John Jalsevac

Heroic Media: Saving Unborn Babies…One TV Commercial at a Time

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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October 26, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Clarisse Martin learned late last year that she was pregnant - something she had not planned and absolutely did not want. She was determined to have an abortion. 

Shortly after finding out she was expecting she spotted a large billboard with the words, “Pregnant? Scared?” and the picture of a young African American woman and a phone number. Clarisse was pregnant, and she was most definitely scared. She called the number on the billboard, which connected her with a local pregnancy center. At the center, she requested an abortion, but her counselor explained that because they were a Christian organization, they did not provide abortions, but could help in a variety of other ways.

While Clarisse listened to the options available, she left the center still determined to terminate her pregnancy.  However, over the next few days, she thought about the conversation and asked herself how she could say she was a Christian and still consider abortion.

She eventually went back and agreed to an ultrasound. Once she saw her little girl on the screen, Clarisse knew she would allow her daughter to be born. On July 28, beautiful baby Mary Joy took her first breath.

This true story is only one of thousands of such stories that happen across the United States and around the world every year, thanks in large part to the help of pregnancy resource centers such as those run by CareNet and Heartbeat International. But such pregnancy centers would be able to do nothing if women didn’t know they existed, and didn’t go to them when in crisis.

That’s where Heroic Media comes in.


The Beginning of Heroic Media

Heroic Media describes itself as “a faith-based non-profit that reduces abortion by creating a Culture of Life through television, billboard and internet advertising which connects women in crisis with life-affirming pregnancy centers.”

Brian Follett, the retired Texas businessman who founded the pro-life media organization in 2004, explained in a lengthy telephone interview that the name “Heroic Media” was chosen not in reference to the heroism of the organization, but because “the underlying message of all of our media is to promote the heroism of motherhood.”

Up until 2001 Follett owned a food manufacturing business, which he sold to major Canadian food corporation McCain foods. After the sale went through, Follett said he decided to go on retreat, and to spend some time praying in order to discern the next step. “At the time I was on retreat,” he says, “they were building a $6 million Planned Parenthood facility in Austin. So I would go and pray the rosary with folks from the church, and that was in the back of my mind.”

Ultimately Follett came up with about a dozen different projects that he was interested in pursuing, about ten of which were pro-life related. But after he came off retreat he suddenly remembered that pro-life media had been ongoing in the state of Wisconsin for more than ten years, “and just about every year the abortion ratio would go down.”

“So I said, ‘Oh, there’s no media being done in Texas.’” When he spoke to a number of national, state, and local pro-life leaders, they told him that they had been hoping to do media for years, but simply couldn’t raise the money needed to get it off the ground.

And thus began Heroic Media.

In the spring of 2004 Heroic Media ran its first thirteen-week TV campaign in Austin, at a cost of $250,000. In 2005, they did two thirteen-week campaigns, and then started running year-round billboards of the sort that saved the life of Clarisse’s baby.


Prayer and Research-Driven Pro-Life Activism

Heroic Media takes a unique approach to pro-life activism, in that nearly everything it does is research-driven.  Not only are advertisements focus-group tested before they run, to ensure that they have the intended effect upon the target audience they are aimed at, but results are carefully measured in terms of any change in the abortion ratio in the markets where the ads run.

Heroic Media got an encouraging picture of how effective its advertizing campaigns are in 2008, when the state of Texas released its abortion statistics for 2005, the year that the “call for help” ads began to air in Austin.  Strikingly, the abortion ratio had dropped 24% in the extremely liberal Austin market, even as it had climbed elsewhere in the state, such as in Dallas-Forth Worth.  Prior to Heroic Media running their campaigns in the city, Austin had the highest abortion ratio in Texas, says Follett, “and now of all the major media markets, it’s the lowest.”

Follett is adamant that prayer is the ultimate and by far the most important foundation for pro-life work. But he is equally adamant that pro-life activism requires careful forethought and planning using the best tools at our disposal. He also believes that wherever possible results should be measured, which allows groups to fine-tune their methods, and to determine where they should put their resources. The equation for measuring success is quite simple, he says, “the number of abortions divided by live births” in any given market.

