Annual Conference Gathers as Pro-Life Groups Challenging 2016 Illinois Law

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Monday | April 17, 2017
Contact: Jay Hobbs, Director of Communications and Marketing
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CHICAGO – Headlining with syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, the 2017 Heartbeat International Annual Conference kicks off Wednesday and runs through Friday, and is expected to draw over 1,200 guests from 15 countries to Chicago’s Hyatt Regency near O’Hare Airport.

The conference is the 46th in Heartbeat International’s history, this year taking place in a state where pro-life medical professionals—including many who work and volunteer at nonprofit pregnancy clinics—are fighting a recent change to state law signed into effect by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Gov. Rauner signed a legislative change to Illinois’ Healthcare Right of Conscience Act midway through 2016 that would force doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to refer their patients for abortions against the deeply held religious conviction of those professionals. The law, which also applies to nonprofits that expressly exist to offer alternatives to abortion and receive no government funding, is being fought in state and federal courts, with one judge granting a temporary injunction against the law in late 2016.

The location of the conference—which varies each year—comes at the perfect time, says Heartbeat International president Jor-El Godsey, who has called upon affiliates in the state to defy the law.

“We plan these conferences several years ahead of time, so we feel particularly energized and encouraged to see all the pieces fall into place for Chicago in 2017,” Godsey said. “We’re looking forward to seeing great things happen with our speakers, ministry partners and special guests all week.”

A member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, as well as a Fox News contributor, Cal Thomas is a past recipient of the William F. Buckley, Jr., Award for Media Excellence. He will be speaking Wednesday afternoon ahead of Ryan Bomberger, an Emmy® Award-winning creative professional who is an outspoken leader within the pro-life movement after having been conceived in rape and going onto become an adoptive father.

The keynote lineup also includes David and Jason Benham, former professional baseball players and successful realtors whose HGTV show was canceled in 2014 because of their candid Christian beliefs. Jill Stanek—a former RN in Oak Lawn, Ill., who resigned her position when hospital administrators would do nothing to stop infants born alive during abortions from being left to die—will also speak at the event, along with Dr. William Lile, an ob-gyn who bought out an abortion facility in South Florida and has spent the last two decades educating audiences on abortion procedures.

In addition to the keynotes, the conference includes 90 workshops and 15 full-day courses, including over 20 learning opportunities approved for nursing contact hours by the California Board of Registered Nursing.

“Pregnancy help centers and medical clinics are good for America,” Godsey said. “This is a primary opportunity for those of us within this vital community to link arms and better equip ourselves to save lives in a life-changing way.”

About Heartbeat International

Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy help organizations founded in the U.S. (1971), and the largest network in the world. With 2,100 affiliated pregnancy help locations—including pregnancy help medical clinics (with ultrasound), resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies—Heartbeat serves on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion. 

Heartbeat International Announces New Legal Counsel

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Tuesday | August 18, 2015
Contact: Jay Hobbs, Director of Communications and Marketing
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Tweet This: @HeartbeatIntl's Danielle M. White brings experience from @AllianceDefends, @ThomasMoreSoc

COLUMBUS, OHIO – Joining a team that serves a network of nearly 2,000 affiliated pregnancy help organizations and over 8,500 pro-life pregnancy help individuals worldwide, Danielle M. White, J.D., has been named legal counsel for Heartbeat International.

White replaces her predecessor, Ellen Foell, who served in the capacity from 2012-15. A member of the Ohio State Bar Association, the Columbus Bar Association, and the Christian Legal Society, White also serves as an Allied Attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom.

A recipient of the prestigious Blackstone Fellowship while a law student at Ave Maria School of Law, White studied the bioethical issues surrounding a recently developed human cloning procedure in London. She also gained experience as a summer associate for the Thomas More Society, which defends the traditional family, religious liberty, and the right to life.

“We are very pleased to welcome Danielle to our team,” Vice President Jor-El Godsey said. “Her credentials speak for themselves, but what has impressed us more than anything is Danielle’s heart for pregnancy help. She is truly committed not only to the cause of life, but to serving the women and families our network works so tirelessly to reach.”

