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Decline of Planned Parenthood

As the nation’s abortion rate declines, its largest purveyor increasingly finds itself in the center of allegations of fraud and abuse.

by Rod Thomson


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Planned Parenthood is under siege over shoddy, fraudulent and dangerous practices at centers bearing its logo across the country. 

Over the past few years, about a dozen former employees at Planned Parenthood facilities from coast to coast have blown the whistle on the atrocities taking place within their own walls. That has put the group on the defense in federal and state courtrooms and in the broad court of public opinion. The result is that it now is paying millions of dollars in legal settlements over serial abuses ranging from billing fraud to unsanitary operating conditions—even a botched abortion that was allegedly performed on a Colorado woman who was trying to get out out of the center after deciding to keep her baby.

Those are dire events for the most recognizable purveyor of abortion in the country. Planned Parenthood has $1.3 billion in net assets, and a huge chunk of its money comes from taxpayers—$540.6 million in FY 2012-13.It's the very mainstream of abortion.

Marilyn Musgrave has been in the thick of the abortion battles for decades, as a Colorado legislator and a three-term U.S. congresswoman. She's now vice president of governmental affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization based in Washington, D.C.

"The tide is turning," she tells Citizen. "People are seeing what Planned Parenthood is all about."

Fraud and Abuse

This pattern has accelerated the closing of many Planned Parenthood facilities, which have been closing for lack of use. In response, Planned Parenthood decided last year to mandate that every one of its 820 remaining centers nationwide perform abortions.

Of the many undercover reports on Planned Parenthood conducted by pro-life organizations and alternative media outlets to date, the most successful have been done by Live Action, a five-year-old advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Lila Rose and her team have videotaped evidence of Planned Parenthood employees using coercive and manipulative techniques to convince women to abort, facilitating sex- and race-selective abortions and discussing their willingness to cover up the sexual exploitation of minors. They've also caught Planned Parenthood workers misleading pregnant women about what will happen to their babies during the procedure.

The group's investigations so far have resulted in about a dozen law enforcement investigations and changes in state and federal laws. An undercover video of a New Jersey Planned Parenthood facility resulted in Illinois passing a bill expanding protections for underage girls in 2011. And last year, Rep.  Trent Franks, R-Ariz., showed his colleagues one of Live Action's videos, which helped a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks pass the chamber 228-196 in June.

"Planned Parenthood's best strategy is to deceive people about the reality of their day-to-day activities," Rose says. "Part of our role is to reveal that reality."

Some of the most powerful revelations have come from those who worked inside the clinics—some of whom have gone not to the media, but to the authorities.

White-Collar Crime

In Texas, staff members at two Planned Parenthood facilities resigned in 2009, then blew the whistle on fraudulent billings to the state and the federal government.

In one case, Karen Reynolds, who had worked for Planned Parenthood for 10 years, gave testimony that resulted in the abortion seller paying a $4.3 million settlement to the government in July 2013. Her lawsuit alleged that Medicaid was billed for services and products that were unnecessary, not covered by Medicaid or never provided at all.

She claimed her bosses at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which operates seven facilities in the Houston area and two in Louisiana, were under financial duress and told staffers to turn every visitor into a "revenue-generating client" and that several facilities in the organization falsified medical records for years to obtain the claims.

Reynolds' case is settled. But Abby Johnson, who worked her way up to the position of clinic manager at Planned Parenthood's Bryan, Texas, facility over eight years of employment, resigned after seeing an ultrasound of a 13-week-old baby fighting against being sucked out of her mother's womb.

Johnson, who had two abortions herself before giving birth to a daughter, then became a pro-life advocate. In 2009, she filed a lawsuit with documents purporting to show more than 87,000 instances of fraud at Planned Parenthood facilities across Texas during her eight-year tenure there. The Bryan facility closed its doors for good in September 2013.

Victor Gonzales, former vice president of finance and administration for Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit in 2008 alleging the clinic overbilled federal and state governments by $180 million from the late 1990s until at least 2008. The case was dismissed in 2009 but in 2010 was reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was still pending at press time.

In Iowa, Sue Thayer, who managed Planned Parenthood's Storm Lake facility for 17 years, filed a lawsuit in 2012 claiming the group submitted false, fraudulent and ineligible claims for Medicaid reimbursements. The case is currently pending in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

These and other fraud allegations prompted the non-partisan federal Government Accountability Office last August to launch an investigation into how Planned Parenthood is spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. That investigation is ongoing.

"Throughout the country there are fraud schemes we see that appear to be nationally directed," says Michael Norton, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious-liberties law firm based in Arizona that represents Johnson and Reynolds.

But fraud isn't the only issue causing employees concerns. They're talking about patient safety as well.


Last July, two nurses at a Delaware Planned Parenthood facility resigned, saying they feared they would lose their licenses if the unsafe, unsanitary conditions prevalent there were allowed to continue.

One of the nurses, Jane Mitchell-Werbrich, told the local ABC affiliate in Wilmington, "It was just unsafe. I couldn't tell you how ridiculously unsafe it was. (The abortionist) didn't even wear gloves." The operating table was "not washed down, it's not even cleaned off," she added. "It has bloody drainage on it."

The other nurse, Joyce Vasikonis, told ABC, "They were using instruments on patients that were not sterile." Both nurses remain pro-abortion but now say they believe all Planned Parenthood facilities should be shut down for mistreating women.

Melony Meanor, a former manager at the same Delaware clinic, testified in front of a state legislative committee in July that Planned Parenthood's negligence went beyond abortion: Workers failed to report approximately 200 positive test results for chlamydia and gonorrhea to patients over a six-month period between 2011 and 2012. She urged women to get their medical care elsewhere.

"Those nurses were bold enough to step out and they're not even pro-life," says Anna Higgins, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity in Washington, D.C.

In February 2013, a Colorado woman sued Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, saying staffers at the Colorado Springs facility forced her to have an abortion after she changed her mind. According to the suit, when they couldn't get an IV into her arm to anesthetize her, she told the abortionist she did not want to go through with the procedure, but he performed it anyway. Two days later she was forced to go to a hospital emergency room with an infection created by the fetal remains the abortionist had left in her body.

"This demonstrates that abortionists like Planned Parenthood are not concerned about the health and safety of women, but rather in their bottom line profits," says Norton, whose organization is representing the victim. "That is why they so vigorously fight against common-sense abortion safety and sanitation regulations that serve to protect the health and welfare of women and do no more than require abortionists to abide by the same rules as apply to ambulatory surgical centers."

Cash Cows and Counter Attacks

But Planned Parenthood is not an organization to go quietly into the night. It has a slew of powerful allies in its corner, a deep-pocket political action committee to spend on elections and ballot issues and an arsenal of cash with which to promote abortions. The group is pushing back on all three fronts.

"They have a very active and lucrative political action committee where they spent more than $15 million last election cycle," Norton says. "It's a 900-pound gorilla in the political arena."

The abortion organization gets an enormous amount of money from taxpayers for its medical and marketing programs, which then frees up money from private donors to fund abortion activists running for office.

According to Planned Parenthood's 2012-13 annual report, released in December, the group had more than $1.3 billion in total net assets. That includes $540.6 million it received from taxpayers that year—approximately $1.5 million per day.

