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Defending the Free Speech Rights of Pregnancy Centers

by Worth Loving

May 22, 2018

Pregnancy can be one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life, especially when the pregnancy is unexpected. It’s extremely important that a woman have a strong support group during such a time. For many women facing unplanned pregnancies, pregnancy resource centers provide the support needed for the woman to carry her baby to term and equip her to raise the child in a loving home.

There are two types of crisis pregnancy centers, licensed and unlicensed. Unlicensed pregnancy centers are authorized to provide any type of non-medical support including pregnancy kits, education, support groups, clothing, and so on. Licensed pregnancy centers provide all these services as well but are also authorized to provide limited medical services. Unlike Planned Parenthood, pregnancy resource centers charge nothing for their services. Oftentimes, pregnancy centers are strategically located in poor communities where medical care is hard to find. No one seeking their services is turned away.

Now, the very mission of these pregnancy centers is under attack in California through a law known as the California FACT Act. Passed in 2015, the law requires pregnancy centers to promote a message directly contrary to their mission. For licensed facilities, the law requires a state-approved message regarding abortion referrals to be posted in the pregnancy centers. Interestingly, the law doesn’t require licensed pregnancy centers to promote wellness and nutrition programs for women, infants, and children or anything of the sort. For non-licensed facilities, the law requires that the pregnancy center post a message explaining that they are not a licensed medical facility and therefore cannot provide any related services, something these pregnancy centers have never claimed to do.

Shortly after the passage of the California FACT Act, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, arguing that the law violated the free speech rights of pregnancy centers. After working its way through the lower courts, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of NIFLA v. Becerra in November 2017. Oral arguments were heard on March 20, and a decision is expected to be announced at the end of the Court’s term next month.

It certainly appears that precedent is on the side of pregnancy centers. Several cases have been decided in favor of private individuals and institutions who were being compelled to promote or participate in a message or action contrary to their beliefs or mission. It also appears that the current justices have serious reservations about the constitutionality of the California FACT Act. During oral arguments for NIFLA v. Becerra, several of the more liberal justices voiced concerns that the law was not only burdensome but specifically targeted pregnancy centers, something Justice Elena Kagan called a “serious issue.”

Defendants in the case, including the state of California, argue that pregnancy centers are willfully deceiving women into believing that abortion is not an option and that they must disclose abortion services. In the end, though, Attorney General Becerra’s legal team conceded that no charges have ever been filed against a single pregnancy center in the state of California; and they have yet to bring forward a woman who has been harmed by a pregnancy center.

Pregnancy centers have never claimed to be full service. Their goal is to provide services to a mother in need so that her baby may develop fully and that she may love and nurture the child. What’s at stake in this case is the First Amendment right of pregnancy centers to refuse to promote a message directly contrary to their mission. Last week, Congressman Andy Harris, a medical doctor from Maryland, spoke on the importance of this case at FRC. As he said, “The First Amendment gives you the right to say things. It also gives you the right not to say things, and that’s what this case is about.” To find out more about this critical case and how you can support pregnancy centers in your area, watch Rep. Harris’ full lecture.

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Putting Children Before Politics

by Worth Loving

May 1, 2018

For decades, faith-based adoption and foster care organizations have played a critical role in providing services to children in need. They have excelled in this and serviced the neediest of these already needy children. As reported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 45 percent of the 3,794 adoptions completed by Catholic Charities in 2009 were of children considered to have special needs. Also in 2009, 32 percent of the 1,716 adoptions completed by Bethany Christian Services were of hard-to-place older children previously in foster care.

It is imperative for these children that all agencies, both faith-based and secular, remain in the adoption and foster care system. Without them, many children would have no place to turn. Today, 440,000 children are in foster care, and 100,000 of those are awaiting adoption. The opioid crisis is only adding to these numbers. In 2016, 92,000 children alone were in foster care because of drug abuse in the home. In fact, drug abuse is the number one reason why children are placed in foster care. With so many children desperate for stable homes, it would seem obvious to provide every avenue possible for that to happen. However, there is a growing movement to remove faith-based adoption agencies from the equation. Due to their deeply held religious beliefs, many faith-based adoption agencies seek to place children in homes with a married mother and father. Recently, in the scramble to embrace “LGBT equality,” lawsuits were filed in Michigan and Texas, challenging each state’s laws protecting faith-based adoption agencies. In Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, and California, similar lawsuits succeeded, resulting in the shutdown of several Catholic adoption organizations. In Illinois, approximately 2,000 children were displaced as a result of one of these lawsuits despite that fact that every state allows LGBT adoption and has numerous agencies willing to facilitate these adoptions.

