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American Civil Liberties Union Campaign Energises Activists Against Abortion Bans
Marketing & PR
North Caldwell, USA
Hard-hitting TV spots and digital ads from purpose-driven agency OBERLAND reframes debate ahead of landmark court ruling

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched an ad campaign to energise activists ahead of an expected decision from the US Supreme Court that could strike down the core of Roe v. Wade. A new hard-hitting ad from purpose-driven agency OBERLAND reframes the issue as a battle between government-mandated forced pregnancy and reproductive freedom, and highlights the harms that abortion restrictions have on people, especially in communities of colour. It broke on Saturday, Jan. 22nd, the 49th anniversary of the Roe decision, just as those very freedoms may hang in the balance. 

Titled 'Disclaimer' and modelled after a pharmaceutical ad, it shows a woman looking at a pregnancy test strip while the announcer asks, “Are you seeking an abortion? Talk with your doctor.” It goes on to say that “unnecessary restrictions and politically- motivated bans may apply,” as we see the woman travel out of state, find a locked door at a clinic, being told she needs to return the following day: all hurdles currently being placed between people and their care providers. The spot ends with the message that “Banning Abortion is Forcing Pregnancy.” The spot began airing nationally on January 22nd.

“The reality is that most people who support reproductive freedom don’t know about the hurdles politicians around the country have been trying to place between people and care providers,” said ACLU chief communications officer Rebecca Lowell Edwards. “On this very auspicious Roe v. Wade anniversary, with its very promise being weighed by the Supreme Court, we want to raise awareness of the political assaults that are limiting abortion access, thereby removing bodily autonomy and forcing pregnancy, particularly on marginalised populations.” 

A second spot in the campaign, ‘Forced,’ is set to launch in mid-February and will air on digital platforms and streaming services. The spot traces all of the many things forced upon people seeking abortions: taking unpaid leave from work, hours of travel, paying  for care, or, perhaps, in the face of so many forced costs and hurdles, staying pregnant. Both ads were directed by Samantha Scaffidi of the production company SMUGGLER.

“There should be no shame in getting an abortion,” said OBERLAND founder and chief creative officer Bill Oberlander. “ACLU wants to show how people are frustrated by these laws that prevent them from getting an abortion, and that they should never have to apologise for making that decision.” 

“We needed to find language that will win in this heated and urgent moment for reproductive freedom,” said OBERLAND chief strategy officer Kate Charles, who led the research efforts to reach the right language to reach advocates. “We need to reframe the discussion on the real result of abortion restrictions: forced pregnancy. The pregnant person needs to be the centre of the narrative - those are the stories that have been muted for too long.” 

When the phrase ‘forced pregnancy’ was tested in research among Americans who identify as pro-life or undecided, a dramatic shift was seen, even among anti-abortion people, in the understanding of the impacts and harms of abortion restrictions on pregnant people, according to Charles. 

“With the ACLU shifting the message around to forced pregnancy, we believe it will help people see these laws for what they really are,” added OBERLAND managing partner and executive creative director Lisa Topol. “They’re dystopian.” 

OBERLAND has also created a broader, integrated campaign to accompany the spots, which includes digital ad units, many of which are geographically targeted to key states where access to abortion has been decimated.