And while it's technically a non-profit organization, the fact is Planned Parenthood makes a pretty solid profit every year from abortion and other "reproductive health" services such as sales of the morning-after pill, gynecological exams, and tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Planned Parenthood's activities are circular: By distributing condoms and maintaining a Web site for young people that is noted for its racy videos, it actively promotes a culture of casual sex outside of marriage. The group then reaps a financial profit from that culture by selling tests and "services" to people who have casual sex and then worry about pregnancy and STDs. 

Planned Parenthood refers to those profits as "excess" revenues. According to its 2012-13 annual report, its excess revenues were $58.2 million. Since 2000, Planned Parenthood has had total excess revenues of $771 million.

While abortions overall are level or declining in the country, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), Planned Parenthood is performing more than ever: Planned Parenthood's 2012-13 annual report states that while its abortion rates dropped 2 percent from the record 333,964 abortions it performed in 2011-12—approximately 27 percent of the 1.2 million abortions performed nationwide during that time period—abortion still accounts for 93.8 percent of its pregnancy services. Prenatal care services fell 32 percent from 2011-12, and is now down 52 percent from 2009. And for every adoption Planned Parenthood helped facilitate in some way last year, it performed 149 abortions.

America Unaware

Despite these staggering statistics, a large percentage of Americans are unaware that Planned Parenthood dominates the abortion industry.

According to a survey conducted last May by The Polling Company, Inc., 88 percent of Americans said they are familiar with Planned Parenthood, but 55 percent said they did not know the group performs abortions.

"Planned Parenthood has done a really good job marketing themselves," Higgins says.

But as that marketing success unravels with every report of fraud and abuse, pro-life lawmakers are becoming increasingly successful at scaling back abortion on demand. Thirteen states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas—have already passed bans on abortions after 20 weeks and more are considering doing so.

These bans are the biggest legislative steps forward since the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, enacted in 2003. And they are the direct result of more knowledge of what is happening in the womb—and also and what is happening in abortion facilities.

"When you expose what is happening in abortion" centers, says Rose, "it creates a firestorm of media controversy and compels legislators to take action."

For More Information

Web Icons Policy WebRead Planned Parenthood's 2012-13 annual report at To learn more about the pro-life advocacy groups mentioned in this story, visit,,, or For more details on the declining rate of abortion nationwide, visit


Rod Thomson is the author of Living Threads: The Unbroken Connection of God's People Through the Ages. He also runs The Thomson Group, a public relations and communications firm in Sarasota, Fla.


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Eleanor McCullen - Reaching The Culture With More Than Words

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Karla Dial

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Citizen magazine-November 2011-cover

Citizen Cover Story, November 2011

The refrigerator in Eleanor and Joe McCullen’s Newton, Mass., home is covered with photos.

Babies alone. Babies with their moms. Toddlers. Elementary school kids. Entire families.

You might expect that, considering that the McCullens, both in their mid-70s, are grandparents. The thing is, these kids aren’t relatives.

They’re just a few of the hundreds of children born after Eleanor met their moms on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic over the last 11 years.

It’s nothing she ever imagined she’d be doing at this point in her life, but in the year 2000, Eleanor — a lifelong Catholic — had a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit that turned her life upside down.

“It was like St. Paul being knocked off his horse,” she says. “I was going to Mass, but this was a deeper conversion.

“I was talking to [my priest], and he said, ‘Why do you think this happened to you?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it.’ And he said, ‘You’re supposed to go out of your comfort zone now and build up the kingdom of God. That’s the purpose. You have to stretch.’”

Eleanor had no idea how she was supposed to “stretch” herself. Married at the time for 41 years, she’d spent her adult life as a homemaker, raising three children and then her grandchildren.

“I’m older. That’s one reason I thought I couldn’t do it,” she says. “At the time, I was 64. So when this priest suggested working with mothers who are contemplating abortion, I said, ‘Oh, Father, I’m too old!’ He said, ‘Are you 103?’ I said ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Then you’re not too old.’”

Stripped of excuses, Eleanor reached out trepidatiously to Christian sidewalk counseling ministries.

“I took a step of faith to make telephone calls and say, ‘I’m available,’ ” she recalls. “I also said, ‘If I get a machine, I’m going to hang up!’ But each time, a person answered.”

For the first four months, she simply prayed while other counselors talked with women outside a local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. But one day, a counselor was out sick and Eleanor was asked to fill in — and a whole lot of lives began to be affected, one by one.

Sharing Hope

Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning, between 7 and 11 a.m., you can find Eleanor dressed in a suit, pushing a baby stroller outside an abortion clinic. In the stroller are a portable DVD player that shows a baby’s ultrasound and a stack of pamphlets for pregnancy medical clinics in the area.

Her approach is simple.

“My main thing is just, ‘Good morning,’ ” she says. “ ‘What can I do to help you? I’m available if you have any questions.’ I give them a brochure and my telephone number. I just say I’m there to help them, I can take them to a safe center right then if they want to go find out about their options, not to rush into anything. If they don’t feel there’s help available for them there, they can always come back to the abortion clinic tomorrow.”

Over the years, she’s found it’s amazing how far a simple greeting can go.

“One of my mothers early on — the little boy is now 8 — I asked her why she stopped to talk, and she said, ‘You said “Good morning,” ’ ” Eleanor recalls. “That morning she and the father had had a terrible fight, and it was calming to hear that.”

As gratifying as it is to help a distressed pregnant girl into her car and take her to A Woman’s Concern — a 19-year-old pregnancy medical clinic with four locations statewide — to get an ultrasound, as joyful as it is to see the tears flow when that girl decides abortion will not be her choice for this child — for Eleanor McCullen, it’s not the end of her work. It’s just the beginning of new relationships.

“I’m there while the ultrasound is going on and the tears are coming,” she says. “I’m there through the nine months. I’m there when the call comes to go to the hospital. I’ve been there at the christenings.”

That’s been her approach since that first fateful day when her colleague got sick, said her husband Joe. That was when the line of girls, women and couples started coming through their front door to their living room — and it hasn’t stopped since.

“I think that first day, she spoke to a couple, and they were the first ones that she brought to the house — because at that point, she didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “They were sitting in the living room, and she opened the Yellow Pages. She found A Woman’s Concern and called them, and they said, ‘Bring them over.’ ”

One of Eleanor’s favorite traditions has been holding baby showers for mothers who change their minds.

“I had one mother I was talking to outside Planned Parenthood, and she said she had to have the abortion,” Eleanor recalls. “I told her God had a plan for her child, and she said, ‘I know, but I still have to get the abortion.’ She just kept walking toward Planned Parenthood, and I told her I was disappointed because I’d have a baby shower for her and she’d have everything she needed. She stopped and said, ‘You’d do that?’ I said ‘Yes,’ and she said she’d love a baby shower — ‘where’s A Woman’s Concern?’

“So we do those in my house. We have strollers and baby clothes. It’s a blessing, and my husband is generous, and we’re happy to do it.”

Sharing Lives

That’s not to say the aftermath of helping women who’ve changed their minds about abortion is all sunshine and roses. A lot of the women Eleanor meets on that sidewalk aren’t there because they personally want to be — they’re there because they feel they have to be, thanks to their parents or boyfriends.

“I think Eleanor would be reluctant to talk about some of the details of these cases,” Joe says gently. “Mothers dragging their daughters into the abortion mills, Eleanor talking to them to change their views — then getting a call from the irate father, telling her to meet him at some Dunkin Donuts down in Roxbury. And she goes. It’s not a good neighborhood, but she goes.”