White first became involved in the pro-life movement when she began attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as a middle school student. She subsequently joined the pregnancy help community at centers and maternity homes in Ohio and Florida while an undergraduate at Franciscan University and a law student at Ave Maria School of Law.

White, who served as senior editor for the Ave Maria Law Review in law school, will oversee the content development for Heartbeat International e-publications On the LeaderBoard and Capitol Matters, which are targeted to affiliated individuals of Heartbeat International.

 

Positive Pregnancy Center Resolutions Sweep the Country

By Jeanneane Maxon, Vice President of External Affairs and Corporate Counsel, Americans United for Liferesolutions

Attacks against pregnancy centers across the country have been widespread, and many of you have personally experienced them. In recent years, over a dozen states and localities have considered legislation promoted by NARAL designed to drive clients away from pregnancy centers and the life-saving help you provide.

Such bills typically include ridiculous requirements, such as disclaimers like, "This center is not required to provide you factually accurate information." In many instances, centers would be required to include such inaccurate and burdensome disclaimers in all client advertising, sometimes in 24 point font, and in Washington State, in five languages including Laotian.

If this sounds absurd to you, you are not alone. Every court that has had to consider such legislation has found it to be not only absurd, but unconstitutional. In fact, just this year, a court found an anti-pregnancy center ordinance imposed by Montgomery County, Maryland to be so inappropriate that it ordered the county to pay $375,000 in attorney's fees, costs, and nominal damages to the plaintiff pregnancy center.

Although they have been successful, efforts to defend pregnancy centers have cost time, energy and critical focus away from the women you serve. As Christian ministries, pregnancy centers should be strategic and prepared to defend themselves in the most efficient ways possible. We are called to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16. Proactive efforts, therefore, should be bathed in prayer and approached with strategic steps to make victory come easier.

As one strategy to shield these attacks, Americans United for Life (AUL) drafted a Joint Resolution Honoring the Work of Pregnancy Resource Centers which provides state legislators, as well as county and city officials, an opportunity to praise pregnancy centers. In 2010, following the launch of state-based attacks in Oregon, AUL published this resolution and began working for its passage.

To date, 23 Pregnancy Center Resolutions have been passed in 17 states (some states passed the resolution in multiple years) including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska (by way of a "proclamation"), New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Currently a resolution is also under consideration in Ohio.

As a first benefit, the resolution gives PRCs the ability to publicly highlight the work they do for their community. When a resolution passes, pregnancy center directors and volunteers are often invited to the statehouse and photographed with the Governor and/or significant government leaders. Additionally, many states also provide copies of the resolution for the center suitable for framing and display. Such an endorsement adds credibility in the minds of donors, clients and other influencers.

Additionally, when pregnancy centers are praised by a state or representative body of the people, the attacks on pregnancy centers lose credibility. For example, in 2010, Virginia legislators were so appalled by harassment NARAL inflicted on pregnancy centers through hostile legislation attempts, that they not only refused to enact NARAL's legislation, but turned around and passed the resolution praising the centers two weeks later.

Likewise, West Virginia has been on the forefront supporting the work of their pregnancy centers by way of a resolution. This state has consistently honored pregnancy centers every year since 2011. In 2012, the resolution became particularly meaningful when a hostile state legislator inappropriately wrote a letter to all the pregnancy centers demanding they supply him with confidential center files for a make-shift unofficial "investigation."

The pregnancy centers were able to respond simply by reminding this official that both the West Virginia House of Representatives and Senate had passed the resolution praising pregnancy centers for their outstanding service to the State and their communities. Presumably in embarrassment, the legislator stopped his harassment campaign and nothing more has been heard from him.

The impact of these resolutions is so profound that Heartbeat International and AUL believe that every pregnancy center should have a resolution passed in their state.

We can assist pregnancy centers in doing so. Pregnancy Center Action kits (with tools and instruction on passing the resolution) will be available to pregnancy centers in February, and the resolution and its corresponding policy guide is currently available at http://www.aul.org/legislative-resources/order-model-legislation/ (select Joint Resolution Honoring Pregnancy Resource Centers), or by contacting AUL at 202-741-4901.

