Life Advocacy Briefing

August 20, 2012

Don’t Expect Us / Nellie Gray, RIP / Ryan Pick Welcomed / It’s an Honor
Thank You, Rep. Stearns / Making It Perfectly Clear / Blockbuster Coming
Draw Your Own Conclusion / Religious Freedom, Rooted in Truth / Saluting Nellie Gray
Nellie & the March

Don’t Expect Us

BECAUSE OF OUR EDITOR’s TRAVEL PLANS, Life Advocacy Briefing might not be published next week. We appreciate our readers’ understanding.


Nellie Gray, R.I.P.

MARCH FOR LIFE Co-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN NELLIE GRAY was found dead in her home on Monday, Aug. 13, having apparently passed away during the weekend.

The annual March will occupy the streets of Washington, DC, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, marking the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragic Roe v. Wade edict, which doomed well more than 50 million Americans to violent death before birth. Next year’s March will memorialize the victims of legalized abortion and also, inevitably and appropriately, Miss Nellie Gray herself.

Miss Gray was well known for her determination and her principled stand. In the face of commercialized human slaughter, she brooked no excuse or loophole, insisting always on “no exceptions.”

According to an obituary posted on the March for Life website (, Miss Gray was 88 years old at her passing. A native of Big Spring, Texas, she served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, according to the obituary, and earned an undergraduate degree in business, a master’s degree in economics and a law degree from Georgetown Law Center.

House Speaker John Boehner last Tuesday called Miss Gray “an indefatigable defender of human life.” That she was, Mr. Speaker.

We publish two tributes to Miss Gray at the close of this Life Advocacy Briefing and urge our readers please to prayerfully read them; we all need inspiration in these days of perseverance.


Ryan Pick Welcomed

U.S. REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI) HAS BEEN INVITED by likely GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney to join his ticket and seek the vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, slated to open in Tampa, Florida, a week from today, Monday, Aug. 27.

The invitation, announced on Aug. 11, “has been welcomed by most conservatives,” writes Dianne Edmondson, executive director of Republican National Coalition for Life (RNC/Life). “Certainly from a Life standpoint,” she declares, “Cong. Ryan is a winner for us. Although he is best known as a fiscal conservative whose expertise is well known and respected in DC, Cong. Ryan,” she notes, “also has a 100% pro-life voting record during his seven terms in Congress.”

According to Wisconsin law, Rep. Ryan’s name can appear on the November ballot for both the vice presidency and for re-election to his seat in the House. Should the Romney/Ryan team be elected, Mr. Ryan would need to resign his expected election to an eighth term in Congress, precipitating a special election in his southeast Wisconsin district.


It’s an Honor

REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COALITION FOR LIFE WILL HONOR four advocates for Life at its traditional unofficial convention party during Tuesday’s break time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week. Co-hosting the “Treasure Life” event will be Family Research Council and the Florida Family Policy Council. Honorees – all Republicans – include Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Late Thursday afternoon in Tampa, the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee will host a “Celebration of Pro-Life Women Leaders” event honoring Rep. Bachmann, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Florida Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi. Co-hosting the event will be Charmaine Yoest PhD of Americans United for Life Action and Tom Minnery of Citizen Link, legislative action publication of Focus on the Family Action.


Thank You, Rep. Stearns

WE WERE DISAPPOINTED TO LEARN LAST WEEK of the electoral defeat of Rep. Cliff Stearns in the Florida GOP primary. He will be missed.

Rep. Stearns has served 12 terms in the US House and has been a supporter of Life Advocacy. He scored a 100% pro-life voting record on Life Advocacy’s extensive Voting Record Index for the 2011 session. And in 2011, he introduced HR-165 to establish a grant program to aid pregnancy care centers in acquiring ultrasound equipment.

Most significantly, Rep. Stearns launched and chaired the ongoing Congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood.

His opponent, veterinarian Ted Yoho, characterizes himself as “pro-life,” “believ[ing] life begins at conception” and “oppos[ing] taxpayer funding of abortion.”


Making It Perfectly Clear

PRES. BARACK OBAMA MADE IT CLEAR earlier this month: He has no intention of “‘giv[ing] any ground,’” reports Ben Johnson for, “on ‘vital services like Planned Parenthood.’”

