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Building an Effective Pro-Life Playbook
Amy Gehrke | 05 December 2019
Here in Wisconsin, we love our Packers and we love our quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. We especially loved him in 2017 when he threw not one, but two, successful Hail Mary passes. This year Packers fans are also excited about our new head coach, Matt LeFleur. He’s vastly improved Green Bay’s running game rather than relying heavily on Rodgers’ arm.
That being said, fans would not be happy if Rodgers attempted a Hail Mary on every play. We would quickly become frustrated if LeFleur called nothing but runs and ignored the pass. That’s not how the game is won. Steady progress down the field and a variety of plays are the keys to winning games.
So, what does any of this have to do with the abortion debate? The keys to success are the same: steady progress and a variety of different “plays” are essential to saving lives as well as changing hearts and minds to favor life.
Promoting pro-life legislation has been key to Wisconsin Right to Life’s success in saving lives. This graphic shows just how successful our incremental legislative strategy has been. The decline in Wisconsin’s abortion rate corresponds with the pro-life bills we’ve championed.
Not everyone has agreed with Wisconsin Right to Life’s legislative strategy. Our belief that saving as many lives as possible instead of trying to end abortion in one fell swoop has proven successful. Over the years our strategy has saved over 175,000 children in Wisconsin.
Whether we are working on legislation which allows for a woman to see her unborn baby via ultrasound prior to making a life or death decision, working on ending abortions when unborn babies feel pain, or ensuring abortions are not performed on babies who aren’t the right gender, we are working to save lives with numerous lifesaving bills.
At the same time, we want to ensure our laws are going to stand up in court.
The mission of Wisconsin Right to Life is to save lives. We would love to pass legislation that would save each and every unborn child. We know, however, that this is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass – exciting to watch but, in the end, likely to fail. As Wisconsin’s declining abortion numbers show, our legislative strategy has been very effective.
Our ability to save lives through promoting bills that will become law took a huge hit when abortion advocate and Planned Parenthood darling, Tony Evers, became our governor earlier this year. That does not mean that we’ve given up on pro-life legislation.
Earlier this year, Wisconsin Right to Life helped a package of four pro-life bills make it through our legislature, including a bill to provide lifesaving care to babies who survive abortions. Governor Evers announced that he would veto these bills long before they even reached his desk.
All was not lost, though. By refusing to sign these common-sense, pro-life bills, Evers exposed just how radical he is when it comes to abortion and how beholden he is to his friends at Planned Parenthood.
On the day the bills reached Governor Evers’ desk, Wisconsin Right to Life hosted the “Pro-Woman + Pro-Baby = Pro-Life” rally in the rotunda of our state capitol. Hundreds of people from across the state joined our executive director, Heather Weininger, abortion survivors Melissa Ohden and Claire Culwell, as well as numerous pro-life legislators to ensure Governor Evers knew that the people of Wisconsin do not support his deadly agenda.
Governor Evers fulfilled his promise to veto the pro-life bills, but thousands of Wisconsinites were educated through the publicity of these bills and Governor Evers’ ridiculous vetoes. The people of Wisconsin know that Tony Evers is, indeed, a pro-abortion radical.
Saving Lives with Groundbreaking Media – The Wisconsin Right to Life Veritas Society
While Wisconsin Right to Life receives a great deal of publicity because of our legislative work, it is only one of our many lifesaving “plays.”
Many lives have been saved through the Wisconsin Right to Life’s Veritas Society media program, which reaches abortion-vulnerable people with messages that direct them to lifesaving pregnancy resource centers.
The Veritas Society reaches abortion-vulnerable women through digital media where they are today – on their cell phones, other mobile devices and desktop devices. Women who see our messages are directed to the help they need to choose life.
One of the most effective ways we do this is with our 123GiveLife.com website. Here women simply enter their Zip code to find pregnancy resource centers close to them. Directing women to pregnancy resource centers and away from abortion clinics is the top priority of the Veritas Society.
The ability of the Veritas Society to reach abortion-vulnerable women increased exponentially in 2019. We began using geofencing technology to reach women in abortion clinics. The technology of the Veritas Society took an even bigger leap with the use of polygoning – technology that has a funny name, but serious results. This technology is reaching women in Planned Parenthood clinics and on college campuses directing them to lifesaving information.
In 2020, we hope to expand the Veritas Society into northern Illinois and eastern Minnesota where we know some young women from Wisconsin are traveling to obtain abortions. We also want to ensure women in Illinois, where there is access to abortion for any reason at any stage, know there are alternatives available to them.
Providing the Tools to Take a Stand for Life – The Wisconsin Right to Life Education Fund
Many women believe that abortion is their only option because of an immediate financial crisis. Wisconsin Right to Life’s Emergency Grant program removes these financial burdens so women can choose life.
Working with our friends at pregnancy resource centers, we provide payment directly to landlords, utility companies, and other legitimate creditors. Through Emergency Grants, we have helped dozens of women escape abusive relationships, avoid homelessness, and provide for their families. Each and every Emergency Grant awarded means two lives saved – the unborn child as well as the woman who is empowered to improve her circumstances.
At Wisconsin Right to Life, we also know that it is very important to build the pro-life leaders of tomorrow and provide young people with the tools they need to effectively articulate their pro-life beliefs. Through our Life Summer Camp and Life on Campus college program, we are giving Wisconsin’s young people the education they need to be pro-life leaders now and in the future.
At Life Summer Camp, campers are taught by national pro-life leaders such as Scott Klusendorf and Dave Sterrett as well as Wisconsin Right to Life staff. They learn the sometimes-forgotten skills of logic, rhetoric, and debate as well as how to be effective leaders, all through the lens of the life issues. They also have a lot of fun and make life-long friends!
Through Life on Campus, student pro-life leaders at colleges and universities throughout the state receive grants of $1,500 to $5,000 to spread the truth about life at their schools. Students use these funds to bring pro-life speakers to campus, assist local pregnancy resource centers, ensure there are lactation rooms available on campus and travel to the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Building Your Pro-Life Playbook
The continued success of Wisconsin Right to Life is thanks to the leadership we have in Heather Weininger, our executive director, as well as an outstanding Board of Governors and Board of Directors. Most of all, it is thanks to the thousands of generous donors who are the reason we have been able to build and grow our many programs. Everything we do at Wisconsin Right to Life is through the generosity of selfless pro-lifers across our state and country.
Our many different programs allow us to attract donors from all walks of life. Some of our friends choose to give tax-deductible gifts to our Veritas Society and Education Fund. Others choose to give to our political action committees, which include state and federal PACs as well as a super PAC, or our 501(c)4 programs.
To use another sports analogy, think of your pro-life programs as your own Field of Dreams – if you build them, they will come. Talk to your donors. Learn who their friends are and where their heart for saving lives is. Your ability to grow your organization could be just a few phone calls away.
Wisconsin Right to Life can help, as well. Our Veritas Society advertisements are available for other pro-life groups to license. You can view many of them at www2.wrtl.org/tv/ . We are available to guide organizations in developing additional programming. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (414) 778-5780 for more information.
There is no doubt our incremental strategy has saved lives. Wisconsin’s abortion rate dropped from an all-time high of 17,986 abortions annually in 1988 to an all-time low of 5,612 abortions in 2017 – a drop of 69%.* That’s over 175,000 lives saved!
Despite the fact that abortion numbers are dropping, even one life lost to abortion is too many. Working together, utilizing a variety of strategies, we will reach a day when abortion is unthinkable in America.
*Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Reported Induced Abortions Retrieved from: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/stats/itop.htm.
Amy Gehrke, Vice President for Advancement & Development, Wisconsin Right to Life