We are privileged to stand by pregnancy centers that are doing the frontline work of helping women choose Life for themselves and their unborn children. We pray that this work carries on, uninhibited, until all are welcomed in life and protected in law.

RESPONSE: Eight Additional Women Come Forward Against OKC Abortion Practitioner

“Women deserve better than abortion and the predators who profit from this deadly practice.”                                                                                               

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                               
Monday | December 15, 2014      
CONTACT:
 Jay Hobbs, Director of Communications & Marketing (media@HeartbeatInternational.org)

COLUMBUS, OH – Responding to breaking news over the weekend of eight additional victims coming forward against the alleged Dr. Nareshkumar Gandalal “Naresh” Patel in Oklahoma City, Heartbeat International has released the following statements:

“Women deserve better than abortion and predators who profit from this deadly practice,” Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., said. “The shared story of these eight women points to the very reason Heartbeat International’s network of pregnancy help centers, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption exist, which is to provide a pregnant mother with all the information she needs to care for herself and her family during an unexpected pregnancy. 

“Women deserve to know the whole truth. Abortion facilities—Mr. Patel’s is merely the example of the day—often leave out the truth, putting abortion profits above what’s really best for mothers and their babies.

“Our network of pregnancy help organizations offers free services because the life of a mother and her baby are worth more than an abortion facility’s bottom line,” Hartshorn said. "It is tragic, in the case of these eight women, that they were reached by a preditory practicioner in an hour of great vulnerability, rather than a life-affirming voice in a local pregnancy help organization."

Patel was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 9, on charges of “fraud for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs to patients who are not pregnant,” according to a press release issued by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. While further investigation is ongoing, Patel’s original charges could result in a three-year jail sentence and a maximum fine of $15,000, according to the press release.

 

The No-Problem 'Problem' Means Good News in Maryland

  

“Because Defendants have failed to demonstrate an actual problem in need of solving, it is unnecessary to reach the narrow tailoring prong of the strict scrutiny test.”1

Those are the words footnoted on the last page of last Friday’s opinion by Judge Deborah Chasanow in the case Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, et al., Case 8:10-cv-01259 (D. Maryland 3/7/2014).

Imagine that… Montgomery County was unable to demonstrate to the Court that pregnancy help centers pose a problem in need of solving. What’s just as telling is what the Court also stated in the body of the opinion:

Quite simply, the County has put no evidence into the record to demonstrate that [limited service pregnancy resource centers’] failure clearly to state that no doctors are on premises has led to any negative health outcomes. Id., at 52.

The County, in the words of the pregnancy help centers, was searching for a problem to fit their Resolution (Id., at 42). The problem with the County’s problem, however, is that in the end, Montgomery County’s pregnancy centers don’t actually pose a problem to the County’s residents.

The Background

The case before the Court was a Resolution attempting to force Montgomery County’s pregnancy help centers, including Heartbeat affiliate Centro Tepeyac, to make specific disclosures stating what services they did—and did not offer.

The Resolution, Number 16-1252, originally passed Feb. 2, 2010, and required Montgomery County pregnancy help centers to post notices in specific languages and in specific locations on-site. The notices were to state that licensed medical professionals were not on the premises and that the County recommended pregnant women see a physician for a medical diagnosis of pregnancy.

Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, Centro Tepeyac challenged the Resolution on the grounds that it violated the freedoms guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Now several years into the process, Judge Chasanow, a District of Maryland justice, clearly and cogently determined that the Resolution imposed an unconstitutional burden on the rights guaranteed to centers.

The Process

The opinion, issued Friday, March 7, 2014, was actually the District Court’s revisit to the Resolution, which was most recently reviewed July 2013 in a decision by the 4th Circuit.