His declaration to a conference of female bloggers (BlogHer 2012) stirred MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to comment, reports Mr. Johnson, that his remarks “prove Obama hopes to campaign on social issues such as abortion and the HHS mandate, and he is ‘likely to stay on the offensive through the fall.’”

He reportedly called Americans of conscience “‘folks who plan to turn back the clock,’” reports Mr. Johnson. As a matter of fact, Mr. President, we wish we could.


Blockbuster Coming

A BOOK TO BE RELEASED NEXT MONTH will most likely find a wide audience of pro-life readers, as Karen Handel, former executive with Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, documents Planned Bullyhood: The Truth Behind the Headlines About the Planned Parenthood Funding Battle with SGK for the Cure. The book is scheduled to be released Sept. 11 by publisher Simon & Schuster.

Though SGK is currently undergoing a shake-up in leadership that appears to be cementing its relationship with the nation’s chief purveyor of abortions, and though the charity is reported to have suffered a 30% drop in financial support and volunteer participation, publication of this tell-all could bring an even more profound shake-up for both outfits. May the chips fall.


Draw Your Own Conclusion

PRES. BARACK OBAMA OFFERED THE FOLLOWING WORDS to his Muslim guests at the White House dinner commemorating Iftar, a holiday related to the Muslim observance of “Ramadan.” We quote his words from a report by Terrence Jeffrey for

“Of all the freedoms we cherish as Americans, of all the rights that we hold sacred, foremost among them is freedom of religion, the right to worship as we choose. It’s enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution – the law of the land, always and forever. It beats in our hearts, in the soul of the people who know that our liberty and our equality is endowed by our Creator.” Just ask Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, Mr. President?


Religious Freedom, Rooted in Truth

Aug. 6, 2012, commentary by Fr. Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life

We are living at a time when the Church in the United States must vigorously defend herself against attacks on religious freedom. In particular, the government is trying to force believers to violate their consciences when it comes to what kind of services their companies’ health insurance policies will cover. Priests for Life is proud to have launched one of the first lawsuits against this unjust mandate of our government, and we are confident we will prevail.

Yet part of defending religious freedom is defending a clear understanding of what it is. We don’t only have to defend it against the government; we have to defend it from misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

And one of the most dangerous misunderstandings is to confuse religious freedom with relativism – to think, in other words, that it’s simply the idea that “you can practice your religion if you let me practice mine,” because, after all, one religion is as good as the next.

But it’s not. There is such a thing as religious truth and moral truth, and we are capable of knowing them.

At the core of authentic religious freedom is the conviction that human persons, because of their dignity, must seek the truth and embrace it freely – not the idea that such truth does not exist or is a product of one’s own making.

Put another way, freedom does not create truth; it is meant to lead to truth.

Professor Janet Smith wrote recently: “Bishop William Lori argued that making Catholics fund contraceptives, abortifacient contraception and sterilizations is like making kosher delis serve pork. Actually, it is more like making all of us, and particularly the Anti-Smoking League, fund cigarettes.

“Jews do not argue that eating pork is something no one should do, but Catholics do argue that using contraception is something no one should do; among other reasons, the Church condemns it as against the natural law; it is against the health of women, the health of relationships and the health of society.” (National Catholic Register, March 12, 2012)

This is a critically important point. Many are fond of saying that this fight isn’t about the issues of contraception and abortion. On the other hand, it cannot be disconnected from them. The other side doesn’t disconnect them.

Abortion advocate Patricia Baird Windle declared that abortion is part of her religion. “You practice your religion and let me practice mine. My religion is a holy ritual of child sacrifice,” she has declared. Ginette Paris wrote the book The Sacrament of Abortion. And when the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law was passed in 1994, it included not only abortion clinics but also houses of worship. In the days of Operation Rescue, when pro-life activists blockaded abortion clinics, some abortion advocates retaliated by blockading churches. They were returning insult for insult, for to them, the clinic is their place of worship.

So let’s be sure we’re clear about what kind of religious liberty we want to defend: One that serves the truth about Life!