Such threats to the well-being of children prompted Representative Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) to introduce The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881) in the House of Representatives and Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to introduce it in the Senate (S. 811). This bill protects faith-based adoption agencies from discrimination by letting them continue their work of placing children in adoption and foster families while remaining loyal to their deeply held religious beliefs and does nothing to prevent LGBT adoptions. The bill simply seeks to keep faith-based agencies in the business of helping children, free of government discrimination.

Those fighting to remove faith-based agencies from the table have a specific agenda in mind, an agenda that seeks to silence those with whom they disagree while trampling on the best interests of children. The fight to protect faith-based adoption agencies is about ensuring families have a wide range of options to select an agency that meets their physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual needs. It’s about ensuring that some of the most overlooked members of our society will no longer be forgotten.

The House sponsor of this bill, Rep. Mike Kelly, spoke at FRC this past Thursday on the importance of passing this bill. Speaking on the importance of keeping faith-based agencies at the table, he said:

All service providers, religious or secular, who work to provide children with loving families should have a seat at the table and never be disqualified from doing so because of their deeply-rooted religious beliefs. The more groups providing these crucial services, the better.

How ironic that leftists want to exclude faith-based agencies from placing children in loving homes while rabidly defending federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a group that only provides one adoption referral for every 82 abortions.

Our goal should be to place children in loving homes. Any agency that provides this service should be allowed a seat at the table. To learn more about the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, please watch this FRC Speaker Series event. And then, contact your U.S. Representative and both U.S. Senators and ask them to support this bill.

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Scalia’s Legacy Lives On

by Worth Loving

April 24, 2018

As a nation, there are many days we set aside throughout the year to commemorate victories in war or honor those who have served our country in some capacity. Personally, many of us celebrate birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones and friends. Up until a year ago, April 10 didn’t mean much to most people. But, this year, it’s a very significant date for conservatives. It was on April 10, 2017, that Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the 101st Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Only a year into his tenure, Justice Gorsuch has already left a mark.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death in February 2016 rocked a nation that was already in the midst of a tumultuous presidential election. For months, talk of his replacement dominated the news cycles and the presidential debates.

In the view of many Americans, the 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential primaries both yielded less than desirable candidates. But there was one overarching issue that drove people to the polls, something that would shape America’s future for decades to come—the Supreme Court. Pollster George Barna said it was a defining issue among SAGE Con (“Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservatives”) voters, of whom 94 percent voted for Donald Trump. An NBC News exit poll found that 7 in 10 voters nationwide said that the Supreme Court was either the most important factor or an important factor in whom they voted for.

With Scalia’s death, the high Court was split between four reliably conservative justices (except on social issues, on which Justice Kennedy voted with the liberals), and four staunchly liberal justices. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, ensuring that the next president would have that privilege.

With the help of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, apparent GOP nominee Donald Trump developed a list of 21 conservatives whom he pledged to choose a Supreme Court nominee from if elected president. On January 31, 2017, President Trump fulfilled that promise by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

After receiving Senate confirmation on April 7, Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10, 2017. A year later, he has yet to disappoint conservatives. Last summer, Justice Gorsuch showed his commitment to the First Amendment and religious freedom by ruling with the 7-2 majority in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. In this case, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbus, Missouri, applied for a state grant for playground safety enhancements but was denied because of its religious nature. Yet the First Amendment prevents the government from doing this; it may not exclude a religious entity from a public program and treat it worse off simply because it is religious. The majority ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church, with Justice Gorsuch joining Justice Clarence Thomas in a concurring opinion strongly protective of religious freedom.

Justice Gorsuch has also shown a strong inclination to protect First Amendment rights to religion and speech in two cases to be decided in June this year. In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Gorsuch appears concerned that baker Jack Phillips’ First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights have been trampled on by state authorities who forced him to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. Additionally, a few weeks ago at oral argument in NIFLA v. Becerra, Gorsuch expressed deep unease that a California law requiring pregnancy resource centers to promote abortion violates the First Amendment prohibition on government-compelled speech.

Candidate Trump promised to nominate someone in the mold of the late Justice Scalia, an originalist who would strictly adhere to the Constitution and be a staunch defender of life and religious liberty. After a year on the bench, Justice Gorsuch hasn’t disappointed and has proven that he was the right choice for the job.

