Like any other businesses in a sales slump, organizations that sell the culture of death have reacted to the waning popularity of their products with marketing makeovers.
In fact, during the past year, four seminal organizations of the culture of death have changed their names, hoping to widen their appeal by softening their public presence.
In the most publicized move, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League changed its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America. The reason for this decision fooled no one, on the left or on the right. As a generation of women has now witnessed the undeniable humanity of their unborn children through ever-more-stunning sonogram images, “pro-choice” has simply become more palatable than “pro-abortion.”
Kate Michelman, the organization's president, said the new name “is the right name for this moment in history.”
She is correct; this point in history appears to be the point in which the nature of the unborn child — whether it is a clump of cells or a human being — has been largely resolved, and not in her organization's favor. And so the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League did what it had to do: It “re-branded” its product — abortion on demand — to reflect the new realities of the marketplace. The group now seeks to create a “generation pro-choice,” to use its own words, just like a long-running soft-drink campaign sought to create a “Pepsi generation.”
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League even claims that “NARAL is no longer an acronym for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.” Its very name is now a word without a meaning; we are supposed to believe that the initials stand for nothing, especially that first, increasingly troublesome “A.” But this is, of course, a fraud. The organization remains in the business of promoting abortion on demand, just like Marlboro ads are meant to sell cigarettes, not horses and weekends at dude ranches.
Another name change is under way at the Hemlock Society, the group spearheading the assisted-sui-cide movement. Hemlock selected its original name because Socrates took hemlock to commit suicide; the organization sought to link itself, and the cause it espouses, with one of Western civilization's intellectual giants. Then why change? It appears that suicide has become too unpopular to advocate explicitly, so the Hemlock Society is now using focus groups to help it select a more ambiguous name.
Zero Population Growth, the organization responsible for scaring 30 years worth of schoolchildren into thinking that the human race is breeding itself into oblivion, has changed its name to Population Connection. The organization abandoned a name that perfectly captures the goal of its advocacy and replaced it with one as appropriate for a dating service as it is for a group of strident political activists.
Finally, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, an organization that uses legal challenges to attack abortion restrictions all over the world, has changed its name to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Why? The group does not want to draw unnecessary attention to the fact that it seeks to defeat the will of democratic majorities — most notably the Catholic majorities of Latin America that recognize life from the moment of conception — through legal maneuvering.
Of course, these groups plan to change nothing but appearances, the marketing equivalent of a label on a box of cereal that reads, “Bold new package, same great taste!” The organization admits that nothing else will change: “The name change does not alter the way in which the center functions nor does it change the mission that has driven us for the past 10 years. We will continue to pursue legal remedies in the courts … to promote and defend the reproductive rights of women worldwide.”
Zero Population Growth also admits nothing else will change: “We are changing our name, but our mission remains exactly the same.”
Once renamed, the Hemlock Society will continue to give desperate people suicide recipes — what it calls “advice and tips on hastening death” — on its Web site. And, of course, NARAL Pro-Choice America continues to fight for one choice and one choice only — a woman's choice to kill her unborn, and sometimes partially born, child.
But, even so, the renaming of these four organizations seems to mark an important moment in the struggle between the culture of death and the culture of life, a moment in which important elements of the culture of death felt the debate begin to slip away from them and responded by disguising both their methods and their ultimate goals.
Douglas A. Sylva is vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.