Throughout its long and convoluted procedural journey, the Resolution has been analyzed and reanalyzed. The flow of the County’s argument was as follows:

  1. The County has a compelling interest in protecting women’s health.
  2. PHCs do not advise women that medical professionals are not on site and that the County recommends pregnant women see a physician for a medical diagnosis.
  3. Pregnancy Help Centers harm women in failing to make the two statements to pregnant women.
  4. Pregnancy Help Centers obstruct the County’s interest in protecting women’s health.
  5. Mandatory disclosure will advance the County’s interest in protecting women’s health.
  6. PHCs must therefore be compelled to make such statements to pregnant women on PHC premises.

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Chasanow found that the County did indeed demonstrate a compelling interest in protecting the health of women (point 1 above). The Court also assumed, for the sake of argument, that the pregnancy help centers did not make any of the statements required to be made (points 2).

However, the flaw in the County’s argument, the Court reasoned, was between points 2 and 3, where the County failed to demonstrate the connection between the pregnancy help centers’ actions (or assumed inactions) and any evidence-based harm to pregnant women.

Commenting on the County’s evidence, the Court stated:

The County attempts to elide this distinction by providing no evidence for the effect, only the alleged cause. The Waxman and NARAL reports focus on the misinformation problem. So too do all of the comments made to the County Council in support of the Resolution. These commenters – who were universally volunteers from a pro-choice organization sent to investigate LSPRCs’ practices – discussed the alleged misinformation they were provided and that that the LSPRCs were not forthcoming with the fact that they are not a medical center and that they do not provide referrals for abortions. But even assuming all that is true - that LSPRC are presenting themselves as medical providers and thus pregnant women are accepting their misinformation as sound medical advice, the County must still demonstrate the next supposition on the logical chain: that these practices are having the effect of harming the health of pregnant women. The County has failed this task.

With the County’s failure to connect the link at the earlier points, the Court never had to consider the analysis of whether the County’s Resolution passed the strict scrutiny least restrictive means test typically employed by the United States Supreme Court in such cases.

The Final Analysis

This case is a clear victory for pregnancy help centers, not only in Maryland, but across the nation.

The Court attacks the very heart of the evidence, its legitimacy and its sources. Further, the Court logically and reasonably requires the County to demonstrate in court what it should have considered at the legislative level: Does the (mis)information justify the legislation?

Though the case is likely to be appealed by the County, the strength and logic of the decision should serve as a guide for other judges considering such legislation.

Stay tuned, but in the meantime, congratulations to the Montgomery County pregnancy help centers, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the other attorneys representing and standing for life.


by Ellen Foell, Legal Counsel

1. Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, et al.Case 8:10-cv-01259 (D. Maryland 3/7/2014)

Getting your legal pulse rate going!

by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel

If the purpose of Pulse is to help life-affirming people keep their fingers on the pulse of America’s pregnancy help movement, then here are two very interesting and highly contentious battles which mandate a closer look.  On opposite ends of the country, California and New York, local governments have pitted themselves against pregnancy help centers (PHCs), in both the legislative and judicial forums.

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and the city council’s efforts to unfairly regulate the work of PHCs through superfluous fraud, deception, and consumer protection laws, came to a grinding halt as a federal district court judge ruled that the Council’s law was unconstitutional.  Indeed, the court found that the speech (essentially advertising and information on services provided) of PHCs was not commercial speech, that the speech of centers was particularly prone to biased regulation because of its controversial nature and that New York City council’s attempt to regulate the speech was offensive and unconstitutional.  The court imposed a preliminary injunction on the application of the law pending a trial on the merits.

On the other side of the country, San Francisco - presumably unaware of the rulings in Baltimore, Montgomery County, and New York - proceeded full-speed ahead. They threatened two San Francisco PHCs, First Resort and Alpha Pregnancy Center, with a two pronged legal action.  One prong is the now typical, albeit unsuccessful, proposed law which seeks to regulate the speech of PHCs.

The other prong is the threat by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera that he intends to pursue legal action against the two pregnancy centers whose business names pop up first in a Google search when someone uses San Francisco and abortion as keywords. According to Herrera, that first-in-line pop up constitutes false advertising and violates reproductive rights of women. This attack is so bizarre that even those who are not pro-life see that Mr. Herrera is on a hunt to harass PHCs and they easily recognize the ridiculous nature of the threat.