Saluting Nellie Gray

Excerpts from a tribute to Nellie Gray by Fr. Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life

Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for Life. … Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn, and her motto was “no exceptions.” …

As a colleague in national pro-life leadership, Nellie was always an inspiration to the rest of us. Her devotion was on display [in 2008] when, despite being in the hospital during the March for Life [because of a fall on the stage at the opening rally], she nevertheless was present at an all-day  meeting of national leaders the very next morning – with a patch on her head. …

The 2013 March for Life will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and the 39th anniversary of the March.

It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray’s heart every year and every day. In January, we will march in her memory, in her honor, to save the unborn children to whom she dedicated her life.


Nellie & The March

Tribute by Michael Schwartz, leading pro-life/family strategist in Washington, DC, and the founding editor of Life Advocacy Briefing, for which he wrote this memorial

On Jan. 26, 1973, the Friday following the Supreme Court’s monstrous ruling in Roe v. Wade, two friends from Long Island met in my office at Triumph magazine, and we established Life Lobby, Inc., which would later become the corporate shell for the March for Life.  One of my colleagues that day, Jack Short, had been chief financial officer for Nassau County, NY, and he lost his job for refusing to pay abortionists for murdering babies. His friend and colleague Bill Devlin was a leader in the Long Island Coalition for Life, at that time probably the largest and strongest grassroots pro-life group in the country.

Later that year Devlin and Short attended the first National Right to Life convention, and they returned full of enthusiasm for a great lady they had met – Nellie Gray, president of DC Right to Life. Over the Thanksgiving holidays, they asked me to join them for a meeting at Nellie’s Capitol Hill rowhouse to plan an event to commemorate the anniversary of the fatal decision.

About a dozen pro-life leaders from Connecticut to Virginia were at that meeting, and our target date was just two months away. It was Nellie who declared, “Let’s have a March!” As we peppered her with practical questions, the idea began to take shape. We would bring people in from the mid-Atlantic region by bus and march around the Capitol. We would have speeches from pro-life Congressional leaders such as Jesse Helms and Henry Hyde and would also deliver bunches of roses to every Congressional office.

To the relief of all concerned, the first March for Life turned out to be a success, attracting some 20,000 Marchers. The following summer, the organizing committee met again at Nellie’s house, drew up corporate articles – the Life Principles – and under less frantic time pressure, got acquainted with one another.

As it happened, every one of the original March for Life board was Catholic – not really surprising given the geographic concentration and the fact that, at that time, the pro-abortion movement and rhetoric was almost strictly anti-Catholic. The Catholic alliance with evangelicals, which has proved to be fruitful of so much good, was born over the next few years on the streets of Washington at the March for Life. More interesting is the fact that all of us that day were also registered Democrats. The subsequent takeover of the Democratic Party by the forces of death is something that could not have been anticipated in 1974.

The March went on in every subsequent year, but changes gradually occurred. Our “Say It with Roses” campaign had to be ended because of security concerns in the Congressional office buildings. Instead of marching around the Capitol, we came down Pennsylvania Avenue from the vicinity of the White House, and in the 1980s the staging area was shifted from the West Steps of the Capitol to the Washington Monument. Another custom introduced at that time was the launching of the March with the sounding of the shofar by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, whose Orthodox congregation in New York City has been represented at every March.

The March for Life is a key institution for the pro-life movement, and for the last 39 years of her life, it consumed all of the energy of Miss Nellie Gray. A native Texan, Nellie served in the Army during World War II, then, after finishing law school, served in the US Department of Justice, retiring just in time to become a full-time, unpaid pro-life activist.

Nellie’s hallmark was her insistence that being pro-life meant “no exceptions, no compromise!” In the early days of the struggle, there were some who proposed a piecemeal approach – states’ rights or permitting abortion in the “hard cases.” To these suggestions, Nellie always insisted that if we ever found ourselves agreeing to one single murder, we would lose all moral credibility.

We all have reason to be grateful for this brave and visionary woman who did so much to shape the pro-life movement. Her death last weekend at the age of 88 was unquestionably a loss for us all. But we can take comfort and courage in knowing that she is now with God and can do even more for the cause to which she dedicated her life.