Father Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, is one of the anti-abortion leaders who have reluctantly come around to Donald Trump now that he is the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, saying last week that for abortion rights opponents, the choice between Trump and a Democrat is a choice “between doubt and certainty.”
Pavone explained his thinking more in an interview Tuesday on Ave Maria Radio, saying that he reminds people who are having doubts about voting for Trump about the importance of Supreme Court nominations and presents them with an utterly depressing analogy:
Here’s the analogy I’ve been using for folks to consider: It’s like being on a runaway train. Let’s presume, it’s an odd situation, but let’s presume that you’re at the controls of a runaway train. And the train cannot be stopped and you know that at the end of the track it’s going to do damage, so you can’t stop the train. But supposed the only thing you could do is to switch the track that the train is on so that at the end of Track A it’s going to kill 10 people and at the end of Track B it’s going to kill 100 people. Now, you don’t want to kill anybody. Nobody wants to kill anybody. But you can’t stop the train.
So, what are you going to do? Are you going to say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to do anything’? Or are you going to do your best to switch it to the track where it’s going to do less damage. Now, some people say, ‘I don’t want to kill 10 people and I don’t want to kill 100 people, so I’m not going to do anything.’ Yeah, but if the train is on the track, then, to do the more damage, don’t you share responsibility for not doing something to try to minimize the damage?
This is not the choice between the lesser of two evils: We don’t choose evil at all. It’s a choice to limit evil. And the choice to limit evil is a good.
He added that according to the catechism, voting is “morally obligatory.”
In January, as Iowans prepared to cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, several women leaders in the anti-abortion movement wrote an open letter urging Republicans in the state to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”
The activists, including Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser and Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance, wrote that Trump “cannot be trusted” to advance their anti-abortion policy goals or to nominate Supreme Court justices who would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade. They went on to describe his record of “disparaging” remarks about women:
Moreover, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular. He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.
America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either. Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate.
Now, as Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee, the anti-choice movement has to decide whether to take its chances with him.
Nance, sounding distraught, told a radio interviewer this morning that a third party presidential candidacy was out of the question and that the choice was between Trump and a “devastating” Hillary Clinton presidency.
Dannenfelser, who once said that Trump “disqualified himself as the GOP nominee” when he said that the abortion laws “are set” and “we have to leave it that way,” signaled that she was ready to pivot her message yesterday when she wrote a blog post praising Trump for making “a huge pro-life hire” in John Mashburn, a former staffer to North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and someone whom Dannenfelser described as an ally to the anti-abortion movement.
“Congratulations on your new hire, Mr. Trump,” Dannenfelser wrote. “If elected, no doubt John Mashburn will serve you well as you fulfill your campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood, advance and sign into law the popular Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and appoint Justices to the bench who will protect and defend the Constitution.”
Mashburn has previously worked for right-wing groups including the American Civil Rights Union and the Carleson Center for Public Policy.
In the end, the game for anti-choice groups comes down to the Supreme Court. A coalition of leading groups have unified behind a campaign pressuring Republican senators to keep up their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Just yesterday, the Susan B. Anthony List, CWA and Iowa Right to Life delivered a petition to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urging him to continue to refuse to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee until the next president is sworn in.
Their hope, it seems, is that a candidate they are “disgusted” by and “cannot trust” will win the presidency and at least give them a Supreme Court pick who will advance their agenda.
And while Trump is the candidate whom they have repeatedly painted as a worst-case scenario, these activists must be relieved that he has outsourced the duty of selecting future Supreme Court justices to the anti-choice Heritage Foundation.
UPDATE 5/5/16: The Washington Times reports that the Susan B. Anthony List and Priests for Life will both be supporting Trump. Priests for Life's Frank Pavone explained that when it comes to the Supreme Court, "the difference here is between doubt and certainty.”
Between Mr. Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — the only presidential candidate ever endorsed by Planned Parenthood — Father Frank Pavone says the decision is easy.
Fr. Pavone said his group will work to convince pro-life activists to support Mr. Trump in the general election.
“Withholding support [from Mr. Trump] at this point is in effect support for Hillary,” he said. “Sometimes people might feel like, ‘I feel better in my conscience because I didn’t cast a vote for him and I didn’t cast a vote for Hillary either.’ [But] you can influence the election by not voting.”
Mallory Quigley, director of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, said her group will also support Mr. Trump, citing his campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood and support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization.
“I think achieving these goals would be a huge accomplishment, bigger than any pro-life advancement that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Ms. Quigley said, adding, “We’re expecting Trump to be a man of his word and follow through, just as he would on any issue.”
Clarke Forsythe, acting president and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, would not commit to supporting Mr. Trump in the general election, but said supporting Mrs. Clinton — whose position on abortion he compared to the North Korea regime’s — is untenable.
Mr. Forsythe said in a statement that AUL “will be carefully and closely watching Donald Trump between now and election day, to see whether he lays out pro-life policies as well as to learn what his recommendations will be for the GOP party platform.”
But following the death of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is now the pro-life movement’s last, best hope of retaining a majority on the bench.
