I'm not too happy with the National Right to Life Committee these days.
The tipping point was learning on November 3 while attending a speech given by Hadley Arkes at Valparaiso University that NRLC originally opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which Hadley wrote and which I testified regarding. Hadley explained during his speech the Partial Birth Abortion Ban was coming to the fore about that time, and NRLC thought it more important and that BAIPA was too soft.
Add to that, NRLC actively opposed the South Dakota Abortion Ban and is currently actively opposing the Georgia Human Life Amendment.
There may be pragmatism and smart politics and all involved in these NRLC decisions, but when a pro-life organization takes the same position as pro-abortion organizations, something is wrong.
There are other things, but that's enough of a backdrop.
So about Fred Thompson.
NRLC's endorsement might be the best decision. I just know he's not the best pro-life candidate. There is at least one other who is polling as well or stronger, and he's more pro-life, and that's Mike Huckabee. I'm not in Huckabee's camp, but when I compare the two, I just don't get NRLC's endorsement. I'm cynical.
I'm wondering if the leadership of NRLC, which has been the same forever, has become too immersed in the DC culture. This would go a long way toward explaining support for Thompson (and his wife) over Huckabee. Also recall NRLC immediately jumped on board the Harriet Miers bandwagon.
I'm wondering when pragmatism and smart politics become something else.
UPDATE, 10:10a: Email from "Washington insider," as s/he wants to be identified, on the question of NRLC's endorsement of Thompson:
Don't really know what to make of it. It's a prudential judgment, obviously: the result of a no-doubt complicated calculation of who is most likely to win divided by the square of who is least objectionable on the issue times an estimate of what states they can make a difference for him in.... Like any early endorsement, it's a gamble: if he wins, they're in like Flynn. If he loses....
NRLC has lost my trust.
It began with me when they added a specific instructions blank to the Will to Live. That's universally stupid.Posted by: Jacqueline at November 14, 2007 9:45 AM
Jill, could you tell me why NRLC opposed the South Dakota and the Georgia HLA? I wonder how much money they sunk into opposing the S.Dakota HLA. Did they team-up with any prochoice groups to oppose it? I am disgusted with them right now.Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 10:27 AM
Carrie, NRLC says it's not the right time to introduce bills such as this with the Supreme Court make-up such as it is... not quite there yet. That's true but leaves nothing to Godincidence and stifles anything organic from growing into something unforeseen.
And it's just not right for one pro-life group to actively oppose another on pro-life bills, particularly pure ones such as these. It's just not right.
No they didn't team up with pro-life groups, but they as much as testified(y) side by side.
Don't know about the $.Posted by: Jill Stanek at November 14, 2007 10:34 AM
Like any early endorsement, it's a gamble: if he wins, they're in like Flynn. If he loses....
Posted by: Hal
at November 14, 2007 10:37 AM
"IF he loses?" LOL. You guys basically like the guy, do you think there is ANY chance of Fred Thompson being elected the next President of the United States?
Jill, maybe they don't like all the grassroots prolife activism that seems to be happening. They probably feel like they are losing their influence and their power. Couldn't they have said that they don't think it is the right time, but that they won't actively oppose it?Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 10:41 AM
I will never donate to the NRLC again.Posted by: Bethany at November 14, 2007 10:45 AM
Colorado Right to Life is fully supporting the battle for
personhood in the state (Colorado 1967) that started the abortion holocaust.
Colorado RTL is delighted to not be associated with the
wicked leadership of National Right to Life that always
opposes Personhood in order to perpetuate their "Pro-life Industry!"
V.P. Colorado Right to Life
Les, thanks for the info.Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 10:59 AM
Leslie, I had heard NRLC was opposing your HLA but didn't know for sure so didn't post. Can you tell me?Posted by: Jill Stanek at November 14, 2007 11:02 AM
And it's just not right for one pro-life group to actively oppose another on pro-life bills, particularly pure ones such as these. It's just not right.
We have that problem in Texas. Pro-life groups lobbying AGAINST eachother.
It's a reminder to pray for the movement and our leadership. The enemy likes to divide.Posted by: Jacqueline at November 14, 2007 11:27 AM
Posted by: Laura at November 14, 2007 12:06 PM
The more I think about it the more I become convinced that NRLC is threatened by grassroots prolifism. They aren't the only game in town and they don't like it!!! I would love to know to know how much money they spend opposing the HLA amendments. There are so many things they could be spending our money on(members).Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 12:10 PM
NRLC has compromised on so many pro-life positions, I think that their actions speak for themselves.
a few worthy of mentioning:
Exceptions on saving the life of the mother. Failure to address contraception as a root cause for abortions. If the timing isnt "right" we shouldnt pass any pro-life bill- mentality..
