Thursday, July 27, 2017

A look back at 50 years: 1979

This is the second entry in a monthly series we'll be running throughout 2017 looking back at historically significant prolife moments in our state's history.

1979 was a big year for our organization.

Just as Right to Life of Michigan was born of grassroots groups and individuals coming together around the country, so too was the coalition of states that came together under the banner of the National Right to Life Committee. Many state right to life groups didn't have the term "right to life" in their names at first. Many groups used the "citizens for life" moniker, including Michigan. Some groups still use their original names today, for example, Massachusetts Citizens for Life or Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

As anyone who has worked in the prolife movement for some time will tell you, many in the general public just call every prolife group "right to life." In keeping with our broader identity as a movement, the leaders of Michigan Citizens for Life changed our name to Right to Life of Michigan. It's under that name that we've build decades of credibility as a nationally-recognized force in our areas of activity: education, legislation, and political action.

1979 was also pivotal in building the credibility we have today. We were involved in state legislation as Michigan Citizens for Life before 1979, but it was creating a dedicated legislative office in Lansing that allowed us to truly harness our grassroots efforts.

Back then our legislative office had little influence. If you look at our list of prolife laws in the state, you'll notice very few victories in the early 1980s. Building credibility is a difficult thing to do, but we've done it through those three legs of our prolife stool: education, legislation, and political action. Each activity mutually complements the other two

It's through education that we are able to move many in the public from apathy to advocacy for the unborn. It creates citizens lobbyists who will call the legislature when a critical issue is up for a vote. They keep the voting record of legislators in mind when it's time to head to the polling booth.

Our legislative office today is staffed by three people, including two lobbyists. Our Lansing team closely monitors legislative situations and are able to educate and engage the grassroots in action when needed. They routinely meet with legislators of both parties and differing views on abortion, educating them when opportunities arise. They host an annual Legislative Day that brings prolife legislators and the grassroots together.

The power of many lobbyists in Lansing or Washington, D.C. depends heavily on money or connections. The power of our advocacy in the halls of government depends entirely on the expertise of our lobbyists, who are backed by our grassroots members. Our organization is unparalleled in Michigan today. For example, Right to Life of Michigan is the only organization in the state that can consistently put issues on the ballot through petition drives without having to hire people to collect signatures.

After many years the legislative victories began materializing, and abortions began dropping. From their high of nearly 50,000 in 1987, abortions in Michigan are down 46.2 percent overall. Prolife laws save lives!

Visit our blog in August for our next notable prolife moment in Michigan history in 1981.

Honoring 50 years of prolife advocacy in Michigan
1972: The Voice of the Unborn