Meet The Anti-Abortion Group The NY Times Can’t Seem To Quit

Human Coalition’s Founder Calls It “One Of The Larger” Anti-Abortion Groups That “No One Has Ever Heard Of”

››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT

Since January, The New York Times has published two op-eds by the anti-choice organization Human Coalition denouncing abortion access and care. Using big data and internet marketing strategies, Human Coalition targets “abortion-determined women” and tries to redirect them to crisis pregnancy centers. Here's what media need to know about Human Coalition, an organization designed to mislead people online. Given the organization's objectives and history, media should think twice before giving the group an uncritical platform. 

NY Times Published Multiple Op-Eds By Anti-Abortion Organization Human Coalition

Since 2016, Human Coalition Staffers Have Written Various Op-Eds And The Organization Has Been Discussed In Multiple National-Level Media Outlets

Human Coalition Has A History Of Anti-Choice Extremism And Is Linked To Other Anti-Choice And Anti-LGBTQ Groups

Human Coalition’s Current Strategy Targets “Abortion-Determined Women” To Deceive Them Into Making Appointments At CPCs

NY Times Published Multiple Op-Eds By Anti-Abortion Organization Human Coalition

Human Coalition Uses Big Data And Internet-Based Strategies To Steer “Abortion-Minded Women” To Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Human Coalition is an anti-abortion organization that uses internet marketing strategies to deceive so-called “abortion-determined” women in an attempt to steer them to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), facilities that try to convince pregnant persons to reject abortion. According to a February 2017 Live Action News profile of the group, the organization’s goal is to “make abortion unthinkable and unavailable” by directing patients to a network of CPCs -- some of which are operated by Human Coalition itself. In 2007, founder Brian Fisher and his friend Tim Kachuriak piloted the idea of “targeting the people making [pro-abortion] searches with ads for life-affirming resources,” theorizing that they could use “internet search engine marketing” to stop abortion. The organization was referred to as Online for Life until 2016 when it rebranded itself as Human Coalition. In a March 2017 speech for the hate group Family Research Council (FRC), Fisher told attendees, “Human Coalition is one of the larger pro-life groups in the country that no one has ever heard of.” [Human Coalition, accessed May 2017, Live Action News, 4/12/16; 2/25/17; YouTube, 3/22/17]

Human Coalition Claims To “Break The Stranglehold” On Pro-Choice Control Of “Internet Search Results.” In a 2010 profile by Christian Newswire, Human Coalition founder Brian Fisher explained the model promoted by the organization (then referred to as Online for Life). Christian Newswire wrote that Fisher’s strategy “literally breaks the stranglehold the lavishly financed abortion industry has on Internet search results” by ensuring that “messages from allied pro-life resource centers appear prominently in abortion-search results.” Fisher told FRC that his organization transitioned in 2012 from a volunteer-based one to one with paid staff. It now has 115 paid employees in seven states. [Christian Newswire, 8/12/10, via Nexis; YouTube, 3/22/17]

NY Times Published Op-Ed From Human Coalition Claiming That Linking Abortion To Economics Is A “Profoundly Dehumanizing Argument.” The New York Times ran an op-ed from Human Coalition’s Lori Szala, the national director of client services, arguing that Democrats should welcome anti-choice members into their party. Szala further called for rejecting the idea that abortion is an economic issue, saying that claiming “women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder” is “a profoundly dehumanizing argument … and amounts to saying we are justified in killing those who impede our economic progress.” From the May 9 op-ed:

In recent days, Senator Bernie Sanders has come under fire for appearing at a campaign stop with Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate in Omaha who voted for anti-abortion legislation as a Nebraska state senator. Mr. Sanders said he supported Mr. Mello’s progressive economic positions, but critics said abortion and economics were inextricable — that women on the margins need abortion so that they can scramble up the economic ladder without children holding them back.

[...]

[This is] a profoundly dehumanizing argument. It reduces mothers and their children to mere economic objects, and amounts to saying we are justified in killing those who impede our economic progress. Parenting presents undeniable challenges, but no one argues that those challenges give parents the right to kill their children.

It’s also patronizing, and patently dishonest. Of course unplanned pregnancy presents challenges. But it doesn’t have to lead to economic failure. Abortion is society’s easy way out — its way of avoiding grappling with the fundamental injustices driving women to abortion clinics.

[...]

We should all agree, whether anti-abortion or pro-choice, that abortion is not a solution to the host of systemic injustices driving poverty. Progressives cannot continue to claim every effort to reduce abortion is anti-woman and will lead to ruin and disaster. And conservatives must do more than tell abortion-seeking women to “go in peace and keep warm and well fed”; they must sacrifice their time and treasure to serve women in need.

