"Can you believe they're doing that?!"
"That's illegal. They can't do what they're doing!"
"Do they realize that what they do reflects on every one of us?!"
"They aren't following best practices!"
Yes, indeed others do it differently. Sometimes it's a difference of opinion and can be overlooked. Other times it might be a serious matter, possibly even a legal matter, which could threaten us all.
Or does it? Threaten us all, I mean.
We are, or should be, well-acquainted with threats, since they actually started happening the day each of us opened our doors (if not before). Our efforts to champion life are both defensive maneuvers and direct assaults on the kingdom of darkness, which tends to rile up our enemy a bit! It should come as no surprise when our enemy gets in on the action and stirs up those who oppose us – those who also happen to directly profit from or successfully rationalize their need for abortion.
When the opposition aligns with our enemy (please be careful not to assume the two are the same), the pushback on what we do (or who we are) is intense. And vicious. And nearly always without merit. The truth may be a great defense in the court of law, but attacks against us are mostly in the court of public opinion.
Actually, the number of legal actions against pregnancy help organizations is surprisingly small, considering the onslaught of relatively serious accusations including false advertising, impersonating a medical professional, and practicing medicine without a license.
This reality underscores the flaw in leaning too heavily upon legal principles to combat harsh, negative PR sound bites. To borrow a line from the movie Untouchables, it's a bit like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The other side is serious about crippling our work, so they bring big weapons to the fight. Artful use of PR tools and political maneuvering is the only sustainable attack they have been able to use so far. The legal matters that concern us hardly concern them. If it did, they would have used the legal system to shut us down a long time ago. In fact, they've tried to do so, but found this strategy largely ineffective.
Instead, they've been launching state-by-state "Investigative Reports," badgering politicians to change the rules, manipulating the media to believing such things as Google pulling PHC ads and cyber-squatting on "crisis pregnancy center" entry in Wikipedia. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
And what do we do? Well, we aim at each other for "doing it wrong."
We exert "legal expertise," passing along what we've heard labeled "illegal" without really knowing if it is actually, well, against the law. The old "telephone game" has us repeating, sometimes in directors meetings and public chatter, what someone else said they believe to be factual. Dare I say, some of what we believe is actually conjecture from well-meaning friendly lawyers (or those who pretend to be).
While we need to hear – and usually heed – advice from our legal allies, we must be careful to discern between recommendations and requirements, between what is permissible and profitable.
We can even exalt "best practices" – doing things "right" – above getting the mission done. Forgetting for a moment that most "best" practices are usually not proven to be "best" relative to our mission, we can tend to create the self-repudiating expectation everyone across the entire industry is operating at "best practice" level.
Believe it or not, the mission can actually be done without equipment or professionals or credibility. Just like the gospel. Of course, good equipment and education can (or should) enhance the effort. But when outcomes – hearts touched and lives saved – become subservient to so-called "best practices," we are all doing it wrong.
Tweet this! When outcomes become subservient to so-called "best practices," we're all doing it wrong.
Certainly the "others" might be able to do it better. Maybe they should have better equipment, more focused marketing and more professionals.
Or, maybe "they" are highly focused on outcomes, but just lack the resources to it differently. Maybe "they" are doing all they can, with what the Lord has seen fit to provide. Not every community has an abundant supply of pro-life, medical professionals ready to staff a pregnancy help center for a full week, plus weekends. Not just rural locations mind you, but some huge cities in certain blue states struggle with recruiting medical professionals.
Maybe the budget isn't big enough to fully meet AIUM standards, or voluntarily submit to HIPAA requirements, or afford the ultrasound equipment for which any of that might (notice: might) matter. Maybe "they" counsel and hand out material aid for the very purpose of interacting with at-risk women in a caring and compassionate way. Sometimes "their" method is wrongly assumed to reflect a desire for pregnancy support alone and not intervention services.
It's all too easy to judge from a distance and, without really understanding their circumstances and assume that what "they" are doing is wrong. But, let's remember what happens when we assume.
Let's also remember Proverbs 18:17, "The first person to speak always seems right until someone comes and asks the right questions." (ERV)
by Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
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