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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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