Update to a November 2017 post: California’s attorney general is on the U.S. Supreme Court’s schedule for March 20, at which time he can  explain why he should be able to tell pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions. That ought to elicit some searching questions from the Justices.

The case is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates [NIFLA] v. Becerra. NIFLA is a group of nonprofit pro-life pregnancy centers in California. Xavier Becerra is the state’s attorney general. The law in dispute is called California’s Reproductive FACT Act.  It requires that certain types of facilities post and distribute information on the availability of free or low-cost access to abortion. It’s as though business is so lousy at abortion clinics that the state has to dragoon pro-life agencies into doing their advertising for them.

The type of facility is defined in such a way that the law only applies to about 200 nonprofit pro-life clinics, not to any of the other thousands of places in California where a pregnant woman might go for assistance. From NIFLA’s brief to the Supreme Court (references omitted; emphasis added):

The legislative record expressly states that the impetus for the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act…was disagreement with pro-life centers’ messages. Legislative committee reports with bill sponsor statements noted “that, unfortunately, there are nearly 200 licensed and unlicensed clinics known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in California,” which “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.”…Although the bill sponsor claimed that these centers “often confuse [and] misinform” women,…neither the legislative history nor the record contains any objective or impartial evidence that pregnancy centers like Petitioners actually “misinform” anyone about their medical status or services[.] 

There are fines for noncompliance. Anyone who has volunteered for a pro-life pregnancy care center knows that such agencies are lean operations; a fine need not be steep to be ruinous.

This is a First Amendment case. Can the government compel a nonprofit organization to deliver a message inconsistent with the organization’s mission? California might be having financial problems, but apparently the AG’s budget includes resources to argue this case all the way to SCOTUS. NIFLA is relying on assistance from Alliance Defending Freedom, the same legal group that successfully represented Eleanor McCullen in the Massachusetts buffer zone case.

Stay tuned.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist based in New Hampshire. Read more at ellenkolb.com,

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I was in the midst of the March for Life in Washington a few days ago. No count was possible from my vantage point, but you can view this time-lapse image from Students for Life to get an idea of the crowd. Not many satellite trucks around, though, except for EWTN’s. Other news outlets managed to find their way to Washington for the Women’s March the next day, so it’s not as though they were unfamiliar with the area.

The 2018 March for Life passing in front of National Archives. Ellen Kolb photo.

We weren’t exactly under the radar. Gotta love social media and the countless posts from participants in the March. President Trump’s address drew some news coverage. Still, as has been the case since the first March in 1974 observing the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, there was plenty of room for more coverage. A civil rights march in defense of the right to life rates at least as much attention as a presidential tweet.

As a public service, I hereby announce for the benefit of all reporters, bloggers, and commentators that the next March for Life in Washington will be on Friday, January 18, 2019. Mark your editorial calendars now. No excuses. Rain, shine, or snow (and I’ve marched in all those conditions), the event goes on.

A mother and daughter carry signs at the March for Life in Washington.
Mother and daughter at March for Life 2018, Washington D.C. Ellen Kolb photo.

Come for the youth. The number of high school and college students will astound you.

Come to see how many states are represented. If the March is something new to you, you’ll be surprised.

Walk around the National Mall before the March and check out the meet-ups and mini-rallies going on, apart from the formal program that precedes the March.

Many states and large cities have their own marches for life on or near the anniversary of Roe. The March in Washington rates a special trip. With or without the news coverage it deserves, it’s a place and event full of inspiration and encouragement. Plan now for 2019: see you in D.C. on January 18.

Ellen Kolb is a writer and blogger specializing in public policy on the right to life. She works (and hikes) in New Hampshire. Read her coverage of life issues in the Granite State at Leaven for the Loaf. 

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I am typing at top speed with a deadline looming, and I’m sure to be late (sorry, Pete). The workday ran long. My day job’s current assignment has me watching state legislative action, and today kicked off the 2018 season.

The State House hallways were full of citizens sporting buttons and scarves emblazoned with symbols of this or that bill, thumbs up or thumbs down. An impromptu press conference about a particular bill temporarily blocked access to one hall. Twitter was ablaze with coordinated targeted messages on various measures. Typical stuff, on a day with lots of bills up for votes.

It made for great press, and it all served the long-term goal of influencing public opinion. What it didn’t do, as far as I could tell, was swing a single vote on the most controversial bills.

That work had been done earlier, in one-on-one conversations with those representatives who were cheerfully trying to work their way through the crowd to their seats. This is how things are done close to home.

Conversations without cameras, with no social media posts at stake, one neighbor to another. As occupied with politics as I am, I can’t afford to forget how important those conversations are.

Why be concerned with how things are done on the local or state level? Isn’t that little league stuff? Not to me.

For one thing, these state legislators make up the bench from which parties draw candidates for bigger if not better offices. The more one-on-one conversations a legislator has, the greater the legislator’s sense of accountability to the people who’ve been talking with him. Professional lobbyists know all about that. Smart voters know it, too.

For another, we need the practice. I know I do. I tend to resort to social media even for messages to state representatives. That’s not the most effective way for me to do my job as a constituent. For that, I need face-to-face conversation, or even a brief phone call (remember those?), with the people who claim to represent me at the State House.

When a family has a story about how a bill would affect them, they use media appearances to share that story. That helps shape the environment within which a vote will be cast. If they really want to lock down a particular vote, though, they’ll have a private conversations with a legislator, without cameras or mics in the room.

For the two bills with which I was most concerned today, people on all sides worked relentlessly on such old-fashioned communication, as well as on social media, right up to the minute the votes were cast. The same-day work was important.

And yet it wasn’t as important as the low-key conversations that started back when the bills were introduced (and even earlier). Today’s votes reflected relationships built long ago. Those relationships started with conversations.

It may sound odd for a keyboard warrior to admit, but I’m glad conversation still counts.

Ellen Kolb writes about the life issues and New Hampshire politics at ellenkolb.com and leavenfortheloaf.com. You can support Da Tech Guy’s Magnificent Writers by hitting Da Tip Jar. Thank you!

Merry Christmas, I say, since I stubbornly hold that the Christmas season begins on December 25. Happy New Year as well, keeping in mind that each day begins a new year.

I’m grateful to readers, fellow writers, and DTG himself for this spot on the blog.

To all, I commend these words from Pope Francis, spoken to a group of laypeople in 2015. The words are on my own blog’s home page as an epigraph to that particular project. Even if you and I don’t share a religious faith, I suspect we have in common a commitment to our nation’s political culture. As Pope Francis says, get to it.

Engaging in politics is martyrdom: truly a martyr’s work, because one needs to go the whole day with the ideal of building the common good, always carrying the cross of many failures and carrying the cross of many sins. It’s difficult to do good in a society without getting your hands or your heart a little dirty…Don’t allow this to discourage you. 

…You can’t watch from the balcony! Get involved! Give it your best. If the Lord calls you to this vocation, get to it, engage in politics. 

Cheers and best wishes to all!

Ellen Kolb is a writer and pro-life activist from New Hampshire.  

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