Politics
Anti-abortion rights supporter Katherine Aguilar holds a crucifix and prays while opponents and supporters of abortion rights gather in the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas on Friday, July 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)

National Right to Life pulls support from local pro-life group over same-sex marriage opposition

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

The National Right to Life has officially withdrawn support for the Cleveland Right to Life over the latter’s recent proclamation that it opposes same-sex marriage.

“The mission of the National Right to Live Committee (NRLC) has been articulated since the inception of the organization — to protect the right to life of innocent human beings, including those jeopardized by legal abortion, by euthanasia, and by assisted suicide,” NRLC president Carole Tobias wrote in a letter dated July 17 to CRTL president Molly Smith.

CRTL revised its mission statement in June, to include an opposition to same-sex marriage, in addition to the group’s rejection of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide.

Tobias’ letter to Smith cites Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who announced his support for same-sex marriage in March, as part of its reason.

“Recently, Cleveland Right to Life announced that it has embraced an advocacy agenda that includes issues beyond the right to life,” Tobias wrote. “Moreover, it promptly issued criticisms of and implicit political threats against a U.S. Senator who has supported the right-to-life position on every vote that has come before the Senate, and who is a sponsor of major NRLC-backed bills — because the chapter disagrees with his position on a non-right-to-life issue.”

According to NRLC, the CRTL’s actions have violated NRLC policy and the group can no longer be affiliated with the organization.

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Smith said that organization has never been affiliated with the NRLC, but that they are willing to work with any pro-life organization.

“To be quite honest with you, I don’t have a clue why they [have disaffiliated with us] because number one we have never been affiliated with them, so they disaffiliated with an organization that was never affiliated. So it seems to be a little bit of sending a message and obviously trying to put up something publicly to support Sen. Portman in Ohio.”

Smith acknowledged that CRTL has expressed concern about Portman’s position change on same-sex marriage.

In a CRTL press release, the Smith said they received the letter well after the date on the letter and without an accompanying phone call or email. Further she said in the release that Portman’s office forwarded the letter to other pro-life groups before CRTL got a chance to read it.

According to Portman’s office however, neither Portman nor his staff were involved in the disaffiliation letter and only learned about it days after the fact.

CRTL’s press release further quoted CRTL board member Jerry Cirino who said the group also cares about children after they are born and attacked Portman for his stance on same-sex marriage.

“This is about supporting the family in America and any politician, including Portman, who supports the break-up of the American family and supports the denial of a mother and father for children has forfeited the right of support and endorsement of the prolife movement,” Cirino said in a statement.

Tobias requested that the CRTL remove any affiliation with the NRLC and “desist from any representation that ‘Cleveland Right to Life’ is affiliated with the National Right to Life Committee.”

“Cleveland Right to Life is an autonomous organization,” CRTL’s website currently reads. “We are not and never have been a chapter of any other Right to Life Organization.”

According to Smith, CRTL did not change their mission statement in reaction to Portman, the group’s alterations, to “improve” the statement, had been in the works for 18 months.

“Our mission statement was written back in nearly the 1970s, and at that point in time there was no threat to traditional marriage,” Smith told TheDC.

“Subsequently since that time, marriage has been under attack from all different sides of the spectrum,” she continued. “So what we decided to do — the marriage issue, and the family, particularly the strength of the family has always been the underlying pillar upon which we built everything else. Originally we did not have to state that because it was a given. But now it is no longer a given.”

The National Right to Life responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment on CRTL with a statement from Tobias stressing that the NRLC is a single-issue organization.

“The success the right-to-life movement has experienced over the past 40 years has depended on maintaining our single-issue focus on life,” Tobias said in the statement. “By focusing on the single issue of life, we have been able to bring together a broad base of people — who may disagree on other important issues in our country, but who are dedicated to ensuring that the protection of our laws are extended to the most vulnerable members of society: the unborn, the elderly, the medically dependent and persons with disabilities.”

“The right-to-life movement provides a voice to the voiceless,” Tobias added. “To abandon this single-issue focus would be to abandon those who have no voice.”

This article has been updated with additional information from Portman’s office and NRLC’s statement. 

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