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Free Speech in the Era of Social Media

by Worth Loving

April 20, 2018

In the last decade, the explosion of the internet has allowed us to reach a global audience almost instantly. Online social media platforms have become the primary way that people express their views, with 69 percent of American adults using some form of social media every day. And while these companies claim to be open platforms for all political discussion, some groups and individuals are finding there are limits to free speech.  

Since 2010, there have been an alarming number of incidents where conservative and Christian views have been censored on the internet. For example, in April 2015, GoFundMe deleted the fundraising campaigns for Sweet Cakes by Melissa and Arlene’s Flowers, two businesses that have declined to provide services for same-sex weddings and were raising money to help pay for legal fees. In January 2017, D. James Kennedy Ministries was denied access to AmazonSmile, a program developed by Amazon to allow customers to donate to the non-profit of their choice when making a purchase. Amazon based its decision on the SPLC’s designation of D. James Kennedy Ministries as a “hate group.” In July 2017, Facebook temporarily blocked over 20 pages of Catholic organizations and individuals that were followed by millions worldwide.

On Tuesday, “True Blue” recipient Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a leading voice in Congress on digital free speech, joined a panel of experts at FRC to discuss solutions to online censorship. Rep. Blackburn was herself a victim of online censorship last October when Twitter blocked an ad for her Senate campaign, which they deemed “inflammatory.” The ad called out Planned Parenthood for their illegal sale of baby body parts.

Today we are faced with the difficult question of whether government regulation of a private enterprise is necessary to protect free speech. We encourage you to take time to watch the panel discussion and learn more about one of the most critical free speech issues of our time.

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For Air Force Colonel, the Right to Conscience Prevails

by Worth Loving

April 16, 2018

For over 20 years, Colonel Leland Bohannon has served his country honorably in the United States Air Force. He completed combat missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan and earned the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Air Medal. Because of his hard work, Bohannon is now eligible for promotion to Brigadier General.

In May 2017, one of Col. Bohannon’s fellow airman decided to retire. Because Col. Bohannon was his superior, the Air Force entrusted Bohannon with the usual awards and gifts that are presented to retiring service members. Many of those awards asked for Col. Bohannon’s signature to recognize his colleague’s service. Col. Bohannon was willing to sign all the awards except one—a certificate of spouse appreciation. Col. Bohannon’s colleague just so happened to identify as a homosexual. As a devout Christian, Col. Bohannon could not in good conscience sign a certificate recognizing a same-sex union that violates his deeply held religious beliefs.

Although the certificate was optional and unofficial, Col. Bohannon approached his chaplain and JAG attorney for advice. Bohannon’s chaplain recommended that he seek a religious exemption. During the process of seeking an exemption, a two-star general told Bohannon that he would sign the certificate in his place, to which Bohannon agreed. Even though the certificate was signed by a higher-ranking officer—a high honor, the retiring master sergeant was not satisfied. He subsequently filed a formal Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging that Bohannon had discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. After conducting an investigation, the Air Force confirmed the allegations were true and found Bohannon guilty of discrimination, halting his chances of a well-deserved promotion and jeopardizing his entire military career.

Together with our friends at First Liberty, Col. Bohannon appealed the decision to the Secretary of the Air Force. On December 6, 2017, FRC and the American Family Association delivered over 77,000 petitions to the Pentagon, calling on Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to reverse the decision and clear Col. Bohannon of any wrongdoing.

On April 2, 2018, nearly a year after the ordeal first started, Secretary Wilson “concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of an Airman in his command.”

This is a huge victory for religious liberty, especially for members of the military. Although President Trump has made great strides in protecting the right of every servicemember to freely express themselves, there remains much political correctness and social experimentation from the Obama years that needs to be weeded out. We applaud Secretary Wilson for standing up for the rights of every member of the Air Force.

James Madison said that “conscience is the most sacred of all property.” The right to live according to your conscience is the reason countless men and women have signed up to serve in the military. We should continue to fight for them. 

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Michigan Pastors Deliver 23,000 Petitions to Legislators in Support of Metro City Church

by FRC Action

April 11, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Yesterday, Michigan pastors delivered over 23,000 petition signatures to state legislators in support of Pastor Jeremy Schossau of Metro City Church and FORGE Ministries. The petitions were addressed to Rep. Camilleri and Rep. Zemke who called for an investigation into the church and ministry for hosting “The Unashamed Identity” Workshop — an event offered for teenage girls to learn what the Bible teaches about sexuality.

The petition urges Rep. Camilleri and Rep. Zemke to withdraw their request for an unconstitutional government investigation into Metro City Church and FORGE Ministries, and to respect the freedom of this church to teach what the Bible says about human sexuality.