When it comes to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump has mentioned Scalia as a model,” he said. “Well, that’s music to our ears, naturally. We know what we’re going to get with Hillary. Even if people have doubts about what kind of people Donald Trump would nominate, the difference here is between doubt and certainty.”
Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is not the ideal pro-life candidate, but added that a healthy dose of pragmatism is necessary in any election.
“You don’t compromise on your goals or your principles,” he said. “At the same time, you look at the situation and you say, ‘How far can we go in these circumstances?’ Well, either one or the other is going to be president, so we want the better of the two.”
“We know 100 percent where Hillary Clinton stands,” Ms. Quigley noted. “She supports abortion up until the moment of birth for any reason. She has yet to name a single instance in which she would stand in and protect the life of the child, even sex-selection abortions, abortions for disability, up until the very moment of birth.
“We’ve made the judgment that this is what we need to do.”
Also displeased with the Catholic school’s welcoming of Richards was Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, who said on a Catholic radio program on Tuesday that inviting Richards was the equivalent of trying to “understand terrorism” by inviting “representatives of ISIS” to campus or inviting “the biggest mobsters to come in because we have to understand both sides of the debate about organized crime.”
In an interview with Teresa Tomeo on Ave Maria Radio’s “Catholic Connection,” Pavone blasted Georgetown for “adding to confusion, contention and division within the church on the most important issue of our day,” asking if there are “no better speakers in the world to stimulate the intellects of these students than people who preside over killing hundreds of thousands of children every year.”
He said he didn’t buy the argument that inviting someone like Richards to speak was allowing “inquiry into all different positions.”
“I mean, do we inquire, do we try to understand terrorism by inviting representatives of ISIS to come and speak?” he asked. “Or let’s get some of the biggest drug dealers in the country to come and talk about their business because, after all, we have to understand both sides of the issue of drug abuse. Why don’t we invite the biggest mobsters to come in because we have to understand both sides of the debate about organized crime? Are they doing that? Maybe I’m missing it, but do these universities invite these kinds of people too?”
“You know,” Tomeo said, “this is what I don’t get, why this issue is only talked about in terms of ‘both sides’ of a controversial issue when it comes to abortion and artificial contraception or even so-called same-sex marriage.”
“Yeah, the fact is the other side of these things is so totally bankrupt, unacceptable, outrageous, and has no place in civilized society that that should be self-evident right from the start,” Pavone responded. “Why do you have to think twice about why it’s wrong to kill a baby? See, that’s what I don’t understand either. I mean, you mean to tell me these students have to think twice about whether killing a child is wrong?”
We’ll just note that conservatives have been wringing their hands for years about intolerant liberals supposedly shutting down opposing speech on college campuses.
As we noted this morning, the hubbub over Donald Trump’s comments about legal punishment for women who have abortions has shone a spotlight on the anti-abortion movement’s uncertainty about how to handle women who seek illegal abortions if the procedure is recriminalized.
While many in the anti-choice movement try to avoid talking about this issue publicly, it is something that activists who are more thoughtful than Donald Trump probably can’t help but consider as they shape their views.
Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, gave an interesting glimpse into the way some anti-choice activists think about the punishment issue this week when he said that if abortion is recriminalized, women who have abortions are unlikely to face murder charges because they could show that they faced “pressure” or “confusion” in their decision. When he was pressed further on the issue, Pavone floated the possibility of legal punishment for “accomplices” — like someone who brings a woman to get an abortion — and seemed to suggest that the law could also punish women who are insufficiently remorseful about having the procedure.
This is not the first time that Priests for Life has tried to address the issue. A few years ago, Bryan Kemper, who heads youth outreach for Priests for Life through his group Stand True Ministries, grappled with this question on his blog and concluded that if abortion is to become illegal nationwide, as is the goal of the anti-abortion movement, then women who obtain abortions would indeed have to be treated as murderers.
Kemper wrote in 2012 that the question of what to do about women who have abortions if the procedure is recriminalized is “one of the toughest questions to answer as a pro-lifer” but that the obvious answer is unavoidable if you “truly believe that a child in the womb is a full human person.” He continued:
I admit there is an emotional element to this that can blur the issue. I know that no one wants to go throwing thousands of women in prison. It is sincerely a tough question.
Lets change the direction we look at this however. Just like in my debates against pro-abortion advocates, I would steer away from the distractions and focus on the core issue. What is abortion? Abortion is the killing of a human person. Just like stabbing a three old on a playground is killing a human person, stabbing a baby in the womb is also killing a human person.
If we establish a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution declaring that children are full human persons from the moment of fertilization, then we must treat them as such.
When the woman in Texas drowned her five children several years ago, what was your thought on her punishment? Did you believe because she had some rough times at home she should be excused from what she did? The fact is, she killed her five children and had to answer to the law. While we might feel sorry for her emotional state, we must also want justice for the five children who were killed.
