Creating New Structures in the Digital Age: Why the Pro-Life Movement Must Create a Strong Online Presence

The pro-life movement must endure; its values and members are the salt of the earth.

To last and succeed, the pro-life movement should learn from Big Tech. Pro-life organizations currently utilize technology only to their level of comfort rather than their full potential. That needs to change. Here’s how…

All pro-life groups are at the mercy of ever-changing digital marketing and the evermore hostile Big Tech that happily hamper results. Sticking to the old ways of doing business will not improve the situation: local branding, operating as a stand-alone organization while disregarding the strengths of the rest of the vibrant movement, and adding services without expanding the customer base with new technology.

Relying on a nice website or store front with pleasing fonts and color palettes are not the future.

The future belongs to collaborative initiatives such as common marketing and scheduling, collaborating data, one unified messaging system, leveraging budgets, portal sites to promote all brands, and shared tools to increase results. To achieve these goals, the pro-life movement must begin utilizing economies of scale afforded by digital technology and eliminate the duplication of efforts.  

Direct service and marketing organizations should think outside of their brand or bricks-and-mortar and more in terms of leveraging assets and resources digitally.

That means viewing the work not as a product but as a service platform. This conceptual change will permit more robust efficiency within the movement. Developing a true Digital Age ecosystem will make the movement capable of carrying more services and messages that impact more people and organizations. A common strategy that allows for diversity of approaches is a model that we should strive for together. 

Working in unison has always been a challenge for the pro-life movement. Independent groups working in their own geographic or brand silo might possibly be a cause for the movement’s durability, but it certainly limits the impact of its efforts. If the basic goal of the movement is to serve more people with life-affirming assistance, then we should seek out strategic weaknesses like fearmongering about legal risk or viewing the struggle through one point on the map – one organization’s budget in one 15-mile radius is nothing compared to the cultural problem the pro-life movement faces. Today technology affords us the ability to harness diverse strategies with big impact while leveraging many budgets aimed at a common goal. We should take advantage of it. By doing so we could assist perhaps millions more people. 

Finally, it is true in the nonprofit world that some organizations have more funding than program. That is, they can talk a good program but may lack the results to be more effective.  These organizations are sometimes dubbed “a mile wide and an inch deep,” appearing large without achieving lasting results. 

If an organization leader feels this dilemma and sees technology as a possible solution, this reality should open the door for merging organizations or at least seeking a deep collaboration. Adapting new technology and its management requires an influx of capital and resources. That capital could be generated by simply merging two similar nonprofits or programs which would allow for the blossoming of more results with the same donor funding. Technology makes this more possible now.

Mergers in the nonprofit world are not as common as in the for-profit arena given in part that the emotion of a nonprofit ministry can be more intense and the vision of the founder possibly overly constricting. The downside is that, if not done correctly, both organizations could suffer lasting harm. The upside is that donors would be energized with a new development and more people would be impacted by the pro-life movement.  

Donors should take note. A strategic shift to technology integration is the future. No change takes place in the nonprofit world without visionary donors who possess a drive for efficiency. Pro-life leaders will take heed if you push for efficient results, innovating for the 21st century. 

Fear and insecurity mute both our strength (respect for all life) and the delivery system (digital technology). We should not fear change but permit technology to enhance our impact. Our overall mission is bigger than one organization or a small geographic radius. We should seek creative expansion with the tools of the Digital Age.  

“Big Tech” and the Pro-Life Movement: Setting the Example of Human Dignity in a Secular World

The Information Technology sector (Big Tech) is the largest sector of our economy, worth more than 7 TRILLION dollars in the US alone. The 2016 election cycle and Trump’s triumph caused a panic and pullback from the largest members in this sector. Motivated now by fear of others’ values and politics, Big Tech wants to censor and control users’ speech, as well as manipulate and use their data irrespective of their concerns and objections.

In contrast, the pro-life movement is motivated by respect for others without qualification. It exemplifies the opposite set of values, free from control and manipulation.