Zombie, a contributing blogger to PajamasMedia.com, an online blogging portal, wrote: “even from my pro-choice perspective, the city’s attempt to essentially banish any counseling center which doesn’t encourage or perform abortions is simply beyond belief.” This blogger continues, “And in the press conference proudly announcing this, the City Attorney openly admits that it’s politically motivated, that he’s going after the centers because he defines them as ‘right-wing.’ But seriously, have you ever looked at the ads for the other kinds of pregnancy counseling centers, the kinds of places where if you walk in, the only advice they ever give you is abort abort abort?

“Never do they put up big neon signs saying ‘Fetuses aborted here.’ Instead, they have innocuous (some would say ‘deceptive’) names like ‘community health center’ or ‘reproductive services clinic’ and so on.” Zombie concludes, “In fact, if you flip the narrative, and do a Google search for ‘pregnant’ and ‘San Francisco,’ the top result is a hospital that does provide abortions.”

In a comment posted on Zombie’s PajamasMedia.com blog "chambers," a reader, responded to the article with this observation, "The psychology of the legislators driving this effort is skin-crawlingly creepy … How can so much passion, indeed fury, be worked up for ending the life of a fetus in the womb?"

Indeed, skin crawlingly creepy. If this doesn’t make our pulse rate rise, what will?

 

An Alliance to Celebrate

 

 by Ellen Foell, Esq., Heartbeat International Legal Counsel

Before I joined the Heartbeat International team, we entered into an agreement with Alliance Defending Freedom (then Alliance Defense Fund, “ADF”). Although I was not familiar with ADF, I soon learned about the valuable and critical place ADF holds on the beachhead of our legal and culture wars.

Led by Alan Sears, Alliance Defending Freedom is laser-focused on its three-fold mission: defending liberty, marriage and sanctity of life. It describes itself as follows:

[A]n alliance-building legal ministry encouraging Christians to come together to accomplish what none of us can do on our own: protect and defend the religious freedom that was bestowed upon us by God and secured in the U.S. Constitution. We are building an ever-stronger alliance of like-minded allies — attorneys, ministry leaders, pastors, Christian organizations, students, and other Christians — who value a life of faith lived freely and protected by just laws.

ADF has one of the most effective and efficient networks of attorneys to provide assistance to pregnancy help centers: their network of allied attorneys. An allied attorney is an attorney who has been trained at one of ADF’s outstanding annual academies in constitutional law so they can provide pro bono/dedicated service to the Body of Christ. 

At the academy, attorneys are provided continuing legal education on all three core issues, brought up-to-date on the applicable law by ADF’s team of invested, experienced and knowledgeable attorneys.

ADF’s allied attorneys may practice corporate law, real estate law, civil litigation, or they may be general practitioners. The points of commonality are their commitment to ADF’s mission and a willingness to donate some of their legal time and expertise to those who find themselves in need of trusted legal services.

A week rarely goes by where I don’t ask ADF to refer an allied attorney to one of Heartbeat’s affiliated pregnancy help organizations. I’ve asked for allied attorney help on behalf of centers facing legislative assaults, seeking to open a satellite center in another state, and I’ve sought their help with questions about employment and center bylaws.

Whether you’re a board member or an executive director, if you find yourself in need of legal help for your pregnancy help organization, contact me, Heartbeat International’s legal counsel, and I’ll put you in touch with ADF and their team of dedicated allied attorneys.

Who is My Patient?

by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel

“A patient-physician relationship is generally formed when a physician affirmatively acts in a patient’s case by examining, diagnosing, treating, or agreeing to do so.

"Once the physician consensually enters into a relationship with a patient in any of these ways, a legal contract is formed in which the physician owes a duty to that patient to continue to treat or properly terminate the relationship.

- Valarie BlakeDoctor-Patient relationship

This sounds like a trick question a Pharisee might ask to entrap Jesus.