Randy Wilson, Family Research Council’s National Field Director for Watchman on the Wall, made the following comments:

Pastor Jeremy Schossau’s leadership at Metro City Church has created a place that is governed by the precepts and principles of God’s word and is compelled by the love of God. The workshop offered by Metro City Church and FORGE Ministries was created to answer difficult and sensitive questions on identity and sexuality from a biblical perspective. Metro City is putting love into action by offering a safe place for teenage girls struggling with sexual identity issues from a biblical perspective not a personal opinion. For elected officials to call for an investigation into matters of the church is a gross violation of the First Amendment and government overreach.”

We’re seeing that the church is increasingly under attack. These petitions condemn this type of overreach by legislators Rep. Camilleri and Rep. Zemke who demanded a government investigation into Metro City Church. We encourage bold spiritual leaders like Pastor Jeremy Schossau to continue to stand by the truth of God’s word and speak it in love. This type of speech should always be protected by our government, not regulated,” concluded Wilson.

Click here to read the full petition.

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Even in Retirement, Air Force Veterans Continue Their Fight for Freedom

by Worth Loving

April 11, 2018

For over thirty years, Oscar Rodriguez served his country honorably as a Senior Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Since 2001, Rodriguez has delivered a speech at over 100 flag-folding civic and military events. The speech makes six mentions of God, mostly near the end:

Our flag is a beacon, recognized around the world to represent freedom during times of peace, or during times of war. This is what we live for. This is what we will fight for, and if necessary to touch the hand of God in her defense, the charge that we accept as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines is a noble one for there is no heart stronger than that of a volunteer. Let us pray that God will reflect with admiration the willingness of one nation in her attempt to rid the world of tyranny, oppression, and misery. It is this one nation under God that we call, with honor, the United States of America. God Bless our flag. God bless our troops. God bless America.

Rodriguez delivered this speech many times in his official role as a member of the honor guard. In 2005, the Air Force issued an official script that was the only one to be recited at flag-folding ceremonies.

Rodriguez continued to deliver his own flag-folding speech, albeit not in any official capacity. In March 2016, the now-retired Rodriguez was asked by fellow airman Master Sergeant Chuck Roberson to give his flag-folding speech at Roberson’s retirement ceremony.  After learning that he could not prevent Rodriguez from attending, Roberson’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sovitsky, told Roberson that Rodriguez could not give the speech as it ran afoul of the codified scripted speech, especially the references to God. However, because Rodriguez was retired from the Air Force and therefore a private citizen, he was entitled to give whatever speech he chose for the ceremony. Even after the disagreements over the speech, Roberson still wanted Rodriguez to give the speech at the retirement ceremony. On April 3, when Rodriguez rose to give the speech at the ceremony, he was forcibly removed by three uniformed Air Force officers. On June 19, 2016, the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps recommended an assault charge be filed against the officers who removed Rodriguez. The next day, Rodriguez’s attorneys at First Liberty sent a letter to the Air Force demanding an apology. On February 1, 2018, the Air Force refused to do so.

On April 3, 2018, two years to the day after the incident occurred, Roberson and Rodriguez are now suing the Air Force, Sovitsky, and the officers who removed Rodriguez. The charges include violations of due process, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and unreasonable seizure.

What seemed like a move towards uniformity was actually a veiled attempt to squelch Oscar Rodriguez’s freedom of speech. There is so much more at stake in this case than simply a formal apology from the Air Force; the First Amendment rights of every member of the U.S. military are in jeopardy. In 2016, 44,365 of you signed a petition in support of Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez (Ret.) and Master Sergeant Charles Roberson, demanding that Colonel Raymond A. Kozak, commander of the 349th Air Mobility Wing, issue a formal apology on behalf of the Air Force. Now, we must continue to pressure the Air Force to acknowledge that they violated the First Amendment rights of Oscar Rodriguez, assaulted him, and disrupted a memorable ceremony for Charles Roberson and his family.

Our forefathers fled the persecution and oppression of western Europe because their freedom to speak and live out their faith had been compromised. Countless men and women have sacrificed life and limb so that everyone—civilian and soldier alike—may enjoy the God-given rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That’s why we must continue to stand with Oscar Rodriguez and our friends at First Liberty as they continue fighting for the right of every American to freely express themselves.

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Proposition 1: Protecting Safety and Privacy in Anchorage, Alaska

by FRC Action

March 30, 2018

Over two years ago, the Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance allowing biological men into women’s restrooms and vice versa, all under the guise of preventing so-called “discrimination.” There have been only 12 complaints of discrimination; city officials won’t say whether any charges have actually been filed.

