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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Julie Ralph

My 7-year-old son found porn on his iPod, even with a filter

Julie Ralph
By Julie Ralph

A few weeks ago an article went viral on my Facebook feed entitled “The Day My 10-Year-Old Discovered Hardcore Porn on his iPhone.”  As one Mom after another shared and commented about how frightening and horrible it was and wondered what do we do to prevent it, I commented on several of those shares (perhaps a little smugly and proudly) that WE had installed an excellent filtering program on all of our devices that even filters YouTube.  I most likely left the impression that WE have no worries in this house, that our kids can watch their iPods and kindles, even those annoying Minecraft how to videos on YouTube, and WE don’t have to worry about them seeing filth. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I could have entitled this blog post “The Day My 7-Year-Old Discovered Porn on His iPod” but it might look like I’m trying to one-up that other Mom.  Which I’m not.  Because, trust me, this is one Mom competition I’d rather lose. 

This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.

So YES we have this supposedly great and awesome filter on all of our devices and we pay about $70 a year for it.   Look, I’ve been on my computer trying to shop for a swimsuit at Lands End and the filter blocked me.  Annoying, yes.  But assuring.  I remember thinking wow….if I can’t even get on here and see the tummy-sucking-miracle-fat-hiding-mawmaw-swimsuits, my boys will NEVER be able to discover Victoria or her Secret.   And I’ve been on YouTube trying to see how to quickly defrost CHICKEN breasts, and it blocked several videos AND ads that probably had nothing to do with fowl or a thawing method.  Again I remember thinking, good.  This is really good.  Nothing to worry about.

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if he was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

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My stomach turned.  I ran through all the “How To” files I’d stored away in my mind.  You know those files….situations you’ve thought about as a Mom and how you’d handle…you file them away for another day.  Usually one you hope will never come.   Turns out I didn’t have a file for this.  Because I honestly thought we had done everything on the front end to keep it from happening. 

I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled him close and started talking to him from my broken heart.  I asked him if he knew what that word meant before he searched for it.  He said no.  I told him it is a very crude and ugly word for something that is not crude and ugly.  I told him what the proper word is and I asked him if he knew why God made them like that on women?  He said no.  I told him it was the miraculous and wonderful way that God made women able to feed their babies.  I told him how every woman who has those is made to feed a baby, and those women in those pictures and videos are either already someone’s Mommy or they will be one day.  And what God meant for a beautiful purpose is twisted and made into something very wrong and ugly by those pictures and videos.

Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.

We continued to talk and then we prayed together and I left him to sleep as I walked back to my room for a sleepless night.  I cried for the ugly, messed up, twisted, and sick world out there that I can’t protect my children from.  I cried for what he had seen that I couldn’t un-see for him.  I cried because I had abdicated MY parenting duties to some stupid computer software that I thought would protect my children.  I cried because I can never get back that bit of innocence he lost way, way too early.  I cried as I went onto YouTube, put in that same search and saw just the thumbnails of what he had to have seen.  I just can’t bring myself to actually click on the videos.  I cried because, when I went in to check on him later, he was curled up with Big Bear in one arm and his little blue and white checked blanket in the other.  He’s still a baby. 

I’m mad now.  And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence.   I need my guard to be up and to stay up.  This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.  I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.  I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life.   Don’t do as I did, friends.  Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.  Do as I am doing now.  Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first.   Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed.  But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.

Julie Ralph blogs at Mommy, Esquire, where this piece was originally published.

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Sen. Ted Cruz's wife douses him with water as part of the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS research. Youtube
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Sen. Ted Cruz: Do the ALS challenge, donate to pro-life institute

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By Dustin Siggins

One of the nation's most prominent senators is doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge -- but encouraging donations to a pro-life ALS research institute.

In the last month, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, sponsored by the ALS Association, has raised tens of millions of dollars for research for the disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. However, in mid-August pro-life leaders raised awareness that the Association supports embryonic stem-cell research.