In the same way, we must look at the children in the womb as equal in value as the children who were drowned and demand justice for them also. We can certainly feel empathy for what a woman might be going through, however, that cannot change the fact that she has broken the law and ended the life of her child. We know there is forgiveness is Christ, but justice must also be served. If we make a separate law and separate punishment for someone who has an abortion then we are saying that the child in the womb is somehow not as valuable then any other human person killed. If we say that intentionally killing one child is less of a crime then intentionally killing another child, then our whole argument for life is destroyed.
Donald Trump’s comment last month that if abortion is recriminalized, a woman who obtains the procedure will have to face “some form of punishment ” was a disaster for his presidential campaign, but did a public service in exposing the real consequences of the anti-choice movement's agenda.
Abortion rights opponents who have spent years claiming that their efforts to restrict abortion are about protecting women were suddenly faced with a direct question: If you believe that abortion is murder, why shouldn’t a woman who chooses an abortion be treated like a murderer?
Most anti-choice leaders respond with some version of the argument that in the case of an abortion, a woman is a victim rather than a perpetrator, along with vague assurances that no public officials would actually choose to legally punish women for the procedure.
One of these is Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, who responded to Trump’s comment by saying: “We don't aim to imprison [women], we aim to liberate them from the shame and guilt and wounds abortion brings. The punishment should be for the abortionist, not the baby's mom.”
But Pavone had a hard time keeping up this argument when, in a recent radio appearance, a sympathetic caller pressed him on the logical fallacy.
Pavone was a guest on "The Drew Mariani Show" on Relevant Radio on Tuesday when a listener named Cory called in to say that he thought Trump was being “remarkably philosophically consistent” on the issue of punishing women for abortion. If a fetus is the equivalent of a five-year-old, he asked, why wouldn’t a woman who has an abortion face the same punishment as a woman who hires someone to kill her five-year-old?
“Because, I mean, we certainly don’t allow a woman who’s an accomplice in the murder of a five-year-old or a six-year-old the privilege of being a victim,” he said. “So I’m not exactly sure how we — we’re not really being that philosophically consistent here with this.”
Pavone responded that the difference was “psychological” and that a woman who had an abortion would probably face a lesser charge because of the amount of “pressure” and “confusion” that she was under to seek the procedure, much like “mitigating circumstances” can mitigate murder charges in the case of a “born person.”
Pavone added that it would also make sense to spare women from punishment so that they would report abortion providers to the authorities, who could then “go after that abortionist and stop him and save other lives.”
Cory, however, was not satisfied with this answer. He pointed out that many women who have abortions “don’t mind having gone through it and they don’t regret it” and repeated that he thought “there should be some sort of legal consequence for a woman who volitionally goes into an abortion clinic knowing what’s going to happen.”
“There has to be some sort of legal consequence, otherwise I just fear that we’re not being logically consistent on this issue,” he said.
Pavone’s answer was essentially “we’ll see.” He told Cory that once an abortion ban is enacted, there would be many options for enforcing it, including penalizing “accomplices” who help a woman get an abortion.
“I mean, the abortionist has to get punished, but what about the person who brings her to or pays for the abortion?” he asked. “So the law can look at a lot of things.”
Pavone then seemed to open the door for the possibility of punishing women who are insufficiently remorseful about having an abortion. “What you have to do,” he said, “is look at each circumstance very carefully, and just like we do with the murder of born people, what were the — how guilty, how responsible, how free was this person, how much did they know and intend what was going on?”
Jay Sekulow, who heads the Religious Right legal group founded by Pat Robertson, has similarly hinted at his willingness to accept legal punishments for women who choose abortions for what he deems to be the wrong reasons.
Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, sent out a press statement today seeking to “correct the record” on reports that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump had blown off a planned conference call with a group of anti-choice activists he organized yesterday.
Pavone declined to go into details, but said that the Trump campaign did not “break any commitment, promise, appointment, or expectation” and that he has extended to Trump a “standing invitation to dialogue.”
Pavone said that his group believes that the legal punishment for abortion “should be for the abortionist, not the baby's mom,” but claimed that women who “have had abortions are already in prison.” (He meant this metaphorically, although it is also literally true.)
“We don't aim to imprison them, we aim to liberate them from the shame and guilt and wounds abortion brings,” he said.
He added that people like Trump who believe in punishing women for abortion are “much easier to bring to the right position” than those who are pro-choice:
Much has been made of his recent comments about who should be punished for abortion. As for punishing the woman, those who have had abortions are already in prison. As the Pastoral Director of the world's largest ministry of healing after abortion, Rachel's Vineyard, and also of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, by which those who have had abortions speak out about their experiences, I know this very well.
We don't aim to imprison them, we aim to liberate them from the shame and guilt and wounds abortion brings. The punishment should be for the abortionist, not the baby's mom. I have not spoken to Mr. Trump about this, but do look forward to doing so, and I am confident that he will listen to the voices and testimonies of women who suffer from abortion.
But Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have also made comments recently on abortion, including in a Town Hall on Fox News with Bret Baier. Sanders could name no circumstance, and Hillary hardly any, in which they thought it would be OK to make a single abortion illegal. That position is out of step with the American people. And neither of them has corrected or edited those comments.
