Social Media & Recent Reproductive Health Policy Issues

IMG_boss busOne of the most effective social media campaigns I have seen in the reproductive justice movement this year is the overwhelming response to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling. This decision recognizes for-profit companies to claim to hold religious beliefs, as a way to be exempt from providing contraception for female employees, as required by the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with visuals, status updates and articles about it. This is very likely due to the fact that my community is more aware of reproductive health policy issues than average.

However, what has shocked me, is that this same informed community has shown little awareness, or potentially interest in the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that the 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics is unconstitutional. Buffer zones are particularly important for clinics that offer abortion services, as both staff and patients at many clinics are routinely forced to face aggressive protestors. Buffer zones allow patients and staff a small space outside of the clinic where they are safe from forceful anti-choice aggressors.

This buffer zone decision was made only days before Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling. So why has there been so much more social media attention on Hobby Lobby? It has been shocking to me that the media coverage of the Buffer Zone ruling has been so weak in comparison with Hobby Lobby. When conducting searches about these two huge reproductive set backs, significantly fewer people have been sharing images and status updates about the Buffer Zone. For example, #protectthezone, which is the main hash tag for the issue of the buffer zone, has 244 instagram posts. While, the primary Hobby Lobby hash tag, #notmybossbusiness, in comparison with that has 1,076 posts.BUffer


It is possible that the concept of health center buffer zones is harder for people to relate to than access to birth control, which translates to less posts and reposts about the issue. Or maybe people are uncomfortable with publicly sharing frustration about a ruling that would imply supporting access to abortion services.  What is clear is that the public is more informed about one of these reproductive health issues than others, as demonstrated through social media publications and sharing. It would be interesting to look deeper into how the organizations who develop these memes could work harder to pull in communities who are interested in these issues even more.

Some of the ways that I have seen this to be done successfully is through working to develop easily understood memes that are accessible to communities who are interested. For example, the meme shown here on the right is the only one I saw related to the buffer zone ruling, while Burwell v. Hobby Lobby had a huge number of memes that were easily spotted on Facebook and Instagram. What I like so much about the image on the right is that it is a bold image that also explains the importance of the buffer zone to health centers. Hobby Lobby has had some awesome visuals that are easy to share, interpret and promote so that the issue gets more attention. I think that the organizations looking to get buffer zone ruling more attention on social media platforms would be smart to look into how Hobby Lobby has been publicized, in order to work harder to get more attention in social media.



3 thoughts on “Social Media & Recent Reproductive Health Policy Issues

  1. This is such an eye opening piece. To tell you the truth, I didn’t hear anything about the buffer zone, and actually didn’t know there was a ruling made in regards to it. Your social media research just goes to further prove the point.

  2. I did listen to an NPR report on the buffer zone ruling, but in support of what you say here it was more about the fact that it was a unanimous ruling and thus highly unusual, rather than delving into the future policy implications of the decision. I think you are right that it is easier to reach out to an audience about contraception than it is about abortion. But as far as social media goes, I would have thought they could have capitalized on the increased attention that was generated by the Hobby Lobby decision to draw attention to the buffer zone ruling.

  3. I agree with your take on the Hobby Lobby about reproductive rights but one of the other things that really bothered me is the entrenchment in our justice system that a corporation can have opinions or religious convictions and constitutional rights on their own. It is another step toward separating those who make the decisions from the consequences of them. Similar to what led to the financial meltdown in 2008 when none of the bankers/trades lost their money or positions or went to jail.

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