We cannot allow the real, complex needs of abortion-seeking women to get lost in today’s polarized abortion debate. Our society must not settle for leaving women who face unplanned pregnancy no hope but abortion. [The New York Times, 5/9/17]

In February, NY Times Ran An Op-Ed From Human Coalition Bashing The Women’s March For Rejecting Anti-Abortion Groups. Over a month after the Women’s March on Washington was held in January, The New York Times ran an op-ed from Human Coalition public relations manager Lauren Enriquez. Taking aim at the controversy around the decision that the staff of the Women’s March made to exclude anti-abortion groups as official partners in the protest, Enriquez bashed the Women’s March and the broader feminist movement for their “radical position on abortion.” She argued that this position meant the “feminist resistance movement” would be “unable to unite American women because it rejects the position that most American women take on abortion -- that it should be completely illegal, or legal but with significant restrictions.” Enriquez stated that the feminist movement “must be broad enough to take my firm beliefs, and accept them as mainstream” and that women’s power lies in “upending the abortion status quo.” [The New York Times, 2/27/17]

Some Media Are Beginning To Call Out NY Times For Giving Human Coalition A Platform. After the Times published Human Coalition’s May 9 op-ed, a number of media outlets criticized the newspaper’s decision to keep giving the anti-abortion organization a platform. The New York Observer argued that the Times had failed to disclose that the author worked for an organization that “is far from impartial when it comes to abortion.” Stassa Edwards wrote for Jezebel’s The Slot that it was unclear why “a group that compares ‘abortion-minded women’ to ‘animals caught in a trap,’ contributes to the debate about progressive policy or feminism.” She continued that the Human Coalition’s op-eds are merely “intended to further the op-ed section’s opinion of itself as a facilitator” of debate and that it was “increasingly clear” that “the Times’s op-ed page values the pretense these narratives offer.” Pop Sugar and Broadly both called out the Times for failing to identify the anti-abortion bias of the op-ed authors due to their work with an anti-abortion organization. [New York Observer, 5/9/17; Jezebel, 5/9/17; Pop Sugar, 5/10/17; Broadly, 5/9/17]

Since 2016, Human Coalition Staffers Have Written Various Op-Eds And The Organization Has Been Discussed In Multiple National-Level Media Outlets

Human Coalition Has Substantially Increased Its Mainstream Media Exposure In The Past Year. In the past year, Human Coalition has significantly increased its staff’s media appearances. Since December 2016, members of Human Coalition have written 11 op-eds in mainstream outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Hill. Two members of Human Coalition also regularly wrote for anti-choice or right-wing publications until they became paid staffers of the organization. In addition, since December 2016, media outlets have published at least seven significant articles about Human Coalition. Of these seven articles, four were from mainstream outlets like Bloomberg, One News Now, The Washington Times, and Red State. [The New York Times, 5/9/172/27/17; Townhall, 1/5/171/25/173/22/17; The Hill, 2/13/17; The Federalist, 12/12/163/27/17; National Review, 12/20/16; AL.com, 3/24/17; USA Today 1/15/17; Live Action, accessed May 2017; LinkedIn, accessed May 2017; National Right to Life News, accessed May 2017; Renew America, accessed May 2017; accessed May 2017; Live Action News, 12/9/16, 1/11/17; One News Now, 1/23/17; The Washington Times, 3/22/17; Church Militant, 3/24/17; Red State, 1/27/17; Bloomberg, 3/24/17]

Members Of Human Coalition Wrote In The Hill That The Anti-Choice Movement Needs To Focus On Outreach To “Abortion-Determined” People. Human Coalition associate general counsel Colin LeCroy and research and optimization lead Az Rahlouni wrote an op-ed for The Hill saying that the current anti-choice movement is not addressing “the core of the problem: a society that demands abortion.” In their words, “Even if pro-life or Republican majorities are able to prohibit abortion in some states, women in those states will still seek abortions.” They argued that rather than focusing on overturning Roe v. Wade and defunding Planned Parenthood, the anti-choice movement should focus on “abortion-determined” people and “the circumstances that are driving them to seek an abortion.” A modified version of this op-ed appeared in the Washington Examiner on February 12. [The Hill, 2/13/17; Washington Examiner, 2/12/17]

