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When Healthcare Marketing Becomes Politicized


Today’s episode is so timely and so important to listen to. Jenny is joined by Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, Vice President of Strategy and Communications at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. They have a wide-ranging discussion on the dynamics in the country, and in individual states, post-Roe.

Bonyen breaks down the current deluge of misinformation, and the many challenges that women are facing in a state like Missouri. From an almost total ban, the fear that even many types of contraception will soon be on the chopping block, the pushback on those seeking sterilization services, to fake pregnancy centers staffed by anti-abortion activists. She also talks about Illinois being a critical access state, how they keep up with all the changing rules and regulations, and some troubling trends in digital media platforms whose overreaching algorithms block critical information.

Listen ‘til the end to find out about Planned Parenthood’s Brands Against Bans, teaming with businesses to use their brands to support sexual and reproductive healthcare. 

Watch their discussion below or listen to the podcast, We Are Marketing Happy – a healthcare marketing podcast.

Other Links and Resources – Online tool that allows individuals across the country to understand what is accessible in their own states and neighboring states
Regional Logistics Center – Resource for individuals traveling to access an abortion to receive transportation and housing assistance

Connect with Bonyen on LinkedIn:

Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn:


Full Transcript:

JENNY: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Jenny Bristow and I’m the CEO and founder of Hedy & Hopp, a healthcare marketing agency based in the Midwest. We started the We Are, Marketing Happy podcast because of our passion for improving patients’ access to care. And understanding the innovations and shifts in the healthcare industry are key to making that happen.

Please follow share, and let us know what topics you’d like for us to cover next. Enjoy.

Hi friends. Welcome to the We Are, Marketing Happy podcast, a healthcare marketing podcast. We focus and talk about the technology and innovation that helps improve patients’ access to care. Today I am super excited because I’m joined by, Bonyen Lee Gilmore. She is the Vice President of Strategy and Communications of planned parenthood of the St. Louis and Southeast Missouri region. So welcome Bonyen. [00:01:00] I’m so happy to have you on today. 

BONYEN: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited. 

JENNY: So let’s jump right into the question that I’m sure everybody’s interested in hearing about. Sands have been shifting underneath you and the work that you’re doing continuously this year, especially since the most recent Supreme court ruling.

I think what I’d love to do to start off is just talk a little bit about fact versus fiction. There’s so much misinformation and uncertainty out there, right? For patients, as far as understanding what is it isn’t accessible from a birth control perspective, what is, and isn’t accessible if they live in a red state, you know, or an accessible state. Lay it out for us.

BONYEN: Yeah. Thank you for that question because when, whenever there’s big news around sexual and reproductive healthcare, particularly around abortion, there’s a lot of misinformation that swirls. So the fact is today, unfortunately, because of the Dobbs V Jackson case abortion is illegal in the state of Missouri.[00:02:00] 

However, misinformation we saw circulate pretty quickly after that decision dropped was that birth control and emergency contraception and IVF are now outlawed. That is untrue. Birth control, emergency contraception, IVF – these reproductive healthcare options are still legal in the state of Missouri.

And they were legal before Roe was overturned and they are legal after Roe was overturned. Now is that to say that the politicians aren’t gonna go after birth control next? Of course that we already know that politicians in Missouri and several other states are already taking aim at birth control. And we know that’s probably next on the chopping block, but for now it remains legal.

It remains accessible in the state of Missouri. Birth control and emergency contraception prevent pregnancy, as you know, and this is often purposely conflated by anti-abortion [00:03:00] politicians to suggest that they somehow end pregnancies. They don’t, they prevent pregnancies, they’re safe and they are legal in the state.

JENNY: So we have listeners from all across the country. So do you have any resources or places online that you’d recommend folks go to be able to understand what they can and can’t access within their own states? 

BONYEN: Yeah. So is a really handy tool for people to understand particularly how to navigate your way to abortion care.

If you live in a banned state there’s also the Regional Logistics Center work that we do. You can go to and read about the Regional Logistics Center, which is a case management patient navigation program that we launched at our Illinois health center. As folks may or may not know, Illinois is a critical access state right now.

It is an island. Almost every state around it has either banned abortion or has extremely draconian [00:04:00] restrictions in place. And in the next year, we will see about 14,000 additional patients coming from outside of Illinois, access abortion in Southern Illinois. And so the regional logistics center takes care of travel.

It takes care of lodging. It connects patients with financial aid resources and really. Arranges that wraparound care that is now so critical in the work to ensure abortion access. 

JENNY: That’s amazing. I’m such a big fan of the RLC and the work that y’all are doing there. You should be very proud of it. It’s definitely gonna change a bunch of lives. 

As we know Planned Parenthood actually does a lot of phenomenal things outside of abortion care. But how do you stay up to date as the sands are shifting underneath you legally regarding what you can and can’t promote in what you can and can’t do?

I mean, especially with your [00:05:00] region, you have so many states right here, and then I know a bunch of other Planned Parenthood affiliates also have multi-state regions. How do you stay up to date? 

BONYEN: We have really excellent lawyers. Anybody who works in the healthcare field knows, right?

We can’t operate without our lawyers breathing down our neck every day. And you know, we are really focused on blending the healthcare work and the advocacy of healthcare. And isn’t a political issue. Yeah, it shouldn’t be. But the reality is, is that anti – reproductive healthcare politicians are forcing it into a political space where it’s quite frankly unreasonable to be talking about healthcare provisions with non-healthcare providers.

But that’s our reality, right? And there are tons of medically unnecessary restrictions targeted at people who need reproductive healthcare access, capable people are discriminated [00:06:00] against and targeted at rates that male bodied patients don’t necessarily see or experience. I’ll give you a really good example.