Those who -- mistakenly -- think there should be a punishment for the women are much easier to bring to the right position than those who take the even more outrageous, offensive, and disastrous position -- like Sanders, Clinton, and the Democratic platform -- that the dismemberment and decapitation of children should continue in a practically unlimited way.
In the former position, there's an acknowledgment that society has to do something about the massive holocaust of children. In the latter position, there is a blatant disregard for the most fundamental right, the right to life.
Update: Trump reportedly failed to call in to the Priests for Life conference, even further confusing his already confused place in the “pro-life” movement.
Update II: In a statement on Thursday, Pavone said that reports of Trump's snub were "incorrect" and that neither "Mr. Trump nor anyone associated with him or his campaign cancelled a meeting or phone call with pro-life leaders, nor did they break any commitment, promise, appointment, or expectation."
Add this to the growing list of Donald Trump’s contradictory positions on reproductive rights: Trump, who has repeatedly said that Planned Parenthood does “very good work for millions of women,” is scheduled to speak today to an anti-choice organization that has been threatening to help infiltrate the women’s health provider in order to take it down.
The director of Priests for Life, Fr. Frank Pavone, has been on the frontline of the anti-abortion movement for decades and is currently leading an “ongoing campaign of prayer and fasting with the specific intention of ending abortion in the United States and ending the evils perpetrated by Planned Parenthood.”
“The troubles for Planned Parenthood have only just begun,” Pavone promised at the rally.
He added a “message to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry”:
“Be on your toes because we are in your midst, we are behind your doors, we are in your secret meetings, we are working for you and with you though you know it not, but in His good time the God who reveals all secrets will reveal that too.”
In an interesting turn of events yesterday, a Texas grand jury that had been convened to investigate Planned Parenthood based on the claims of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden instead indicted Daleiden and a colleague on charges relating to their infiltration of the women’s health care organization.
So far, Daleiden's attempt to "obtain prosecutions" has come up empty.
But pushing for the prosecution of Planned Parenthood officials was only part of Daleiden’s plan. In a statement following the indictment, Daleiden claimed that the “admissions” of Planned Parenthood were “captured on video for all the world to see.” Never mind that the videos show no such “admissions” of law-breaking. The point of the videos was not just to make a case to law enforcement, but to sway public opinion.
On a large scale, that hasn't been successful: One poll showed barely a flutter in the public’s views about Planned Parenthood between August and September of last year, in the height of the visibility of Daleiden’s videos. Planned Parenthood's favorability ratings had already dropped over the last two decades, Gallup found, but mostly among Republicans, a trend that the polling agency attributed to the growing “politicization of Planned Parenthood."
What Daleiden’s project has done is to galvanize support among those who were already opposed to abortion rights. Protests in front of Planned Parenthood offices, driven by the old guard of the anti-abortion “rescue” movement, expanded and multiplied, with the support of much more visible anti-choice groups. At this year’s March for Life, it was impossible to go five minutes without hearing a mention of Daleiden or his videos, with speaker after speaker saying that their movement finally had winning momentum. In the days leading up to the march, Daleiden crossed the city to speak to protesters holding gruesome signs outside a construction site for a new Planned Parenthood clinic; to talk with Americans United for Life lawyers working on strategies to restrict abortion rights; and to be prayed over by Russell Moore and Jim Daly, evangelical leaders who are trying to put a kinder, gentler face on their movement.
Speakers at nearly every event noted with hope that a bill defunding Planned Parenthood recently made it through a Republican Congress, allowing anti-choice activists to say that all they need now is to elect a president who would sign it.
Now that Daleiden is facing prosecution, he’s in the company of many fellow members of the “rescue” movement, which his work grew out of. Among those who protest outside of clinics, or try to infiltrate them, arrest and jail time for violation of what they see as unjust laws is a badge of honor. At a protest last week in front of a new Planned Parenthood that is being built in Washington, D.C., before Daleiden spoke, one “rescue” movement leader asked who there would be willing to “lay their body in front of the door” or “handcuff yourself to construction equipment” in order to stop the building from opening. Another touted the work of one of Daleiden’s mentors to train “a whole army of David Daleidens” to infiltrate Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country.
Yesterday’s indictment is unlikely to dissuade these activists, who feel that they are on the cusp of a David-and-Goliath victory. In fact, at events connected to the March for Life last week, speakers expressed hope that a separate lawsuit against Daleiden by Planned Parenthood would instead turn up unflattering information about the women's health provider and land it in hot water instead. So far, the opposite has been true. But, to the anti-choice movement, that just makes Daleiden seem even more like David, closer than ever to slinging the winning shot.
On Thursday morning, about 50 protesters gathered in the bitter cold in front of a new Planned Parenthood facility that is under construction in northeast Washington, D.C. Although local protesters have been picketing the construction site for months, yesterday’s protest brought in activists from around the country who were in town for the March for Life, becoming something of a reunion for the old guard of the anti-abortion “rescue” movement.
Although the event was fairly small, the mood was hopeful, even victorious.
Daleiden, who is now being sued by Planned Parenthood for racketeering, told the crowd that the facility under construction behind them looked “kind of like fortresses or the castle of an evil baron in a fairy tale” but that Planned Parenthood was “stopped in their tracks” and “the days of legalized, state-subsidized, industrial-scale child-killing in our country are numbered.”
