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How Social Media Shaped the Planned Parenthood Debate

Republicans have been trying to defund health nonprofit Planned Parenthood for years. The most recent attempt failed, but the main battleground wasn't the Senate floor: the issue went crazy viral on social media. Here are some of the ways it played out.

Videos Gone Viral


The Planned Parenthood debate was kicked off in July by undercover videos distributed by the Center for Medical Progress/Live Action. The Irvine, CA-based CMP says its citizen journalists spent 30 months shooting undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials, witnesses and experts verifying that the organization sells body parts from aborted babies. Some of the videos have over 1 million views. (Planned Parenthood says the videos are “heavily edited” and orchestrated by extremists.)

A Viral Response


Skepchick Network founder Rebecca Watson (above) released a four-minute video that shames people (with an f-word or two) for believing that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts. Rebecca, who runs a forum for science and critical thinking bloggers and writers, says in the video that 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions and most are performed in the first trimester when fetuses are the size of a kidney bean. She also adds that women are given the option to donate the fetal tissue for medical research for things like HIV and Parkinson's. 

Hashtags. Lots and Lots of Hashtags.


#defundpp and #womenbetrayed were created in support of Senate legislation to eliminate funding the federal government provides to Planned Parenthood programs. #defundPP was used in about 700 posts by 440 social media users, according to Keyhole. On the other side was #StandwithPP, which was also used in over 700 posts by 550 users.

Life Without A Website


Planned Parenthood’s website was out of commission for several days after the organization said “anti-abortion extremist hackers” brought it down. The organization relied heavily on its social media accounts, which are some of the most active in the nonprofit world, to communicate with supporters. Personal videos from women who have used Planned Parenthood’s health services and statements by the organization were posted daily.