‘Take Your Senator to a Crisis Pregnancy Center’ Day

How about a tangible way of challenging public servants to find common ground on our ground?

People attend the 2024 March for Life on Jan. 19 in Washington, DC.
People attend the 2024 March for Life on Jan. 19 in Washington, DC. (photo: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images)

Defense of crisis pregnancy centers was a central theme of this year’s March for Life. That makes a lot of sense. As I’ve argued, having won the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the right-to-life movement faces a twofold challenge: continuing to work for the legal protection of the unborn against efforts to deny or dilute it at the state and federal levels and building up a robust network for women faced with crisis pregnancies to make clear they are not alone.

Speaking at the O’Connor Conference on Life a few years back, George Weigel observed that the one factor that was often the tipping point in their decision for or against abortion was whether they felt supported by anyone else. We should not underestimate the consequences of today’s plague of loneliness: I remember the striking comment in a note left behind by a man who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He said that he would start walking in San Francisco out toward the bridge and would stop if one person smiled at him. 

The political powers-that-be are not smiling at women in crisis pregnancies. Every woman who opts to carry her baby cuts into Planned Parenthood’s profit margin, so there is great pressure on its friends (AKA “the Democratic Party”) to stack the “choice” deck. After all, we all know there can only be one legitimate “choice.” 

Consider that the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, as California Attorney General, sued (and was swatted down by the Supreme Court) in an attempt to get crisis pregnancy centers to make referrals to abortion clinics. (The same Secretary has now found, 28 years after Congress enacted the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, that the law actually “requires” him to deny grant eligibility to crisis pregnancy centers because they don’t decrease pregnancy rates!)

Fourteen senators are pushing S.1231, which would declare crisis pregnancy centers sources of “disinformation” subject to Federal Trade Commission regulation and civil penalties ranging from $100,000 to seizure of assets. In the runup to electoral season, where Democrats are making abortion a campaign issue, growing numbers of blue legislators are hyperventilating about the “dangers” crisis pregnancy centers pose (clearly to Planned Parenthood’s bottom line, though nobody admits that).

One can bemoan the politicization of this issue and reject the denial of choice to women by these self-anointed “pro-choice” politicians, but perhaps the best solution was voiced at this year’s Georgetown Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life by Emily Geiger: Invite that politician to a crisis pregnancy center!

Why not?

The idea apparently originated in New Jersey, where Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ5) has launched his own personal crusade against crisis pregnancy centers, holding press conferences in front of them. Apparently, some New Jersey pro-life folks have struck on the idea to invite him in. From what I’ve heard, he’s supposedly accepted. Gottheimer, after all, likes to paint himself as part of the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” a self-description of several Democrats who claim willingness to reach across the aisle in search of bipartisan solutions. (That image helps when you come from a swing district like New Jersey’s Fifth).

Perhaps it will modify some views, perhaps not. It certainly cannot hurt to try. Why?

  1. One never knows when truth might prevail. Dispelling talking points itself can be helpful.
  2. It provides us and our opponents the chance to address each other and demonstrate non-polarized good will.
  3. Politicians have a responsibility to all the people in the district they represent, not just those they agree with.
  4. It maintains lines-of-contact with local officials — even with those with whom we might primarily disagree — in order to find possible, if limited, areas of collaboration.
  5. The closer a politician is to the local level, the more likely he is to break free of party ideological constraints. A U.S. senator is less likely to change his mind than a state senator; a state representative or county commissioner rubs up against local opinion more frequently than a Washington congressman.

So, as we move through 2024, let’s challenge our opponents by cordially inviting them to a local crisis pregnancy center, to meet the staff, to learn what they do, perhaps even to meet recipients of assistance. It’s a public talking point: why won’t you “come and see?” (John 1:46). It shows our openness while, at the same time, challenging the legislator to demonstrate his own open mind. It’s something concrete to take to legislators when you meet in their offices, and something for which you can pursue tangible follow-ups, e.g., with staff schedulers. It’s something you can use with the undecideds: “We invited X and he’s coming — maybe you want to, too?” or, “We invited X but she won’t come — why wouldn’t she even take the time to look?”

So, as pro-lifers meet local officials and join in state-level marches for life, how about a tangible way of challenging those public servants to find common ground on our ground? By the way, it also wouldn’t hurt to bring our political friends to these centers. They can lend their voice (and maybe their networks) to standing up for them. 

So, how about “Take Your Senator to a Crisis Pregnancy Center Day” in a place near you?