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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Federal court says NY allowed to ban ‘Choose Life’ plates as ‘patently offensive’

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By Ben Johnson

ALBANY, NY, May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The pro-life message can be classified as “patently offensive,” a federal appeals court ruled last week. The new opinion came as a three-judge panel ruled that New York state was right to reject a “Choose Life” license plate on the grounds that it may grate on New Yorkers' political sensibilities.

The judges split on whether New York could deny a pro-adoption group the right to have its own license plate, although the state has in the past allowed plates endorsing political causes associated with the liberal viewpoint, such as environmentalism.

Judge Rosemary Pooler, who was appointed by President Clinton, wrote that the state's denial did not harm anyone's right to freedom of expression, because drivers “may display a ‘Choose Life’ bumper sticker — or even cover every available square inch of their vehicle with such stickers. That message will resonate just as loudly as if vehicle displayed a ‘Choose Life’ license plate.”

Judge Debra Ann Livingston, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote in her dissent that “a proposed custom plate depicting a sun and two smiling children, and bearing the words, ‘Choose Life’ [thought] to be ‘patently offensive’” was “surprising.”

“Pro-adoption organizations should have the same speech rights as any other organization. While the district court affirmed this basic freedom, the circuit court denied free speech in favor of government censorship,” said Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at ADF. “The state doesn’t have the authority to target The Children First Foundation specialty plates for censorship based on its life-affirming viewpoint.”

The ruling is the lastest round in a legal battle that has raged for more than a decade and, pro-lifers say, seen state officials repeatedly suppress their First Amendment rights.

The Children First Foundation applied for the specialty license plate in 2002, but state officials say the message and design was “too controversial.” In 2004, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on CFF's behalf.

New York's Department of Motor Vehicles repeatedly denied the “Choose Life” license plates on the grounds that the message was “patently offensive.”

The same appeals court rejected an effort to suppress the plates made by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and agreed that Albany officials denied the plates based on viewpoint discrimination.

In 2006, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals noted that CFF “specifically alleges that defendants denied the picture-plate application ‘based on their disagreement with [the] life-affirming viewpoint expressed on the plate.’”

“On a motion to dismiss, we must accept this allegation, and all reasonable inferences drawn from it, as true,” the judges ruled.

Spitzer, a Democrat who strongly supported abortion-on-demand and gay “marriage,” served as governor beginning in 2007 but resigned his office in the midst of a prostitution scandal only 15 months later.

In November 2011, a federal court ruled that “New York has run afoul of the First Amendment by giving the Commissioner unbridled discretion to engage in viewpoint discrimination.”

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Yet the case has dragged on through the appeals process.

“The state has wrongly gotten away with speech discrimination against our client for more than 10 years,” Tedesco said after last week's ruling.

He said ADF is considering its next legal move.

As of this writing, “Choose Life” license plates are available in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

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Michael Coren stands outside St. James Anglican Cathedral as he prepares to be received into the Anglican Communion on April 19, 2015. Anglican Diocese of Toronto / Facebook
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‘Official’ Catholic newspaper defends running pro-abortion piece by Michael Coren

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By Pete Baklinski
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MUENSTER, Saskatchewan, May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- The Prairie Messenger, described as the "official Catholic newspaper for western Canada," is defending the publication of a piece last week in which ex-Catholic author Michael Coren openly advocates for abortion in the case of rape while saying the notion of “criminalizing abortion” is “repugnant.”

In his piece titled "Seamless garment," Coren — who recently left the Catholic Church to join the Anglican Communion over Catholic teaching on homosexuality — writes that the 10-year-old Paraguayan girl who seized international headlines after becoming pregnant by rape should be legally allowed to abort her baby.

“A terrified little girl victimized by those around her and forced by a government to give birth to the child of her rapist? That is not justice, that is not life, that is not right. God must be weeping,” he writes.

Criminalizing abortion, Coren writes, would “give state legitimization and authority to a minority view and what is to a very large extent a particular religious teaching.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes a different position, however. In paragraph 2273, it states that “as a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." Catholic teaching holds that every human life is sacred since it comes from God. There is no exception for rape. 

For many years, Coren was one of the most prominently pro-life broadcasters in Canada. Calling himself a “journalist for life,” he wrote a column for The Interim, Canada’s life and family newspaper, and was a frequent paid speaker at pro-life events. The Prairie Messenger column appears to be the first time that he has publicly renounced his pro-life position.

Prairie Messenger: “We live in a diverse society where the challenges of daily living cause people to be confronted with difficult circumstances in a world where nothing is black and white."

Rebecca Kiessling, founder of Save The 1, told LifeSiteNews that she was disgusted to see an article in a Catholic newspaper that supports abortion. Kiessling, who was conceived by rape, is a public advocate for those targeted for abortion because they were conceived in rape.

