Anti-Choice Zealots Make Bank Promoting the "Personhood" of Zygotes
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
In just five short years, the primary movers and shakers in the absolutist anti-abortion/anti-choice movement seeking to promote the “personhood” of zygotes (the single cell that forms after a sperm fertilizes an egg) have amassed nearly $58 million in tax-deductible contributions for their cause.
Even the lead up to one of the worst economic periods in U.S. history has barely registered a blip in the group's collective money-drawing power according to an examination of IRS and state campaign finance records conducted for RH Reality Check. Four out of the five groups are raising more cash than ever with sophisticated fundraising operations, flush investment portfolios, and robust revenue-generating activities.
This isn't your grandma’s church bake sale by any stretch of the imagination.
American Life League
The fundraising champ among the five organizations profiled for this article is the American Life League (ALL), an ultra-conservative Catholic tax-exempt charity that describes itself as "supporting the social welfare of persons born and unborn." Its founder Judie Brown is better known as the "grandmother of the modern anti-choice movement" who popularized aggressive clinic blockades and sidewalk "counseling" tactics to harass health care providers and clinic patients beginning in the 1980s.
In 2007, the last year records are available, ALL raised a whopping $6 million — an impressive amount of money, without question, but still 17 percent less than its 2006 haul of $7.2 million, a decline mostly due to depreciation in the value of investment and asset sales that normally significantly pump up ALL’s annual income. Despite the lower total revenue, the amount of money brought in by donations alone has stayed relatively stable over the last five years ranging from $6.4 million in 2004 to $5.6 million in 2007.
To put it in context, ALL has raised a staggering $35 million since 2003. And it costs them just pennies on the dollar to raise those millions from direct mail appeals like one rather infamous letter that was addressed to "Dear Friend of God’s Preborn Babies."
The intermingling of hard line groups who share a common purpose to outlaw abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research puts ALL's fundraising prowess to the test as it plows millions of dollars into attempts to challenge Roe v Wade in the states and into groups that share their agenda. Former ALL legislative director Gualberto Garcia Jones, for example, is now heading the recently founded Colorado chapter of Personhood USA — the nonprofit, tax-exempt umbrella group driving religious conservatives latest attempt to pass a constitutional amendment in Colorado, while at the same time seeking constitutional amendments or laws to ban abortion and contraception in an estimated 16 states. Personhood USA, founded by long-time Operation Rescue activists Keith Mason and Cal Zastrow, was awarded charitable status in 2009 and has yet to file its financials. ALL was a major backer of Personhood USA's Jul. 17-18 "Personhood Summit" held in Las Vegas, Nev., which was tagged on to "The Revolution," a week-long series of clinic protests by the radical anti-abortion splinter group Operation Save America run by Rev. Flip Benham.
Human Life International
Another fundraising powerhouse is Human Life International, a Virginia-based organization that espouses strict Catholic orthodoxy and an odd blend of anti-Semitic and freemason conspiracy theories, according to Chip Berlet, an investigative reporter with Political Research Associates.
While its conservative Catholic ally ALL has stumbled a bit in raising funds, HLI's ability to raise money continues to grow each year, peaking at $4.1 million in 2007. Over a five-year period, Fr. Tom Euteneuer has raised $16 million for anti-abortion and anti-contraception mission work in 87 countries.