He said that 2016 would be a “historic, watershed year” for opponents of legal abortion, citing the congressional select committee investigating his allegations about Planned Parenthood and the upcoming Supreme Court hearing in Whole Women’s Health v. Texas, which he said “will be something that will continue to break down the fortress.”
Father Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, also acknowledged the link between Daleiden’s work and the rescue movement. He noted that Mark Crutcher, whose unsuccessful “sting” operation 15 years ago inspired Daleiden’s attempt to frame Planned Parenthood for mishandling fetal tissue, is now creating a national training facility to build what Crutcher hopes will be “a whole army of David Daleidens.”
“The troubles for Planned Parenthood have only just begun,” Pavone said, adding that he thought that Daleiden’s operation would lead to prosecutions and then praising Crutcher’s effort to build “a new army of people into the abortion industry undercover.”
“So our message to Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry today is very simple,” he said. “Be on your toes because we are in your midst, we are behind your doors, we are in your secret meetings, we are working for you and with you though you know it not, but in His good time the God who reveals all secrets will reveal that too.”
“We will see the end of this Holocaust,” he declared.
Joan Andrews Bell, known in the movement for having spent years in jail for various violations of trespassing laws during abortion clinic protests, spoke briefly, saying, “I want you to know that the rescue movement isn’t dead. Jesus rescued us on the cross, he rescued us. And every single one of you ... you are part of the rescue movement, you are rescuing babies.”
Monica Miller, another longtime leader of the rescue movement, compared the efforts of protesters to the civil rights movement, saying that anti-abortion activists must be willing to give up their livelihoods and even their lives for the cause.
“To stop abortion, to be involved with this injustice, to want to see it end, you can’t live a normal life anymore,” she said. “All that’s gone. All your plans of having, ‘Oh, let’s get married, we’ll have children, we’ll buy the house, this is going to happen next and this is my plan,’ all that’s gone. You’re not going to live a normal life anymore. Are we willing to really allow ourselves to be spent, to allow ourselves to be spent so that others may live? And that means are we willing to allow our property to be taken, our jobs to be lost, our reputations to be lost, are we willing to go to jail, are you willing to die, give up your life for this social justice, moral spiritual cause?”
She urged activists to use any peaceful means necessary to prevent the new Planned Parenthood building from opening, including blocking its doors or handcuffing themselves to construction equipment, using old-school rescue movement tactics.
“On the day that this death mill will open, will there be anybody here, will somebody lay their body in front of the door, will you handcuff yourself to construction equipment?” she asked. “Come on guys, think about it, let’s be creative, what are you willing to do to stop this place from being built? Non-violent action, laying down your life, allowing yourself to absorb the violence without retaliating against it, but laying down your life so that others may live.”
Another direct-action tactic on display was a large poster with pictures of the owners of the construction company building the Planned Parenthood building, urging activists to call them and accuse them of “killing children.”
At one point a man who said he had a child in the school near the construction site, which had to close for the day to avoid the protest, started yelling at the speakers. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, who has been leading protests in front of the building site and emceed Thursday’s rally, responded that he should instead be blaming Planned Parenthood for opening its building in the location.
Shortly after the disruption, one speaker led the crowd in a short exorcism of the construction site to “take out the demons that hover above this place.”
Frank Pavone, the president of Priests for Life, said this week that although he doesn’t support blaming anybody for an anti-abortion crusader’s murder spree at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado last month, if anybody were to blame for such “deranged acts of violence” it would be pro-choicers who are “poisoning the moral climate in our nation.”
“It’s a silly thing to be blaming responsibility on one another for these kinds of things,” Pavone said in an interview on the Ave Maria Radio network on Monday. “We don’t know who this man was, what’s going on inside his head. God knows if anyone will ever be able to figure it out.” (In fact, the alleged shooter was fairly clear about his motivation.)
“But if the other side, if the pro-aborts,” he continued, “are going to go down this road of saying — as they have done for decades, by the way, this is like the 500th time we’ve been through this with them — if they’re going to go down this road of blaming the violence on the rhetoric, well then you know what? If we’re going to take up that argument, which I don’t think we should take up anyway, but if we are and if we have to respond to it, then they’re the ones at fault. Because which side of this debate is saying that sometimes it’s okay to kill an innocent person? Which side is saying that, that sometimes it’s okay to choose to end a life to solve a problem?”
“This is the argument against them, so they better keep quiet and stop this nonsense of blaming Carly Fiorina or me or the whole pro-life movement for these deranged acts of violence,” he said. “If they’re going to start going down that road, they’re the ones that have to take responsibility for poisoning the moral climate in our nation by saying that sometimes you can kill a baby to solve a problem. You don’t think some kind of crazy people are going to pick up that logic and say, ‘Well then sometimes you can kill born people to solve a problem’?”
