Battling for Life Online
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
December 14-20, 2008 Issue | Posted 12/8/08 at 12:36 PM
HERNDON, Va. — In the summer of 2005, Peter Shinn set a goal of uniting pro-life groups from around the country to work better together toward ending abortion.
By January 2006, he thought he had the answer: He founded a website called Pro-Life Unity. But getting it launched wasn’t as easy as he had expected.
He offered the site (initially known as MarchTogether.com) free, with no strings attached, to a March for Life organizer. When that organization showed no interest in using it, Shinn took the helm and renamed and retooled it as MonthlyCallForLife.com and simultaneously founded ProLifeUnity.com.
With MonthlyCallForLife.com, he wanted to summon every pro-life person in the country, including everyone not associated with any particular pro-life organization, to a common effort.
On the first Friday of every month, he urges them to phone or e-mail their representatives to tell them they want to end abortion and research that kills unborn babies.
“I believe God’s children will rise to the challenge to bring the pro-life message to their representatives,” Shinn said, pointing out that it’s not hard to call these politicians once a month and noting that repetition will have an important impact.
“It’s so simple, easy and quick to do,” he said. In his case, he programmed the numbers of his congressmen and senators into his phone. “In a few minutes I call all of them,” Shinn said of his list, which includes the president’s office. “If we don’t tell our representatives how we feel, they have a license to do what they want.”
What to say? The website provides callers and e-mailers with straightforward, brief sentences to use.
Why first Fridays? One reason: It remembers Good Friday. “It’s the least we can do to save his children, our brothers and sisters in Christ, for him on that day,” Shinn posted on MonthlyCallForLife.com.
In her Herndon, Va., home, Leslie Jeffries needs only to look toward the magnet on her refrigerator for her monthly reminder. The magnet pictures a baby and a message that appears on the website’s homepage: “Will you please give up 10 minutes of your time once a month?”
She took to this initiative right away. “It’s an easy way to remind myself to do it on a regular basis,” Jeffries said of the magnet. “I see that it’s one way to keep at the forefront the idea that we’re not giving up.”
Jeffries will often e-mail, either as an alternative or in addition to the phone call, because the e-mail gets her a written response back from the representatives, stating in print the message was received.
Strength in Numbers
Because Shinn considers this a two-pronged effort, he encourages everyone to supplement their words with actions on the following day, the first Saturday of the month, by praying in front of a local abortion business.
He himself does so, often praying the Rosary at these clinics, even though he’s not Catholic. He attends an evangelical Christian church in Virginia. His websites, including ProLifeNews.tv, on which he’s interviewed pro-life leaders like Father Frank Pavone, cut across denominations.
“At Pro-Life Unity, we reach out to all the organizations,” Shinn said, ticking off names that include Operation Rescue and American Life League.
The approach is part of his goal to get effective communication and unity of efforts among the various pro-life organizations in the country, and even internationally, who are working on the same projects but aren’t always coordinated. ProLifeUnity.com is the hub to form a single cohesive group, he believes.
“It is a great concept, and the first Fridays are a wonderful idea,” said Jack Ames, cofounder of Defend Life, based in Baltimore. “Peter is taking this to a higher level and utilizing different websites he has. I think of Peter as being the computer guru of the pro-life movement. He’s bringing wonderful new ideas in and using the technology for the greater honor and glory of God and to save pre-born babies threatened by abortions.”
Ames likes the way Shinn’s efforts can get pro-life groups to do the same thing on the same day every month all over the country.
There is strength in numbers if hundreds and thousands of people call representatives and their staffers hear these consistent messages regularly. They will have to have an effect, Ames believes.
Shinn knows many calls are being made thanks to his “call reminder” list. In spite of the little publicity they’ve received so far, that list numbers 1,000 people.
“We’re ready to break out beyond the few thousand we’re sure are making these calls a month,” he said. Now he’s launching an official campaign to bring all major pro-life groups onboard with the monthly calls, because he wants to be able to put numbers up for the states — 5,000 calls form this one, 10,000 from that one, and so on.
From the website prompts, especially since the last election, several people have contacted Shinn, wanting to volunteer for additional pro-life efforts. Shinn connects them to prayer vigils at abortion businesses in their area on first Saturdays.
He is hopeful about the outcome and looks forward to getting all pro-lifers on board with these initiatives. “I know and believe in God’s timing,” he explained. “There’s going to be a pro-life revival, I believe.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
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