“We are also told in Deuteronomy not to punish a child for the sins of the father and we are not to shed innocent blood. Doing so goes against every concept of justice. I did not deserve the death penalty for the crimes of my biological father. There is a misplaced compassion when anyone wants to kill the innocent child. Punish rapists, not babies,” she said.

Monica Kelsey, who was also conceived in rape, told LifeSiteNews that she was “deeply saddened to hear about Christians standing for the killing of an innocent child.”

“We all agree that this is a situation that deeply saddens us all, but killing this young woman’s child is not going to unrape her. It will further victimize her and, in the process, kill an innocent child.”

“As a child conceived through a brutal attack and rape where my birth mother almost died, I am deeply saddened that Mr. Coren is making an exception for this precious child's life, simply because his father is a rapist. God can get this 10-year-old child through this tough time, but why compound the issue with an abortion? This girl needs us to walk beside her, loving her and helping her make an adoption or parenting plan,” she said.

"This is a life, this is justice for this child. Saving this pre-born child's life is the right thing to do,” she added.

Dolores Castellanos, the doctor who is monitoring the 10-year-old girl in Paraguay, has confirmed that the pregnancy is developing without affecting the health of the infant or the little girl. Nevertheless, the international abortion lobby has latched onto the case as an opportunity to force the small South American country to change its pro-life constitution which currently protects life from the moment of conception.

Prairie Messenger is a weekly Catholic newspaper published by the Benedictine monastic community at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan. The Diocese of Saskatoon, the Archdiocese of Saint Boniface, and the Archdiocese of Regina are among those that promote the newspaper.

When LifeSiteNews asked Prairie Messenger News Editor Rev. Peter Novecosky, OSB, why it ran a piece from an ex-Catholic who advocates for positions at extreme odds with clear Catholic teaching, spokesperson Maureen Weber responded: “Because we have much to gain by listening to the voices of others.”

“To carry only Catholic columnists who repeat the catechism would mean never hearing and acknowledging the voices of those who are living the hard realities of life on the peripheries, as Pope Francis puts it. Other columnists present other viewpoints that reflect these difficult life issues. Our readers can address these issues when they are presented and, as thinking adults, they need to do more than repeat rote answers.”

Weber said that the editors of Prairie Messenger “refuse to see abortion as a single issue, but rather, as a seamless garment of protection for all of life, both the unborn and the born, support for women, for work toward alleviating the poverty that leads so many women to make desperate decisions, restorative justice rather than harsh sentences with no possibility of rehabilitation, defence policies, health care, policies on the disabled, the aged, euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

“We live in a diverse society where the challenges of daily living cause people to be confronted with difficult circumstances in a world where nothing is black and white,” she said.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized in 2013 those who champion the Church’s moral vision as a “seamless garment” while ignoring actual occasions of real injustice.

“The ‘seamless garment’ image was used to great effect to root the Church’s response to various moral issues — from nuclear proliferation to poverty — within the overarching teaching on the sanctity of human life, from natural conception to natural death,” he said.

“Unfortunately, however, it is also true that the image of the ‘seamless garment’ has been used by some theologians and Catholic politicians, in an intellectually dishonest manner, to allow or at least to justify turning a blind eye to instances of abortion, contraception, or public funding for embryonic stem cell research, as long as these were simultaneously accompanied by opposition to the death penalty or promotion of economic development for the poor - issues which are also part of the fabric of Catholic moral teaching,” he said.

The Prairie Messenger, which acts as the newspaper for a number of dioceses in Western Canada, has faced criticism in the past for opposing Catholic teaching.

In a July 2004 Catholic Insight article titled “A flawed stewardship,” Joe Campbell of Saskatoon, SK, called the Prairie Messenger’s editorial stance “disappointing” for taking what he called a “cafeteria approach to teachings on faith and morals, accepting some while rejecting others.”

Campbell criticized then-editor Rev. Andrew Britz, OSB, for failing to support Church teachings on issues such as the male priesthood, contraception, fornication, and homosexuality.

“Not only has Fr. Britz failed to support certain teachings, but he has repeatedly challenged them. He has managed this in three ways: through his editorials; through regular columnists he has retained; and through unbalanced coverage of certain events and issues,” he wrote at that time.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that a Catholic publication should publish what the Catholic Church teaches.

“Why they would allow this to be published is certainly beyond me. I think it behooves a Catholic publication to stand-up for what the Church actually teaches. Without some counter argument in defense of Church teaching right along side this piece, I think it's wrong to run something like that,” he said.