As well as those Jill has already mentioned.
Compromise is a sign of weakness.. And NRLC has duped so many since the late 70's.Posted by: yvonne at November 14, 2007 12:55 PM
If the NRLC considers themselves leaders of the prolife movement, why don't they lead? Leaders don't sit around waiting and taking the nations' temp. before they act.Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 1:09 PM
I think NRLC is attempting to lead with their endorsement of Thompson.
I have seen very few pro-life groups or individuals endorse anyone at this point, and the primaries are a mere 6 weeks away.
The truth is, no matter who NRLC endorses, they will take a beating from some group or other. If they endorsed Huckabee they would get complaints from people about wasting their endorsement on someone "who can't win."
At this point, I am not at all convinced we are going to have a good pro-life candidate in the general election. And as important as the pro-life issue is for me, the war on nazi-islamism is number 2 and I like what Thompson is saying about it.
By the way, compromise is not a sign of weakness but the abandonment of principle certainly is and I don't see how that fits here with the Thompson endorsement.Posted by: Andrew at November 14, 2007 1:24 PM
I would also say that NRLC is one of the best organizations in the country for grassroots activism on the political level.
When I worked with their state chapters, I was constantly amazed at how much they could get done with almost no staff or resources.
When they find volunteers, they get them to stay. We could all learn a thing or two from them...Posted by: Andrew at November 14, 2007 1:33 PM
See, this is why we need Ron Paul for president! His support is growing as fast as Fred Thompson's is shrinking, more people are coming to love him and what he does. He has more visible support amongst young pro-lifers than all the other candidates combined, just go to all the groups online, like myspace groups, and check out everything on Paul. He has tons of supporters now, more than ever before, as he's getting more out there and more known. Also, National Right to Life's endorsement of Thompson is more proof to you that pro-life "leaders" have lost touch with the sentiments of the pro-life movement, they forget what it's all about, to be pro-life and help save innocent lives. I say we should boycott NRTL and get with ALL (American Life League). They're so much better than NRTL and actually work together and help stop abortions. Peace!Posted by: Anonymous at November 14, 2007 2:05 PM
Ron Paul, along with Nancy Pelosi and other pro-abortion democrats, voted "NO" on a bill to ban human cloning in 2003.Posted by: Andrew at November 14, 2007 2:34 PM
As long as we're offering alternatives to NRLC, I think you should all get with Consistent Life. :-)Posted by: Jen R at November 14, 2007 3:14 PM
Andrew, you made some good points. I am concerned about the time and possibly money spent on opposing an HLA. Why not just say we don't support it at this time,but we are not going to use our time and resources to defeat it? I am a member of a state affliate and I think they do a great job. I am concerned about the direction the national is going in. What do you think about them actively campaigning against HLA? Don't you think it is an unwise to spend their resources on oppposing the HLA?Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 3:44 PM
Jill, your observations are right on target about NRTL's pragmatism and the positions they have taken on a number of issues. I think we have to question their political judgement. They seem to have an agenda that just does not make any sense, opposing key initiatives at critical junctures and threatening gathering pro-life momentum.
While the Fred Thompson endorsement is not the worse thing, neither is it the wisest thing for an organization of their stature to do at this stage of the process. It just seems that they are really in need of fresh leadership in their inner circle.Posted by: Jerry Nickels at November 14, 2007 4:25 PM
NRLC has effecively abandoned the movement as a whole and are more concerned with having a president they can influence in office than with actually ending abortion.
Think about it. As grassroots supporters, we don't have a lot of money or resources invested in this. NRLC does, as do other giant behemoth pro-life groups that would see every one of their employees out of a job when Roe goes the way of the dinosaur.
Politics is a two-way game. Abortion itself is a million dollar industry, but I think we all need to realize that opposing it is just as profitable.Posted by: Brian at November 14, 2007 4:29 PM
Carrie: "The more I think about it the more I become convinced that NRLC is threatened by grassroots prolifism."
Carrie and all. I do not have time to post right now, but I just need to pipe in quickly. These negative comments about NRLC concern me.
