WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) — After 43 years of partnership, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has dropped its affiliation with Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) following a dispute over the acceptability of supporting bills restricting abortion that include rape and incest exceptions.
The national pro-life group decided Saturday to affiliate instead with Georgia Life Alliance (GLA), a new group that says it aims to protect all unborn children, but will support legislation that includes the exceptions as an incremental strategy. GRTL has opposed exceptions – except for the “life of the mother,” provided that the health care provider tries to save both lives – since 2000.
GRTL President Dan Becker expressed “heartfelt sadness” over NRLC’s decision and defended his organization’s record. “It’s a tragedy that a pioneering, highly successful pro-life organization is considered unworthy to remain affiliated with National Right to Life,” he said. “It’s especially hard to understand, since GRTL has accomplished so much.”
NRLC President Carol Tobias said the decision was not taken lightly, but argued that GRTL had “ruptured its relationship” with them by opposing NRLC’s “top-priority federal legislation,” the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
GRTL pulled its endorsement of the federal bill last summer after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added rape and incest exceptions. The group called on members of the House of Representatives to vote against the bill.
Two members of the U.S. house from Georgia did in fact vote against the bill, a move that frustrated NRLC. The pro-life group responded by telling the pro-life Georgia representatives that their vote would be scored as “pro-abortion.”
“The episode demonstrated that Georgia Right to Life was willing to seek defeat of National Right to Life priority federal legislation,” Tobias said in a press release announcing NRLC's new relationship with GLA.
NRLC also noted that GRTL had praised Senate candidate and Rep. Paul Broun, R-GA, when he did not vote in favour of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act because of its exceptions.
That bill was “another top legislative priority for National Right to Life,” said Tobias.
She defended NRLC, explaining that the group aims to “restore legal protection for all unborn children from the moment of their conception,” but until the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade it “work[s] to protect as many children as possible by passing the strongest possible laws at the state and federal level.”
“That legislative strategy has helped save millions of lives – and continues to save lives today,” she argued.
GRTL Vice President Mike Griffin says NRLC has ignored his group's success rate. In its press release, GRTL boasted that 89 percent of the candidates it has backed have won office. Georgia has also received prominent attention from Americans United for Life, which ranked the state second in its “All Star” ranking for 2013 and has placed it among the top 15 “most protective” states since 2007.
The group says Georgia is the “only state where all its statewide constitutional officers do not support rape or incest exceptions,” and “one of only two states that have kept exceptions out of their legal codes.”
“GRTL will not abandon its position that all human life is created in the image of God and therefore sacred,” Becker said. “GRTL will stand true to its mission and not be swayed by the prevailing political winds.”
Some pro-life leaders, including Personhood USA President Keith Mason and Savethe1 founder Rebecca Kiessling today came to GRTL's defense in the wake of NRLC's decision. “The Pain Capable Act was a messaging bill that never had a chance of clearing the Senate or wooing President Obama’s signature,” said Mason in a statement today. “What message does it send to our pro-life representatives when you whip them to support legislation that denies the right to life to innocent babies conceived in rape?”
GLA was founded after growing tensions in the state over GRTL’s commitment to only backing candidates and bills that will not vote for or that do not include exceptions.
After GRTL came out against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the summer, RedState.com Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson, a GLA board member, called them “morally vacant,” “pharisaical,” and “the Westboro Baptist Church” of the pro-life movement in a blog post. He concluded, “We need a new pro-life group in Georgia.”
He told LifeSiteNews last week that GRTL's “stance against the 20 week abortion ban was not hardline; it was stupid.”
GLA was founded March 13 and notified GRTL last week by hand-delivered letter of its intention to seek affiliation with NRLC.
Emily Matson, one of GLA’s founders, argued that NRLC should approve GLA's petition, even though the group has not yet compiled its mission statement, because the one thing GLA's principals all agree on is that they will toe the NRLC line.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Matson told LifeSiteNews last week. “First and foremost, people that are involved in Georgia Life Alliance align and agree with the National Right to Life Committee and what it has done, and what it is doing so far. We definitely can all stand together on that point.”
NRLC did not return a request for comment.