The answer seems fairly straightforward. The patient is anyone who receives medical services from a physician.[1] But then, there is a follow-up question: "When is my patient no longer my patient?" In other words, when does the legal obligation to the patient end?

The physician and the clients who walk through the center’s doors are indispensable to its existence as a medical pregnancy clinic. Without the client-patients, there would be no need for the medical center to exist. Without the medical director, the center has no legal authority to provide any of its critical life-changing medical services, including ultrasounds and sexually transmitted infection and disease testing.

The medical director’s presence in name, policy-setting, procedure, and writing standing orders creates a patient-physician relationship. It runs between the physician and every client who walks through your doors to receive medical service.

However, much like ambulatory care clinics, the relationship between the physician in a medical pregnancy center and patient is limited in time and treatment, so the center must set distinct parameters to avoid confusion for the patient and liability for the center. Failure of the center to be clear in setting and communicating those parameters to the patient can create liability-laden situations.

The best way for centers to avoid liability issues is to be up-front in communicating the parameters of the patient-physician relationship with each client. In the eyes of the law, the physician-patient relationship continues if the following three factors are present, with the third factor posing the most relevance for pregnancy help centers:

  1. The client-patient needs follow-up treatment from a physician,
  2. The client-patient has a reasonable expectation of continued treatment, and
  3. The physician has not clearly and explicitly ended the relationship.

It is easy to see how a client-patient could leave a center with the impression that she and the medical director have now established a continuous patient-physician relationship. Treatment and care for a pregnant woman typically involves multiple doctor visits, additional ultrasounds, and can include additional procedures as well.

Further, since many of the women coming to a medical pregnancy clinic may not have an existing relationship with a physician, a client-patient might naturally conclude that the relationship would continue beyond the parameters of that place (the center) and time (the appointment).

That is, the client-patient might have a reasonable expectation of continued services because she clearly requires continued treatment. The question is, “From whom?” That question can and must be addressed in the context of clear and explicit communication to the client that the patient-physician relationship is terminated upon her leaving the pregnancy medical clinic, and—if needed—receipt of referrals for obstetrician-gynecologists, in keeping with standard pregnancy medical center practice. 

If the client is clearly and explicitly informed—verbally and in writing—that no continuing patient-physician relationship continues after the verification of pregnancy and/or ultrasound, then the center and its medical director will have fulfilled their legal duty to the client. In fact, most pregnancy medical centers have a Consent and Release Form for the client to sign, indicating this agreement.

Heartbeat International was recently asked whether giving a regimen of prenatal vitamins or prescribing prenatal vitamins constituted a continuation of the patient-physician relationship, possibly exposing the center to liability. The question was raised for obvious reasons: Prenatal vitamins tend to be something pregnant women take throughout the course of their pregnancy, implying continuing treatment.

Arguably, prescribing the vitamins could be interpreted to constitute action taken pursuant to the patient-physician relationship. Thus, a center will want to ensure that its Consent and Release Form is broad enough to encompass the prescription for vitamins.

Pregnancy help medical clinics daily provide excellent and caring life-saving services. In the event that a client-patient is pregnant, she should be given referrals for other service providers.

Centers should have an attorney draft a Consent and Release Form, which should be given and explained to the client-patient. This paperwork should clearly state that no follow-up care will be provided, and that the patient-physician relationship is terminated.

That form must be signed by both center staff and the client-patient, with a signed copy given to the client-patient and a copy kept in the client-patient’s medical file. In following these guidelines, a center will have fulfilled its obligation to the client-patient, and to the law.

Go and do likewise!



[1] “A patient-physician relationship is generally formed when a physician affirmatively acts in a patient’s case by examining, diagnosing, treating, or agreeing to do so. Once the physician consensually enters into a relationship with a patient in any of these ways, a legal contract is formed in which the physician owes a duty to that patient to continue to treat or properly terminate the relationship.” Valarie Blake, “When Is a Patient-Physician Relationship Established?” Virtual Mentor 14, no. 5 (2012), http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2012/05/hlaw1-1205.html  (Accessed October 9, 2012)

 

 

Do's and Don'ts of a Nonprofit in an Election Season

election ahead sign

As midterm elections draw ever nearer, it's time to refresh on what is—and isn't—allowed for your organization during the election season. Let's take a look at the key do's and don'ts as we come up to the 2018 midterm elections.

