UPDATE: May 3, 10:47 a.m. EST: This article was amended with a clarification, noted below. Anti-abortion rights marketing group Heroic Media is expanding
*UPDATE: May 3, 10:47 a.m. EST: This article was amended with a clarification, noted below. *
Anti-abortion rights marketing group Heroic Media is expanding domestically and internationally, officials said Saturday during an “inaugural District of Columbia benefit dinner,” held in Bethesda, Md. – part of an effort to raise money for anti-abortion advertising in the Northeast this spring.
Sarah Palin headlined the $250-a-plate dinner and proudly told a dining room of about 300 people that given the opportunity to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner or the Heroic Media fundraiser, she “chose life.”
Palin noted that her daughter Bristol attended the correspondents’ dinner and was counseled to “grit her teeth” upon hearing any Palin jokes; though she failed to mention that she would be heading to the Vanity Fair/Bloomberg White House Correspondents’ Association afterparty shortly after leaving the fundraiser.
At previous Heroic Media fundraisers, including those that Palin has headlined, emphasis has sometimes centered on abortion providers supposedly targeting the African-American community. Last week, Heroic Media and affiliate Life Always were sued by the mother of a young African-American girl featured on billboards with the slogan “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
But on Saturday, African-Americans were absent from any rhetoric. Instead, the evening’s main themes focused on the “heroic choice” to mother and on the disproportionately high rates of abortions for babies pre-diagnosed with disabilities.
During her 45-minute speech, Palin focused on the difficult decision women are faced with upon learning of unplanned pregnancies. Based on her experiences becoming pregnant unexpectedly early after being elected governor of Alaska, closely followed by Bristol’s unexpected pregnancy at 17, Palin said she now can empathize with women who become pregnant in “less than ideal circumstances.” She said she can understand how, “even for a split second” a woman might consider having an abortion. And as is her habit at Heroic Media events, Palin spoke of her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, claiming that 85 to 90 percent of babies expected to be born with Down syndrome are aborted. Her message to women facing similar “less than ideal” circumstances was to “hang in there.”
Palin spoke candidly about her family’s experiences with pregnancies (“Bristol was a good kid … she was always busy working, well not always busy working, obviously”) to her audience of supporters, which included tea partiers and several members from the organization Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin. As The Florida Independent pointed out last week, the event was marketed to the group as a “kosher shabbaton” with no mention of the event’s focus on abortion (to participate in the full shabbaton, which included four “gourmet” kosher meals, two nights at the Bethesda North Marriott and a quorum of 10 male Jewish adults, the cost was $650). JASP’s Rabbi Robert Shechter gave the closing prayer.
The Jews for Sarah ad included slogans such as “Take back the government!,” “U.S.-Israel alliance!” and No more pork!” but Palin mostly steered clear of politics, save for a few jabs at “politicos” in D.C. and a lament that despite all the hype of a government shutdown leading up to the finalization of the 2011 federal budget, the federal government was still conducting “business as usual.” She did commend recent state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and said the focus should be directed toward eliminating all federal funding to the organization.
Palin praised Heroic Media for its approach to campaigning against abortion, saying that the key to changing the culture is by “infiltrating pop culture” (she said Bristol’s participation with “Dancing With the Stars” was an example of this). She then presented anti-abortion rights activist and Live Action founder Lila Rose with Heroic Media’s “Hero” award, calling Rose the face of the youth-led anti-abortion movement and praised her infamous undercover sting video against Planned Parenthood.
Rose gave a brief acceptance speech, commending Heroic Media’s work and saying she would continue her dedication to defending life.
As diners feasted on steak and asparagus, examples of Heroic Media’s Internet ads were displayed on big screens. Communication director Kimberly Guidry Speirs claimed the organization’s advertisements have led to a 20-percent drop in the ratio* of abortions (the number of abortions for every 1,000 births) in markets where billboard and TV ads are displayed. Speirs announced that the group is continually expanding and currently has five locations throughout the country and one in South America.
For 13 weeks this spring, she said, Heroic Media will air its television ad “Teen Angst” on cable channels including BET and MTV. The marketing, she explained, is precisely designed to target women between the ages of 18 and 34 with advertising that speaks to them. In the “Teen Angst” ad, a young blonde is lamenting that her boyfriend is pressuring her to have an abortion, saying, “Don’t I get to choose for myself, for the baby? Don’t I?”
Allen Hunt, the night’s master of ceremonies, called on supporters to donate to the organization to raise $227,000 for the Northeastern campaign, as did Heroic Media President Chris Joliat. Each table featured a bag filled with donation cards and blue pens. Those who might be wont to go home and pray on whether or not to give money were encouraged to talk to one of the ministers in the audience, and then donate.
Among sponsors for the event listed in the program were News/Talk630 WMAL ($15,000); Tea Party Review magazine ($10,000); Austin Baptist Association ($2,500); WRC 1260-AM “Intelligent Talk” ($1,000); Arlington Catholic Herald, Birthmothers Ministries, Inc. ($500), and Bayard Magazine Group (gifts in kind). Among individuals called to stand for their contribution and support to Heroic Media included the Rev. Dean Nelson, vice president of Underserved Outreach at Care Net, one of the nation’s largest networks of crisis pregnancy centers.
Due to a clause in Palin’s contract, this event was closed to the press, but The American Independent purchased a ticket to attend.
*Correction: We previously reported that Heroic Media claimed a 20-percent drop in the rate of abortions — they claimed to a drop in the ratio of abortions (the number of abortions for every 1,000 births). We regret the error.
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