Monthly Archives: September 2018

Post #5: Critical Approaches to the Organizational Rhetoric of Planned Parenthood

In continuing my analysis of Planned Parenthood’s organizational rhetoric, I will take a critical approach to examine my artifacts. Most of my artifacts can be found on this page:

The larger social issue conveyed in Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric is the importance of access to reproductive healthcare, including (but definitely NOT limited to) abortion. In their abortion-related materials, Planned Parenthood conveys a message of compassion, education, and flexibility. They exhibit compassion in their assertion that abortions are common, safe, and may be right for different people at different times. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of education because they provide all necessary information for prospective abortion patients on their website. Lastly, they assert the importance of flexibility by educating audiences about both options for abortion: taking pills or undergoing an in-clinic procedure. To analyze this in my larger project, I will employ ideological criticism to discover what ideologies and values Planned Parenthood promotes in their rhetoric.

Based on my viewings of the artifacts thus far, Planned Parenthood’s messages meet it needs because they educate audiences about the resources available to women seeking reproductive healthcare. Through the use of phrases like “considering an abortion,” “deciding if abortion is the right choice for you,” and “no pressure, no judgment,” they present a culture that is inviting, understanding of the individual patient’s needs, and wants to help through whatever means are appropriate for them. This treatment of a sensitive topic builds Planned Parenthood’s ethos because they promote what is right for the individual instead of simply pushing abortion–contrary to conservative stereotypes about their mission.

Audiences for this rhetoric include prospective patients, existing patients, and skeptics. Planned Parenthood addresses prospective and existing patients by educating them on the resources and services available at their clinics. Additionally, they consider the widely varying needs among this group by not insisting that abortion is or is not the right choice. Rhetoric addressed towards these patients implies that Planned Parenthood respects all points of view and wishes to accommodate all women’s beliefs when proceeding with their pregnancies. Planned Parenthood also addresses skeptics like anti-choice advocates by dismissing common myths about abortion (namely that it is unsafe or unethical). Their inclusion of this rhetoric suggests that they wish to dispel rumors about the procedure and ensure a comfortable experience for all involved. Additionally, Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric makes several assumptions. Primarily, their message assumes that all employees of the organization are ready, willing, and able to help women with their reproductive decisions. With this, the organization also assumes a universal understanding that all patients require different needs and that those needs will be accommodated regardless of personal beliefs about what a patient should do.

Visual rhetoric plays a vital role in Planned Parenthood’s content. On the “Abortion Information” page, the first image at the top of the screen is of two joined hands, which signify compassion and understanding during difficult times (such as facing an unplanned pregnancy). The shades of blue that appear throughout the organization’s logos and graphic design are calming colors which imply neutrality and a sense of ease. Additionally, the images serve as evidence of Planned Parenthood’s compassion. The photograph of the sign which reads “Care. No matter what” invite women from a myriad of circumstances to seek assistance with the organization. A similar example occurs in the photograph of the smiling doctor next to the text, “You can come to us, no matter what.” The woman’s demeanor suggests a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for all patients of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric represents the interests of the company, its patients, and pro-choice advocates. The company’s interests–to provide reproductive healthcare to women in need–are most obviously addressed because the website’s rhetoric advocates for seeking help from them. Patients’ interests are also acknowledged when Planned Parenthood promises a culture of empathy, flexibility, and safety for all who enter their facilities. Lastly, pro-choice advocates’ interests are represented because the website promotes abortion as a safe and ethical procedure that is right for some people in some situations.

The goal of my study of Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric is to contribute to conversations about their value in contemporary society. During a time when conservative anti-choice critics often question the morality of the organization, their rhetoric asserts that they exist to help women, not harm them. Additionally, their rhetoric dismisses the idea that abortion is the only service provided by Planned Parenthood. The group offers comprehensive reproductive healthcare for men and women, and their rhetoric advertises this fact.

Post #4: Rhetorical Situation of Planned Parenthood

This post aims to examine the rhetorical situation for Planned Parenthood and my chosen artifact, the “Abortion Information” web page.

  1. Planned Parenthood’s exigencies lie in the current political climate of the United States which threatens women’s reproductive rights. Challenges faced by the organization include opposition from right-wing politicians and anti-choice groups, convincing the general public that abortion is safe, moral, and should remain legal, and educating women in crisis about the resources available to them. Anti-choice arguments are not new in the American political climate; however, current attitudes about abortion are marked by a degree of urgency given that conservative anti-choice politicians currently dominate the federal government.
  2. The most appropriate target for Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric is a diffused audience, which is “removed further from the organization, yet still have an interest and potential influence” (Ford and Hoffman 66). Potential clients of Planned Parenthood, pro-choice advocates, and feminists are all separate from the organization itself but have a say in how it proceeds.
  3. Constraints include widespread skepticism about the ethics and safety of Planned Parenthood, the spreading of misinformation about the services they provide (namely the conception that they only provide abortions instead of comprehensive sexual healthcare), and general nervousness about the procedure and its effects. Past rhetoric includes anti-choice materials that condemn Planned Parenthood as an organization of “baby killers.”
  4. The rhetorical situation surrounding issues rhetoric is similar to the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. In this case, the issues are a lack of information about abortion services and the spreading of misinformation and hatred by anti-choice groups.

Post #3: Identifying Organizations’ Rhetorical Strategies


For this post, I will identify the rhetorical strategies used by Planned Parenthood on their webpage about abortion services. The artifact’s medium of delivery is the Planned Parenthood website, which has numerous pages on topics relevant to sexual health and information about available resources.


Here, Planned Parenthood makes effective appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. The organization creates ethos by referring to their staff as “professional and caring” and able to “give you all the straight-up information you need to help you make the right decision for you. No pressure, no judgment. Just support.” These descriptors and statements construct ethos because they present employees as flexible and able to handle a variety of patients with different backgrounds. Similarly, these statements appeal to pathos because they foster a sense of comfort within audience members. By promising an environment free of pressure and judgment, prospective patients feel more at ease during the stressful process of considering an abortion. Lastly, Planned Parenthood evokes logos by offering links to other resources on the facts of abortion. They have a Frequently Asked Questions section as well as two sections on the abortion pill and in-clinic abortions, respectively.

Post #2: Idea Proposal

For my Analysis of Organizational Rhetoric paper, I will analyze women’s health organization and reproductive rights advocacy group Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides sexual health services for men and women in the United States and globally. Most notably, they receive frequent criticism for providing abortion services to women who wish to terminate their pregnancies. I wish to write on this organization because its mission is threatened by the current Republican administration, which likely changes the delivery and content of their rhetoric. Audiences of this organization’s rhetoric include prospective and existing clients of Planned Parenthood, pro-choice individuals who are concerned with the anti-choice political climate often present in contemporary society, and those interested in the study of how organizations use rhetoric to convey messages and ideas.

Understanding the rhetoric produced by Planned Parenthood benefits scholars because the organization’s mission is a highly-debated topic in modern politics. I wish to study how their messages change depending upon the administration in power and how they use rhetoric to cope with criticism from anti-choice protesters. Preliminary observations about the organization’s messages include emphases on self-education about various sexual health topics, the importance of reproductive freedom, the Trump administration as the enemy of reproductive healthcare, and accessibility of the organization’s services to a wide variety of people.