Since December, Human Coalition’s LeCroy Has Been A Frequent Contributor To Media Outlets. In addition to The Hill op-ed, LeCroy has written six articles since December 2016 for Townhall, The Federalist, National Review, and AL.com. In one of the two articles LeCroy wrote for Townhall, he called on media outlets to change their portrayal of anti-choice people as “women-hating curmudgeons.” The other Townhall article falsely claimed that pro-choice groups, like NARAL, have exaggerated the risks of illegal abortion before Roe. For The Federalist, LeCroy wrote two articles, one about Neil Gorsuch and Roe, and another about fetus burial laws. In his National Review article, LeCroy wrote that Human Coalition addresses the reasons a woman has an abortion in order to prevent her from having one. LeCroy also wrote an article for AL.com criticizing Dr. Willie Parker’s Christian rationale for being an abortion provider. [Townhall, 1/25/173/22/17; The Federalist, 12/12/163/27/17; National Review, 12/20/16; AL.com, 3/24/17]

Human Coalition’s Dean Nelson Has Appeared on EWTN News Nightly And Written An Op-Ed for USA Today. The Rev. Dean Nelson is the national outreach director for Human Coalition. Nelson has appeared on the evangelical media network EWTN’s News Nightly and written an non-abortion-related op-ed for USA Today. [LinkedIn, accessed May 2017; EWTN News Nightly, 8/21/144/20/15USA Today, 1/15/17]

Human Coalition Has A History Of Anti-Choice Extremism And Is Linked To Other Anti-Choice And Anti-LGBTQ Groups

The Funders Behind Human Coalition Also Fund Other Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBTQ Organizations. According to Right Wing Watch, Online for Life originally started under the umbrella of an organization called Media Revolution Ministries. The startup capital for Media Revolution Ministries/Online for Life came from a 2011 donation of $2,242,857 from The Thirteen Foundation, which a December 2014 report from Inside Philanthropy described as “among the most generous supporters of [crisis pregnancy centers].” The foundation, funded by conservative fracking billionaire Farris Wilks and his wife Joann, has also contributed to the discredited anti-choice organization Life Dynamics, hate groups FRC and Liberty Counsel, extreme anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family, CPC mega-chain Heartbeat International, and more. [Right Wing Watch, 6/12/14; Inside Philanthropy, 12/22/14]

Human Coalition Created A “Data And Digital Operation” To Organize Evangelicals behind Ted Cruz That Was Praised By Kellyanne Conway. During the 2016 election cycle, CNN reported that Fisher formed a “data and digital operation” called Red Metrics LLC “as part of a highly-touted Cruz strategy to organize evangelicals on social media.” CNN noted that Online for Life has been “praised by social conservatives for using apps and social media to link up women seeking to end a pregnancy with persuasive anti-abortion advocates.” Beyond Red Metrics LLC’s strategy, Kellyanne Conway, now a counselor to President Donald Trump, also praised Human Coalition for having a “distinctive brand” with “tangible and true metrics of success.” [CNN, 9/14/15]

Human Coalition’s Current Strategy Targets “Abortion-Determined Women” To Deceive Them Into Making Appointments At CPCs

Human Coalition Operates A Six-Part “Lab-Driven” Model In “Key Abortion-Dense Cities.” Since its rebranding as Human Coalition, the organization has followed a six-part “lab-driven” model in order to “continually test and optimize” efforts to ensure they target “the abortion-determined community with greater effectiveness.” These divisions operate together in any area with Human Coalition representatives, the majority of which are clustered in so-called “key abortion-dense cities.” The organization established chapters to this end in Raleigh, NC; Pittsburgh, PA; Atlanta, GA; and Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. The six divisions are: marketing outreach, contact center, women’s care clinics, continuum of care, church outreach, and incubation services. [Human Coalition, accessed May 2017; “Local Strategies, ” accessed May 2017]

1. Marketing Outreach

Marketing Outreach Uses Automation, “Big Data,” As Well As “Marketing Intelligence” To Target “Families At Risk To Abort.” Human Coalition describes its marketing outreach division as using “internet technology, automation software, big data, offline marketing, and marketing intelligence” to best target “families at risk to abort.” Evaluations of effective strategies include calculations for “cost, quantity, and quality” of outreach. In response to a successful campaign by NARAL to have Google remove ads by Human Coalition (then Online for Life), Fisher told The Christian Post that he was unconcerned about efforts to target his organization’s advertisements because they “at the end of the day we’ve had a great relationship with Google” and he would “anticipate continuing to have a great relationship with them.” [Human Coalition, “Marketing Outreach,” accessed May 2017; The Christian Post, 4/30/14]