Where Big Tech uses people as a commodity, the pro-life movement sees people as individual, free subjects – each a gift from God.

In an increasingly secular world, it is easier to see a person as a product rather than a subject with inviolable dignity from a Creator. Unfortunately, today belief in a deity as Creator of human life makes some people uncomfortable. It shouldn’t. This belief in a Creator guarantees respect for every individual. If we all have one common origin, we are equal and therefore possess the same rights. This basic logic is foundational to a free and prosperous world.

Big Tech had once made the promise that the internet and technology would democratize information. Sadly, the internet and its facilitators have lost their way in that original mission, unnerved by a few setbacks. For the benefit of a healthy society and a free market, technology must return to this original promise. That’s a tall order. Yet, it can be done by learning from the pro-life movement.

The pro-life movement has staying power. It’s the largest social and civil rights moment in history. The secret sauce is constant openness to others. In spite of the daunting task, naysayers, accusers, enemies, obstacles, and lack of funding, the pro-life movement persists in being open to all no matter what. The movement unwaveringly toils with the legal and moral levers of our society, deftly navigating them in order to pursue its quest to protect life at all stages. This example of defending the weakest – every person – is a national treasure.

The lesson here is that the movement fights what it sees as evil while exercising care for others. That is the mark of legitimate and authentic quality – next level, in fact. The pro-life movement separates the act from the actor and responds with love and patience. Instead of rage, it accepts legal reality while advocating for change through direct service, legal, political, and moral channels. It faces what it considers abhorrent with calm respect.

Respect for life is not just a slogan but the movement’s motivation.

Big Tech should take note. Tech operates in a praxis of bid, buy, sell, profits, politics, and ideology. It fears losing business and its advantage in the marketplace. However, post 2016, when fear moves away from strictly business concerns and toward the fear of fellow citizens’ views and beliefs, their actions are dangerously wrong and misplaced.

Big Tech must look to the pro-life movement to find a more wholesome formulation of citizenship that respects all life and viewpoints. And urgently. With the advent of artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, data mining, etc. the stakes are higher than ever before. People are not mere cogs of a machine or products in a consumer world. Each is a possessor of rights.

Fair treatment is really the only true reason we have business enterprise. Profit and power are the root of evil. Respect for life is the anecdote.

While it is true that Big Tech is not a charity or ministry, excluding or disrespecting others on a grand scale through viewpoint discrimination paralyzes debate and the free exchange of ideas, devaluing a person arbitrarily. Devaluing a person opens the door to disrespecting and censoring their views, quickly followed by mistrust, fear, mistreatment, and even violence.

That is why censorship, filter bubbles, shadow bans, manipulation of ads and search results, and the pursuit of profit while treating people as inhuman is bad business and bad policy. These unfair practices are not based on respect or freedom, nor do they promote a free market.

The pro-life movement’s longevity is due to its ability to overcome hardship, not with fear, but with openness to all. Likewise, Big Tech should face its fear of others’ beliefs and politics. It should bravely treat all as equals and respect their users’ inherent rights.

Instead of censoring pro-lifers, Big Tech should allow their ideas to flourish or fail in the free market without impediments or onerous rules. If Big Tech were more like the pro-life movement, more solicitous and respectful of others, the Digital/Information Age could then live up to its name.

This does not mean Big Tech has to become “pro” anything. It’s just good civics. America’s success both legally and financially is based on its respect for people and their civil rights. Tech would do well to remember that this foundation – acknowledging and protecting the dignity of each person – is what allowed their industry and every other institution to flourish in the United States.

What is Options United?

Options United’s 10th anniversary is fast approaching. In these 10 days leading up to our birthday (September 9th, 2019), we are celebrating all that God has done through Options United.

You may be wondering… 

What is Options United?

How do we fit into the pro-life industry?

What makes us different?

We’re not your typical brick-and-mortar center or clinic. We exclusively exist online to connect women in crisis with the information, resources, and services they need to CHOOSE LIFE.

