On Monday, Facebook refused to allow Illinois Right to Life to advertise a fundraiser that was aimed at raising money to help pregnant women in need.
The organization’s Project Love focuses on helping pregnant women and new mothers who are facing “a financial crisis.” The project provides grants to help the women pay for their rent, utility bills, and other necessities. When Illinois Right to Life turned to their Facebook page to help spread the word and raise funds for Project Love, Facebook claimed the fundraiser violated temporary restrictions surrounding the election.
Facebook has a policy which bans all “social issues” and “political” groups from placing any new ads— regardless of whether or not they have to do with the election — for the week leading up to the election. And plans to pause these ads beginning the day after the election and until Facebook lifts the ads. So while it is well known that Facebook restricts new ads related to the election through November 3, 2020, it is not so well known that the social media company also prevents all new ads from “social issues” groups during that time frame as well. (Groups falling under the “social issues” category would be pro-life groups, gun rights groups, school choice groups, etc.)
The restrictions seem nonsensical and draconian in light of the nature of this particular fundraiser. Brittany Clingen Carl, Vice President of Illinois Right to Life, told The Federalist “Helping women facing crisis pregnancies isn’t a political issue. It isn’t even a social advocacy issue. It’s simply doing the right thing by helping women and their children when they desperately need support.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, women facing unplanned pregnancies may need additional help covering everyday costs, especially if their income has been hurt because of lockdowns. Carl said it’s been a hard year to fundraise because Illinois Right to Life couldn’t hold its usual in-person fundraising events — a major source of income for most pro-life organizations. In an effort to make up for that lost income, it turned to social media, as have multiple pro-life groups, including community pregnancy resource centers.
“Illinois is currently headed into its second lockdown due to the coronavirus, and many people are facing immense financial hardships,” explained Carl. “Real women need help now, and they are the ones who are ultimately hurt by this ridiculous and arbitrary censorship.”
Facebook has a history of suppressing pro-life content — and not just during election cycles. In 2018, the social media giant censored an ad in support of pro-life Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) as well as the content of the pro-life group Choice42. That same year, Facebook held ads from Live Action — declaring them as “political content” — for a prolonged policy review, preventing ads about Planned Parenthood’s coverup of sexual abuse from running for more than a week. In 2019, Facebook blocked the promotion of a small, pro-life education group, and used abortionists to “fact check” Live Action.
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