Something that’s important to understand about the anti-abortion movement’s ongoing efforts to discredit Planned Parenthood is that for many in the movement, the women’s health provider is already guilty of committing a crime by providing abortions. But since abortion is legal in the United States, Planned Parenthood’s adversaries have been trying desperately for years to find actual crimes that the group is guilty of in order to bring it down. This summer’s smear videos from the Center for Medical Progress grew out of that line of thinking.
Priests for Life’s Father Frank Pavone, who says he was “close to” the Center for Medical Progress officials who led the most recent attack on Planned Parenthood, made this point very clearly in a conference call for anti-abortion activists that he hosted last night along with the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser. (GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina also spoke on the call.)
Pavone told the activists on the call that a key part of his strategy is to “expose the abortion industry” and “rip the veil off what’s going on behind the closed doors of the abortion clinics.”
“And when we look there,” he said, “we see the truth that I have often reiterated, that you cannot practice vice virtuously. If you have such a seared conscience that you’re killing babies, well, friends, you’re going to be doing a lot of other evil things as well: medical malpractice, sexual abuse of patients, violation of OSHA standards, insurance laws, money laundering, all kinds of fraud and, yes, even the sale of body parts. All of this and much more is going on in the abortion industry.”
In other words, if you are such a depraved person that you will provide abortions, then you are probably a sexual predator, fraudster, and any other sort of criminal as well and thus Planned Parenthood is probably selling fetal tissue for profit just because it is used to doing “evil” things and is just waiting to be exposed.
Pavone also boasted of his role in a previous, similar attack on Planned Parenthood orchestrated by Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics, which we wrote about in a recent report.
In a conference call with anti-abortion activists last night, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina promised that, if elected, she would “nominate pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court along with signing a budget defunding Planned Parenthood and pushing through a national 20-week abortion ban.
“Here’s what I will do and here’s what I want people to hold me accountable for,” she said on a conference call hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser and Priests for Life's Frank Pavone. “If President Obama vetoes our attempts between now and the election — which, unfortunately, sadly, he may — I will deliver a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood. I will nominate pro-life justices. I will get the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protect Act passed.”
When she ran for Senate in California in 2010, Fiorina said that abortion rights would not be a litmus test for her votes on Supreme Court nominees.
Fiorina, who has come under fire for a series of falsehoods on the campaign trail, including repeatedly describing a video of Planned Parenthood that does not exist, also told participants that her main strategy for handling hostile questioning is to always “speak the truth.”
“You know, the truth shall set you free,” she said. “We all know this, we read it in the Bible. The truth shall set you free.”
“Don’t worry so much about finding exactly the right words, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she advised. “Worry about, concentrate on speaking the truth. Speak what you know to be the truth. that’s a powerful thing, it’s always a powerful thing, and that’s what I will keep doing. No one is going to frighten me into silence.”
Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has made no secret of her admiration for Fiorina, telling call participants that Fiorina is a model candidate for her organization, which largely endorses female candidates opposed to abortion rights.
Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, explained a key part of his movement’s strategy for stopping abortion rights yesterday, telling a Catholic radio network that “pro-life” activists must resist Planned Parenthood’s efforts to “destigmatize abortion” by reinforcing anti-abortion stigma and lifting it “up high for people to see.”
“They survive, these Planned Parenthood efforts survive to the extent that abortion is destigmatized,” Pavone told Ave Maria Radio’s “Catholic Connection” program. “To the extent that you cannot get the stigma out of it, that you cannot get people to say they don’t regret it, that you cannot get people not to cringe when they hear the details of abortion, that is a plus for our side that we have to continue to exploit, in the best sense of the term. We exploit the stigma of abortion, we lift it up high for people to see, we reinforce it.”
He added that lifting up this stigma is important for stopping Planned Parenthood from “convincing medical students and doctors and nurses to take part in abortion” and thus causing a shortage of providers.
We released a report last month about the recent anti-Planned Parenthood smear’s origins in the radical “rescue” movement, the segment of the anti-choice movement that has sought to end legal abortion by protesting outside of clinics, harassing and intimidating providers and patients and attempting to sue individual providers out of existence.
In a conference call with members of the clergy last week organized by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, two “rescue” movement leaders joined Rep. Diane Black, the Tennessee Republican who is leading efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in the House and a member of the House Special Committee targeting the group, to discuss how the recent smear campaign is revitalizing their movement and how they plan to use it to “dismantle” Planned Parenthood entirely. One activist also revealed that the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind the deceptive sting videos, sought the “destruction” of the group by attempting “to get prosecutions.”
Eric Scheidler, whose father Joseph Scheidler pioneered many of the “rescue” movement’s tactics and who is now organizing nationwide Planned Parenthood protests through the family’s Pro-Life Action League, told call participants that “one of the most wonderful things to come out of this entire scandal” has been the resurgence of protests outside of abortion clinics. He said that he hoped that his protests would lead to Planned Parenthood losing all government funding and being “kicked out of every one of the 700 towns across the United States” where they operate.