Human Coalition Currently Directs Those Searching For Abortion To A Landing Page For A Phony Clinic With Directions To Call “To Speak With A Specialist.” For patients currently searching for abortion care in at least two of Human Coalition’s targeted cities, the first Google ad result is a fraudulent one that redirects to a landing page with no information about abortion or abortion care. When potential abortion patients click on the ad, they are redirected to a generic landing page that lacks any substantive information about abortion, but implores viewers to call a number “to speak with a specialist.” [Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic, accessed May 2017]

Googling “Abortion” And Either “Pittsburgh” Or “Raleigh” (Human Coalition Locations) Yields The Same Ad For A Fake Clinic. If people Google “abortion” and a location targeted by the Human Coalition, they will see an advertisement at the top of their page for a nonexistent clinic that provides “Free Abortion Consultations.” For example, when searching for “abortion” and “Pittsburgh,” the first ad on Google is for “Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic,” a facility that does not exist but claims to offer “Free Abortion Consultations.” The same ad will appear when searching for “abortion” and “Raleigh.” [Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic, accessed May 2017; Raleigh Women’s Clinic, accessed May 2017]

Webpages for “Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic” and “Raleigh Women’s Clinic” Are Nearly Identical. Although there are minor differences between the pages for the “Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic” and the “Raleigh Women’s Clinic” -- such as the presence of a “Clinic Information” option (that reloads the same page) on the Pittsburgh website -- the landing pages are nearly identical. In fact, both pages contain the same typo under the “Abortion Pill” section, which accidentally lists the question “Can I get the abortion pill over the counter?” twice. To get any information -- and even then, spare and selective information -- viewers must scroll to the bottom of the homepage to the “Helpful Information” section and select either “Late Term Abortion” or “Abortion Options.” [Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic, “Abortion Pill,” accessed May 2017; Raleigh Women’s Clinic, “Abortion Pill,” accessed May 2017]

“Terms Of Service” Page Cites “Media Revolution Ministries” And An Email Address Tied To The Human Coalition’s Wider CPC Network. Beyond the absence of accurate content on either website, the “Terms of Service” page reveals that both sites belong to Media Revolution Ministries -- under which Online for Life was originally formed. The page also directs anyone with questions about policies to email “abortionanswers@gmail.com.” The only other results that can be found on Google for this email address are for the Cura Women’s Care Clinic page -- the chain of CPCs run by Human Coalition. [Pittsburgh Women’s Clinic, “Terms of Service,” accessed May 2017; Human Coalition, 4/21/16; Cura Women’s Care Clinic, accessed May 2017]

2. Contact Center

The Contact Center Division Focuses on Staffing “Paid, Trained Call Agents” To “Convert In-Bound Calls, Chats, And Texts Into Kept Appointments” At CPCs. Human Coalition’s “Contact Center” facilitates communication between “abortion-determined women” and Human Coalition staff and volunteers. According to the organization’s website, the contact center focuses on staffing “paid, trained call agents” in order to “convert in-bound calls, chats, and texts into kept appointments” at CPCs in and beyond Human Coalition’s network. [Human Coalition, “Contact Center,” accessed May 2017]

3. Women’s Care Clinics

The Women’s Care Clinic Division Supports CPCs Nationally -- Including Human Coalition’s Clinics “Specifically Tailored To The Abortion-Determined Client.” After patients interface with a Human Coalition contact center, they are typically directed to one of “over 34 pro-life pregnancy centers across the country.” Although Human Coalition supports this continually expanding network of CPCs, it also operates a number of its own clinics, which are “specifically tailored to the abortion-determined client and their families.” Human Coalition's goal is to implement its “Continuum of Care” strategy at all clinics within its network in the future. [Human Coalition, “Women’s Care Clinics,” accessed May 2017]

Fisher Explained That His Centers Encourage “Neglected And Abandoned” Women To Keep Appointments By Offering Them Gift Cards. In his March 2017 speech to FRC, Fisher explained how Human Coalition clinics draw in patients and encourage them to keep appointments at affiliated CPCs. Around 14 minutes into his speech, Fisher explained that it comes as “no surprise” that most “abortion-determined” people are single and have largely been “neglected and abandoned by the father of the baby.” He continued that when patients are married, “the husband oftentimes is the person coercing the wife to abort their child.” Fisher said that the group once ran a test in which it encouraged these people to keep appointments with CPCs by “offering them gift cards” to subsidize their travel to the centers. [YouTube, 3/22/173/22/17]

