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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Congressman: Give us Nucatola or we’ll subpoena

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Deborah Nucatola has become awfully shy since she became the first national Planned Parenthood figure featured in an exposé of its practice of harvesting, and allegedly profiting from the sale of, the organs of aborted children. Within hours of the video release by the Center for Medical Progress, she removed her social media accounts. 

Now, she is considering dodging a call to testify before a Congressional committee investigating whether she admitted to breaking the law during her covertly recorded cameo with actors posing as agents of a human biologics company.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called her to address the committee by month's end. 

Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood's Senior Counsel for Law and Policy, responded by saying that asking her to speak to Congress "no later than July 31 ... is short notice given the number of questions raised." 

He instead offered to substitute Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley in Nucatola's place.

Faced with the possibility that Planned Parenthood would refuse to send its star witness, at least one congressman has said he will take steps to ensure the abortion provider shows up.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, responded to Evans' letter by saying that the committee has called Dr. Nucatola to the witness stand before the end of the month, and she will comply or face the consequences.  

“If they say no, we’ll subpoena her,” the pro-life Republican said. 

The committee is focused on whether the process Dr. Nucatola - the doctor seen in the first video, eating salad and sipping wine - amounts to a violation of federal felony law forbidding the sale of human organs for "valuable consideration." 

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Why selling ‘baby body parts’ has captured America’s attention (VIDEO)

By Pete Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A key player in last week’s startling video exposé of Planned Parenthood says that it took 30 months of strategic planning from numerous pro-life organizations to give the story the hard-hitting power with which it has walloped the abortion industry over its practice of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies. 

“We are seeing the fruit of a lot of careful thought, a lot of disciplined activities, and a lot of undercover work,” Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews in an interview in Washington. 

Since breaking Tuesday of last week, the story has trended first place in social media platforms such as Facebook and has been given top priority on mega news aggregation websites such as Drudge Report. The first of now two undercover videos has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pavone said that this is not the first time Planned Parenthood has faced the heat for what many considered to be a barbaric practice of harvesting human organs for profit. Similar investigations in the late 1990s into the practices of Planned Parenthood found that aborted babies were being dissected alive, harvested, and sold in pieces for research. 

“Now this is fresh evidence. Now this is evidence going to the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. We know that people at the national level of Planned Parenthood are aware of and are admitting that these baby body parts are being harvested, that transactions are taking place, that money is changing hands. And so, this is catching the attention of the American public because it brings the abortion issue down from the abstract level to the concrete,” he said. 

“This is not just about viewpoints, it’s about victims. It’s not just about beliefs, it’s about bloodshed. When people see and hear terms like ‘eyes, livers, hearts’ it’s like, ‘What are we talking about here? This is ghoulish disgusting activity,’” he said. 

Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving “strategic input, guidance, and advice.” Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences.

Pavone believes the story has received so much traction in social media outlets like Facebook because it gives people a platform to express outrage over the injustice of abortion in response to mainstream media’s unwritten rule of silence and apathy on abortion. 

Traditional media outlets are “in the pocket” of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, he said, adding that they “don’t want to say a bad word about Planned Parenthood.”

“Social media has become the engine for those who feel so frustrated that things we have known for years that the abortion industry is doing, and yet we can’t seem to get the word out, now these people are taking this and running with it. And I think you’re seeing years and even decades of frustration being channeled in productive ways to say, ‘We’ve got to shout this from the rooftops.’ And social media is the perfect rooftop,” he said. 

When asked what the undercover videos released so far reveal about the abortion industry and the people who work in it, Pavone responded: 

When an abortionist dehumanizes the baby that he or she is about to kill, the abortionist also dehumanizes himself. And this is what we are seeing in these people. We see it in Deborah Nucatola sipping the wine and eating the salad and talking about the body parts. We see it in the newest video [about] Dr. Mary Gatter. We saw it in [jailed abortionist] Gosnell.

What’s wrong with [these people]? There are two things wrong. Number one, these people are dehumanized. They are deeply damaged by the abortions they perform. Because when you perform your first abortion, a voice of protest rises up within you saying, ‘No. Stop. You can’t do this.’ But then if you ignore that voice, and go ahead and do that abortion, then the next time you have to explain to yourself, and to everybody else, why you ignored that voice. And so, the voice of protest gets buried under layer, and layer, and layer of excuses and rationalizations. And in doing that, you are becoming disconnected from your own conscience.

How can these people talk about this with apparent peace on their face? It’s because they are disconnected from themselves, from their own conscience.

Pavone said that new undercover videos to be released in the coming days will continue to shed light on the gruesome practices happening at Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the nation. 

“We want to defund Planned Parenthood and get them to stop what they are doing. This is a very concrete way of doing that. We want to end Planned Parenthood because they are the largest abortion business in the world, and we want that to stop,” he said. 

Already a Congressional investigation is underway, but so far, Planned Parenthood is refusing to cooperate with the demands of the Committee investigating. 

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The Planned Parenthood scandal shows the power of exposing abortion’s grotesqueness

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By Jonathon van Maren

July 23, 2015 (UnmaskingChoice) -- If there’s one thing that confuses me about how many pro-lifers decide on strategies to change hearts and minds on abortion, it’s the fact that they seem to believe that we have to approach the most controversial issue there is without controversy—that somehow, we have to take an issue that people have incredibly strong feelings about and ensure that none of those feelings surface during a discussion.