It’s important to note that the “Protest PP” effort is not just about a couple of big national protests in the firestorm of this scandal in 2015. Our long-term goal is to bolster the pro-life presence at the Planned Parenthood centers around the country on into the future and, most wonderfully, we are seeing that happen. Abortion clinics that haven’t had pro-lifers outside standing in witness for years or even forever are now seeing pro-life groups forming to get involved regularly in an ongoing way outside the doors of those abortion clinics. …
We really expect to see this fervor continue, not just through the end of this year but on through the future, and that’s one of the most wonderful things to come out of this entire scandal and the exposure that we’ve been able to give to Planned Parenthood and who they really are. …
Planned Parenthood’s public image is going to be further knocked down the point where we will finally be able to, first, deprive them of any government funding whatsoever and, second, get them kicked out of every one of the 700 towns across the United States where they have centers.
Troy Newman, the leader of Operation Rescue who is also a driving force behind the Center for Medical Progress’ smears on Planned Parenthood and a member of the group’s board, explained that at the outset of their project he and the Center for Medical Progress’ David Daleiden decided that their goal was to “get prosecutions” of Planned Parenthood employees in order to achieve the “destruction or dismantling” of the organization. (Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger has also said that “criminal prosecutions” were the ultimate goal of the project.)
He came to me three years ago and we sat in our office, we talked a lot about what the end goal was. We didn’t want to just infiltrate Planned Parenthood for the sake of infiltrating them or for the sake of getting YouTube hits … At the end of the day, we both agreed that our number one goal was to get prosecutions against these people that are violating the law. And prosecutions lead to defunding and defunding leads to the destruction or dismantling of Planned Parenthood.
As our primary goal, I believe all the elements are in place to accomplish those goals. If you look at the systematic way that we, Center for Medical Progress has been able to disseminate information, each individual video has a story to tell and at the end of the day, the story is really simple. Number one, this is not necessarily about abortion. So all the questions that are being asked in Congress about abortion and so forth are good, I think, to educate people, but it’s not specifically germane to the conversation that we’re having right now. This is about the wholesale illegal trade in fetal cadavers and fetal organs.
Newman expressed frustration that “the narrative is being changed on a daily basis” and the anti-choice movement has moved straight toward passing legislation in Congress without first getting “these abortionists thrown in jail” as he and Daleiden originally intended, which he said is the surefire way to make sure that “Planned Parenthood is dismantled forever.”
We do need to ban abortions after 20 weeks, absolutely, we do need to defund Planned Parenthood, absolutely, we do need to have these select committees, but more importantly, there’s enough evidence that we’ve released already — already — to get these abortionists thrown in jail. And the thing that’s particularly disturbing to me is that the narrative is being changed on a daily basis toward something other than the original intent, the evidence that has already been brought out there, that these are clear violations of the law and district attorneys and attorneys general need to take notice that they need to prosecute these abortionists for the crimes that are clearly being committed on these tapes. And with that, the first time we get an indictment, a prosecution, a conviction, okay, they lose their Title X funding. Their funding goes right out the door. And as soon as they lose their funding, that’s over half their money, then Planned Parenthood is dismantled forever.
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who has described himself as “close to” the Center for Medical Progress’ smear of Planned Parenthood, argued this week that public support for Planned Parenthood has been inflated because pollsters aren’t lying to poll respondents about the nature of the organization’s federal funding.
The reason pollsters don’t ask the question that way may be because, under federal law, no federal funding goes to the organization’s abortion services except in very limited cases.
Pavone also insisted that “much of the American public does not even realize that Planned Parenthood does abortions” because “they cleverly hide it in the very title of the organization. ‘Planned Parenthood’ sounds something like you’re in favor of parenthood, not that you’re in favor of snuffing it out.”
Pavone also reasoned that Planned Parenthood must not be interested in providing health care to low-income people because if it, was it wouldn’t attract campaigns to defund it, or something:
If you, Planned Parenthood, really believe that, if you believe that you are so necessary to provide so many good things to people that otherwise wouldn’t have them, then why do you act so irresponsibly doing this immoral things that most of the public rejects, doing potentially illegal things that you’re now being investigated for? If you really consider yourself to be such an important part of society’s service to people, clean up your act! If you think that if you close your doors, all these people are going to be out of services, then shouldn’t you be more careful that the government doesn’t have to come in and close your doors? Stop the immoral and illegal activity!
Frank Pavone of Priests for Life says: “Abortionists don’t need a reason to perform abortions – not even a pregnancy.”
Mat Staver warns that gay rights advocates are bringing about “the destruction of our nation’s religious and cultural underpinnings.”
After attempting to ban the Log Cabin Republicans from appearing at the Western Conservative Summit, the conference chairman says he is upset with the gay group’s “shaming and bullying pressure tactics.”
Every year, millions of taxpayer dollars go toward funding Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), organizations that often use misleading information to draw women away from seeking abortions. Yesterday in Cosmopolitan, Meaghan Winter published an inside account of the annual conference of one of the biggest coalitions of CPCs, Heartbeat International, revealing the extent to which CPCs are willing to mislead their clients in order to prevent them from accessing abortion.