Chick-Fil-A Executives Encouraged The Human Coalition To Operate Its Own Clinics. Later in his speech to FRC, Fisher explained the thought process behind Human Coalition opening its own line of clinics. Fisher said that after discussing the problem with several Chick-Fil-A executives in Atlanta, GA, he was told that Human Coalition needed to own its own clinics if it wanted to see a center able to more effectively deter “abortion-determined women” from abortion. [YouTube, 3/22/17]

4. Continuum Of Care

Human Coalition’s “Continuum Of Care” Is Framed As “Long-Term Assistance” To Support Families After They Reject Abortion. According to Human Coalition, the organization’s “Continuum of Care” program seeks to provide “long-term assistance” to support families after they reject abortion and carry pregnancies to term. The network consists of “organizations and churches that provide support such as financial, job-training, job placement, maternity housing, health care, etc.” While speaking to FRC, Fisher described the “Continuum of Care” program as including four parts to combat the notion that CPCs don’t care about their patients after abortion is avoided: hope, guidance, connections, and sustained effort. [Human Coalition, “Continuum of Care,” accessed May 2017; YouTube 3/22/17]

“Continuum Of Care” Means Even Patients Who Are “Abortion-Determined” Won’t “Sever Ties” With The Organization. Fisher told the Gospel Coalition in January 2017 that the organization’s “Continuum of Care” was meant to address the belief of “abortion-determined” patients that “the child’s life is still worth less than whatever their circumstances are.” According to the Gospel Coalition, Human Coalition “tested” this approach “for nine months and found that offering help with social services meant that those who walked away from their first appointment still intent on abortion didn’t sever ties with Human Coalition.” Human Coalition claims, “More than seventy percent of those women ended up choosing life” due to their relationship with their “care coordinator,” who “helped them look for a job,” “sat with them at the welfare office,” or “helped them fill out housing forms.” The coordinator ultimately “connects each woman with a mentor from a local church … who will walk with her through the church doors and plug her in to the community there.” [The Gospel Coalition, 1/27/17]

5. Church Outreach

Church Outreach Partners With “Local Congregations And National Denominations” To Attempt “To End Abortion.” The fifth division in the Human Coalition model involves “gospel-centric, positive culture change” fostered by religious organizations. The organization describes its church outreach division as partnering with “local congregations and national denominations” to work together “to end abortion.” [Human Coalition, “Church Outreach,” accessed May 2017]

Church Outreach Is Facilitated By Human Coalition’s Phone App, Which Notifies Users When “Abortion-Determined Individuals Are In Need Of Prayer.” Human Coalition’s church outreach efforts are facilitated through an iPhone and Android app, advertised on an affiliated website as the “Human Coalition Prayer App.” The app is described as helping to keep religious communities “actively engaged in rescuing preborn children and families from abortion” by notifying users when “abortion-determined individuals are in need of prayer.” A previous, but now discontinued, version of the app was launched during a 2014 tech-focused gathering titled “Pro Life Con.” [Family Life Campaign, “Human Coalition Prayer App,” accessed May 2017; Gawker, 1/24/14]

6. Incubation Services

“Incubation Services” Is A Division For “Testing Potential New Services” To Deter “Abortion-Determined Women” From Seeking Abortion Care. The last division of Human Coalition’s “six-lab” model is “Incubation Services.” The organization describes this division as necessary for “testing potential new services” meant to deter “abortion-determined women and families” from seeking abortion care. It describes current initiatives as including “Fatherhood Initiative and Abstinence Training Educational Programs.” Most concerningly, Human Coalition describes having a “first class legal team” looking for “potential leverage points” as well as increasing its “government relations” efforts at both the “federal and state level.” [Human Coalition, “Incubation Services,” accessed May 2017]

Fisher Described Attempting To Increase Human Coalition’s Ability To Share “Data And Experience” With Anti-Choice Lawmakers And Agency Officials. During his March 2017 speech to FRC, Fisher explained that Human Coalition had only recently begun to have a presence on Capitol Hill. Fisher continued that although Human Coalition isn’t focused on legislative efforts, it has attempted to connect with “different elected officials and agencies” about how its “data and [its] experience with the 1.2 million abortion-determined population” can help anti-choice lawmakers. He noted that Human Coalition has gotten “a very warm reception from the officials and the agencies” that it has spoken to and that there was “deep interest” in Human Coalition “providing macro-data” that could aid anti-choice policy making. These efforts are headed by Dean Nelson, Human Coalition’s national outreach director. [YouTube, 3/22/17]

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.