Pro-Choice Billboard Stirs Controversy

Who says reproductive rights don't have humor value?

Manhattan Mini-Storage's newest marketing campaign (video) uses a New York City billboard to push a pro-choice political message while promoting their storage services.

The billboard's message, "Your Closet Space Is Shrinking As Fast As Her Right To Choose", with the image of a giant coat-hanger has invoked the ironic ire of pro-lifers:

"These billboards, we think they're absolutely disgusting," said Kiera McCaffrey of the Catholic League. "Or one thing, it's strange enough that this company feels the need to advertise their pro-abortion stance on their billboards for mini-storage units, but the fact that they have to do it in so vile a way."

Vile? I think McCaffrey needs to spend an hour – or maybe year after year – in front of women's health centers, Planned Parenthood clinics and attending pro-life marches. Graphic poster images of shredded embryos, mutilated fetuses and the bloodied body parts of babies pollute the sidewalks and streets of these spaces. Staff women of clinics around the country show up for work every morning and women seeking abortion and gynecological care visit their providers only to be faced with these invasive pictures.

But the use of a coat hanger and a perfectly appropriate political message is termed "disgusting"?

In fact, a lot of younger women who are not connected with the reproductive justice movement have no idea what the coat hanger image signifies. Its use on home-made protest-march signs and advocacy organization's buttons and bumper-stickers has always made me bristle because I never felt it resonated with anyone under twenty-five years old. This is why the use of the image is so refreshing in the context of the advertisement.

Who knew a storage company could help define traditional pro-choice visual language for a new generation?!

"We like the creativity, and we think it's an eye opener as well as engaging people in dialogue," said Silvia Henriquez of the National Latina Institute (for Reproductive Health).

Manhattan Mini-Storage has been using their billboards as a combination business marketing/political communication tool for awhile now. And who can blame them? They clearly have some creative advertising professionals on their side who have succeeded in garnering a great deal of attention to their business.

Finally, a pro-choice marketing campaign that is smart, imaginative and comedic – it's so rare that the reproductive justice movement is infused with the creative yet powerful political humor that helps get us through the day and further our messages at the same time.

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  • invalid-0

    Just after hearing about the billboard on the news, I passed a stepvan near my office in Birmingham Alabama. Each side of this van has a pro-life message. One side, the side that was directly next to me at this downtown, high traffic intersection red light happened to display a fully-formed fetus head (only) held in thongs with parts dangling where it’s neck used to be. Although I myself do not know what I would do if forced to make that sort of decision, I do know that right now, I am allowed to still make the choice myself and will fight for that right and my daughter’s right as long as I’m breathing. It outrages me to hear that other pro-lifers are “upset” at just a picture of a coathanger and it’s implied meaning. Maybe they should have put up the mangled vagina of a dead mother instead?