By Carol Tobias, President
Editor’s note. These are President Carol Tobias’s remarks to the opening General Session of NRLC 2018.
Good morning and welcome to the 48th annual National Right to Life convention. My name is Carol Tobias and I have the pleasure of serving as President of National Right to Life.
I am thrilled that you have all joined us for a wonderful experience—three days full of educational and motivational sessions and workshops.
We have a great line-up of speakers on a variety of topics. Take this opportunity to learn more about something with which you are familiar or stretch yourself and learn about some issue or technique with which you are UNfamiliar.
Our convention theme is “Love Them all.” We love the unborn babies. We love the mothers who are facing a difficult time in their lives and need our support. We love the fathers who have no legal recourse to protect their child and suffer the loss of that child. We love the elderly and those with disabilities whose lives are threatened by assisted suicide and other forms of euthanasia.
And yes, we love those who do harm to all these precious human beings. We encourage them to walk away from death and darkness; we hope they will join us fighting to protect life.
This convention, we will find ways to “Love them all.”
On behalf of National Right to Life, I want to express our sincere gratitude to Kansans for Life for their amazing work in helping to organize this convention. Mary Kay Culp, executive director and Carol Dengel, NRLC director from Kansas, along with the Kansans for Life Board and volunteers, have put heart and soul into making this convention a tremendous convention. To all those involved in organizing and promoting this convention, a huge and sincere thank you.
This year, we are recognizing the 50th anniversary of National Right to Life.
I say recognizing, not celebrating. Of course I’m proud of NRLC’s 50 years but we are sad that there ever was a need for this organization and its efforts on behalf of innocent, vulnerable human life.
But an organized, focused effort was necessary. During the 1960s, there were attempts to legalize abortion in various states. In 1966 and 1967, those efforts were defeated in MN, NY, and VA but successful in CO.
The successful effort to defeat pro-abortion legislation in Virginia was led by a new group formed for that purpose, the Virginia Society for Human Life. This fledgling group of ordinary, yet extraordinary, citizens received a letter from a priest in New Jersey, Father James McHugh, later Bishop McHugh, saying the they were a model organization for this type of needed activism. He asked them to help organize a national group.
Later that year, in October of 1968, a newsletter, under the National Right to Life banner, was published out of a Richmond print shop. That print shop was owned by Alex and Geline Williams. Geline served many years as chair of the National Right to Life Board of Directors and remains a valuable member of our Board.
In order to help this new national organization, the Knights of Columbus placed a nationwide ad in Parade magazine that said– if you want a brochure on abortion, send this form to—and they gave the home address of Shirley Grant, secretary of VSHL. She was inundated with bags, and bags, and bags… of mail from around the country and said NRL had to get an office. It wasn’t operating out of her house anymore!
In 1973, when the Supreme Court decreed abortion on demand would be the law of the land, our response obviously needed to keep growing. NRLC formed a federation of the groups that were already in existence in a number of states. Early pioneers invested time and effort into organizing groups in those states that had yet to form one.
As the organization grew, the backbone was, and still is, the awesome volunteers from around the country who dedicate their time and talent to making a difference in the lives of innocent, defenseless persons.
State affiliates began to pass which, as we’ve come to expect, were challenged in court. Some were upheld, some struck down, others reworked and re-enacted.
It became obvious that, in order to continue to pass laws to protect the babies and their mothers, we needed to place pro-life men and women into critical positions to make those decisions. We had to be involved in elections,
In 1980, the National Right to Life Political Action Committee was formed and have made a difference in elections for almost 40 years. In the 2016 election, almost a third of all voters recalled hearing or seeing information from National Right to Life’s political committees.
From the very beginning, NRLC recognized that the lives of the elderly and those with disabilities also need to be protected from euthanasia, assisted suicide, and rationing of health care. We “Love Them All.”
The issue of life remains in the forefront of public discourse so where are we with the American public? Back in the 1990s, Gallup began to ask people, “Do you consider yourself to be pro-life or pro-choice? On average, 51% of Americans personally identified as pro-choice while 40% identified themselves as pro-life. The results of their poll, released earlier this month, found that 48% consider themselves to be pro-choice and 48% say they are pro-life. Supporters of abortion decreased three percent, we increased by eight percent. That trend is good news for the babies!
Not just taking a label, but should abortion be legal? Forth-three percent of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, while 53% say it should be legal in only a few or no circumstances.
We still have work to do to change hearts and minds, but the country is moving in the direction of LIFE.
We had good news out of the Supreme Court this week. On Tuesday, the Court ruled that the state of California could not force pregnancy resource centers to promote and refer for abortion. The law required licensed pregnancy centers to disclose where women could receive free or low-cost abortions, and required unlicensed centers to insert state-dictated material in their advertising. The state even dictated that the size of the lettering; it had to be 48-point font!
What I find appalling is that this attack on the first amendment, free-speech rights of pregnancy centers had the support of four justices on the Supreme Court.
Other news out of the court this week– Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he is retiring as of July 31.
National Right to Life, our state affiliates and chapters, and the many volunteers have worked extremely hard to pass legislation to protect unborn children. All too often, those efforts have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own policy preferences.
We look forward to President Trump nominating a jurist who shares the view that Supreme Court justices should enforce the text and original intent of the constitution, and on all other matters defer to lawmakers elected by the people.
Following on the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch, this opening gives President Trump a second opportunity to shape the Court for years to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on a nominee this fall. Get ready for an epic battle because it’s coming.
And after that battle, we still have a long road ahead of us. But we’ll keep educating to change hearts and minds; we’ll keep passing legislation to protect the vulnerable, defenseless ones; and we’ll keep electing men and women to support that legislation. I truly believe we can see the beginning of the end. Victory is on the horizon. Use this convention to learn even more than you already know so that we can bring more and more people to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, born and unborn.