Contact info for respectful communcations:

Diocese of Saskatoon (home of Prairie Messenger) 
Bishop Donald Bolen
Ph: 306-659-5824 ext. 824
Email: [email protected]

Prairie Messenger 
Rev. Peter Novecosky, OSB
Ph: 306-682-1772
Email: [email protected]

Archdiocese of Saint Boniface
Most Rev. Albert LeGatt, DTh
Ph: 204-237-9858
Email: [email protected]

Archdiocese of Regina
Archbishop Daniel Bohan
Ph: (306) 352-1651
Director of Communications
Bobbi Yanko - ext 230
Email: [email protected]

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Dutch bishops’ aid group funding Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes

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By Lisa Bourne

May 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Cordaid, the Dutch arm of the Vatican’s charitable umbrella Caritas Internationalis, is openly promoting contraception and says access to birth control is vital for the good of women in developing countries. The group has also given money to leading international abortion providers Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International.

Cordaid defended itself when questioned by LifeSiteNews. Calling itself a “proud member” of Caritas Internationalis, a representative said that “access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

A new report by the Lepanto Institute details evidence of numerous violations of Church teaching from Cordaid's own website.

In 2012 Cordaid started a program called “Making sexual and reproductive health services work for the next generation” in Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cordaid: “Access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

“There is a clear need for sex education and contraception in the African Great Lakes region,” Cordaid wrote of the program. “Its aim is to provide a better future for young generations, reduce childbirth mortality among women through more effective family planning and alleviate poverty among families.”

It began another contraception program the following year in Burundi, Congo, and Rwanda. A Cordaid program distributed condoms in the Congo in 2012, and another worked to provide condoms and other contraceptives in Malawi in 2013, while a third provided condoms in Sierra Leone in 2011 and 2012.

The Cordaid website also shows that it gave the Philippines Planned Parenthood affiliate €220,491 in 2013 for a teen sex-ed program, and partnered with another affiliate in Sierra Leone in 2013 and 2014. Cordaid gave a Marie Stopes affiliate over half a million Euros in 2013 to provide birth control, including sterilization.

Cordaid is not only a member but also a co-founder of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican’s coalition of Catholic relief, development, and social service organizations. There are 165 members in some 200 countries and territories across the world, and Cordaid is Caritas Internationalis’ local affiliate for the Netherlands.

The head of Caritas Internationalis was released from her position in 2011 amidst internal changes requested by the Vatican, prompted by concerns over the development agency’s Catholic identity. The following year Pope Benedict XVI ordered a reform of Caritas Internationalis.

The Lepanto Institute’s Michael Hichborn criticized Cordaid’s open flaunting of its membership in Caritas Internationalis while obviously disobeying Church teaching.

"With Cordaid boasting its proud membership in Caritas Internationalis while simultaneously fully admitting to dispensing contraception and funding Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International, Caritas has an obligation to expel Cordaid from its rosters," he told LifeSiteNews.

Responding to LifeSiteNews’ inquiry into the report’s specifics, in addition to stating that women benefit from “family planning” services and expressing importance in reducing “unwanted pregnancies,” Cordaid insisted it is not involved in providing abortion.

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“Cordaid's instruments of family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare do not include abortion,” the relief group said.

Cordaid also said it had the esteem of those with whom it collaborates. “Our partners, governments and our funding partners respect the way we, as a proud member of Caritas Internationalis, fulfil our role to build bridges between faith based and non-faith based organizations in north and south.”

“The catholic social teachings are the fundament of our identity and work,” the group added. “The fundamental elements of the catholic social teachings, subsidiarity, solidarity, bonum com unum and human dignity, inspire and guide us in our mission to build flourishing communities in the world’s most fragile and conflict affected areas.”  

LifeSiteNews sent inquiries to Caritas Internationalis regarding Cordaid’s activities in conflict with Church teaching, and did not receive a response before press time.

Hichborn decried the thought of Catholics in the Netherlands funding anti-Catholic initiatives. "Are the bishops of the Netherlands aware of what Cordaid is doing?” he asked. “Do Catholic parishes in the Netherlands take up collections for Cordaid? The Catholic faithful need to be made aware of what is happening in our Church."

Cordaid’s full statement to LifeSiteNews:

As a Catholic organization, Cordaid has long experience in healthcare in developing countries, especially sexual and reproductive healthcare.

In our programs one of our aims is to build bridges between citizens and governments, partners in the North and partners in the South, and bring together both religious and non-religious organizations.

Our long experience has taught us that good, complete and timely information and access to affordable and good-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare are crucial to strengthening the position of women in developing countries and to lowering the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Cordaid's instruments of family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare do not include abortion.

Our partners, governments and our funding partners respect the way we, as a proud member of Caritas Internationalis, fulfil our role to build bridges between faith based and non-faith based organizations in north and south. The catholic social teachings are the fundament of our identity and work. The fundamental elements of the catholic social teachings, subsidiarity, solidarity, bonum comunum and human dignity, inspire and guide us in our mission to build flourishing communities in world’s most fragile and conflict affected areas.   

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