As our postcard campaign nears our record-breaking mark of one million postcards delivered to one million homes, reactions have been widely varied—we have phone calls from people “horrified” by the postcard, who don’t seem to realize that the action depicted is much more horrifying. We have people who demand to know what they are supposed to say if their children see the picture of “the dead baby”—who don’t seem to realize that with their own words, they have admitted that we live in a country where dead babies are tossed in garbage cans behind government-funded clinics. We also have people who call us to thank us for the information, and express anger that such barbarism could be happening in Canada. We have people who phone to tell us that the postcard has changed their vote, and the votes of their neighbors. And we have people like the old man who wanted to shake my hand because he was encouraged to see that “some people cared about things.”

Huge numbers of Canadians have no idea that abortion decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels a pre-born human being. Huge numbers of Canadians are being exposed to that tragic and horrifying fact.

By the polling numbers, we see many people influenced against abortion—even if they don’t like us, the image stays with them, and they like abortion even less. Even if only ten percent of people were influenced against abortion because of postcards depicting abortion imagery, I would point out that that is still a far bigger number than any other pro-life strategy even claims to impact. For the first time, statistically significant portions of the population are being exposed to the reality of abortion—and they are reacting to that reality.

Pro-lifers are often tempted to run scared because they believe what the pro-abortion movement says about our best evidence—that it will “turn people” off. It will, of course. In the words of one abortion activist: “Your pictures turn people off of abortion.” If people get angry with us, but are still influenced against abortion, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. That being said, people only focus on the angry commenters that they see—a handful of social media posts, and the same tired news story from each and every single media outlet. I’m not sure if most journalists are unimaginative or just lazy, but most seem unwilling or incapable of even visiting a few websites and trying to find out what the rationale behind the strategy is. Most of them, I suspect, have pre-written stories and just call around to get the quotes they want. We know, for example, that reporters have specifically ignored people who have received the postcard and offered to comment positively—that is not, they openly say, the story they are looking for.

The abortion movement, on the other hand, can’t decide whether the imagery we use is extremely effective, or very ineffective. Canadian abortion blogger “Fern Hill” is usually babbling the talking points about how what we’re doing is so counter-productive, and that we’re obsessed with “gore porn,” and then calling us a bunch of names. (If pro-abortion groups really did believe that what we were doing strengthened support for abortion so much, I suspect that they’d be a lot less angry about what we’re doing—after all, we’re just doing their job!) But a couple of days ago, after responding to pictures of the dozens of lovely young women on our staff by snapping that they were all one unplanned pregnancy away from being pro-choice (such a depressing world these people live in), she tweeted an article at me that I found interesting.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

It was a piece on David Daleidan of the Center for Medical Progress, the man behind the recent exposes of Planned Parenthood. He’s captured video of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing not only the abortion procedure, but also how to best pillage the corpses of these dead children in order to sell their body parts for profit. The videos have horrified people across North America, and reaction has been swift. Amanda Marcotte, a pro-abortion blogger who often writes for Slate, has responded to the new scandal in an article called “Grossing people out can have short-term impact, but does it matter in the long-term?” She quotes Michelle Goldberg over at The Nation:

Further, it’s a way for the anti-abortion movement to focus the abortion debate on the graphic details of rare, late-term procedures, about which there is less public consensus than there is about early abortion. It serves the same purpose as the ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and as blown-up pictures of bloody fetuses. It induces disgust, a very politically potent emotion, since most people associate things that are gross with things that are immoral. In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt describes how researchers asked students at Cornell University to fill out surveys about their political attitudes while standing either near or far from hand sanitizer. Those standing closer to it became temporarily more conservative. If something that minor can affect people’s politics, then a video like this one is sure to have a visceral impact.

Amanda Marcotte goes on to say that while abortion imagery and exposes are very potent, that the impact of them is not long-lasting. Why? Because, she writes with hilarious immaturity, most things in life are gross—sex, going to the bathroom, surgery—and we all get over those things, don’t we? So surely abortion pictures will also be forgotten.

She’s forgetting something—abortion pictures aren’t powerful because they’re “gross.” Abortion pictures are powerful because they show the results of abortion—a dead, butchered human being. The power in the imagery is that people recognize that, and something in them responds to this injustice. It’s why even the people angry with our postcards have responded to the media by talking about the postcards depicting the “dead babies” or the “slain babies” or the “torn-up babies.” No-one thinks that what they’re looking at is a removed appendix. No one thinks that what they’re looking at is bodily waste. Everyone knows, almost immediately, that what they’re looking at is a dead human.

That is why the impact of abortion pictures doesn’t just disappear. One more piece of evidence? Almost everyone I know in the pro-life movement was convicted to join the pro-life fight because they saw a picture or a video of abortion, including myself. As Marcotte herself pointed out, that was what convicted David Daleidan as well. We now have over forty young people on our staff, all convicted by seeing what abortion does to babies and what they can do about it.

The movement is just getting started.

Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

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