That’s not a hypothetical situation. Right now, there’s a 5-year-old kid somewhere in Massachusetts with a young mom and two grandparents who couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s in their lives — thanks to one lady who was willing to step outside her comfort zone.

Occasionally, the confrontation is not with people who are considering abortion, but with others who are trying to keep them from it.

“When people are concerned about abortion and take the approach of yelling at the woman, she tells them to stop, that’s not the way,” Joe says. “She’s a quiet person, but she has a very strong way about her when she’s making her point.”

As a couple, the McCullens haven’t stopped at buying countless strollers and sets of baby clothes for those showers. They’ve helped with rent. They’ve furnished apartments. They’ve bought groceries. They’ve gotten refrigerators fixed. They’ve let women stay at their house in Massachusetts and families borrow their second home on the coast of Maine. The phones in both locations ring constantly — sometimes because women need material support, and sometimes because they just want to talk to Eleanor. Some of them are people she’s been involved with personally — and some are people who have been referred to her by mothers Eleanor has helped in the past.

“Everybody has a different story,” Eleanor says. “I don’t pay for cable or things they don’t need. I find out what they need, not what they want. So financial assistance is always wonderful, but I call on people for moral and spiritual support too — encouraging the young mother and father.”

Though Joe, who owns a capital firm, doesn’t join Eleanor on the sidewalk, he gets involved in other ways when she asks.

“Fathers need mentoring,” Eleanor says. “Maybe the man doesn’t have a job and needs help with his resume. My husband does that. It doesn’t take much time. It’s just a little bit of getting out of your comfort zone, a little bit of stretching. Once you start, it’s like, ‘This is fun!’ and it makes you feel good.”

“Eleanor is the front-line soldier, and I’m just in the supply office,” Joe says demurely. “For the most part, probably 90 percent of the cases, these people have turned their lives around. Sometimes these are young men who are struggling to find themselves and be good fathers, live a lifestyle that they aren’t accustomed to. It’s not necessarily the way they were brought up, but they take the responsibility of being a father seriously. They have difficulties, especially in this economy, but they’re good solid people who are doing their best under difficult circumstances, so we continue to support them.

“They call me on my birthday. To be called ‘Dad’ is really a neat thing.”

Though the McCullens have no way of really knowing this side of heaven how many children’s lives they’ve touched, Joe says “there are hundreds living now because of [Eleanor’s] involvement.”

Eleanor can tell you about some twins she’s very fond of, though.

One of them is named Eleanor. And another is named Joe.

Karla Dial is a contributing editor to Citizen and CitizenLink Daily News.


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Surrogacy: Redefining the Family - and The Future

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Daniel L. Weiss

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Surrogate Future -Citizen October 2014                

In the early 1930s, British author Aldous Huxley envisioned a future in which social control came through the destruction of sexual mores and the strict regulation of reproduction. In Brave New World (1932), people are no longer born, but decanted in gestational bottles. Sexual promiscuity is not just normalized, it is expected. Ideas such as “family” are considered pornographic, and words like “marriage,” “natural birth,” “parenthood” and “pregnancy” are too obscene to be mentioned.

In The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Margaret Atwood describes a world in which enslaved concubines are impregnated to provide children for the ruling elite. These “handmaids” are considered to be “two-legged wombs.”

Welcome to the future.

No longer the stuff of science fiction, these tales have a lot in common with celebrity headlines:  Increasing numbers of wealthy people are enlisting surrogates to have children, including Elton John and David Furnish, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris’s partner, David Burtka, described their children’s surrogate mother was “more like the oven.”

Our fawning celebrity culture, says attorney Jason Adkins, is the reason so few people know about the rank underbelly of the surrogacy business. As executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, he has worked for years to bring these darker issues to light.

“Once we get beyond Oprah and People magazine and really look at the facts here,” he tells Citizen, “people begin to understand that this is an exploitative practice that turns women of fewer financial means into a breeder class for the wealthy.”

Minnesota is among a handful of states where surrogacy battles are currently raging; others include Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New York and Washington, D.C. Minnesota Family Council Legislative Affairs Director Autumn Leva, who worked with Adkins and others this year to kill legislation that would have legalized surrogacy contracts in their state, says most people are significantly misinformed about surrogacy, imagining nothing more than a childless couple receiving the gift of life from an altruistic woman. While those arrangements do exist, the industry is increasingly moving toward a purely financial model.

“The sperm is purchased, the egg is purchased, they’re combined together in the lab and the embryo is then implanted into a woman who is not genetically related to the child, and everybody’s being paid for all this,” she tells Citizen.

“We need to question some of the ethical and moral implications of paying for life.”

Adkins believes this is the essential point people fail to appreciate.

“It’s really the trafficking of persons,” he says, “whether we want to admit it or not.”

The Odd Couple

Human trafficking is an apt description of surrogacy, says Kathleen Sloan. A longtime women’s rights advocate and a member of the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) board of directors, she has fought the sexualization of women and children for years, including at the United Nations.

“The more I learned about biotechnology, I began to see the very direct parallels between sexual commodification of women and reproductive commodification of women through third-party reproduction, surrogacy and egg trafficking,” she tells Citizen. “The prostitution industry and the reproductive industry both exist to exploit and profit from the use of women’s bodies.”

As famously liberal as NOW is, it has no position on surrogacy. But Sloan does—and says feminists who fear her stance threatens the availability of abortion have viciously attacked her. Surprisingly, one person she’s never argued with is Jennifer Lahl, a staunch pro-life Christian and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, a California-based nonprofit organization. Together, they form what some call a “dream team.”

The two met at a screening of Lahl’s film Eggsploitation at Harvard Law School four years ago. When fertility-industry representatives attacked Lahl, Sloan stood up and said she agreed with everything Lahl was saying. It silenced the crowd.

“They never expected a pro-choice feminist would be getting behind someone on the opposite side of the issues,” she said.

Since then, Sloan and Lahl have made dozens of presentations on the harms of surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). No matter where they speak or screen a film—whether to students, legislators, women’s groups or religious groups, Sloan says—“the universal reaction is always, ‘I had no idea.’ ”

Lahl considers this fuel for her mission.

Over the past four years, she has released a trilogy of films exploring the dark side of third-party reproduction. In 2010, she released Eggsploitation, which details the abuses young women suffer from egg trafficking. Anonymous Father’s Day (2011) chronicles the stories of sperm donors’ children. Her newest film, Breeders: a Subclass of Women?, exposes the hidden personal and social costs to women and children in surrogate arrangements.

Market Goods

One of the challenges to creating wider public awareness, Lahl says, is that people are only allowed to see happy surrogates. “If anybody raises any kind of question that things aren’t all right, it gets a lot of pushback from the industry and the people that seek to make a lot of money off of surrogacy,” she explains in Breeders.

The film also includes an interview with NOW’s Mona Lisa Wallace, who says the industry consists of “industrial human farms.”

It’s an accurate description, Sloan says. Surrogacy is modeled after the industrial factory farming of animals—including treating them as products, pumping them full of synthetic hormones, pushing for the creation of saleable goods and casting them off when done. Such an approach, she says, “has tremendous consequences, whether (for) cattle, poultry or human women.”

Even worse, women can’t give informed consent because “because they are not told that no long-term studies have been conducted on the long-term health risks associated with all these procedures,” she explains.

All of this is made possible by what Sloan calls a “class-based culture of entitlement.” Intended parents will incur total expenses of $40,000 to $120,000 by the time the child is delivered. An option only for the very wealthy, the practice exploits poor women by design—especially military wives (see “Serving God, Country—And Affluent Couples,” page 21).

