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.

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.