Patrick Craine

How to get the pro-life message into the media: pro-life leaders strategize at Law of Life Summit

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 28, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The day before the March for Life in Washington, D.C., several hundred pro-life leaders and activists gathered to reflect on the importance of media in communicating the pro-life message.

Ave Maria Law School’s third annual Law of Life Summit, which was held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill Jan. 24th, opened with an hour of brief talks by nearly 20 national pro-life leaders, followed by a panel discussion on promoting life in the media.

Fr. Frank Pavone, who led the opening prayer, said the event is “one of the most important gatherings” during the week of the March for Life “because our movement must not simply pray and march and gather, mourn and grieve and celebrate, we have to strategize.”

“The movement relies on strategic thinkers … who understand that it’s going to take risk and sacrifice,” he said.

The four panelists were Anne Carmichael of the Vitae Foundation, Tom Ciesielka of TC Public Relations, Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation and John-­Henry Westen, editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com.

Westen spoke about the power of dedicated pro-life news media, highlighting a case in 2006 when LifeSiteNews was able to force a correction from the New York Times.

The so-called “newspaper of record” had reported that a woman in the pro-life country of El Salvador had been sentenced to thirty years after an abortion. But after a tip from local pro-life leaders, LifeSiteNews revealed that the woman, in fact, had strangled the child after birth, and the Times had spun the story as an attack on the pro-life movement.

“We have these really neat successes, and LifeSiteNews is really there for you,” he said.

Ryan Bomberger, who has created numerous viral pro-life Youtube videos, said the pro-life movement needs to pay a lot more attention to its design and messaging.

“Our design has to be intentional. Our messaging has to be intentional. It also has to be revelational, and there’s a beauty in brevity,” he said.

“God has given us all different talents. Do what you do best. I think the problem is, so many people try to be a one-size-fits-all and you can’t do it all,” he continued. “Tragically what ends up happening is we create some really poor content that does not connect with our intended audience.”

“Sometimes individuals or organizations need to step back and say, is this our strong point?” he added. “And if it’s not, seek out somebody who does have that strong point.”

Ciesielka, whose work is focused on helping pro-life groups communicate to media, emphasized that pro-lifers need to find creative ways to get their message out that will force the media to listen.

He mentioned an example where Planned Parenthood was holding a massive conference, but a local pro-life group was able to steal the show by, instead of protesting, holding a large baby shower on the streets for women in difficult pregnancies.

While there is a real pro-abortion bias in the media, he said, “If that’s where you’re starting at, get over it.”

In the brief talks during the opening hour, pro-life leaders gave brief promos for their organization’s work but also offered incisive comments about various facets of the cause for life.

Jeanne Monahan, the new president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, taking over from the late Nellie Gray, said the March for Life had gotten more media attention this year than ever before, noting she had interviews lined up with the New York Times and the Washington Times, among others.

“We have to continue to engage the media as much as possible,” she said. “We don’t have to manipulate our story at all. We don’t even really have to do convincing. All we really have to do is present things as they truly are, because abortion is a profoundly unreasonable stance, to be pro-abortion.”

“We have to remind the media that Roe was a decision of judicial activism,” she added. “It was outside of the parameters of the court, and even Justice Ginsburg has conceded that.”

Rebecca Kiessling, founder of Save the One and a national spokeswoman for Personhood USA, shared her story of having been conceived in rape and focused on calling out pro-lifers who, though they reject abortion in cases of rape, are willing to support rape exceptions in legislation as a compromise.

“To those who think that sometimes you just need to compromise: we are not cannon fodder,” she said. “You do not get to put us out on the front lines and take a giant step back, and you do not discriminate.”

Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, warned attendees about the reality of sex-selective abortion, showing a three-minute trailer for her group’s documentary It’s a Girl.

“According to one estimate, up to 200 million women are missing in the world today because of sex-selective abortion,” she said. “This is the real war against women.”

Jere D. Palazzolo, founder of Catholic Healthcare International, spoke about his organization’s efforts to build a replica of St. Padre Pio’s Casa hospital and healthcare method in Eastern Kentucky, along with a Catholic medical school and 24/7 Eucharistic adoration.

The Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. is so large that it could “dominate” the industry, but it “has become secularized,” he observed. He said we’ve reached the point where “whole systems are forfeiting their Catholic identity legally, legally, becoming non-Catholic so that they can forge joint ventures with non-Catholic groups so that they can do things that are financially viable for them.”

“That needs to stop. That’s our cause,” he explained. “We are here to begin a remnant of bringing Catholic health care back to life in the support of true life issues.”

Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, called on pro-lifers to use the word ‘abortion’ when they speak to media. She said Planned Parenthood recently signaled they were dropping the use of “pro-choice” in their rhetoric because “it’s too associated with the word abortion.”

“They know every time they use the word abortion, they lose,” she explained. “Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry don’t want you to know they are about abortions. So what’s our solution? What do we do in the media? We need to talk about abortion. I am proud of being anti-abortion. I am a proud abortion abolitionist.”

“Don’t be afraid to use the word abortion,” she added. “Until we end abortion, and we abolish all abortions in our nation, I’m not going to shut up.”

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Fr. Michael Orsi, Ave Maria Law School’s chaplain, said the event is a testament to the school’s pro-life commitment.

“This is not one of those events where some student organization is having an event,” he told LifeSiteNews. “This happens at some of our other Catholic institutions, where they have a pro-life club, say at Georgetown, or they have a pro-life club at Notre Dame. Those organizations are funded just like any other organization in the school. They’re on the same level.”

“We as a law school fund this [conference] directly,” he said. “This is what our school is all about, and that’s why we’re not going to lose our Catholic pro-life identity. Other schools have compromised themselves.”


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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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