Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January issue of Townhall Magazine.
In 2012 LifeNews.com broke the story of Elisa Bauer, a mentally disabled Nevada woman who was nearly forced to have an abortion against her will. With the fate of the unborn baby’s life hanging in the balance, thousands of the pro-life news website’s readers took action, calling and emailing Nevada District Court Judge Egan Walker’s office by the thousands.
It paid off.
Bauer delivered a beautiful baby girl, Cierra Marie, and nearly two years later, her grandparents adopted her in, ironically, the same Nevada court where her life was once threatened.
Over the course of the last 11 years, the number of lives saved thanks in large part to LifeNews is far too many to count, let alone know. But it's Elisa Bauer’s story that stands out to founder Steven Ertelt as a defining example of a time the news agency was able to make a direct impact.
“[Bauer] was pressured by the system, basically the foster care system, to have an abortion and her foster parents stepped in and were able to help stop that,” Ertelt tells Townhall. “LifeNews played a crucial role in connecting people together, getting prolife attorneys involved, working with pro-life groups, and getting people to lobby key players involved in that debate on what happens to her and her unborn child.”
Though LifeNews officially launched in 2003, Ertelt has been harnessing the power of the Internet as early as 1993 to spread the pro-life message, even walking away from dreams of becoming a stockbroker to focus on what he considers the human rights issue of our time.
The organization, which now has a reach of roughly 5 million people per month, had humble beginnings as a news clipping service. “I realized we were doing the pro-life movement a disservice by just forwarding on biased and misinformation that was found in the news media, so we wanted to do it right with original news reporting and working with pro-life groups to get the information out there, to do it factually and do it timely,” he says.
As the Internet grew and ultrasound technology improved, it became easier to get people information directly, thereby overcoming biased reporting and the monetary advantage the pro-abortion camp had previously had. And nationally, the debate over partial birth abortions in the mid to late ‘90s also helped garner more interest among the American public in pro-life issues.
“I think that really finally pricked the consciousness of a lot of Americans, they realized what exactly goes on in an abortion and it didn’t even have to be graphic, it was just understanding the description and just what a partial birth abortion entailed,” he says. “I think a lot of people woke up and you can’t go back. … That was the start of a major shift in the pro-life direction that continued on into the 2000s.”
LifeNews has certainly been a beneficiary of that shift but their growth has only helped furthered the pro-life movement’s cause socially and politically.
“Being able to have a pro-life network where when we report on something there’s action that’s taken, that’s been a real help I think for the pro-life community,” he says.
Indeed, LifeNews has been instrumental in affecting legislation and promoting pro-life candidates, both of which ultimately help save babies from abortion. But that’s not all they’re focused on.
Through the website, email, social media, and radio, LifeNews covers the whole gamut of pro-life issues, including assisted suicide and euthanasia, campaigns and elections, legal proceedings and legislatives matters, and bioethics issues.
In addition to changing laws and getting the right politicians elected to do so, Ertelt also realizes the importance of trying to foster respect for human life in society.
“You can’t stop abortion if you don’t protect unborn children under law, but at the same time you have to change the culture,” he explains, pointing to the personal stories they run about difficult decisions people have made in choosing life.
“Women who have babies who are severely disabled and who very easily could’ve chosen abortion,” he gives as an example, “here are parents who say, ‘You know what, we realize that this may be a difficult pregnancy or this may be a difficult situation to have a child with a disability but life matters more than that so we’re fully prepared to be inconvenienced or to have a child whose quality of life isn’t wonderful the way the other side might say, we’re fine with that because we understand this is a human being, this is a person who has a life that ought to be respected.’”
These types of stories have the power to change hearts and minds, and not just in the United States. Ertelt says LifeNews’ reach internationally is growing, particularly in Ireland and other English-speaking countries, but also in Asia and Africa.
“Frankly, the kinds of battles we’re facing here are battles everybody’s facing,” he says. “The more we can inform and educate people, the more likely it is we’re gonna save lives.”