A Planned Parenthood branch ventured into the intersection between Disney princess memes and abortion politics on Tuesday — briefly — before deciding that, on second thought, those two things probably shouldn’t intersect and deleted its tweet.
The tweet became infamous anyway, of course. And while Planned Parenthood Keystone has not apologized for it, the president of the eastern Pennsylvania branch has called the message inappropriate and tried to explain the thinking behind it.
“We joined an ongoing Twitter conversation about the kinds of princesses people want to see in an attempt to make a point about the importance of telling stories that challenge stigma and championing stories that too often don’t get told,” branch president Melissa Reed said in a statement. “Upon reflection, we decided that the seriousness of the point we were trying to make was not appropriate for the subject matter or context, and we removed the tweet.”
Planned Parenthood's national office did not respond to a request for comment.
As USA Today noted, the “we need a Disney princess ... ” meme had been spreading for several months on Twitter before Planned Parenthood Keystone got a hold of it.
The meme that was adapted began last year with an earnest call for Disney to diversify its animated heroines beyond the skinny, light-skinned, wide-eyed Snow Whites and Ariels that are its classic royalty.
By March, the Internet had inevitably bastardized the concept beyond recognition.
Enter Planned Parenthood Keystone. As USA Today noted, the Trexlertown-based branch has a history of converting silly memes into deadly serious political messages.
Planned Parenthood Keystone’s social media account once took a popular photo of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recoiling from a shofar, for example, and wrote “centering ALL our patients’ lived experiences and uplifting their stories, regardless of gender identity, immigration status, class or past” over the shofar blower. Emanuel stood for “stigmatizing abortion and shaming patients to appeal to a nonexistent middle ground.” It wasn’t the most self-explanatory visual pun.
Thus, “a Disney princess with spatulas for hands” became a Disney princess who had aborted a fetus (or immigrated to the United States without documentation, or joined a labor union or was transgender).
People who consider abortion to be homicide were, naturally, appalled by Planned Parenthood Keystone’s take on the meme.
The president of the antiabortion group Live Action tweeted that the “call to promote abortions to impressionable little girls who admire Disney princesses is despicable.” Some conservatives began spinning counter-memes:
In the same statement in which she called the original tweet inappropriate, Reed defended her branch’s effort to mix politics and meme culture.
“Planned Parenthood believes that pop culture — television shows, music, movies — has a critical role to play in educating the public and sparking meaningful conversations around sexual and reproductive health issues and policies, including abortion,” the branch president said. “We also know that emotionally authentic portrayals of these experiences are still extremely rare — and that’s part of a much bigger lack of honest depictions of certain people’s lives and communities.”
If Planned Parenthood Keystone’s intent had been to change the way the world imagines a Disney princess, it may have accomplished that in at least a narrow sense.
The Blaze, a website founded by abortion opponent Glenn Beck, illustrated a story about the tweet with a cartoon crown held above a woman pointing a gun at her womb.
Even Yahoo News, a politically neutral outlet, ran its abortion story with an image of Ariel — the Disney princess from “The Little Mermaid” — with her mouth agape in horror.