight is the anti-choice segment wants to send women back to the dark ages. Conservative government wants to dictate to women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Instead of changing the pro-choice label, let’s focus on what’s really going on the other side: anti-choice.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.