In 1998, Ed Daccarett pondered why the average person, 25 years after Roe v. Wade, remained oblivious to the fact that we are in a cultural battle over life. “Why, Lord? After all of these years, all of these expenses, and all of these efforts, the guy in the street remains naïve or out of touch with this critical issue: abortion.”
In the wee hours of the morning, Daccarett “heard” the answer to his question. “God ‘said’ to me, ‘Because you keep doing the same thing; you keep preaching to the choir,’” Daccarett, from Palm City, Florida, told the Register. “And that’s what most pro-life work is — preaching to the choir.”
So Daccarett, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, responded by starting a pro-life billboard project in Florida to educate and provide outreach. Daccarett, who also runs a nonprofit Catholic radio station, shared how his billboard project got started, why he feels billboards are effective and what he has learned in his many years fighting for the unborn.
What motivated you to become involved in the pro-life movement?
In the early 1980s, my wife and I ended up at a parish walk for life. After I had completed my walk, there were some side rooms where they were showing videos, and I happened to walk into one where The Silent Scream — narrated by Bernard Nathanson [NARAL Pro-Choice America founder who turned pro-life activist] — was being shown. I thought: “This is not right! Someone has to do something." That was the real beginning of my walk in the pro-life movement.
What’s the backstory on how your pro-life billboard project started?
In 1984, right after seeing The Silent Scream, I started buying hundreds of “for sale” and “no trespassing” signs at the hardware stores in Miami. Every Friday night, I would paint “Abortion is murder” on the back of the signs. In the early morning, I’d go out with my ladder and some caulking and plaster these signs all over Miami, high off the ground. I never got caught, and those signs were up for a long time. Little did I know that the Lord was preparing me for putting up billboards.
How did you get your funding for your billboard project?
We were able to purchase the list of addresses of anyone who bought “Choose Life” license plates. We figured anyone who had one of those plates was pro-life. We’d go to the state courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida, until the privacy laws were passed in 2004. [Back then, the courthouse would provide a list of the names of people who bought pro-life licenses plates.]
What are you trying to achieve with your billboards?
Our signs have a twofold purpose: education and outreach to abortion-minded women. We use two separate toll-free numbers. One goes to NationalLifeCenter.com [whose number is (800) 848-LOVE (5683)], and the other is goes to OptionLine.com [(800) 712-4357]. Both are manned by paid counselors 24/7.
How many billboards do you have up in Florida?
Over 1,000 of what we call lifesaver ads, including 300 billboards, 550 buses, 100 taxi cabs, 42 train platform stations, 20 transit shelters, 30 exterior bus ads, and 20 bus benches.
We’ve also helped other states get billboards up at an expense to us. We’ve helped Tennessee, Georgia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Do the billboards save lives?
Many a sign has changed hearts; we get this feedback from pregnancy-care centers. There was a couple who had three children, and both the husband and wife were out of work [and] she finds that she’s pregnant. They couldn’t afford another child, and they agonized over this, and they came to the conclusion that abortion was the only option for their family. So the couple is driving along, and she bows her head in prayer and says to God, “Oh, Lord, I need you to let us know what you want us to do.” She looks up, and there before her eyes is one of our signs, and so she didn’t go through with the abortion.
Another story: I had a prime location on I-95 for one of our billboards. I’m coming back from the abortion mill one Sunday, and I notice that our sign is gone! In its place is a sign for Cracker Barrel. On Monday morning, I call the sign company and say, “What happened?” even though I know that our signs are pre-emptible, which means they can bump them anytime or anywhere. They told me that Cracker Barrel bought the sign for that location just for one month. I thought it strange that they would just purchase a billboard for such a short run. The ad person told me that our sign would be back in the location in another three weeks. Later, I hear from the executive director of a pregnancy-care center in the area. The director told me, “This gal comes in; she went to Planned Parenthood, but they wouldn’t do an abortion on her because she was 23 weeks — beyond the gestational period. She goes home disappointed, and a couple of days later, she thinks that she’s having a miscarriage, so she runs to the ER. They check her out and say that everything is fine. On her way back home, she sees one of our billboards and then seeks help at a pregnancy center.” The sign she saw was the one that was bumped.
You’re expanding to online ads — why?
We need to have an internet presence. If we’re not there when a woman is searching with her smartphone, we’re going to lose her. Choose Life Marketing is helping us.
Our ad will pop up when someone searches words like “abortion” or “unplanned pregnancy.” Our ad will take her to the landing page of either OptionLine or the National Life Center.
In your 19 years of being involved in the pro-life cause, what have you learned?
That [in the culture of death] the unborn child is the enemy — this was such a hard lesson for me to get. The Vitae Foundation’s research (http://vitaefoundation.org/abortion-a-failure-to-communicate) on the right brain determined that, for many women, when considering the options — abortion, bringing the infant to term, or adoption — abortion is the least of the three evils. I have been confronted with this at the abortion mills, where the gals just laugh at me. “You want us to give our babies up for adoption. Are you kidding?”
Regarding pro-life billboards, we know it’s important today to portray a young gal who’s confident looking — not an image of a woman who is downcast or forlorn, but someone who’s on the top of her game.
Do you ever get discouraged?
I never get discouraged, but I get disappointed.
It’s like Mother Teresa says, “We’re called to do God’s work.” We leave the results to him —that’s his business, not ours. God uses the feeblest of efforts. He magnifies it; he amplifies it, but you bring the fruits.
Do you think it’s enough to pray for the end of abortion, but not be active in the pro-life movement?
For all of the people who say they will pray, that’s good. But St. James is very clear when he says, “Faith without works is dead.” We have to get out of our comfort zone, get out of the chapel, and get on the street.
Franciscan Father Leo Clifford would say, “God, in his infinite wisdom, did not create us 100 years from now or 100 years ago, but now, in this time and in this place.” Ending abortion is our battle, and we have work to do.