For Sloan, money taints every aspect of surrogacy, including an otherwise natural desire to have children. Wealth gives a couple permission to “translate those desires into needs, and then those needs become rights,” she explains. “ ‘I desire to have a child, I have a right to a child, and if I have the money to buy one, then I’m entitled to do that.’ ”

The problem, says Lahl, is that “nobody’s actually thinking, ‘Is this in the best interest of the child?’ ”

Breeders features testimony from psychologist Nancy Verrier, whose book The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child (Gateway Press, 1993) explores the impact separation from the birth mother has on adopted children.

“The child doesn’t care anything about the money. That’s not what hurts the baby,” Verrier says. “The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss of the mother that it knows. All the money being exchanged is just terrible, because you’re making children into commodities. You could almost say it is a form of slavery, you know, buying and selling them.”

Lahl calls the planned separation at birth in surrogacy “intentional not bonding,” but is careful to point out how this differs from adoption.  

“With adoption, it’s a crisis, for whatever reason,” she explains. “So you are trying to deal with a situation that is less than ideal and mitigate the harm. We will always have a need for adoption because the world is the way that it is, but we don’t set out to create orphans. We don’t intentionally enter into relationships where we’re going to give a baby away.”

The Future is Now

The brave new world in which women become breeders and children are treated as consumable goods wasn’t created overnight. In many ways, surrogacy was born on July 25, 1978, when Louise Brown, the world’s first baby conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), was successfully brought to term, shocking the world.

But the shock wore off as fertility doctors began capitalizing on a lucrative new opportunity. IVF became standard; lab technicians could create embryos with eggs and sperm from anyone and implant them in any healthy woman’s uterus. For those with financial means, surrogacy promised an entirely new way to have children.

In the intervening years, IVF has become big business. According to Allied Market Research, the global IVF industry was valued at $9.3 billion in 2012.

Another research firm, Marketdata Enterprises, calculated the ART industry to be worth around $4 billion in 2008 in the United States alone. Because of its lack of regulations, the U.S. is second only to India in providing surrogate mothers.

Marketdata estimates that “ART now produces more than 50,000 babies per year in the U.S. There are 483 U.S. fertility clinics, 100+ sperm banks, an unknown number of egg donors and 1,700 reproductive endocrinologists competing for the business, which is lucrative.”

Surrogate arrangements are only a small part of ART, but experts say the numbers are growing. The Council for Responsible Genetics, biotech-industry watchdog group based in Cambridge, Mass., reports that almost 1,400 children were born in the United States in 2008 through surrogates, nearly double the numbers of 2004.

Redefining the Family

With major policy battles on same-sex marriage and gender-identity laws raging nationwide, some might be tempted to overlook surrogacy as a real threat to the social order.

But that would be a mistake, says Michael Hanby, who teaches religion and the philosophy of science at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. Anyone ignoring ART’s role in society today, he says, fails to perceive how the various anti-family agendas are feeding one another.

In The Federalist this February, he pointed out that same-sex couples need ART to keep “some form of the intrinsic connection between marriage, procreation and childrearing if they are really to be counted as marriage and to be truly ‘equal’ in the eyes of society and the law.”

Very soon, Hanby believes, ART will be seen not merely as a solution to infertility, but as a “normative form of reproduction” on par with natural procreation—or even an improvement on nature. “Yet if this is true,” he writes, “it follows that no great weight attaches to natural motherhood and fatherhood and that being born to a father and mother is inessential to what it means to be human, or even to the meaning of childhood and family.”

The further decoupling of natural procreation to the meaning of family concerns Adkins.

“Every child has the right to be conceived, carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage,” he says.

As an attorney, he understands why surrogacy advocates are pushing to amend state laws:  Without specific legal provisions, courts have no obligation to honor surrogacy contracts when there’s a dispute. Most intended parents will be reluctant to spend $100,000 for a surrogate pregnancy without legal protections for their investment.

“When you legitimize the contract, then you create an environment where people can come here and make these contracts,” he explains. “Minnesota would then become a mecca (for surrogacy arrangements).”

Surrogacy redefines the family in law for everyone, but only benefits a few. Sloan says most surrogacy legislation actually is being drafted either by the fertility industry itself or by attorneys that stand to profit from legal issues surrounding the contracts. In Minnesota, the surrogacy bills Adkins and Leva opposed were drafted by attorneys from the family-law section of the state bar association. Adkins notes that the past president of the Minnesota State Bar is also legal director of the state’s largest gay-rights lobbying group. The conflict of interest, he says, is remarkable.

“They write these contracts, they do the litigation,” he explains. “There’s a lot of money at stake here. (Fertility) is a $4 billion industry nationwide.”

Challenges Ahead

To counter the growing threat of surrogacy, pro-family leaders believe several key challenges must be addressed.

A divisive pro-life movement. Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, has fought surrogacy bills in the state legislature for the past two years. Both were brought by pro-life Christians who had personal attachments to the surrogacy process. “In the whole area of IVF,” he tells Citizen, “there is no uniformity in the Christian community.” 

Lahl encountered a similar situation in Kansas earlier this year. “Overwhelmingly, the majority of people that testified against me identified as Bible-believing, pro-life Christian and devout Catholics,” she recalls.

That’s why pro-lifers need to understand the eugenics inherent in IVF and surrogacy: The process is refined enough to create designer babies, to a degree. Embryos can be chosen by gender and those with Down syndrome or other perceived defects weeded out.

“I think you can easily make a Scriptural case for why the image of God is worthy of dignity,” Lahl says. “Jesus came in the womb—not as a surplus embryo in a freezer somewhere that was plopped into a surrogate.”

Lahl believes one reason for the confusion is that churches aren’t openly discussing these kinds of ethical issues.

“When does anyone hear a sermon preached on the barren womb?” she asks. “We have infertility right there in the beginning of Genesis, and what happens when Sarah goes outside her marriage to have that child she so desperately wants? It goes terribly wrong, but we don’t preach about these issues. We don’t talk about them, and we have this whole cafeteria menu of technologies that well-meaning Christians are just embracing and using.”

A better vocabulary. Leva believes Christians have an essential role in the debate. Because the faith community serves a higher power, she says, “We have a responsibility to step forward and lead on this issue as opposed to sitting and watching from behind.”

Adkins hopes for greater creative thinking within the entire Christian community. “I think there’s a sense that we need fresher vocabulary for speaking about these things,” he says. “What we have been doing hasn’t always been working.”

A consumerist mindset. One of the greatest challenges in changing the culture is finding a way to highlight surrogacy’s harms to those who have grown comfortable with a consumption-based society. Sloan says the commodification culture in the United States and our extreme emphasis on the individual is a “toxic combination when it comes to these kinds of issues.”

Adkins believes anti-family philosophies are already deeply ingrained in society, and aren’t unique to surrogacy. However, for him, surrogacy represents “a further manifestation of an atomized, contractual, libertarian society, where public policy exists simply to facilitate the free choices of individuals, and not look at the social costs or the harms (they) inflict on society at large.”

Moving Forward

Despite the overwhelming evidence of harm to women, children and society, family advocates say they are in an uphill fight.  “Everybody’s got a story or knows a family member” who struggles with infertility, Mills says. “This is a very complicated issue. It touches people in a very personal way.”

As a result, Lahl says her mission goes beyond policy battles.

