A Look Back at 50 Years of NRLC

By Carol Tobias, President

National Right to Life President Carol Tobias

Pro-lifers from around the country will soon be gathering in Kansas for the 48th annual National Right to Life convention. I can’t wait to see long-time friends and make new ones. The convention is always an educational and motivational event for me and for all who attend.

The convention is also just FUN!! Pro-life people are the most genuine, kind, loving people there are. To be surrounded by so many people who love and respect and fight unrelentingly for life from conception to natural death is a highlight of the year.

We are especially proud that 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the National Right to Life Committee! National Right to Life was founded in 1968 as a response to efforts throughout the country to change state laws on abortion. But in 1973 when the Supreme Court delivered abortion on demand nationwide, our response obviously needed to grow. It needed to become bigger, stronger, and more organized.

NRLC formed a federation of the groups that were already in existence in a number of states. But that was just the start. NRLC’s early pioneers invested time and effort into organizing groups in those states that lacked one, a pivotal development. Working with Rep. Henry Hyde, one of our first efforts, and one with a long-lasting impact, was the enactment of the Hyde amendment to prevent the use of tax dollars from paying for abortion.

State affiliates began to pass a myriad of laws. They ran the gamut from preventing abortion funding with state tax dollars, requiring that parents be involved if a minor daughter is seeking an abortion, giving a legal voice to the father of the unborn baby who wanted to save his child, and requiring abortionists to provide the women with accurate information about abortion, possible complications, and available alternatives.

There were many court challenges. Some of the laws 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. Activating pro-lifers around the country, the PAC was instrumental in helping Ronald Reagan defeat an incumbent president and electing a large number of pro-life senators, many of whom also defeated pro-abortion incumbents. The pundits were utterly amazed.

Our election activity continues these many years later. In the 2016 election, almost a third of all voters, 29%, recalled hearing or seeing information from National Right to Life’s political committees. That effectiveness was and is critical in close races.

In 2016, 31% of all voters said abortion affected their vote and that they voted for pro-life candidates. Only 18% said abortion affected their vote and voted for pro-abortion candidates, a 13 % advantage for pro-life candidates!

With the suppport and active involvement of wonderful pro-life volunteers throughout the country, along with the state affiliates, National Right to Life became not only the oldest single-issue pro-life organization in the country but also the largest.

New programs were developed and implemented. NRLC created outreach programs to work with those in the religious community and women who had abortions, with African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. National Teens for Life was formed.

Looking back, one of the greatest impacts on public opinion was the 13-year debate surrounding partial-birth abortion. Thanks to the work of NRLC and congressional leaders, the country was stunned to learn that babies in the later months of pregnancy were being killed by being partially delivered, having surgical scissors stabbed into their head, and their brains sucked out prior to delivering the now-dead baby. The ban on partial-birth abortions was finally upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

The idea for this legislation, along with the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act, originated with NRLC. We, of course, want to protect all unborn children but recognize that the Supreme Court “isn’t there” yet. So we seek to protect– now– those children who can be saved through legislation, while working to elect even more pro-life women and men to office and seeking confirmation of judges that will see that the “right” to abortion has no foundation in our Constitution.

From our very origins, NRLC recognized that the lives of the elderly and those with disabilities also need to be protected. The very first issue of NRL News discussed euthanasia. Ever since, NRLC has also been concerned about euthanasia, assisted suicide, and rationing of health care.

I’m proud of NRLC’s 50 years but, like you, am sad that there was ever a need for our organization and its efforts on behalf of innocent, vulnerable human life.

We still have a long battle ahead of us, but I think we can see the beginning of the end and victory on the horizon. I hope you are able to join us at the upcoming NRLC convention in Kansas to learn even more than you already know and to become even more motivated than you already are, so that we can complete that final stretch, that we can run the course set before us.

One day soon, we hope and pray, we will see unborn children protected and all human life respected.