As the Center for Reproductive Rights (the Center) was gearing up to return to the US Supreme Court to defend the right to abortion in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, they hired Blue State after a highly competitive process, to help gain public support and build a cohesive narrative for the events and their impact.
Founded in 1992, the Center is an international non-partisan, non-profit organization that uses the power of law to advance reproductive rights as fundamental human rights around the world.
In their role as lead counsel on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the most consequential abortion rights case in decades – the Center was well positioned to share messaging, creative assets, and outreach strategy with partner organizations to foster a cohesive and compelling public narrative around the case. We also knew we needed to lay the groundwork for what to do in the event of Roe being overturned.
Given the high stakes, the various possible outcomes of the case, the rapid response, and the changing landscape, the challenge required a nuanced understanding of the impact, audiences, messaging, and mobilization.
Abortion is essential
Working closely with the Center for Reproductive Rights team, we coalesced our work around a central theme: ‘Abortion is Essential.’
This campaign was designed to educate and raise awareness around what was at stake if the constitutional right to abortion was overturned. The components we created had to be bold and make abundantly clear that a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade would devastate people across the country and the impact of abortion restrictions would fall hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care, namely women, Black, Indigenous & other people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, young people, people with disabilities, and those trying to make ends meet.
We wanted to highlight to audiences that the vast majority of people in America support abortion access as well as raise awareness of the Center’s work and the organization itself. Most of all, we wanted to underscore that together, we are committed to continuing this fight.
Our campaign toolkits were distributed to 30+ abortion rights organizations across the nation, activating the Center’s partners with clear, impactful messaging.
During the week prior to oral arguments on Dec. 1, the Center organized a digital day of action. We created a campaign toolkit to mobilize supporters to take action and inspire people to speak out, attend a rally, and share their own stories. A landing page on the Center’s website acted as a hub for those wishing to take part, and we reached new audiences through a digital advertising campaign.
Our approach targeted abortion rights supporters, millennials, Gen Z, and those with an interest in the abortion rights movement. We ran targeted programmatic ad placements to amplify earned media content by highlighting articles from the New York Times and Forbes to encourage audiences to discover more. We invited people to sign up to subscribe via email to stay up to date as events unfolded and follow the Center on social media.
As the Court’s decision drew near, the Center leveraged relationships with celebrities, influencers, and other key spokespeople in the space to extend the reach of our message. Our toolkits were shared and used by the Center’s Creative Council, with influential voices helping to further spread the word.
We were proud to see our design work light up Times Square throughout December with a pro bono outdoor display space that the Center secured at 1500 Broadway reaching millions of supporters across campaign activity.
Turning outrage into action
When the Dobbs draft opinion leaked in May, the team had to pivot on a dime. We worked closely with the Center to align on messaging and tone to meet this unprecedented moment. Prior to the leak, we built social messaging to ensure that we were prepared for all decision outcomes. As soon as the leak dropped, we worked alongside the Center to quickly adjust this scenario messaging to fit the unique circumstances of the leaked opinion and developed assets for the Center and its partners to help supporters find and attend rallies taking place all around the country.
On June 24, 2022, the dreaded moment we had all been planning for arrived — the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Now more than ever, we had to raise voices across the nation as the fight for abortion rights and access became ever more urgent.
It was crucial for the Center to identify the right narrative to galvanize the public’s attention towards the decision and the fight for abortion rights at large. Agility and rapid response became key components of our campaign as we developed and designed assets that sought to resonate with public reaction to the case outcome. We began with messaging that focused on the issue space itself before dialing up the role the Center was playing in fighting for rights in court. Then, we highlighted the ongoing work that would make a real difference if the Court overturned Roe — such as blocking trigger bans in specific states. The campaign sought to demonstrate the positive change and impact that people could have in supporting the Center and joining the fight.
Since the decision, the Center and their partners have remained committed to ensuring the right to abortion and leading the fight for reproductive rights and access.
In the lead-up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we worked closely with Blue State to communicate the stakes of this pivotal case and engage more deeply with the majority of people in the U.S. who believe abortion is essential health care.
We remain committed to fighting alongside our partners and the millions of abortion advocates around the world, and in the United States, for a future where all reproductive health care, including abortion, is accessible and where everyone is free to exercise their human rights.
Michelle Dees, Chief Strategy & Operations Officer, Center for Reproductive Rights