“A lot of times I don’t care so much about the laws as just educating people to do what’s right,” she explains. “Whether something is legal or illegal, shouldn’t we be motivated by doing what’s right?”

Leva believes information is the most important way to fight surrogacy. “It’s definitely going to take a massive education and outreach campaign, because this just isn’t something that’s on people’s radar screens,” she says.

Everyone agrees it will also take what Leva calls a “union of uncommon allies.”

“Working with our feminist friend was a very powerful thing because it caused people to really pay attention on both sides of the aisle, “she explains. “It also allows you to have a broader conversation about this because it is such a deep issue.”  

Apart from public awareness, more legislative battles loom. Surrogacy bills have cropped up recently in Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia—and most are still being fought.

“The industry is like a hydra,” says Adkins. “It might get squelched for a time, but because of what’s at stake, it’s going to keep coming back.”

Nevertheless, success abroad gives hope for change in the United States. Most European nations, Canada and several countries in the Far East have already banned commercial surrogacy. Some still allow altruistic surrogacy, so long as no money is paid to the birth mother apart from medical costs.

Ultimately, Adkins believes Christians need to help people rediscover a true life ethic.

“Children are not an object to which we have a right. Children are a gift,” he explains. “And when we view them as gifts, we’ll recognize their dignity and their personhood and do things that serve their well-being.

“Creating and gestating children outside the context of a marriage between a man and a woman is deeply wrong and deeply troubling, and we need to think and pray long and hard as a society about that.”


To learn more about the Center for Bioethics and Culture, its products and activities, visit The Council for Responsible Genetics’ report “Surrogacy in America,” can be found at

Daniel Weiss is the founder and president of The Brushfires Foundation, a non-profit ministry helping those impacted by sexual brokenness.


Sidebar:  Dial “M” for Murky

The thorny legal issues surrounding surrogacy first appeared with the “Baby M” case in New Jersey in 1987. A married couple, William and Elizabeth Stern, contracted with Mrs. Whitehead, a married mother of two, to carry and give birth to their child for $10,000. Whitehead was inseminated with Stern’s sperm, and Baby M was born on March 27, 1986.

However, the Whiteheads grew uncomfortable with the idea of selling the child and wouldn’t release her to the Sterns. In the court case that followed, Judge Harvey Sorkow declared that the contract terminating Mrs. Whitehead’s parental rights was enforceable; the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed his decision in a 7-0 ruling on February 3, 1988.

Harold Cassidy, the Whiteheads’ lawyer, explained in Public Discourse in 2012 that “16 separate policies and statutory provisions were violated in Baby M. Today, gestational surrogacy arrangements violate those same policies and statutes.”

Sidebar:  Serving God, Country—And Affluent Couples

Why are there so many advertisements for surrogate mothers in Stars and Stripes and other military media? The dirty little secret of the surrogacy industry, Sloan says, is that it targets women in need—and for many reasons, military wives are ideal suppliers.

* They are typically low-income, making them susceptible to financial inducements;

* Their husbands are often deployed, which satisfies the gestational requirement of refraining from sexual activity;

* They typically get married young and already have their own children, making them “proven breeders”;

* Military culture emphasizes service to God and country. While their husbands are away, the wives can serve by helping a couple get a baby.


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'Back from the Brink'

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Connie Marshner, freeland journalist


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Two unmarried women face unplanned, unwanted pregnancies—one in 1962, one in 1976.  Sheer miles prevent them from killing their babies. Today, the sons of both women are members of Congress with firm pro-life convictions. These are their stories.

Where do babies come from? They come from nuns! At least, that’s what David Schweikert thought when he was little.

You see, David and his two younger siblings were adopted. Both times he got a new little brother or sister, he went downtown with his family to Holy Family Adoption Services in Los Angeles. 

back-from-the-brink-citizen-jan-2014 They walked down the hall and turned into a room with a big bassinette in the center. Then a woman, “dressed like a penguin” he recalls with a smile, reached in and handed him his new sibling.  

So the idea that babies came from nuns persisted for the first eight or nine years of his life. “But one day I said that out loud and got set straight,” he tells Citizen. “Nobody has let me forget it since!”

Today, he can laugh about his childish embarrassment: U.S. Rep. David Schweikert has been representing the 6th District of Arizona since 2011. 

Forty Miles for Life

Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana has a slightly different story.

He knew growing up that his mother, Sarah, was 17 years old when she got married, and that she had dropped out of high school to marry his dad, Albert, who was 19. It always had been sort of a family joke that he had arrived early.

He knew his mom had grown up in a Christian home, the daughter of a bivocational minister, and that his dad also had a Christian upbringing. When Stutzman was young, his father even served as an assistant pastor for several years, and his parents took in several foster children. They taught him to be pro-life.

So it never occurred to him that his mother would even have considered having an abortion.

While the horrors of Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic were making front-page news over the last few years (see “Shocked Into Action,” May 2013 Citizen), Stutzman began trying to understand the emotions that would drive a woman to abort her child. So as he was driving home from Capitol Hill one evening, he called his mother.

Nothing had prepared him for what happened when he casually asked, “Did you ever think about an abortion?” 

All of a sudden, his mother burst into tears.

Sarah had, indeed, considered an abortion in 1976, she told him. She was a pastor’s daughter, after all. She had a reputation to uphold. If her out-of-wedlock pregnancy became known, she would be ruined. What could she do? She knew her parents would be furious.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Sarah had just learned she was pregnant when fire destroyed the house where her multi-generational family of nine was living  in Centerville, Mich. It burned to the ground, taking with it all the family’s possessions, including the hope chest full of things she wanted to take to her own home someday.

The next night, she slept on the floor of a neighbor’s house—but she didn’t rest. She cried. Hysterically. So loudly that her grandfather heard her from a different room. “Who’s crying?” she heard him ask.

The close quarters and the large family may have been a blessing, because when Sarah heard her grandpa wake up, she knew she had to get hold of herself. She realized that her plan to go to Kalamazoo, Mich., for an abortion would not work—it was 40 miles away and she had no car.

So shortly thereafter, she told her mother about the pregnancy. To her immense relief, her parents did not react in anger. They were disappointed, but they still loved her. They did not throw her out of the house, as she had feared.

Strengthened by her parents’ love, she told Albert the news. 

“Thank God for my dad,” Stutzman tells Citizen. “He never hesitated. ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he said (to Sarah). ‘We’re getting married.’ ”  

Road Trip to Nowhere

Fifteen years ago, David Schweikert was in his mid-30s, hard at work in his financial management firm’s office, when he received an email from a stranger. “You don’t know me,” it read, “but your birth mother’s name is Mary Lynn. Here’s her address.”  

In his family, the understanding had always been:  “You honor your birth mother, but Mother is the one who changes your diapers.” Still, the email piqued his curiosity. It also presented a moral dilemma. 

“What were my ethical guidelines?” he recalls wondering. “That email had been sent to me by somebody who didn’t know me or her. What if my birth mother had never told her family? What if she didn’t want to hear from me? I had been adopted by a great family, I had worked hard and I had a pretty wonderful life. I certainly didn’t want to cause any damage to the person to whom I owe my life.”  

To help him decide, he held a family conference. His mother made it clear that he shouldn’t be afraid to make the contact on her account. “This might not be the right course for every family,” he tells Citizen, “but it was for our family.”

So he sent a handwritten note to Mary Lynn, so formal that an outsider might think it came from a former classmate: “Thirty-six years ago we may have shared something in common,” he wrote. “… Don’t know if I have the right person ... Here’s my phone number if you’d like to call me.”   