Our organization has an advanced OBGYN program where we offer vasectomies and tubal ligations, and we’ve seen sterilization requests go through the roof since roe was overturned. And what we’re also seeing is a ton of patients who live in rural Missouri, who are getting turned the away for this care by their doctors.

Because their doctors want to make paternalistic decisions for them about if they’re ready to stop having more kids or if they they’re ready to make a decision about not having kids. And so the layers of restrictions and discrimination are real and don’t just pertain to abortion care. They pertain to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive healthcare.

JENNY: I’m in a variety of women’s [00:07:00] groups online. There’s actually a couple of underground spreadsheets going around of OBGYNs who are willing to do sterilization procedures regardless of your age or the number of children that you have. And it is kind of crazy that we live in a world where you have to have a spreadsheet with OBs that are willing to do that.

BONYEN: You know, I just truly don’t even understand why it has to be an underground issue. Black women who established reproductive justice really solidified the idea that every person should have the right to decide whether they want to have a kid, not to have a kid and to raise the kid they have in safety.

And this should be every person’s right – to decide without any sort of judgment from anyone other than that person in their family. 

JENNY: I know you have a team that manages digital for you, but I know that Meta and Google have made all of these decisions around what they do and don’t allow on the platform. How have been managing and pivoting that and are there any trends or [00:08:00] things that you’ve seen specifically with these platforms? 

BONYEN: Yeah. Okay. I’m gonna tell the audience that Jenny did not pay me to say this, but your team helps us tremendously. Because we are reproductive healthcare experts, but we are not digital marketing experts.

So I couldn’t do it without the Hedy & Hopp team. You did not pay me to say that, but you deserve the shout out. Thank you. 

Some of the trends we’re seeing are troubling, right? There’s a difference between intention and impact. And I think a lot of these platforms in the age of misinformation have really tried to crack down on the flow of misinformation on their platforms.

But as a result, instituted some really arbitrary rules that I know your team has to navigate all the time for us. Like when the word abortion is in an ad and then it gets shut down because whatever algorithms and policies that these digital platforms have put in place, and it’s really unfortunate.

The other [00:09:00] the other trend we’re seeing is, and this is a trend that’s been happening over many years is crisis pregnancy centers. These are fake clinics run by anti-abortion operatives. And they disguise themselves as reproductive healthcare providers and centers, and they lure patients in and then hold them there.

So they miss their appointments at Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers. And they really shame and stigmatize patients in their spaces. If you live in the St. Louis area, thrives is a really well known one, but there are thousands of them across the country. And they oftentimes get tax dollars to subsidize their digital marketing.

We see this all the time and it takes an enormous amount of money and work on our behalf to be able to knock them down. But this is a problem, right? Because they are [00:10:00] subsidized by many state governments in order to push their misinformation and they’re able to go through the loopholes and spend millions of dollars to be the top search result. 

JENNY: An article just came out today – the day that we’re filming – talking about how additional legislation is now being pushed in a variety of states that actually could hold Meta and or Google culpable for ads served on their platform legally around not only abortion, but certain birth controls or other things that are deemed inappropriate in the legislator’s minds.

So I think we’re facing a pretty rocky road over the next couple of years. 

BONYEN: Yeah, absolutely. And some blurred lines and complicated conversations around freedom of speech.

JENNY: Absolutely. I think one of the things that I love that you’re doing is the Brands Against Bans. Talk a little bit about that.

BONYEN: We’re so proud of this new campaign we’re launching in August called Brands [00:11:00] Against Bans. It is an effort to empower businesses to utilize their brands to support sexual and reproductive healthcare. So we know one of the biggest challenges in what got us here to this moment of Roe being overturned is stigma.

People wanna whisper the word abortion. We know the majority of Americans and voters in this country support keeping Roe and support abortion access. Yet, we don’t hear it enough. We have to remember that the anti-abortion groups are a loud minority of people that has led many to believe that abortion should remain in silence and it shouldn’t.

And so the Brands Against Bans campaign is really our effort to empower businesses, to get loud on their support for sexual reproductive healthcare and rights. [00:12:00] And we are working with businesses to start a list of preferred businesses that we can share out with our supporters. So if you want to know where you can go holiday shopping and support your mission and values – we are working on that list.

So we’re starting that in August and we’re really proud of it. And Jenny, you’re an example of this. So you – being a woman owned business and being really out front on your support for sexual and reproductive healthcare does wonders to shatter stigma.

It’s incredibly important at this time to normalize sexual and reproductive healthcare. One in four women will have an abortion in their lifetime. It is a normal part of reproductive healthcare. We have to stop othering abortion care and we have to start normalizing it.

JENNY: Yeah, I agree. And [00:13:00] I’m so excited to share the link for the campaign in the show notes. 

Last question. I know quite a few people that wanna support Planned Parenthood and the work that you’re doing. If they wanna just give, how can they give and how can they donate in a way that the money will specifically go to helping people that do need access to abortion care?

BONYEN: There’s several ways. So first you can go to and go to the Regional Logistics Center website, where you can give directly to patient navigation work and ensuring that patients have travel, lodging, and other financial aid resources. The other way you can give is to donate to abortion funds.

There are abortion funds in all of these states and abortion funds directly subsidize the abortion care. Because in many places, there are private and public insurance bans. So the vast majority of people who need abortion access have to pay for it out of pocket and abortion funds do an amazing job offsetting those costs for [00:14:00] people. 

JENNY: That’s wonderful. We’ll include some links in the show notes to make it easy for people. So Bonyen, thank you so much for being here and thank you for the important work that you do. 

BONYEN: Thank you for having 

JENNY: Well, thanks for tuning into this episode of We Are, Marketing Happy, we’ll see you on the next one.

Take care. 



About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle and worked at Amazon. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at healthcare marketing industry events.

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