I am very sure that NRLC is not threatened by grassroots, because NRLC is composed of grassroots. It is composed of chapters from all 50 states. Because of this, they have a great pulse on the political situation in all 50 states. They are in the best position to see the big picture.
If they oppose certain pro-life legislation, it is because it could blow up big time and the pro-life cause would be worse off than where we are right now. A mistake can take 30-50 years to correct! (my humble opinion).
For example, let's just say they support a "better" pro-life candidate, but that they know cannot win. If we lose the presidency, and liberal judges are appointed, they could be there for 30,40, even 50 years!
Wouldn't it have been better to back a decent candidate (in fact, 100% pro-life voting record), and have a good chance then to back a 110% candidate that cannot win?
No good pro-life legislation is going to make a difference until we remove the logjam caused by judges who didn't stick to what the Constitution says.
We pro-lifers HAVE TO be very strategic; that is the political reality.
Please, I beg you, don't bash NRLC. They abhor abortion as much as any pro-lifer posting on this blog. There is one way to guarantee that a pro-life candidate doesn't win, and that is if we shoot ourselves in the foot.
Ellie, as a member of one of the affiliates, it is my right and my duty to question NRTL if I have serious concerns. I still want to know why they have spent resources battling the HLAs? I am just looking for answers on that. Why not just treat the HLA's with indifference if they don't support it?Posted by: Carrie at November 14, 2007 5:20 PM
I think NRLC has provided much needed leadership by endorsing Fred Thompson. Unlike past elections, when NRLC did not endorse anyone in the primary, there is a strong pro-abortion candidate who could win the Republican nomination. And while Huckabee, Paul, or other candidates might be "surging" in a state or two, I think we have to consider which pro-life candidate has the ability to wage a strong campaign across many states over the next few months, in order to defeat the pro-abortion candidate and win in November. NRLC's Board of directors, which includes a representative from every state in the country, has concluded that Fred Thompson is the pro-life candidate who has the best chance to do that. I think they deserve credit for their careful consideration of the candidates and making an endorsement, even though it was bound to upset supporters of other candidates.Posted by: Sharon at November 14, 2007 5:50 PM
Bethany: I will never donate to the NRLC again.
Then buy me a beer.Posted by: Doug at November 14, 2007 6:59 PM
Carrie: "as a member of one of the affiliates, it is my right and my duty to question NRTL if I have serious concerns."
Carrie, of course it is your right and duty. I don't mean to say we should be silent. But the accusations of them being anything but pro-life or having ulterior motives like keeping their jobs instead of ending abortion (that wasn't your comment)is ridiculous.Posted by: Ellie at November 14, 2007 7:18 PM
Then buy me a beer.
Posted by: Bethany at November 14, 2007 8:47 PM
Done... buy me another.Posted by: Doug at November 14, 2007 8:55 PM
Jill, in the book, "Natural Rights and the Right to Choose," Hadley Arkes critized NRLC for not taking that "first modest step" to "start a conversation." If I remember correctly (it was a few years ago since I read it), it wasn't enough for NRLC, and it came to be that Arkes was correct in that what was first needed was to take that "modest first step."
I just took the book off the shelf to remind myself what the "modest first step" was. And as you referred to in this post, it was "Might we simply protect the life of the child who survives the abortion?"
It seems to me that NRLC learned their lesson.
As an analogy, when it comes to presidential candidates, wouldn't Thompson be that "first modest step?" If the giant step isn't attainable, wouldn't we at least make some progress with a smaller step?
Your criticism of NRLC at the beginning of your post doesn't make sense to me. It seems to me that by their strategy (like not supporting South Dakota's law or HLA) they are doing exactly what Hadly Arkes recommended at the time and that is to take that "first modest step" and not risking moving backwards by trying to take to big a step.
Huckabee is coming on like a champ. He is polling second in Iowa to Romney, and moving up FAST.
I think the NRLC might have blown their endorsement.Posted by: Laura at November 14, 2007 9:09 PM
Jill, you wrote: "Carrie, NRLC says it's not the right time to introduce bills such as this with the Supreme Court make-up such as it is... not quite there yet. "
I got news for you: You're as close as you're ever gonna be.Posted by: Anonymous at November 14, 2007 9:48 PM
Fred Thompson on abortion, 1996:
Question: Please summarize your personal philosophy on the issue of reproductive choice
Thompson: The Supreme Court has attempted to delineate the constitutionally appropriate roles for individual and governmental decision-making on the issue of abortion. Beyond that, I believe that the federal government should not interfere with individual convictions and actions in this areaPosted by: Laura at November 15, 2007 4:49 AM
Ellie, what is the NRLC's reason for actively opposing the HLA's? Why have they sunk resources into opposing it? I do agree that it isn't the right time,but why do they seem to spend their time these days opposing HLAs? Shouldn't they spend their time on other things? They could be putting their resources into those small steps that you mentioned in your post.Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 5:49 AM
Ellie, I am indeed concerned about piling on NRLC with unwarranted bashes. I disagree NRLC or any pro-life organization or pro-life person thinks they have a stake in keeping abortion legal. That is ridiculous.
