Chuck Donovan, President of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, reminded guests gathered at a special luncheon in Manhattan that last week marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the first pro-life pregnancy center in North America—Birthright in Toronto, Ontario. The event, titled “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are Offering Pregnant Women Solutions to Choose Life and Abortions Are On the Decline: Why Cuomo and Stormy Daniels Want to Stop & Reverse This Trend,” and sponsored by the Human Life Foundation, marked the launch of a campaign to raise awareness about the life-saving, life-affirming, and charitable work of pregnancy centers, which are now the target of a national, media-fueled movement of lies and harassment, whose leaders include hostile pro-abortion politicians like New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo.
But why Stormy Daniels? Because Lady Parts Justice League, the group behind the pro-abortion “Expose Fake Clinics” movement (profiled in my article “Fake Clinics or Fake Feminists?” , held a “comedy” event in New York City on Oct. 20 featuring Daniels as a headliner. The so-called Golden Probes Awards are described by creators as an “extravaganza of comedy and music, created to raise awareness about the politicians running for office this fall who pose the biggest threat to reproductive rights!” Founder of Lady Parts Justice Lizz Winstead said that “Stormy Daniels encompasses what the Golden Probes is all about . . . a woman who lives her life on her own terms and who will fight (expletive) great and small who try and get in her way.”
As I welcomed guests to Tuttle’s on Second Avenue—an Irish bar and restaurant with delicious Shepherd’s pie and warm, welcoming service—I highlighted the radical pro-abortion actions of Governor Cuomo, who last August launched his own “public awareness campaign”—titled “Pregnancy: Know Your Options”—which is right out of the Fake Clinics playbook. This state-funded publicity campaign embodies Cuomo’s hostility towards pro-life values. Pregnancy centers provide compassionate and free counseling services to pregnant women who feel uncertain about their future and are seeking other options to abortion. However, instead of praising pregnancy centers for helping women, Cuomo’s vindictive campaign—which will be posted on city subways and likely include inflammatory language—could potentially encourage radical leftists to harass center employees. If this is Cuomo’s plan before Election Day, then we can only imagine what he has in store after November 6th. Such as his radical abortion expansion law—the Reproductive Health Act—which tragically may soon be a reality if pro-life leaning members don’t keep their majority in the State Senate.
Reports of the venomous attacks of pro-abortion activists aside, as soon as Chuck Donovan began to speak, it was clear the message of the day would be overwhelmingly positive. Donovan was there to present the Lozier Institute’s new report on pregnancy centers: “1968-2108, A Half Century of Hope, A legacy of Life & Love” (which you can find here). Donovan said an important message of this new report is that “there is a way of constantly moving forward. If the culture is telling us bad things about values, pregnancy centers are telling us that we can go in a different direction.” This is the third edition of this kind of document—the first two were the initiative of the Family Research Council (“A Passion to Serve,” 2009, 2011). The idea was that the pro-life movement would benefit from a national report on pregnancy centers—like Planned Parenthood’s glossy annual reports for supporters—that documented their amazing outreach and lifesaving activities. “A Half Century of Hope” is the most comprehensive report to date—meticulously researched and beautifully presented, based on interviews with 2,600 of the 2,752 pregnancy centers (including mobile units) nationwide. “The data is exciting,” Donovan said. And it is: In 2017 over 900,000 individual women received free or low-cost aid; 400,000 free ultrasounds were performed by licensed sonographers, and over 67,500 people volunteered, 7,500 were licensed medical providers. The centers, supported privately, saved the American people at least $161 million dollars.
“But these numbers don’t begin to describe what the centers do.” Donovan said. They change lives—and for multiple generations. When you save a baby, you save a future family. This is the theme of the stirring testimonies included in the report, stories and photos of babies saved who go on to have spouses and children of their own. “When a baby is saved,” Donovan said, “you are saving a legacy.” The “best data” in the report? What women think of the services they received . . . and this is why “we will not lose.” Client satisfaction at pregnancy centers—and this includes pro-choice women who have been served by them—is on par with “happiness with iPhones”! In other words, in the 98 percent range. So, as Donavan told several guests who were pregnancy-center professionals or volunteers, the attacks will continue, but “You should have no fear . . . when you change real lives—900,000 a year—for the better, the world knows, the culture is transformed.” Work on, he exhorted them, “you’ve got the stories, you’ve got the support.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez, of NRO and the National Review Institute, spoke next. She began by holding up Boston’s Eleanor McCullen, the plaintiff in a 2014 Supreme Court case about abortion clinic buffer zones (McCullen v. Coakley, a free-speech victory for the pro-life movement), as an example of the promise of pro-life witness to individual women. Eleanor, she reported, stands outside an abortion clinic every week with a sign that says “Hope, Help, and Love.” A grandmother, McCullen began doing this when she retired and has been at it for many years. Through her peaceful and compassionate outreach, Lopez said, Eleanor and her husband have become part of the lives of so many women . . . women who “spoke to her one morning” and found that she was the one person who would accompany them on their difficult journey, the one person who welcomed her to the hope and help offered by pregnancy centers. If only people knew what pregnancy centers really do, said Lopez, it “would change everything.” Lopez also recalled a disturbing experience several weeks ago during a Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in lower Manhattan held before a peaceful protest outside the premier Planned Parenthood NYC clinic, the Margaret Sanger Center. Numerous furious, screaming pro-abortion protestors were shouting outside the church. While on the Communion line behind a Sister of Life, she heard “Pro-life is a lie, they don’t care if women die!” and realized, she said, the spiritual warfare taking place today is the reason there is so much division and lack of communication. If those protestors really knew what the Sisters of Life do every day for women—with love and compassion—“if only we could communicate,” with them, said Lopez, we would find so much common ground.
Noting that it was the feast day of St. John Paul the Great, Lopez concluded by reading passages from his encyclical Evangelium Vitae that concerned changing the culture, finishing up with his moving words addressed to women who have had abortions:
“The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope . . . To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and because of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.”
Towards the close of our inspiring time together, I asked Chuck Donovan how he thought we should respond to the campaign of attacks on pregnancy centers. He acknowledged that those on the other side are “losing their heads”—citing the hostility at the Kavanaugh hearings, the harassment of politicians in restaurants, etc. But he reminded us all that truth is on our side. Pro-life pregnancy centers are doing unbelievable work and the stories of the lives being saved as a result must be shared with the American public. And that is exactly what we intend to do. The Human Life Foundation, which has long supported pregnancy centers, will continue its efforts, and through the Human Life Review, will educate readers and spread awareness of the lifesaving work these centers do.