Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, read the book, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race,” while he was a young attorney practicing in Seattle — and it helped to change the trajectory of his and his wife’s lives.
Written in 1983 by pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop and Christian leader Francis A. Schaeffer, the book seeks to highlight the far-reaching consequences of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and compels those horrified by the extermination of human life to act. Glessner told Live Action News, “After reading the book, we initially became involved in the pro-life movement on the political front, then moved into supporting crisis pregnancy centers.”
Eventually, Glessner took a position with Care Net and served as president. During his tenure, he saw numerous legal attacks against pregnancy resource centers (PRCs). While Glessner worked on these legal issues part-time as president of Care Net, he recognized a need to launch an organization with the sole mission of helping PRCs to avoid legal pitfalls.
“I quickly recognized that the network of pro-life pregnancy centers needed good counsel and preparation,” Glessner said. “The best way to win a lawsuit is to never be sued. So, I founded NIFLA with a mission to help PRCs by providing legal counsel, education, and training to enable the centers to work more effectively in their communities to save lives.”
NIFLA launched to provide legal counsel and support to pregnancy centers
In its 25 years, NIFLA has expanded and now represents 1,600 pregnancy support centers nationwide, of which 1,200 operate as medical clinics. Its Life Choice Project is one of two key programs that supports compliance and conversion to medical facilities through a detailed conversion plan. The Institute in Limited Obstetric Ultrasound program assists medical and management staff in becoming proficient in the legal requirements for operating a medical clinic.
Glessner said, “The Life Choice Project has facilitated conversion of these centers to medical clinics, allowing them to use ultrasound technology to confirm pregnancies and to provide mothers with a visual of her child in the womb. This is especially important because statistics indicate when mothers see the images of their babies, they most likely will choose life. This is a huge deal in the world of pregnancies and abortion.”
Perhaps the most significant way NIFLA has impacted the pro-life fight and preserved free speech resulted from a 2018 landmark Supreme Court case. In 2015, California passed a law known as the “Reproductive FACT Act” mandating medical pregnancy centers must provide written or digital information to women visiting their facilities on how to obtain a state-funded abortion.
NIFLA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 150 California nonprofit pregnancy clinics challenging the law. NIFLA v. Becerra asserted the ”Reproductive FACT Act” violated the First Amendment rights of staff and volunteers by coercing them to promote messages that conflicted with personal beliefs. On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of pro-life pregnancy clinics nationwide.
“According to the CATO Institute, it was the most significant free speech case of our time,” Glessner said. “The government cannot compel a person to say something that is inconsistent with their beliefs. Had we lost that case, the right of free speech would have been decimated and only applicable to whoever was in power. This case had widespread implications for the entire country.”
Moving forward in a post-Roe era
Following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, pregnancy resource centers experienced a rise in attacks, especially in more liberally run states, points out Glessner. Additionally, severe restrictions were levied against the centers to shutter their operations. Chemical abortions are now becoming more prevalent due to easing government regulations that allow quicker access to abortion pills online and in pharmacies. The challenge is how to best educate women on the inherent dangers and trauma of quick abortions.
Glessner said, “Obviously chemical abortions are dangerous for many reasons. Because of easy access to the abortion pill, women will be less likely to visit pregnancy support centers to get medical counsel and assistance.”
For NIFLA, achieving an abortion-free American in the post-Dobbs era will involve targeting three main areas: attaining legal protection for the preborn and mother, establishing a dynamic network of abortion alternative services across the country, and promoting a life-affirming culture within every community nationwide.
“The third element, I think, is the most challenging,” Glessner said. “It requires that churches and congregations step up in a big way and get on board with supporting life and achieving spiritual renewal in their communities. Until that happens, we can achieve the first and second elements but won’t get to the end goal of an abortion-free America.”
NIFLA recently hosted its annual National Leadership Summit with keynote speaker, Texas Senator Brian Hughes, chief sponsor of the Texas pro-life bill. Hughes provided insight into how other states can formulate successful strategies in a post-Dobbs era. He advised those in “blue” states where pro-life legislation would be challenging to pass to instead train pregnancy centers to be more effective in their communities at reaching abortion-minded women.
Glessner said, “Regardless of where one lives, it’s important to be strong advocates for life. We must focus on keeping pregnancy centers open and to keep them from being harassed.”
The war on abortion, Glessner says, can be likened to the American invasion of Normandy Beach during World War II.
“We didn’t win the war, but we were on the beach,” Glessner said. “We had to keep marching and taking country by country. The Dobbs decision put us on the beach. NIFLA will lead the charge into the countries from there. Ground Zero is in the communities where pregnancy centers are located, and it’s there the war will be won.”
Did you know that as little as $10 a month is enough to reach more than 3,000 people with the truth about abortion that no one else is telling them? Click here to start saving lives 365 days a year.