“If you are the typical pro-life philanthropist, you are likely not engaging Planned Parenthood on the battlefield of business, but instead on the battlefield of human rights advocacy.” So observed Brett Attebery, President and CEO of Heroic Media in his book, “Your Pro-Life Bottom Line: How You Can Help End Abortion by Investing in Groundbreaking Consumer Marketing Strategies that Encourage Women to Choose Life.”
Attebery is a former marketing executive who encouraged and cooperated with a college girlfriend’s abortion, from which he later found healing at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. He created OAASYS Emergency Response ads, a direct-to-consumer marketing program now offered through Heroic Media that’s connected thousands of abortion-determined women with their local pregnancy resource centers.
Supply and demand
Drawing on his business background and his experience working with pregnancy resource centers across the country, Attebery said that a “supply side” approach of decreasing Planned Parenthood’s ability to commit abortions is necessary, but it cannot singlehandedly make a significant dent in Planned Parenthood’s massive success. What’s needed, he argued, is a business approach that outcompetes Planned Parenthood for clients.
This business approach is the cornerstone of what he calls the Pro-Life Business Industry (PLBI), and he distinguished it from the pro-life movement that focuses on human rights advocacy and legislation. “To shut down Planned Parenthood, you can’t focus only on restricting supply of abortion services,” he said. “You also have to decrease demand for abortion services (Attebery, 38).” Decreasing demand is increasingly important due to the explosion of the abortion pill, since even in states with pro-life laws decreasing the supply of abortion pills is likely to prove challenging.
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Is the status quo working?
Attebery addressed his book to business professionals and pro-life investors, encouraging them to view Planned Parenthood as a business competitor, and to utilize the bulk of their donations to support pregnancy resource centers that similarly take a business approach and have verifiable, documented return on investment (ROI) in terms of babies saved. Attebery made his case for why this shift in approach is necessary, noting, “The fact that pro-life pregnancy centers significantly outnumber abortion facilities isn’t very meaningful from a business perspective because the typical abortion facility has a dominant market share [selling women abortion] versus the typical pro-life pregnancy center (Attebery, 27).”
He acknowledged that, “in a certain sense, the Pro-Life Movement can claim it is ‘winning’ because abortion numbers have dropped by about half in the past thirty years.” However, he observed, “total numbers are still almost 1 million, so it’s probably more accurate to say the Pro-Life Movement is ‘not losing as badly as in the past (Attebery, 27).'” The reality for the PLBI is more stark. He wrote, “The PLBI is losing badly, as measured by market share,” defined as “how many women who want an abortion ultimately choose the services of a pro-life pregnancy center versus how many women choose the abortion services of a facility like Planned Parenthood (Attebery, 27).”
Attebery understands the heart and good motivation of the staff working at pregnancy resource centers across the country, and insisted, “We should salute those who work in pro-life pregnancy centers, both past and present. They are pro-life warriors worthy of our gratitude and admiration, and most of the centers they work for offer a valuable service to women facing the fear of an unexpected pregnancy.” In a classic case of working smarter, not harder, his central thesis is that centers utilizing “a business strategy based on a strong consumer marketing program can have a much greater measurable impact on ending abortion (Attebery, 77).”
A multi-pronged approach
As one example of what he means, Attebery advocated for maximization of all 4 P’s of marketing: Product, Placement, Price, and Promotion as part of a business approach. He pointed out that many pregnancy centers already excel at three of the four: Product – choosing life over death, Placement – location close proximity to an abortion facility, and Price – free. Yet many still have very low numbers of “saves,” with a total market share of less than 5%. He said that all four P’s have to be in place to successfully compete with Planned Parenthood. Heroic Media’s OAASYS system is one example of promotion.
Attebery also made a case for rethinking just who the pregnancy center’s primary client is, explaining his seemingly provocative belief that “the pro-life pregnancy center’s client is not the preborn human being (Attebery, 100).”
READ: Senator Warren’s attacks on pregnancy resource centers are uninformed and cruel
He also called for pregnancy resource centers to demonstrate how their “choose life services” address Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological framework depicting a person’s needs in the form of a pyramid, starting with the most basic — food, clothing, and shelter in Level One, safety and security in Level Two — and progressing through love and belonging in Level Three and self-esteem in Level Four, before peaking with self-actualization. Planned Parenthood’s marketing speaks directly to this hierarchy, promising a woman “a way to ‘undo’ the past, a way for her to get back on the path of pursuing self-actualization by removing an obstacle to that pursuit – the preborn human growing in her womb (Attebery, 109).” Though this promise is a lie, it’s a deeply compelling one, as evidenced by Planned Parenthood’s client volumes. Attebery insisted that in order to win clients away from Planned Parenthood, pregnancy resource centers must offer an equally compelling argument for their “choose life services” product.
Attebery additionally offered proof that real market share gains can be achieved and more lives can be saved by taking a business approach, sharing as a case study a midwestern pregnancy resource center built on a business model that demonstrated remarkable growth in clients served and babies saved, while the local Planned Parenthood’s client volumes markedly decreased.
Attebery anticipated pushback from people pointing out that the goal of a business is to make a profit. “I’m not really thinking about profit in the sense of financial return,” he clarified. “I’m thinking of a center earning profit in the sense of generating meaningful, measurable results that benefit someone.” He concluded, “Under that definition of profit, pro-life philanthropists would seek opportunity to maximize profit by investing in pregnancy centers that offer the most competitive choose life benefits to women facing unexpected pregnancies (Attebery, 246).”
Even after a 10% expected drop in abortions thanks to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, a sobering 930,000 abortions in the United States in 2020 alone underscores the fact that the pro-life movement cannot simply pursue business as usual. Is it time to take a more business-minded approach?