In March 2008, the Feminist Majority Foundation, a radical pro-abortion group, announced at its national conference in Washington, D.C., the hiring of a national Coordinator of the Campaign to Expose Fake Clinics who will launch a new national effort to slander and shut down the work of pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs). You should expect to begin to see some of these negative and slanderous campaigns take shape on college and university campuses this fall and continue on into the near future.
Attacks against PRCs have existed for more than 25 years. The most recent major attacks have come in New York (2002), Oregon (2007), and Maryland (2008). This article discusses what we learned from our successful fight against legislative attempts in Oregon. Learning from history will surely help us prepare for the future.
In the spring of 2007, Planned Parenthood and NARAL teamed up to promote legislation that, if adopted, would have seriously impacted the effectiveness of PRCs in Oregon. The proposed law, SB 776, would mandate the state to undergo a two-year 'study' (i.e., investigation) on the practices of PRCs in the state and then report its findings to the legislature. Based upon such 'findings,' the legislature would adopt legislation deemed appropriate to correct the alleged 'deceptive' practices of PRCs.
SB 776 also mandated that the State Department of Human Services set up a toll-free 800 hotline for people to anonymously call in complaints to allow the state to 'track and investigate complaints about alternative-to-abortion organizations.' Clearly, if this bill passed, the enemies of PRCs from all over the nation would be calling in bogus complaints, and the state would be forced to investigate each grievance. Under this bill, every PRC in Oregon would undoubtedly be investigated. Further, if passed, the bill would surely become a model for the abortion industry to pursue in other states.
Although the proponents of SB 776 claimed that this bill was being pursued in the public interest to protect the public from being misled, its true slanderous spirit was indicated in the preamble of the bill which states, in part:
Whereas alternative-to-abortion organizations, also called crisis pregnancy centers, misinform and mislead women to deter or to delay them from having abortions; and
Whereas in order to confuse their clients and capitalize on their patients' confusion, crisis pregnancy centers design their facilities to look like health care facilities and locate the facilities near clinics that offer family planning and abortion care.
NIFLA (National Institute of Family and Life Advocates) was informed by pro-life organizations in Oregon the passage of SB 776 was a certainty. Two-thirds of the Oregon legislature is comprised of abortion proponents who are supported by Planned Parenthood and NARAL. Further, the current governor is also a committed supporter of abortion and would surely sign the bill into law, if passed. It certainly appeared at that time that we were fighting a losing battle.
NIFLA joined with supportive state senators, Oregon Right to Life, and the other national PRC organizations to resist this legislation. Accordingly, several lengthy conference calls were set up with Oregon PRCs to discuss and map out our strategy to defeat SB 776—the 'Protecting Women's Life Choices Campaign.'
One supportive state senator had an e-mail address that would forward all correspondence to every state senator. Thus, Oregon PRCs (which number 51) were encouraged to have as many of their supporters and volunteers send e-mail opposing SB 776 and indicating why it should be defeated. Hundreds of such e-mails were sent.
NIFLA also set up a web site that provided a brief educational memo to legislators on the positive services that PRCs offer and on the falseness of the allegations contained in the bill. These memos were delivered on a daily basis to each senator. To support these educational efforts, two intense lobby days were set aside for PRCs to come to the Oregon state capital in Salem and meet with legislators. On the first day, PRC directors carried informational packets to their legislators and discussed with them the ramifications of SB 776 if such bill became law. On the second day, a large rally was held on the steps of the Capitol with over 400 in attendance.
The final result of our efforts was that SB 776 was defeated! We give all glory to God for this victory.
The Oregon victory was sweet, but we must remain vigilant. NARAL in Oregon has vowed to bring up this bill again in the 2009 legislative session. What did we learn from 2007 that can help us against such attacks in the future?
Unity is a must for victory. All PRCs in Oregon banned together to fight this legislative effort. Further, all of the conservative pro-family groups in Oregon—Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Oregon Right to Life, and others—lent their support. Finally, all of the national PRC organizations—NIFLA, Care Net, Heartbeat, and Focus on the Family—joined together and participated in not only supporting the PRCs in their struggle, but also in providing resources and personnel to work actively for a defeat of the bill. Without this unity, our efforts would have failed, and SB 776 would now be the law in Oregon.
PRCs must work proactively to educate their legislators on their work and to cultivate a positive relationship with such public officials. This is true even if your legislator is 'pro-choice.' Many of the Oregon legislators who are firmly committed to their 'pro-choice' position told us of how impressed they were with the services of PRCs, once they were educated. Such education undoubtedly contributed to the defeat of SB 776.
PRCs must be active in the legislative process when there is legislation that will restrict their operations, and they must not be timid in supporting pro-life legislation in general. As NIFLA has written many times over the years, PRCs, as 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, may lobby on legislative issues within limits imposed by the IRS. Developing a periodic presence at your legislature to lobby on critical issues of concern will allow your PRC to be known and respected by your state legislators—both pro-life and pro-choice. Such a presence will be advantageous when, and if, you must fight to stop legislation aimed at affecting your operations.
Thomas A. Glessner is President of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. He can be reached at 540-372-3930.