Why are we exclusively online? This is a field that the pro-life movement needs to effectively use to win the cultural war. This is where women are – on their phones and laptops. And many of these women are unaware that free services are located just around the corner.

Our effective digital marketing strategies allow women to find us in their moment of need. They can reach us via call, email, text, chat, and online form.

When women looking for an abortion reach out to us, we listen with compassion and assess their situation. We then offer a referral and sometimes book an appointment at a non-profit clinic or center near her. There, she will receive a free pregnancy test and a consultation to go over information about all of her options, the different abortion procedures and risks, her medical history, and any questions or concerns she may have.

We also encourage the pregnant woman to get an ultrasound before scheduling an abortion to verify how far along she is, if she’s miscarrying, and if the pregnancy is located outside of the uterus. Our goal is to slow her down, get her to breathe and think rationally, and help her understand the importance of taking these initial steps to ensure she’s safe and well-informed.

Women deserve to know exactly what they’re getting into when seeking an abortion, information they won’t get at an abortion clinic that will profit off of her decision.

Then we follow up in the coming days, weeks, and months to check in on the woman who called us. We find that, through the consultation or seeing the baby in the ultrasound, a woman often changes her mind and chooses to keep her child! However, if she still chooses to abort, we tell her what she needs to know going into an abortion clinic, including the fact that she can leave at any time, even if she’s signed a contract or paid for the abortion. We also offer post-abortive counseling to encourage healing in the hearts of broken men and women who’ve chosen abortion.

What makes Options United different is how we connect with a woman in crisis. We meet her where she’s at. We step into her life through the phone in her hand – a fairly anonymous device that makes her feel safe enough to be open and honest about what’s going on in her world. We direct her towards a free LIFE-AFFIRMING clinic or center that will provide free services, resources, education, and support. These are things women need in making their decision.

Being well-informed and realizing that a BABY is forming in her womb allows a woman to understand the weighty consequences of abortion and choose parenting or adoption instead.

Then we redirect women back to clinics for services like parenting classes and material resources, depending on the clinic. We also refer to adoption organizations if they’re interested in learning more about that option. We really do it all.

There is no non-profit that really serves and unites these other non-profit clinics and centers. Our goal is to reach those women frantically searching the internet for an “easy fix” and get them where they need to go for REAL help and solutions. We provide the marketing, take the calls, and guide these women to the clinics or centers nearest them.

Our call responders are regularly trained to compassionately and skillfully navigate the waters of a woman’s crisis. And we couldn’t make that happen without the support of our generous donors and prayer warriors.

Every save is a team effort made possible by our call responders, the clinics and centers we refer to, and our supporters.

If you didn’t know what we did at Options United, now you do. Simply put, we are the link between pregnant mother and clinic. When all she can think of is “Planned Parenthood,” we show mama where she can get the help she truly needs just around the corner from someone who’s not going to profit off of her decision. And that’s a cause worth fighting for.

How Options United Was Founded

I have often been asked, “Why did you start Options United?”

Two experiences, in particular, led me down this road.

While researching for a paper on phenomenology & morality (seriously!) I came across a piece in First Things magazine called A Failure to Communicate by Paul Swope. Mr. Swope was reviewing research done by Dr. Charles Kenny of The Right Brain People.

I was amazed to find how the powerful rhetoric of “choice” created a conundrum for the abortion-minded woman. It was so insidious, according to the research, that a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy considered her unborn child as “death” to herself. Within this mindset, the child was a choice and not another person. Motherhood, adoption, and abortion are all seen as evil because they did not resolve her problem. Adoption, in fact, was the greatest of all evils since it left the issue open for years to come while people would judge her and think of her as a bad mother. Abortion, unfortunately, was the least of evils and the easier option.

It was hard to believe that someone could come to this conclusion. I thought as a country we were better than this. Something stirred in me to make it right. That feeling continues to this day.