And I do realize NRLC came around on BAIPA and worked toward its passage, like the prodigal son in that instance.
I also agree Thompson isn't a bad choice. But even pro-aborts are questioning the pick as somehow odd.
Which brings me to Jerry Nickel's point, which I think is the point:
I think we have to question their political judgement. They seem to have an agenda that just does not make any sense, opposing key initiatives at critical junctures and threatening gathering pro-life momentum.
While the Fred Thompson endorsement is not the worse thing, neither is it the wisest thing for an organization of their stature to do at this stage of the process. It just seems that they are really in need of fresh leadership in their inner circle.
That's exactly what I think. I think Washingtonitis is impacting the entrenched NRLC leadership. I think a sense of control, ownership, and territorialism is clouding decisions.Posted by: Jill Stanek at November 15, 2007 7:42 AM
Upon further reflection, I have come to the following conclusion:
Thank God I stick to grassroots activism.
That is all.Posted by: Brian at November 15, 2007 7:59 AM
Carrie, I really couldn't tell you why (or even if) NRLC opposes HLA's. I don't know anything about it.
I can't even tell you whether NRLC did the right thing by endorsing Thompson. I defend them because:
1. I believe their motives to be true. I do not believe they are being motivated by power or against grassroots.
2. I think they are in the best position to know the politics of all 50 states, because their board is comprised of reps from all the states.
3. I think they are politically savvy. They have been around a long time. I'm sure they looked at the presidental candidate situation from every possible angle.
If they had backed a better pro-life candidate from other prolifers perspectives, they might have made them happy, but might have also set it up for a pro-choice candidate to win the Republican nomination. I certainly don't know this; I'm only saying that they had to choose someone they thought could win the in primary, or we would end up having to choose from two pro-abortion candidates in the general election.
Wouldn't you rather vote for Thompson in the general election than be forced to vote for Giuliani or not vote at all (and therefore hand it over to a 100% pro-abortion candidate?)
Of course, we would all rather vote for a "better" pro-life candidate, but that is the point: It ain't going to happen at this point in time.Posted by: Ellie at November 15, 2007 8:14 AM
Hi Ellie, My biggest issue with NRLC isn't the Thompson endorsement(I do think it is surprising and not the best idea). I have an issue with their fight against HLAs and the time and resources that would have been better spent elsewhere. I would definitely prefer Thompson over Guiliani or Thompson over none of the above. I agree with Jill that they have been infected with "Washingtonitis" and that their "territorialism" is affecting their judgement. That's what I have been trying to say, but I think Jill stated it much better than I did or could. That's why she has a blog and I don't. :)Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 8:48 AM
Jill, why do they actively oppose the HLAs? Do you think their territorialism and sense of ownership over the prolife movement is influencing their decisions,maybe even if they don't realize it?Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 8:51 AM
Jill, sorry I just realized that you have already answered those questions. Thanks.Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 9:12 AM
Go this weekend to check out the new movie Bella, in theatres. It's an edifying story of the unmitigated value and dignity of human life.Posted by: Virginia Bain Allen at November 15, 2007 9:17 AM
Does anyone know xactly what efforts or resources NRLC used to prevent the HLA? I would be surprised to hear that they spent money and time on it, knowing the packed nature of the federal legislative agenda. There is a difference between not supporting something and actively opposing it.
There is some truth to the idea that NRLC could use some fresh blood. At their annual conference, they use the exact same talk-titles and break-out sessions year after year. Sometimes they use the exact same speakers for the exact same talks year after year. Slightly boring.
I am guessing that NRLC went on Thompson's record with pro-life votes in the Senate more than anything else. None of the other guys have a pro-life voting record other than Huckabee and they must have decided he was not electable.Posted by: Andrew at November 15, 2007 9:33 AM
Andrew, I would certainly have less of an issue with NRLC if they weren't actively opposing the HLAs in different states. I agree that there is a difference between not supporting something and campaigning against it.Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 9:53 AM
If I understand correctly how this all works, none of the state HLA amendments will mean anything until one is passed at the Federal level.