While the usefulness of the law remains unverified, the damage to women’s privacy is clear. Anchorage’s Downtown Hope Center, a faith-based shelter for abused and homeless women, is facing the possibility of fines, forced policy changes, and required “non-discrimination” training after it turned away Samantha Coyle, a biological man who identifies as a transgender woman. Coyle filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission alleging the shelter should be required to open up its doors.

Proposition 1 aims to protect the safety of women and children by restricting intimate facilities — showers, locker rooms, bathrooms, etc. — to members of the same sex. Proposition 1 also protects businesses, churches, and charities by allowing them to set their own policies according to their beliefs and mission.

This referendum is unique in that residents may only vote by mail. Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, April 3 in order for them to be counted. (For help or answers to questions, click here.)

More and more cases like these will continue to spring up in Anchorage and across the country. We must protect the safety and privacy of women and children. With this vote, voters can help change Anchorage for the better. If you have friends or family living in Anchorage, urge them to vote “yes” on Proposition 1 on Tuesday to protect the safety of women and children!

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Record High 245 Members of Congress Score 100 percent on FRC Action’s New Scorecard

by FRC Action

January 30, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Family Research Council (FRC) Action released its scorecard today for the First Session of the 115th Congress. A record number — 245 Members of Congress — scored a perfect 100 percent for votes cast last year. Next month, FRC Action will honor these 245 Members with its “True Blue” award for displaying unwavering commitment and consistent support of faith, family, and freedom.

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

It is very encouraging that a record number of Members of Congress have achieved a perfect pro-life, pro-family voting record in the year following President Trump’s inauguration. It is evident that the positive and productive focus on values issues in this Congress is due both to the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s emphasis on the planks of the GOP’s conservative platform. As a result, we now see Congress following the will of the American people when it comes to pro-life and pro-family issues.

We thank these Members of Congress for consistently voting to defend and advance faith, family and freedom. These ‘True Blue Members’ have voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, deliver long-needed tax cuts that are already providing much needed relief to working families, stand for religious liberty, overturn Obama’s transgender military policy, end the forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood, and protect pain capable babies.

Americans should be encouraged to know that they have so many Members of Congress and a president who have begun the work of rebuilding our nation, and protecting the very values that made America great,” concluded Perkins.

Votes in the U.S. House and Senate included:

• No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion

• Disapproval of Obama’s HHS Title X Rule

• Obamacare Repeal and Replace

• Confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court

DOD Transgender Funding (Blocking Funding for Sex-Reassignment Surgeries)

D.C. Budget Autonomy

D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment

• Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

• Independent Payment Advisory Board Repeal

• Confirmation of Amy Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

• Tax Cuts & Jobs Act

Click here to download a copy of the Vote Scorecard.

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Urgent Action Needed - Your Senators to Vote for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 2311)

by FRC Action

January 25, 2018

On Monday, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 2311) sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which is identical to the bill passed by the House in October. The bill would prohibit brutal abortions on unborn babies after 5 months post-fertilization, the point at which science tells us the children feel excruciating pain from being ripped apart in the womb. The bill would likely save over 13,000 human lives each year and directly challenges Roe v. Wade precedent.

After the House passed the bill in October 2017, President Donald Trump said he would sign this bill into law. Senators need to be held accountable on whether or not they believe pain-capable unborn babies should be aborted.

We know that abortionists like Dr. Kermit Gosnell, convicted of murdering born-alive babies and illegally performing late abortions, too often kill unborn children late in development. We should not be one of only seven countries in the world, along with North Korea, China,and Vietnam that have legalized abortion on demand after 20 weeks of development.

Unborn babies at this stage can feel pain as is evidenced by the fact that unborn children at this age routinely are given anesthesia during prenatal surgery. Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand testified before Congress that “the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks gestation, if not earlier and the pain perceived by the fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or children.”

Medical advances have enhanced our understanding of unborn human life and it’s time for the law to catch up.

Your two U.S. Senators need to hear from you! Please call your Senators and urge them to vote FOR the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 2311) next week! After you’ve called, you can also email them by following this link

Thank you for your vital work in defense of innocent human life.

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Defending the Free Speech Rights of Pregnancy Centers
by Worth Loving (May 22, 2018)

Pregnancy can be one of the most vulnerable times in a woman's life, especially when the pregnancy is unexpected. It's extremely important that a woman have a strong ...

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