I remember seeing the first ads for feminine hygiene products on television and wincing. “Is there nothing private any longer,” I wondered. We now have ads for Viagra and “happy periods.” For someone like me who grew up in a family where we didn’t talk about any body parts we can’t see, this was unsettling. But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s a good thing, because advertising is helping us get over our sexual taboos.
In my job with the Iowa Initiative, I am working with family planning clinics which are starting to advertise their services and the new long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC), which not too many women yet know exist. As a result, I think these ads will help us get used to the fact that family planning clinics are as Main Street as the local doctor’s office or the local pharmacy.
In Cedar Rapids, for instance, at all the local theaters, viewers see the Coke and popcorn ads, but they also see the ad for a local family planning clinic. In Ottumwa, the local clinic advertises on billboards and park benches at busy intersections. In Harlan, there’s a banner on the local hospital. In Des Moines, you can learn about long-acting reversible contraceptives on local buses.
At a clinic in Council Bluffs, the phone at the clinic starts ringing right after the staff hears the popular Planned Parenthood “bunny” ad airing on local TV.
These ads are part of a public conversation we need to be having about health care options which includes preventing unintended pregnancies among adult women.