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