The first platinum rule for you as a nonprofit and as representatives of the nonprofit is that you may not endorse, support or oppose any specific candidate or political party. Your activities must be nonpartisan. The second platinum rule is that you as an individual—regardless of what your job is—may personally endorse, support or oppose any candidate or political party. To state it again:

  • A 501(c)(3) is not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate for public office or any political party. Period. That is the law.
  • Second, as individual citizens who happen to be employed by nonprofits, you are certainly able to exercise your rights as citizens as guaranteed under the Constitution.

Let’s talk about what a nonprofit CAN do:

  • A nonprofit can conduct a voter education forum in a nonpartisan manner…in other words it is not truly nonpartisan if a nonprofit only invites one candidate. The forum must be held for the purpose of educating and informing voters, which provides fair and impartial treatment of candidates, and which does not promote or advance one candidate over another.
  • A nonprofit can operate a voter registration booth with its name displayed on the booth.
  • A nonprofit can provide transportation to the polls as long as it does not drive only those who will vote for a favorite candidate.
  • A nonprofit can target turnout efforts to the people or areas they serve, or population groups, students, elderly, minority groups.
  • A nonprofit can continue to do normal lobbying on issues.
  • A nonprofit can work on behalf of a ballot measure.
  • A 501 (c)(3) can rent or sell mailing lists to candidates at fair market value, as long as it is made available to all candidates.

Further, if a representative of a nonprofit is asked to speak publicly during an election cycle or specifically asked for opinions about candidates, representatives of a 501(c)(3) should:

  • Decide who will speak publicly on behalf of the 501(c)(3) organization, so that non-designated staff will not inadvertently say something inappropriate.
  • Script responses before talking to reporters.
  • Focus on what was said (the issue), not who said it (the candidate). Avoid talking about a candidate’s qualifications or whether someone is a good or bad candidate.
  • Avoid discussing a candidate’s record; commenting on a candidate’s record is very close to commenting on a candidate’s qualifications or whether he or she should be elected.
  • Avoid talking about voters and making references to the election. For example, instead of saying “Voters will not accept…” say, “Americans won’t accept...”
  • Avoid identifying the candidate by name. It is better to say: “During the recent Republican debate, statements were made about [topic]. We disagree…”
  • Be very cautious if a reporter asks about which candidate is better on the 501(c)(3)’s issues, or whether the 501(c)(3) agrees with a statement a candidate made. Issue the disclaimer: “Well, as you know, we are a nonprofit and are not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate.” Then go back to scripted statements and rules above.
  • A 501(c)(3) organization may urge all candidates to take a stand or act on an issue, without commenting on specific candidate statements. For example, a 501(c)(3) organization may want to urge both major party candidates in a local, state, or federal race to take more forceful action on the issue of illegal guns and violence. A 501(c)(3) making this kind of communication should be careful to avoid criticizing any candidate, and should focus on the need for all candidates to take action.

What can a nonprofit NOT do:

  • A nonprofit cannot post anything on its website or in its office that favors or opposes a candidate for public office.
  • A nonprofit cannot distribute printed material that favors or opposes a particular candidate.
  • A nonprofit should monitor any content linked to its website.
  • A nonprofit cannot do political fundraising for any candidate.
  • Do not use the “magic words” vote for or vote against a particular candidate.
  • A nonprofit cannot contribute time, facilities or money to a candidate.
  • Do not coordinate activities with a candidate.
  • Do not publish anything in official newsletters, brochures or publications of any kind that favors or opposes a candidate.
  • Do not increase the organization’s level of criticism or praise of an official or devote a special issue of its publications to an incumbent’s favorable or unfavorable record.
  • Do not distribute more copies than usual of a regular publication during the campaign year.
  • Do not focus on the personal character or qualifications of an incumbent, or campaign contributions of the incumbent.
  • Do not connect the organization’s criticism of a voting record of an official to an election. For example, publicly remarking that an official is anti-immigrant and mentioning that people should register to vote.
  • Do not point out that a particular candidate’s actions (as opposed to official actions) or views are incorrect. For example, a 501(c)(3) should not urge the public to withhold campaign contributions for a Senator’s re-election if she votes for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” or remark that one candidate would be better than another candidate at creating green jobs if elected than another candidate.