Weeks went by after he mailed it. Then came a call from a gruff, deep-voiced man saying, “What’s this all about?” 

Immediately, Schweikert thought, Oh no, I got her in trouble, it’s her husband calling.  So he backpedaled. “I am so sorry, sir,” he said. “I’m not sure I even wrote the right person—”

“Hold on,” the caller interrupted him. And then handed the phone to Mary Lynn.

“Is it really you?” said a little woman’s voice between tears. “I go to morning Mass every single day and pray for you. I remember your birthday every year. Are you OK?  Are you healthy?”

At the other end of the line, Schweikert was almost crying too. “I have a great life, I was adopted by a wonderful family,” he assured her. “I don’t want to cause any damage to you—”   

“It’s OK,” Mary Lynn told him. “My whole family knows about you.” 

A few weeks later, Schweikert drove from Arizona to Southern California and met his biological family, welcomed by a banner outside Mary Lynn’s house. An hour later he was rummaging through the refrigerator as if it were home. And a few months later, Mary Lynn told him the whole story. 

In 1962, she was in the car heading from Southern California to the Mexican border town of Tijuana to get an abortion, two girlfriends by her side for moral support. As she got closer, Mary Lynn found she couldn’t stop crying or hyperventilating.  

Just a few miles from Mexico, the friend who was driving became so worried about her that she turned the car around. Her friends made her tell her mother that she was pregnant.

Her mother was more understanding than Mary Lynn had expected her to be. So Mary Lynn headed to the unwed mothers’ home in downtown Los Angeles, where David was born and soon adopted by the Schweikert family.   

Schweikert and Mary Lynn remained close until her death last year. At her funeral, a woman introduced herself to Schweikert.

“I’m the one who was driving the car to Tijuana,” she told him. She was the friend who turned his mother back from the brink of abortion and saved his life.

Desperate Choices

Clearly, Mary Lynn was desperate; she knew abortion was not the right thing to do even as she pursued her plan to have one.

As her son sees it, Someone reached out to her in that crisis. “Prayer is not an instant process,” he tells Citizen, “it’s a process in time. Having to sit in the car for a couple hours may have been the very thing that gave her the chance to contemplate what she was considering doing.”

For his part, Marlin Stutzman is grateful that his mom did not have her own car. She was desperate—but she was also shy and timid. “I thank my father a lot, because she could have been told what to do and she would have done it,” he says now. “I have a friend whose boyfriend took her to a clinic to have an abortion. If my mother could have found her way to Kalamazoo, she would have done it without telling anyone.” 

What his mother’s story tells Stutzman is that anybody who finds herself in a very difficult situation can make a wrong decision. In light of the fact that 40 miles was the only barrier that saved his life, it bothers him that Planned Parenthood plants its facilities in walkable urban areas, which it specifically targets. “It’s shameful that our government has allowed this to happen,” he says.

And he is proud of his mother. She didn’t want to talk about her story at first, but now is sharing what she went through. “It’s pretty inspirational to people,” he says with a smile.

Reaching Beyond the ‘Life Box’

Learning that they might have been aborted has only reinforced Stutzman’s and Schweikert’s passion for the cause of life.

Schweikert was first elected to the Arizona State House of Representatives in 1990, and today is emerging as a champion of economic reform in Washington, serving on the House Financial Services Committee. 

When it comes to life issues, he is equally unabashed. “I’ll be at a financial event, and someone will come up to me and whisper, ‘I’m also pro-life.’ And I’ll say, ‘Why are you whispering?’ They’re fearful of not being invited to the best holiday parties if it’s known they’re pro-life, so they keep quiet about it.”

As he sees it, this isn’t necessary anymore. “Twenty years ago we, the pro-life people, were almost the fringe of the conservative movement,” he recalls. “But now we are the majority.”

He urges pro-life citizens to move outside their comfort zone. “Reach out beyond the ‘life box,’ ” he says. “Do you have a life license plate or bumper sticker on your car? Are you willing to talk about it at your barbecues and dinner parties, not in an aggressive way, but as a normal part of life? If you have an adopted child, are you willing to talk about how grateful you are to the mother? It needs to be woven into what you are, not just who you are at church.”

Sadly, Schweikert recognizes that church may not always be a comfort zone for pro-life folks, so he urges people to “let your pastors and deacons know it’s important. Too often clergy are scared of the topic because there’s somebody who makes money on the other side of the issue.”

‘Our Government Failed Us’

Stutzman is confident that pro-life views will prevail in the long run. “My wife and I have talked about the fact that we are post-Roe v. Wade babies,” he tells Citizen. “It should not be easy to have an abortion. If it had been easy for my mother, I could have been killed. Of the 57 million babies aborted since Roe v. Wade, how many of those could have been prevented if the mother had had a caring person around her, and didn’t have easy access to an abortion?

“I think we are winning the hearts of young people in this country for the pro-life position,” he adds. “Perhaps partly because there are thousands of young people who have similar stories to mine.” 

But to finally win the war for life, it will take more than conversations. It will take votes. “All the way up to the federal level, we have the opportunity to vote for pro-life candidates,” Stutzman says. “If everybody who is pro-life would vote that way, it would change this country.”   


Connie Marshner is a freelance journalist based in Virginia.


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'Giving Shelter'

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Nick Toper

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Kathy DiFiore has made her life's work ministering to pregnant teens with nowhere else to turn. Now Hollywood is telling the story in one of the most pro-life movies in its history.

Ronald Krauss and Kathy DiFiore had no business ever meeting each other.

He's a Hollywood guy, a writer/producer/director who learned the entertainment business apprenticing with legendary B-movie maven Roger Corman and whose first film starred Jack Lemmon. She's New Jersey through and through, equal parts tender and tough as founder of a stable of shelters that help women through often-unspeakable crises.

But when they both were honored by the United Nations—he for his 2010 picture "Amexica" about the horrors of human trafficking, she for her three decades of humanitarian service—East met West and a beautiful collaboration was born.

It's called "Gimme Shelter," in theaters Jan. 24, a drama being touted as one of the most pro-life films ever to come out of Tinseltown. It tells the story of pregnant teenager Agnes "Apple" Bailey (played by ex-Disney star Vanessa Hudgens) who flees her drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson) in search of a better life of her own. Turned away by her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser), Apple is forced into the streets on a desperate journey of survival. There she meets a kindly priest (James Earl Jones) who introduces her to DiFiore (played by Ann Dowd)—under whose love and care Apple finds the courage, and the practical tools, to have and raise her baby.

Advance word on the film from the pro-life community is strong, with National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias calling it "one of the most inspiring movies I have seen in a long time." One of its most stirring sequences shows Apple racing out of an appointment her stepmother has made for her to have an abortion after being given an ultrasound image of her baby. Later, homeless and forced to break into a car to shield herself from the elements, she presses the picture against the window and lovingly leans her head against it in a quick and quiet moment of rest.

The inspirational quality of the movie Krauss has made stands to reason, given the inspirational nature of the true-life tales it tells. 

"This movie is not exactly about Kathy—it's about her work," Krauss tells Citizen. "She is a woman who's dedicated her life to helping people. She's also a very spiritually driven, godly woman. She is impressively authentic about her mission. She lives for this mission—to help these young girls.

"And being around that mission was a life-changer for me. That's why I feel the film is a life-changer for other people."

