Insurance Troubles Jeopardize Local Pro-Life Events

In several places insurance companies have become skittish this year about providing event insurance, and at least one event has been canceled as a consequence.

Thousands stand waiting to walk during the March for Life in Washington, D.C. January 2019.
Thousands stand waiting to walk during the March for Life in Washington, D.C. January 2019. (photo: Jeffrey Bruno / Shutterstock)

BOSTON — Pro-life groups have been scrambling to get insurance for longtime events marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January, with at least one canceling because organizers couldn’t get coverage.

In Boston, for instance, Massachusetts Citizens for Life recently canceled a pro-life assembly at historic Faneuil Hall that first took place in 1974, after an insurer backed out. In Louisiana, long-standing pro-life marches in two cities were in jeopardy as of mid-month because insurance companies refused coverage.

The local governments, like many others in the country, require organizers of an event to carry one-day event insurance that names the city as an additional insured party in case of a costly mishap. A typical amount of coverage is $1 million. Getting such insurance has been routine for decades.

Not now.

People contacted for this story say the problem is that insurance companies are skittish about covering events that deal with divisive topics in the wake of violent public gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

Those events — mostly centering on anti-racism and anti-police protests, attacks on Confederate or other monuments, and left-wing or alternative-right wing causes — had nothing to do with pro-life advocacy. But insurance companies aren’t making such distinctions, an insurance expert said.

The hesitancy over covering events does not include banquets or golf outings. Instead, it’s about large gatherings on public property.


Coverage Denial, Opaque Reasons 

Beau Hearod, president of Jeff Davis Insurance in Jennings, Louisiana, who has been handling insurance coverage for Louisiana Right to Life events for more than a decade, said he tried every insurance broker his company works with to try to get event insurance for pro-life marches in the state, without success.

“I think it’s really happening to any kind of event that possibly could be considered political. The insurance companies are shying away from writing any of these right now,” Hearod said.

The Register contacted press representatives for certain companies that offer event insurance and received no reply as of press time.

Oregon Right to Life was planning to go ahead with a march in the state’s capital, Salem, on Saturday, Jan. 29, but only after a hard slog that ended with finally finding an insurance company to cover it.

“We’ve had issues with getting liability insurance overall for our organization, and then specifically for our events, for an upcoming pro-life event,” said Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life. “It’s pretty disappointing, because we’ve been doing these march for life events for decades. They’re peaceful events. No incidents. No claims. Now we’re really having problems. And we’re not really being given really clear reasons why. It’s all pretty opaque.”

She noted that pro-life events in Oregon have been going on for about 50 years, without incident.

“If it’s supposed to be based on statistics and actuarial tables, we should be a good risk,” Anderson said.

Pro-lifers in Arizona had a similar experience, contacting more than 20 insurance companies before eventually securing insurance for a march for life on Saturday, Jan. 15.

“It was pretty difficult, and it shouldn’t have been,” said Garrett Riley, executive director of Arizona Life Coalition.

Riley said his organization has never filed an insurance claim over a pro-life gathering.

“We’re the most peaceful event. And the police love us, because when we leave, the place is spotless, and there has never an issue,” Riley said.


First Amendment Rights Curtailed

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, noted that the organizers of Twitters mobs don’t have to worry about permits or insurance because they just show up and no one takes responsibility. On the flip side, he said, pro-life groups like his that plan ahead and try to work with civil authorities are running into trouble exercising “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” mentioned in the first of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

“Where does the First Amendment come into this? … It’s like premeditated First Amendment [exercise] is being limited by insurance companies,” Clapper said.

Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, provided the Register with a detailed timeline of her organization’s contacts with insurance carriers going back to March 2020, when resistance first arose. The insurance companies’ hesitance didn’t cause much disruption at the time, as most pro-life events were canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But as it became clear that pro-life events scheduled for January 2022 could likely go on as scheduled, insurance became a stumbling block.

Some insurance companies balked at the purpose of the event. On the other side, the city of Boston made getting event insurance more difficult in November 2021, when city officials increased the level of insurance they required for a pro-life assembly scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 23, at Faneuil Hall, to $2-million per incident with a $4-million cap for the individual event.

Still, Stewart thought she had a deal with a carrier—– until she went to pay the premium last month and found that the insurance company no longer wanted the arrangement.

After some wrangling, Stewart sent out a mass-email message Jan. 5 announcing that the event had been canceled.

She said she’s worried about what the new insurance climate means for pro-life advocacy going forward.

“The inability to secure insurance for public events will effectively silence pro-life voices in the public square,” Stewart said by email. “Massachusetts Citizens for Life and other states’ pro-life groups rely on public witnessing to educate, motivate and influence public policy. Shutting down our ability to communicate with the public will cause incalculable damage to the pro-life movement nationally.” 

Register correspondent Matt McDonald is the editor of New Boston Post.