Resources:

Let’s talk about what a nonprofit CAN do:

·       A nonprofit can conduct a voter education forum in a non partisan manner…in other words it is not truly nonpartisan if a nonprofit only invites one candidate. The forum must be held for the purpose of educating and informing voters, which provides fair and impartial treatment of candidates, and which does not promote or advance one candidate over another

·       A nonprofit can operate a voter registration booth with its name displayed on the booth

·       A nonprofit can provide transportation issues to the polls as long as it does not drive only those who will vote for a favorite candidate;

·       A nonprofit can target turnout efforts to the people or areas they serve, or population groups, students, elderly, minority groups

·       A non profit can continue to do normal lobbying on issues;

·       Work on behalf of a ballot measure;

·       A 501 c3 can rent or sell mailing lists to candidates at fair market value, as long as it is made available to all candidates.

Further, if a representative of a nonprofit is asked to speak publicly during an election cycle or specifically asked for opinions about candidates, representatives of a 501(c)(3) should:

·        Decide who will speak publicly on behalf of the 501(c)(3) organization, so that non-designated staff will not inadvertently say something inappropriate.

·        Script responses before talking to reporters.

·        Focus on what was said (the issue), not who said it (the candidate). Avoid talking about a candidate’s qualifications or whether someone is a good or bad candidate.

·        Avoid discussing a candidate’s record; commenting on a candidate’s record is very close to commenting on a candidate’s qualifications or whether he or she should be elected.

·        Avoid talking about voters and making references to the election. For example, instead of saying “Voters will not accept…” say, “Americans won’t accept……”

·        Avoid identifying the candidate by name. It is better to say: “During the recent Republican debate, statements were made about X. We disagree…”

·        Be very cautious if a reporter asks about which candidate is better on the 501(c)(3)’s issues, or whether the 501(c)(3) agrees with a statement a candidate made. Issue the disclaimer: “well, as you know, we are a nonprofit and are not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate.” Then go back to scripted statements and rules above.

·        A 501(c)(3) organization may urge all candidates to take a stand or act on an issue, without commenting on specific candidate statements. For example, a 501(c)(3) organization may want to urge both major party candidates in the presidential race to take more forceful action on the issue of illegal guns and violence. A 501(c)(3) making this kind of communication should be careful to avoid criticizing any candidate, and should focus on the need for all candidates to take action.

What can a nonprofit NOT do:

·       A nonprofit cannot post anything on its website or in its office  that favors or opposes a candidate for public office

·       A nonprofit cannot distribute printed material that favors or opposes a particular candidate

·       A nonprofit should monitor any content linked to its website

·       A nonprofit cannot do political fundraising for any candidate

·       Do not use the “magic words” vote for  vote against a particular candidate;

·       Contribute time, facilities or money to a candidate;

·       Do not coordinate activities with a candidate;

·       Do not publish anything in official newsletters, brochures or publications of any kind that favors or opposes a candidate;

·       Do not Increase the organization’s level of criticism or praise of an official or devote a special issue of its publications to an incumbent’s favorable or unfavorable record.

·       Distributing more copies than usual of the publication during the campaign year.

·       Focusing on the personal character or qualifications of an incumbent or campaign contributions of the incumbent.

·       Connect the organization’s criticism to voting in an election. For example, publicly remarking that an official is anti-immigrant and mentioning that people should register to vote.

·       Pointing out that a particular candidate’s actions (as opposed to official actions) or views are incorrect. For example, a 501(c)(3) should not urge the public to withhold campaign contributions for a Senator’s re-election if she votes for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” or remark that one candidate would be better at creating green jobs if elected than another candidate.