Straight Out of Matthew

Kathy DiFiore is not a fan of talking about herself. Ask her to recount what led her to abandon a lucrative climb up the corporate ladder to help girls and women with no other place to go and she'll pause several seconds before answering. The delay is only in part because of the pain associated with the memory; there's a healthy dose of humility behind her reticence, as well.

She'll eventually say it was an abusive marriage in the late '70s, and the subsequent homelessness she endured when she was forced to flee it, that sparked her desire—her need, really—to help others.

"Literally I had no place to call home. I went from friend to friend," she tells Citizen.  "My heart was shattered. Like glass. I just was a lost soul. The only thing that kept me going was my faith. A mustard seed of faith."

She ruminated multiple times daily on Matthew 25:35-36, verses she had learned were central to the ministry of St. Francis of Assisi: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

"That struck a chord in my life," she recalls, "and I said, ‘That's what I have to do.' "

The work of advancing her healing by helping others heal began with volunteering at New Jersey's Rahway State Prison, where for three years DiFiore would visit and tend to the needs of inmates, often with the help of sixth-graders in the church youth group she led. That outreach brought her into contact with many young unwed mothers, and over time she sensed God's call to minister to them full time. All she had to offer was a spare room in her home, which she began to open up to pregnant girls who were out of options.

"It's very easy to be compassionate when you've been in their shoes," she says. "I knew what it was like to be out on the street and really have nowhere to turn. And to feel like no one's out there to really help me."

The need for the help and hope she offered was great.

"Before long, I would come home at night after work and there would be a stroller, a car seat and baby clothes at my front door," she remembers. "That's how work began."

From those humble beginnings in 1981, DiFiore has built Several Sources Shelters, now five centers strong. The nonprofit facilities, located throughout New Jersey, have saved the lives of more than 20,000 babies and grown to support a full-life educational and assistance program that not only helps girls and young women have their children, but raise them. Chastity workshops, ongoing financial and job-search support and a 24-hour crisis hotline are just a few of the efforts birthed from DiFiore's mustard seed of faith. Along the way, she has been honored by three U.S. presidents, championed by Mother Teresa, recognized multiple times by agencies in New Jersey and received a lifetime achievement award last year from the United Nations Women's Guild.

None of those accolades, though, means as much to DiFiore as knowing she's touched, and improved, the lives of "her girls."

"Christianity is 360 degrees of a circle," she says. "We don't turn anyone in need away. Our job is to love them."

Darnisha Dozier, now 22, was 18 when desperation led her to Several Sources' doorstep.

"I never really, growing up, had a sense of a home or a sense of a family," she tells Citizen. "Kathy welcomed me, arms open wide, and gave me more than anybody had given me in my entire life."

Finding the Reality

Interestingly enough, Dozier's first contact at the shelter wasn't with DiFiore. It was with filmmaker Krauss. After meeting the Several Sources founder at the U.N., he was doing some research for a possible documentary at the Newark flagship location when he spotted Dozier.

"I had gotten there early because I was supposed to meet Kathy, and there was a girl standing in front of the shelter," he recalls. "It was about 18 degrees out. It was the middle of winter—January—and she had no jacket. And I said to her, ‘What are you doing outside here? Come inside.' 

"She thought I worked there. I thought she lived there. And neither of the two were true. She actually, it turned out, had walked about 30 miles to get there. And she was three months pregnant."

Krauss let Dozier inside, and a little while later DiFiore arrived—unsure who Dozier was and wondering how she'd gotten inside. After firmly reminding the director of the house rules—never let a stranger inside—DiFiore located a bed for the new girl.

"The biggest thing in my life was giving me a free bed," Dozier says today. "A bed was more than I ever had in my whole life."

"She was so elated," Krauss remembers of Dozier's reaction. "She grabbed me, hugged me so hard she almost knocked me over. That hug—that's what inspired me to write this screenplay, into a movie, not a documentary."

He wound up living at the shelter for about a year, recording nearly 200 hours of interviews with the girls staying there and writing the script with their input. He scheduled regular "script nights," where they would read sections of the movie and share their thoughts on the story as it developed.

"They helped me find the reality of their lives," Krauss says. "They shared their deepest emotions about what it is to be homeless, to not know where you're going to be tomorrow. It was so dramatic. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Almost like holy ground."

As the movie's plot took shape, Krauss found himself basing Apple on Dozier and another girl living at Several Sources; in fact, Dozier and a few other shelter girls appear in the movie. As such, he says, it is 100 percent accurate—which makes it, by definition, difficult to watch at times. The film earns its PG-13 rating, not in an irresponsible, sensationalistic way, but simply by being true-to-life.

"The movie epitomizes the suffering that these young women have to go through," DiFiore says. "Ron encapsulated in Apple the suffering they have to go through just to have their babies. And I hope it helps people understand that it is a cross these girls have to carry—and we can help them carry it."

One way in which DiFiore does that is by not only taking care of the spiritual needs of her charges, but also their children.

"The mothers who live with me, I say to them, ‘What good is it going to do for us to save your baby, and you go to Heaven, but your baby goes to Hell?' " she says. "We have to teach you about God. We have to teach you about the Holy Word of God. But more than just learning the Word, you have to become the Message. You have to live His words so that when people look at you they see Him. And when your child grows up and looks at you, they have a role model."

Dozier, whose future plans include entering the ministry, says that approach is one of the best things about Several Sources. She's now a house mother there, and her son, Julian, is 3.

"Every spiritual word Kathy teaches us has something for us to reflect on to teach our babies. It's all about how can we ourselves get closer to the Lord, and how can we get our babies closer to the Lord," she says. "She not only cares about my well-being and my soul, and my relationship with the Lord, but it goes deeper than me. The concern and love goes to my baby.

"I'm not only living for the Lord, I'm living for my baby and I'm living for my baby and the Lord. That, to me, is awesome."

‘Don't Give Up'

Critics think "Gimme Shelter" is pretty awesome, too. Pete Hammond of Movieline singles out Hudgens for particular praise, saying she "is a complete revelation, (giving) an unexpected and stunning performance that comes from the heart." Avi Offer, a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer for the website NYC Movie Guru, says the film is "profoundly moving," "warm, wise and heartfelt" and "a triumph."

And what of the duo whose unlikely meeting made the movie possible?

Krauss says there's a great and uplifting lesson in the story.

"It is unfortunate in today's world that there are a lot of people out there who are struggling and don't have good parents," he says. "Some of us get lucky and come from good homes, and some of us don't.  But it doesn't mean you can't have a decent life or that there's not a place for you or somebody to care about you. If you have abusive parents or if you didn't have a good life growing up, you still have a chance. There's still hope. That's the message of this film: ‘There is hope out there; don't give up.' "

For DiFiore, "Gimme Shelter" reinforces the mercy and love that is at the center of her Christian faith.

"In Scripture, Jesus says, ‘What you have done for the least of these you have done unto Me.' For me, it means I've ministered to Christ," she says. "These girls are Christ in my life. Broken. Humble. Bruised. Battered. I've loved them, I've loved them and I've loved them, and they've loved me back.

"As much as I may have given them, they've given me more—tenfold."   


Nick Toper is a freelance journalist based in Hollywood.

For More Information

To learn more about "Gimme Shelter," visit To learn more about Kathy DiFiore and Several Sources Shelters, visit


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'Shoulder to Shoulder'

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Matt Kaufman

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Read how pro-lifers in the Empire State met Gov. Cuomo's abortion-expansion agenda with a skillful opposition campaign of their own.