“It’s very easy to produce pro-life ads that excite pro-life people,” he says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the ads are changing the hearts and minds of people who are not already pro-life, or that they are bringing women with crisis pregnancies through the doors of pregnancy resource centers.

In reference to the overwhelming success of their Austin campaign, Follett says that some might ask whether or not the success can simply be attributed to prayer. “Of course it’s prayer,” he says. “But,” he continues, “why would God choose to make abortion decline only in Austin? Why not Dallas-Forth Worth? So we think that there’s a big connection in how God uses media.”

The simple truth is that advertizing works, says Follett, who points to other campaigns such as the Smoky the Bear campaign, or the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign, that stand as a testament to how media is able to shape public opinion and behavior. “If we can use media for something that’s kind of important, the environment, why can’t we use media for something as important as life?”

Additionally, he points out, pro-life media appears to have the power to attract attention from business owners, even those who might not otherwise consider giving to the pro-life cause, simply because they know from experience what media has been able to do for their businesses. “What’s so attractive to business leaders across the country, is they understand what makes their businesses successful, so they really get media,” says Follett. 

Nevertheless, while Heroic Media is passionately devoted to applying the most advanced tools and techniques available to its work, Follett continually returns to the theme of faith, which he says is the core principle of Heroic Media’s work, without which it could accomplish nothing. Every morning, says Follett, “we have all of our staff from across the country will all call in to one line, and we start the morning with prayer. And it’s only about 10 minutes and we get everybody together, and it just grounds us in Who is making the change.”

He adds, “And we’re all cognizant of Who it is, and it’s not us. Sometimes we like to think it’s us but that’s just not how it works.” 


The Future of Heroic Media

Currently Heroic Media is running two 13-week TV campaigns per year, in addition to the perennial billboard campaigns. Their life-affirming TV ads run on MTV, Univision, and Black Entertainment Television (BET).

The last station in that list, BET, points to the focus of Heroic Media’s latest project, which is drawing attention to the massive racial imbalance in the abortion rate in the U.S., and the fact that Planned Parenthood specifically targets minority neighborhoods with its abortion facilities.

The campaign, entitled Planned Parenthood Aborts African Americans, or ppAbortsaa, uses billboards, TV commercials and a website to proclaim that “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The website observes that “An African American baby is three times more likely to be aborted from the womb than a white baby,” and highlights the statistic that Planned Parenthood has placed upwards of 70% of its facilities in minority neighborhoods.

Ironically, says Follett, while Heroic Media has had little trouble getting highly liberal stations such as MTV to air many of their previous campaigns, the ads for ppAbortsaa are being rejected on the basis of “racism.”

“I’m beside myself trying to find out how it’s racist,” said Follett.

When asked what the goals are for Heroic Media in the years ahead, Follett responds simply that the organization wants nothing more than to help crisis pregnancy centers all across the U.S. do their job by getting pregnant women in crisis situations to seek them out.

“We work for Carenet and Heartbeat International,” he says. “Our goal is to generate traffic and to help the pro-life movement reduce the abortion ratio throughout the country.”

In order to do that Heroic Media has a strategic plan to have five regional presidents around the United States, and to find 1 million pro-life people who are willing to help get pro-life media on the airwaves. Already Heroic Media has 25 staff members scattered throughout the country, and has made tremendous strides in expanding into new markets, including Jacksonville, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. The organization is also doing work in Latin America, and runs a website for teens, TeenBreaks.com, which uses keyword advertizing on the internet to outbid pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood.

Thanks to its highly effective approach, the organization has won endorsements from high-powered figures including, most prominently, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who recently spoke at a gala hosted by Heroic Media. Others include talk show host Laura Ingraham, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, and Col. Oliver North.

But for Heroic Media it isn’t the endorsements of the rich and the famous that matter, but rather women like Clarisse Martin, who have been inspired to take the “heroic” path and to spare the lives of their unborn babies, and who have found a world of happiness in the process.

To find out more about Heroic media, click here.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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