The last few years have brought forth intense legislative attacks against Pregnancy Resource Centers and Medical Clinics (PRCs/PRMCs). NIFLA has been deeply involved in these battles and has reported on them in detail in past issues of Legal Tips.
Legislation to curtail the operations of PRCs/PRMCs has been aggressively promoted by Planned Parenthood and NARAL in the states of Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Virginia, Michigan, and Maryland. Victory has been sweet for PRCs as all these state initiatives have been successfully defeated.
Anti-PRC municipal ordinances, however, were adopted in New York City, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Austin, Texas; and Montgomery County (Maryland). Such ordinances have been challenged in Federal court, and court injunctions have been issued against the ordinances in Baltimore, Montgomery County and New York City. Legal action is pending right now against the Austin ordinance.
PRCS MUST PREPARE A FALL CAMPAIGN TO COUNTER THE UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE PLANS OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND NARAL
Despite these setbacks, Planned Parenthood and NARAL have clearly indicated that they are not giving up and will continue to lobby for legislation and ordinances that will effectively close down the work of pro-life PRCs. Currently the City Council in San Francisco is seriously considering passing an anti-PRC ordinance. In the state of Washington, NARAL is sponsoring a door-to-door campaign where flyers slandering PRCs are distributed and people are asked to help NARAL to pass the legislation that was defeated the last two years.
Every PRC and PRMC should prepare and implement this fall a public relations plan to combat the possibility of negative legislation and/or municipal ordinances being introduced against them in the coming 2012 state legislative sessions. As part of this effort, NIFLA recommends that you undertake the following:
1. Schedule a meeting with your state legislators and municipal council members to introduce them to your work. The fall months are when legislators like to meet with their constituents and hear concerns.
It is especially crucial to have this meeting if your legislators proclaim to be "pro-choice." In the states of Oregon and Washington, the legislation was defeated because critical "pro-choice" legislators saw the value in the work of pro-life PRCs and opposed the legislation. (Planned Parenthood and NARAL are right now lobbying these legislators and even threatening them with defeat at the polls if they do not support the anti-PRC initiatives. They must hear from you to counter the negative statements being made against you.)
Before the meeting, prepare a packet for the legislators that provides information about your ministry and the good work that you provide for your community. Include in this packet a brief history of your PRC/PRMC, endorsements from community leaders, testimonies from women who have been helped, and a description of all of the services provided. Emphasize that all services are free and that you are saving the state a lot of money by your work.
2. Organize a community "Open House" where key community leaders, including state legislators and city/county council members, are invited to see your facility, talk to you, and even meet some clients/patients who have been helped by your services. This is also a wonderful way to reach out to the religious community in your area and invite clergy and religious leaders to learn about your work.
3. Organize periodic letters to the editor of your local newspaper that inform the public of your work. Letters of this sort should be regularly sent and should be from clients, patients, volunteers, and community leaders who endorse your work.
Get to know the editor of your local paper and key local reporters and educate them of your work. These people should be given the same packet of information as you give to state legislators and city/county council members. Be prepared to call on these news sources often to volunteer comments on recent stories concerning the abortion issue.
It is important to emphasize that the fall months of September through December are crucial in getting the word out to your legislators about your good work. State legislatures begin to meet in January of each year to consider legislation. Your work to build relationships with your state legislators and inform them of your work will pay off next January, and in the future, if PP and NARAL introduce legislation to harm you.
If legislation of this nature is not introduced, you have still performed very important public relations work and have hopefully made new friends in the public arena for your ministry.
Thomas A. Glessner is President of NIFLA (www.nifla.org) and can be contacted at 540-372-3930 or NIFLA@aol.com.