[A]t least 10 conference sessions focused on the "risks" of premarital sex, contraception, and abortion. During the panel "What's So Bad About Abortion?" Janet Morana and Father Frank Pavone, of the organization Priests for Life, asserted that abortion causes an array of spiritual, psychological, and medical problems.
Pavone said, "Abortion poisons everything" because after an abortion, a woman thinks, "Others can't possibly esteem me, child-killer that I am." Those women, he said, suffer a "failure to bond" with future children, often thinking, "I killed one child; I'm afraid that something bad will happen to the next one." He and the other speakers in the session said abortion increases a woman's risk of miscarriage, cancer, substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence, among other problems.
"The fact that [abortion] dismembers a child, the fact that it goes against everything the human body and human psyche are meant to do when a woman is pregnant is the cause, is the root of all of these other physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual problems," Pavone said.
Conference speakers also gave false information about the supposed risks of contraception:
The importance of framing abortion and contraception through "risks" also came up in the talk given by Bri Laycock, the director of Option Line. In her session, "Answering the Hard Calls and Tough Questions," Laycock recommended that staff answer callers' questions about medical and surgical abortions by saying, "Both options can pose risks to your health," without saying the center is against abortion. She recommended pregnancy center staff present select medical information and disclaimers from the fine print on pharmaceutical packaging to present using contraception as a high-risk gamble. When callers ask about emergency contraception, for example, even if there might be an opportunity to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, Laycock said staff can just say it's "not 100 percent effective." She recommended telling callers, "You might not be at a fertile time in your cycle, and it's not worth taking hormones for no reason."
Throughout the conference, I asked at least a dozen pregnancy center staff if seeing so many unplanned pregnancies ever tempted them to suggest birth control pills or IUDs. Again and again, they mentioned claims, which have been debunked, that abortion sterilizes and birth control pills cause cancer. "All those chemicals can be dangerous," one staff person told me, and she seemed to believe it.
One piece of advice given to attendees was to maintain two websites for their CPCs, one for potential donors touting their anti-choice credentials, and another for potential clients obscuring them:
In her session, "Do I Really Need Two Sites?" [Heartbeat International’s Lauren] Chenoweth explained that, yes, in fact, pregnancy centers do. She recommended that centers operate one that describes an anti-abortion mission to secure donors and another that lists medical information to attract women seeking contraception, counseling, or abortion. An audience member offered that her center swapped out an anti-abortion-seeming name for Pregnancy Options. "That is an excellent point," Chenoweth replied. "Use a more attractive name to someone who is seeking services."
Finally, Winter writes, the CPC leaders at the conference put a strong emphasis not just on luring women away from abortion, but on bringing them into the church:
Over the course of the three days of the conference, I chatted with a few dozen pregnancy center workers. Multiple women told me it was their job to protect women from abortion as "an adult tells a child not to touch a hot stove." Another oft-repeated catchphrase was, "Save the mother, save the baby," shorthand for many pregnancy center workers' belief that the most effective way to prevent abortion is to convert women. In keeping with Evangelicalism's central tenets, many pregnancy center staff believe that those living "without Christ"— including Christians having premarital sex — must accept Christ to be born again, redeem their sins, and escape spiritual pain. Carrying a pregnancy to term "redeems" a "broken" woman, multiple staff people told me.
One conference attendee, a center volunteer in her early 30s, told me that she has protested outside her state's only surgical abortion clinic for several years. "I don't think it's disrespectful to shout, 'You're killing your baby,'" she said. "That's not saying, 'You dirty whore.'" But she prefers counseling at the center: "When I started, I remember thinking, This is so awesome! I don't have to feel mean, but I can still talk to women!"
Radical Religious Right activist Janet Porter has released yet another trailer for her upcoming documentary "Light Wins: How To Overcome The Criminalization Of Christianity," which features a who's who of anti-gay activists as well as several Republican members of Congress and presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.
"Like a tank in Tiananmen Square," Porter says, as she walks down the middle of a dark street as a pair of headlights bear down upon her, "the homosexual agenda has been running over people since Anita Bryant's courageous stand in the 1970s."
After that, it is nothing but 10 minutes of anti-gay activists calling upon Christians to rise up and fight back against the "homosexual agenda."
Among the participants we immediately recognized in this new clip are Huckabee, David Barton, Gary Glenn, Steven Hotze, Robert Knight, Judith Reisman, Stacy Swimp, Greg Quinlan, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Brian Camenker, James Dobson, Bill Donohue, Scott Lively, Frank Pavone, Dutch Sheets, Phyllis Schlafly, Rick Scarborough, Gary Bauer, Mark Crutcher, Jerry Boykin, and Harry Jackson.
At one point, Gohmert declares that it is the duty of Christians to "love people who engage in homosexualty" because "we all have family members that we think are making major mistakes with their lives, but you can still love them."
Later, Pastor Steve Witt declares that just as God would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people could be found, so too can most American cities be spared, but only if thousands of people will take a stand against homosexuality.
At the end of this new clip, Porter is shown in an empty football stadium, warning that "the battle for our freedom is being fought while most Christians are on the sidelines. We need to get out of the stands and into the game because the Super Bowl for our country is being fought and our team is not even on the field."