The second experience came when I was working in the pro-life arena. My goal was to raise enough funding to change culture using mass media. At that time there was no hint of digital marketing. So, the only way was to buy TV advertisements.

It was the early 2000’s and I was working in Los Angeles. Purchasing just a few weeks of advertisements cost upwards of $300,000. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Poof! Gone into thin air – TV air time. For a small nonprofit, TV air time was not sustainable. Donors wanted to see results and impact before reinvesting into another round of advertisements.

Not only was TV extremely expensive, but the pro-life movement was not united to benefit from such a media effort. How could we work together, save lives, encourage life – if there was no common strategy? The pro-life landscape was fragmented with dozens of websites, phone numbers, and approaches. We could not run one media campaign without a communication hub to help those who reached out to us. We could not measure our success without some sort of infrastructure. There had to be a better way.

For these reasons, I started Options United: to use a common marketing strategy and “one number one solution” program that serves the overarching goal of the pro-life movement.

To accomplish our goals we have to overcome the current “isolated strategy” in favor of a “collaborative impact strategy.” We should not focus on what divides us (terminology, techniques, branding, local politics) but what unites us. The pro-life movement should act as a movement, respecting differences but embracing our commonality: the preservation of life and changing of culture to respect life at all stages.

I can tell you this – the future is bright! Over 2,500 babies are alive and well today thanks to this humble effort. +2,500 moms overcame their initial fear and now know the beauty of their child’s face.

Summer Trip – Seeing Things as Created

As we descended from the high elevation of the Cascades and the Sierras and down into the desert, I couldn’t help sensing a powerful metaphor in the making.  We were heading from the peace of mountains, deep, cold rivers and back to the desert where the hard, dry work awaited; from paradise and peace into the digital doldrums and brokenness the world had in store. 

It was not all nostalgia.  We were listening to Men to Match My Mountains, a history of the settling of the West.  The historic backdrop of our rough and tumble predecessors chasing a dream made for a healthy repass of their values, stories and simpler life.  Our vacation stirred a desire to return to that time of adventure in the great outdoors, uncomplicated struggle to survive.  Wouldn’t it be easier to pan for gold, sip whisky, start from scratch and throw your smartphone into a snow drift…?

Faced with the prospect of more flat screens and a pixelated reality, I recalled what invariably strengthened me to effectively take on life’s challenges:  shrugging off negative feelings and channeling them to find reason; praying through difficulties and doubt; becoming “dead to lies”, half-truths, rumor, and conspiracy, refusing a quick judgement; recalling and giving thanks for the blessings received: faith, family, country.  These became the go-to sources of renewal.  

Then it dawned on me.  Summer trips had been a trek to find trout.  Yet the true power of these trips wasn’t just the mountains lakes, rivers and trout, it was also seeing God’s fingerprint in them.  Admiring God’s handiwork is also a source of strength I sometimes fail to recall.

Observing a child at play and wondering what God’s plan is for this small bundle of potential, is truly refreshing, a source of renewal like none other.  Children are a gift to the world; they remind us of God’s interaction with us and the bigger plan in store for us.

Fresh off vacation it was more evident to me that it requires child-like simplicity to contemplate God’s creation.  This simplicity and creation itself both have a powerful ability to renew us.  The world did not create itself.  Seeing it as a “created” does not deify the world but permits us to see the Deity’s work.

Acknowledging things as created is akin to a distant harmony we hear but cannot locate and yet it still comforts us.  The rivers and lakes found in the Cascades and the Sierras reflects a more profound beauty.  The smile of an innocent child reminds us a better time and a deeper calling.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Working in the pro-life movement is full of challenges and discouragement as well as great victories.  Each time our team can encourage a mother and family to choose life, we recall what is most basic.  A life is saved, and everyone involved is renewed.  It can renew our country.    

A summer trip can bring us back to the basic motivations that give life and joy. Seeing the world in a child-like way, harkening back to a more innocent appreciation of our surroundings allows us to find that distant harmony we desire and eventually a heavenly Kingdom.