Shoulder to Shoulder  


'A Concrete Decision'

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Citizen magazine.

by Julia Hali

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Tim Pulliam, the owner of a concrete business in Fort Worth, Texas, came face-to-face with a decision that would impact his livelihood — and cement his faith in God's sovereignty.  

 A Concrete Decision

'Raising Arizona'

From the ashes of defeat, Arizona activists have risen to transform their state into a pro-family stronghold.

by Matt Kaufman

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'A Sinister - and Growing - Business Model'

Pornography is not a ‘harmless pastime,’ but the fuel that drives prostitution, sex shops and human slavery.

by Bob DeMoss

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[This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Citizen magazine.]

Warning: This article might not be appropriate for children.  

The baseball bat found its mark. Wood crushing flesh and bone.

Sacha's arm was broken. So was her will.

There would be no more attempted escapes. Even if she had been successful breaking free, her captors had taken her passport. She'd never make it back to her homeland in the Ukraine. What's more, they had guns and had threatened to kill her family — a risk she wasn't willing to take. She was trapped, just another one of the forgotten human slaves trafficked into the sex and porn industry against her will.

Sacha's story is far too common.

The U.S. Department of State estimates 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked internationally every year for purposes of entering the sex trade (stripping, prostitution, pornography, and live-sex shows), and labor exploitation (sweatshops and domestic servitude). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, "After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today."

It's also the fastest growing.

Girls like Sacha might have responded to an advertisement to be a waitress, model or a singer. Upon arrival from Eastern Europe or Asia, they're typically met by men who inform them that "plans have changed." These human traffickers will seize their passports and then systematically terrorize their captives to purge any thoughts of escaping.

Twenty-year-old Katya, who did manage to safely run away from her captors, explained she was forced to produce $1,000 a day at the Cheetah strip club in Detroit. Katya told MSNBC of her year-long ordeal, saying, "If I have a smile on my face, it doesn't mean I'm here of my own will. Doesn't mean I appreciate this job and I want to be here. I was not free to leave. I was kept; enslaved.

"The stories told by survivors are as heartbreaking as they are horrifying.

According to, an organization dedicated to ending the sale of American children for sexual slavery, "One little girl finally told her captor just to kill her — she couldn't do it any-more. The pimp refused, telling her he makes too much money off her. If she wouldn't do what he told her to, he would kidnap her 8-year old little sister and pour battery acid over her face while she watched. The little girl complied, living in a dog cage when she wasn't being sold to man after man. "While the horrors of human trafficking stir many hearts to action, there is far less anger directed toward mainstream commercial sex businesses, such as strip clubs and pornography that act as feeder industries for trafficking operations.

In the business of commercial sex, pornography serves as the marketing vehicle. Or, as Patrick Trueman, CEO of Morality in Media and former chief of the Chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U. S. Depart-ment of Justice, testified before a congressional subcommittee several years ago, "Pornography is a powerful factor in creating the demand for illicit sex.

Trueman told Citizen how traffickers are leveraging the online consumer's money to fund their operation. "There are websites which offer sexual acts with a girl via remote camera. Using your credit card, you ‘hire' her to engage in various degrading sex acts while you watch. Technically speaking, that's prostitution — sex acts for money. Many of these prostitutes are trafficked women." He adds, "Once you pay for that sex act, that act is recorded and kept on the website for others to ‘rent.' In other words, the viewer actually pays the production costs of pornography. That's how the porn criminals have figured this out."

Dr. Donna M. Hughes, professor of women's studies at the University of Rhode Island, estimates from her research that at least a third of women in prostitution have been involved in the making of pornography and that patrons of prostitution are twice as likely to be porn users.

"The categories we have for things like pornography, stripping, prostitution — we tend to think of them as really separate categories," she said. "But if you're actually in the sex industry, they're quite seamless. There are so many variations that I think our old categories are rather obsolete.

"Even if human trafficking didn't play such a big role in the porn and sex industries, Lisa Thompson, liaison for the Abolition of Sexual Trafficking at the Salvation Army, points out the toxic side of porn for the user: "Pornography robs people from the ability to have an intimate, loving and committed relationship with their spouse where they can explore their sexuality within the safety of an exclusive union, because it programs the mind with debase, degrading, brutal and violent ideas about what human sexuality ought to look like."

Because pornography is harmful on virtually every level, Morality in Media has been working for decades to get the federal laws on illegal, hard-core pornography enforced. They've also worked aggressively behind the scenes with hotel chains like Marriott to stop carrying in-room, pay-per-view hard-core pornography. 

Marriott recently announced, "As we transition to this new platform, adult content will be off the menu for virtually all of our newly built hotels. Over the next few years, this will be the policy across our system." Pat Trueman told Citizen that the porn industry has expanded so rapidly that now pay-for-view pornography in hotels is passé, declining in revenue "because people can view the same — and far worse — pornographic material on their laptop or smart-phone."

Likewise, Phil Burress, President of Citizens for Community Values, said, "Marriott did the right thing for the wrong reasons." He believes Marriott is attempting to generate some good will with customers with this move, when in reality the pay-per-view porn service is an outdated business model.

By contrast, 12 years ago when in-room porn was highly profit-able, Texas billionaire Robert Rowling, a Christian, made the move to pull all pornographic movies from his Omni hotel chain. His decision was made on moral, not financial, grounds. "I wondered what in the world we were doing as a company giving this kind of option to anybody, particularly young kids," Rowling told Citizen. "It just isn't the right thing to do for us, or really, for anybody." 


Porn = Stripping = Prostitution

Prostitution is legal in some parts of Nevada, but despite what some think, not Las Vegas. Nevertheless, Sin City may be the clearest place to see the interconnectivity of the sex industry in action, as documented by Melissa Farley in her book, Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections.

Some excerpts:

"There is a crossover of people involved in legal prostitution and illegal prostitution and back again. Similarly, Web-based video and print pornography are inseparable from the rest of the sex industry, with the same kinds of crossovers from prostitution to pornography to sex trafficking. Some Nevada legal brothel pimps have declared their economic interest in ‘cross fertilizing' prostitution with other legal adult businesses such as strip clubs, Internet sites and pornography. ‘The Girls of Cheetah's' is pornography made at a Las Vegas strip club.

"A law enforcement investigation in Las Vegas located a multi-use sex industry operation that included online prostitution. Looking like a small office complex from the street, it blended pornography production with escort prostitution. The pimp/pornographer rented 5-6 offices on Tropicana Avenue which functioned simultaneously as Internet pornography, cyber-peepshow prostitution, and a location out of which women were pimped to Las Vegas hotels and to an illegal brothel.

"Webcam video and escort prostitution sites have recently merged with adult dating sites. Since 2000, there has been (an increase in) prostitution advertising on dating (websites) with the major dating (websites) now largely consisting of locations where johns seek women who they presume to be prostituting. Adultfriendfinder, for ex-ample, features gonzo [amateur] pornography of women seeking dates for prostitution in dozens of countries and every state in the United States." 

Disturbing Statistics About Child Pornography and Exploitation

In 2004, Internet Watch Foundation found 3,433 child abuse domains. In 2006, the number skyrocketed to 10,656.

         Source: Enough is Enough. For more information, visit


Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling collaborator, co-author of Finding Home and founder of PluggedIn. His latest book is The Devil in Pew #7.  

For More Information

To learn more about the Salvation Army's Initiative Agaisnt Sexual Trafficking, visit  


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