If state-wide pro-life groups are spending their time and money on a HLA, then I think they should put those resources into something that will have a more direct impact on saving lives.
The HLA is a long-term goal that will happen once a number of other things fall into place. That does not mean pro-lifers should not support HLA if it comes up (a position I am still not seeing any evidence against NRLC for) at all. It means being smart with the money that donors have given you and seeing that it does the most good.
But, this is an old argument, I guess. I don't want to rehash all of this.Posted by: Andrew at November 15, 2007 10:21 AM
Thanks for the info Andrew.Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 12:59 PM
In response to Carrie's claim that National Right to Life actually worked to oppose South Dakota's Abortion Ban, let me assure readers that NRLC put considerable resources on the ground there to HELP pass the BAN - including financial help, literature drops, radio ads, calling campaigns and more.
NRLC is bold when boldness is called for, yet humble in the face of their awesome responsibility as leaders of an organization that spans all 50 states. This kind of false attack on sincere people is unwarranted, baseless, juvenile and dangerous - pro-lifers can agree to disagree, but do not make baseless claims to damage the reputation of people who have been on the front lines of the pro-life movement for years and years - people who helped to successfully charter the way through the early days of the movement when no candidate for any office would take an openly pro-life position. I am grateful for NRLC - Meg
Meg, you're flat out wrong about NRLC supporting the ban either in theory and with help:Posted by: Jill Stanek at November 15, 2007 3:23 PM
Meg, have you read the article Jill just posted? Looks like the only one making baseless claims is you. Care to back up your claims with facts?Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 3:34 PM
Meg,in the article Jill posted, the NRLC themselves said the only person they called was one state senator. Is that a calling campaign? I don't think so.Posted by: Carrie at November 15, 2007 3:40 PM
Jill, if you are geuinely searching for the truth it is not enough to refer to some media article. You need to call your pro-life friends at the National Right to Life Committee and ask them to clarify things. It has always been clear that NRLC did not support the South Dakota Abortion Ban Act for what they believe are well-thought out strategic reasons. (ie: do not let the current makeup of the US Supreme Court have the opportunity to re-write Roe v Wade). There should be no question about the fact that NRLC wants to ban all abortions - they just want to get there the fastest way. Once the Ban Act became a ballot item, NRLC worked to help pass it. I have now made two phone calls to NRLC and each time have spoken to different people who shipped materials, generated calls and literature drops and more to help pass the Ban. I have been working with the pro-life movement since 1982 and I am a big fan of yours Jill - I love your spirit and your devotion - but our enemies are formidable and all of this finger pointing is an unnecessary distraction.Posted by: Meg at November 16, 2007 9:05 AM
"NRLC" - I keep thinking Nuclear ReguLatory Commission.
Guess I better have a glass of wine.Posted by: Doug at November 16, 2007 5:34 PM
BOTTOM LINE - Enyart is rightPosted by: zeke13:19 at November 16, 2007 6:32 PM
Listen to this audio of Bob Enyart making his statement before the NRTL board in Kansas City last Summer during the annual convention where NRTL kicked out CRTL for their pro-life activism.Posted by: zeke13:19 at November 16, 2007 6:40 PM
I am so glad to hear that I am not the only person with serious reservations about the NRLC. I won't give them any money anymore but I still participate as a volunteer in their political efforts, like leafletting, even though I don't put it past them to endorse the wrong candidates.
I think their top decision makers have either been infiltrated or they've gotten up on a high horse of pride, like they know better than other pro-lifers and actually squash other pro-life efforts. Pro-lifers come in all stripes and colors and should be supported for doing whatever works best for them.Posted by: Magdalena at November 18, 2007 10:14 AM
For whatever it is worth, I work for NRLC and we have never worked against any HLA on a state level. In South Dakota, we did indeed spend money in favor of their efforts in 2006 although no one ever seems to remember that. We do our best. We are made up of the grassroots and we work for the grassroots. If we can't stand together united, we are sure to fail. Have questions about National Right to Life? Why not call them and get the truth before repeating mindless rumors that only lead to tearing down the movement. We are in this for the unborn children. Period. You don't have to agree, but have the courage to call and ask if you have a question. Don't just keep repeating garbage that isn't true.