This year the nation remembers President Ronald Reagan on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1911. The Reagan presidency was indeed a unique time in American history when the spirit and confidence of the nation was revived. Reagan's sunny optimism and belief that America's best days were ahead along with his steadfast leadership based upon unshakable core values pulled our nation out of the dark spiritual malaise that had engulfed it during the 1970s.
For the pro-life movement, President Reagan's leadership was inspiring. His presidency started eight years after the Supreme Court's decision of Roe v. Wade. At that time, the nation had begun to grasp the grisly implications of Roe, which resulted in the annual destruction of 1.5 million unborn children a year from abortion on demand. (More than 53 million abortions have occurred since 1973.)
Mr. Reagan, first as a presidential candidate and then as president, was unwavering in his pro-life convictions and advocacy for the right to life. His administration led the way with policies that banned the funding of tax dollars to organizations that promote abortion as a method of family planning, and his appointments to federal agencies and the federal courts were of highly qualified people who shared his foundational pro-life beliefs.
Few people are aware, however, of Ronald Reagan's admiration for the work of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers. These centers began to flourish across the nation in the 1980s as a response to the proliferation of abortion clinics and the rise of a multi-million dollar tax-supported abortion industry. Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs as they were called then, began to spring up in every community of the nation offering alternatives to abortion to women in problem pregnancies.
The services included free pregnancy testing, material assistance, referrals for medical care and legal help, and temporary housing assistance. Today this movement has flourished and there now are more than 3,000 such centers nationwide (now referred to as pregnancy resource centers). Hundreds of them operate as medical clinics providing pregnancy confirmation through ultrasound, STI testing and treatment and even prenatal care.
I became aware of President Reagan's support for the work of CPCs in 1983. Earlier that year Laura, my wife, had written the president to thank him for his pro-life commitment and to tell him of our work in opening the first CPC in the Northwest in Seattle. Neither of us expected a response. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when an unsolicited letter from the President addressed to my wife came in November. The letter reads in part:
I was pleased to learn recently of the valuable and important work performed by the Crisis Pregnancy Center. The time and energy you devote to providing special services for women facing a problem pregnancy are a vital community resource.
The need for services provided by organizations like yours is great, and there are few challenges to the well-being of our society which call for more sensitivity and selflessness. By helping to meet this challenge, you have demonstrated to thousands of individual women that there is indeed a place to turn for strength and assistance. More importantly, you have served as a beacon of light to the community at large, demonstrating that positive solutions to difficult problems are available if we work together.
You can be sure that you have my wholehearted support and my prayers for the heightened public awareness your activities so richly deserve. God bless you.
Two years later in 1985, the President sent another letter to address the attendees at the annual fund raising banquet for the Crisis Pregnancy Center of King County in Seattle. In this letter he states:
The CPC of King County, along with other centers like it across the country, shows Americans that the civilized, morally defensible response to problem pregnancies is not the cynical surrender of abortion, but the life-affirming alliance of all sectors of the community to overcome our problems. You have my admiration, my prayers, and my full support for your beautiful work. God bless you.
In 1987, I left Seattle to come to the Washington, DC, area and work full time as an attorney for the pro-life cause. While I was honored to be in two meetings with President Reagan unfortunately, due to the size of the group in both meetings, I did not have the chance to personally shake his hand and tell him how much his support meant to us. I do have, however, both of these letters framed and hanging in my office as priceless reminders of a president who truly cared for the weak and vulnerable of this great nation.
Today, as in 1980, our nation faces perilous times and is confronted by issues of which the ultimate outcome will determine the destiny of this republic. The issue of the protection of innocent human life continues to confront the conscience of the nation. That is why Ronald Reagan knew that the work of pro-life CPCs embody the highest of American principles and ideals.
In 2012, we will once again go to the polls and select a President to lead us in perilous times. Will this person truly believe, as Ronald Reagan did, in the foundational principle of America that all human beings, born and unborn, are made in the image of God and as such are endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, let us as a nation recommit ourselves to the ideals that he believed in regarding the sanctity of human life. And let every community support with great pride, as he did, the work of its local pro-life pregnancy counseling centers as such agencies work day in and day out to build a culture of life in their communities and in the nation.
Thomas A. Glessner is President of NIFLA (www.nifla.org) and can be contacted at 540-372-3930 or NIFLA@aol.com.