Today the Council for Life held its “Celebrating a Decade of Life” Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas to mark ten years of providing much-needed funding for local pregnancy resource centers and other life-affirming organizations in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The gathering of about a thousand people in the Chantilly Ballroom was their largest yet, and featured a luncheon, raffle, and keynote address by model-turned-mogul Kathy Ireland.
Council for Life was founded in 2001 by eleven women who wanted to “more proactively address the complex issues of crisis pregnancies” in Dallas and ”change the heart of [their] city.” It is still without an office or a full-time staff, and relies on volunteers and donations to provide its vital support to area women.
According to an address by board president Harriet Maclay, CFL has raised $2.7 million for local pro-life organizations in the last ten years, and is now launching a national affiliate program to benefit life-centered initiatives in other cities.
For 2012, CFL received 28 grant requests and was able to grant ten, with four on a wait list. They pledged a total of $500,000 to such organizations as Chosen Child Adoption Services, Perinatal Support of Texas, and Fort Worth Pregnancy Center. The money will be used in various ways by each center, such as purchasing sonogram machines and hiring new staff.
Despite the fact that 20,000 children are lost to abortion every year in Dallas/Ft. Worth, “[o]ur city is well fortified with life-affirming agencies,” said Maclay, “and we have much to celebrate.”
Besides an eloquent invocation by Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church in Richardson, guests were also treated to an engaging glimpse into the pro-life journey of former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Ireland, now a wife, mother, philanthropist, and CEO of a billion-dollar corporation. “If you’re old enough, you might think of me as that model person from the last century,” she quipped. Don’t let Ireland’s high-pitched voice, glossy good looks, and Southern California bubbliness fool you. A few minutes into her speech, the astute fearlessness that may be responsible for her success came out, and it didn’t go away.
“The work that Council for Life does is life-saving and life-changing,” said Ireland, and went on to describe her challenges as a pro-life celebrity and businesswoman. Not long after her design empire was launched, she faced a difficult decision when she was asked to appear on Bill Maher’s now defunct HBO talk show, “Politically Incorrect,” and talk about abortion. She was warned that espousing a controversial viewpoint could kill her business, and she felt the pressure of many jobs and livelihoods that depended on her. But she believed that even if it saved one life, it would be worth any cost to her bottom line. She called the decision, finally, “a no-brainer.”
“Don’t let anyone silence you, and please don’t let your own fear silence you,” she said.
In high school, a fellow student speaking on behalf of a national women’s health clinic told her class triumphantly that high school students could get abortions without parental consent. As the wife of an emergency room physician who could be prosecuted if he gave an aspirin to a minor without her parents’ approval, Ireland bore witness to the absurdity of this notion. “Here in Texas,” she said, “you have better laws than we do. And I love my state, but that is messed up.”
Ireland described her first real religious experience as a lonely eighteen-year-old modeling in Paris who discovered a Bible her mother tucked into her luggage. She spent many years as a “pro-choice Christian,” but it wasn’t until driving to an audition for a movie-of-the-week many years later that she gave the issue serious thought. She knew the movie was about abortion, and though she was told it gave an unbiased view, she felt there was a pro-abortion slant to the script. Stuck in LA traffic, she thought about the issue as she drove to the audition, where the producer asked if she was pro-choice. Even as she answered “yes,” she knew she wasn’t.
“I didn’t want to be pro-life,” she said, prompting some laughter from the audience. After looking through her husband’s medical textbooks and finding scientific proof that the embryo is a human being, she called an abortion clinic and asked for their “best argument” for abortion, and was told two things: that it was a clump of cells, and that “if we get it early enough, it doesn’t even look like a baby.” Even a “ditzy” supermodel knew that all human beings are, technically speaking, “clumps of cells,” and that “[j]ust like a baby doesn’t look like a teenager and a teenager doesn’t look like a senior citizen, it’s what humans look like at that stage of development. It’s just that we’re not used to seeing it.”
Years later, when she discovered that a non-profit with which she was involved donated money to an organization that performed research on human fetal tissue, the non-profit attempted to reassure her by putting her on a conference call with ten scientists. When she asked them if they had “evidence that the unborn isn’t human,” there was silence from all ten. “Kathy, it’s really a lot more complicated than that,” one piped up. Her reply: “No, it really isn’t.”
In 2008, Ireland was seated next to a strategist for then-Senator Obama at a social function. The strategist asked if his candidate would have her vote, and she replied he would, if he changed his position on life issues. The strategist balked at discussing abortion in front of Ireland’s children and a table full of men, so Ireland reassured him that her children were well aware of the sanctity of life, and that Roe v. Wade was decided by a bunch of men. “So let’s talk,” she said. After being “dismissed” as “just a conservative,” Ireland told him she didn’t mind being refuted, but would not be dismissed. She said she was conservative on some issues, but “when it comes to the human rights of the unborn, I’m extremely liberal.”
She ended her remarks by reminding those gathered that “every child is wanted.” Referring to her niece with Down syndrome, she said, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” As for strategy, she warned against turning abortion into a “political football,” and said that while Roe v. Wade must be overturned, “what we need to do is change hearts.”
Speaking to that end, the luncheon closed with a short video showing some of the many hearts that have been changed by CFL’s work, including ten-year-old Jordan, one of the first babies saved when her mother saw a sonogram of her unborn child. The sonogram machine was purchased with funds donated by Council for Life.
Most of the men and women gathered today in the Chantilly Ballroom were affluent, upper-middle-class Dallasites who may have never wanted for anything. Sitting among them, I felt a bit out-of-place. Walking to my car in the parking lot, my Ford Escort was conspicuous among the Lexuses and BMWs. However, these “ladies who lunch” are lunching for an excellent cause, and putting their money — and their hearts — where it can save lives and change souls.
It doesn’t matter whether you donate thousands of dollars and speak up about the sanctity of life on HBO, or just volunteer to file paperwork, write a check for $10, or dare to tell your sociology professor he’s wrong about abortion. The point is if we all give what we can of our time, treasure, and talent to this cause, we can and will save lives.
For more information on Council for Life and the organizations it benefits, visit their website at http://www.councilforlife.org/.