Embryonic stem-cell research includes the destruction of a human embryo, and is thus condemned by pro-life advocates as an abortion. The Association has said it currently has one project that uses embryonic stem cells, funded by an outside donor.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Cruz -- who took the challenge last week -- said that he and his wife "are proud to personally support the John Paul II Medical Research Institute the Home of Give Cures (http://jp2mri.org), which conducts groundbreaking research into curing this terrible disease, without using embryonic stem cells."

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"The JPII Institute respects human life, and is working to improve the lives of all of us," said Cruz. 

The ALS Association has said donors may specify their dollars not be used to fund embryonic stem-cell research. However, critics note that donated funds are fungible, meaning they potentially free up funds the Association can then direct to illicit research.

At least two Catholic dioceses have encouraged Ice Bucket Challenge participants to donate to the JPII Medical Institute.

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7989 West Virginia Drive, Dallas, where Planned Parenthood is working on secretly opening up a new abortion facility. Google Streetview
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Pro-abortion study: Texas will be down to eight abortion clinics by fall

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By Dustin Siggins

A study by a pro-abortion research group shows that Texas will be down from 41 abortion clinics in July 2013 to eight by this fall.

In July, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that six abortion clinics matched the standards required in HB2, which was signed into law 13 months ago. Those standards include requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of clinics at which they work, a standard already in place, and a requirement that all abortion clinics must upgrade their facilities to the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers.

The study estimates that a total of eight clinics will be able to meet the ambulatory standards, including one that will open in the fall. The standards take effect on September 1. According to the study, this means there will be one abortion clinic for every one million Texans who could become pregnant. An infographic from the study shows that the existing clinics will be located on the eastern half of the state, largely near metropolitan areas.

The study's results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception, have abortion supporters outraged. Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check writes, "No legal abortion facilities will operate south or west of San Antonio," and that five of the clinics will be operated by Planned Parenthood.

However, the closure of so many clinics is good news to pro-life activists like Karen Garnett, who heads the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in the Diocese of Dallas.

"The closing of abortion facilities in Texas the last few years has been the result of the owners of the facilities themselves not being willing or able to comply with the higher standards of medical safety" required by the Texas legislature, Garnett told LifeSiteNews. "Pro-life activists and leaders in Dallas (and Texas) have been working vigilantly with the members of the Texas legislature the last few years to pass these sensible laws.  There is much to be said for the power of prayer, particularly through the powerful 40 Days for Life campaign and prayer vigils."

While abortion supporters claim Texas is abandoning pregnant women, Garnett said the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas has "helped more than 7,500 mothers choose life outside the abortion facilities," but "we don't stop there."

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"Our Project Gabriel Ministry takes the next step. For those mothers needing and desiring spiritual, emotional and material help, we offer Gabriel Angels, who are paired with them in a one-on-one mentoring and support relationship. We also have a Gabriel Resource Coordinator on staff to help them with practical needs as their situations stabilize." Life skills classes, adoption counseling, and partnerships with pregnancy centers are also part of the Diocese's work to help pregnant mothers.

Jor-El Godsey of Heartbeat International said that there are 326 pregnancy help organizations across the state, which outnumber abortion clinics by approximately 40 to 1. He estimated that approximately 120,000 pregnant women have come to care centers in 2014.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which is funded by an anonymous donor, is a five-year effort to "analyze the impact of the measures affecting reproductive health passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures." The project's partners include the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center, the pro-abortion Ibis Reproductive Health, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. One of the project's investigators is Daniel Grossman, whose biography says that "his current research at Ibis includes both clinical and social science studies aimed at improving access to contraception and safe abortion."

The project has also published reports titled "The Public Health Threat of Anti-Abortion Legislation," and "Finding the Twitter Users that Stood With Wendy." The latter examined social media support for gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who briefly became a national figure for her support of late-term abortions in 2013.

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