New Information on March of Dimes Boycott

For those relatively new to the pro-life movement, it is important to remind everyone how long the boycott of the March of Dimes has been going on. In 1971 the MOD published the papers of a seminar they had sponsored. It was a blueprint for aborting handicapped babies. It recommended mid-trimester diagnostic amniocentesis, which at the time was quite new. It urged the creation of genetic testing centers, and clearly endorsed an attempt to purify the race by eliminating handicapped people by this method.

Cincinnati Right to Life was already publishing a national newsletter which went to all then-known pro-life organizations. It recommended a boycott of the March of Dimes because of this anti-life activity. As a direct result of this boycott, which was picked up by pro-life groups nationwide, the MOD eliminated a requirement that they had originally had. This requirement stated that if the MOD had paid for the amniocentesis test, and a handicapped child was discovered, that child must be aborted. With the publicity surrounding the boycott, the MOD hastily and publicly retracted that requirement and has since proclaimed its neutrality on the subject of abortion. However, when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in all 50 states in 1973, the MOD went along with the decision. While claiming neutrality, they recognized the woman’s right to choose whether or not to get an abortion, which was in fact the core finding of Roe v. Wade.

Dr. John Willke, in his successive positions as co-chair of Cincinnati Right to Life, president of Ohio Right to Life, and then president of National Right to Life Committee, remained at the center of this controversy. During these years, there were episodic contacts made including meetings with MOD authorities, correspondence, publications, etc. The MOD authorities made no serious attempts to correct the ongoing problems which justified the continuation of the boycott.

Their support for genetic testing centers slowly waned, as individual medical centers and physicians assumed this function. Specific concerns about the MOD cooperating with Planned Parenthood-types in sponsoring anti-family and anti-life seminars came and went. Before Dr. Willke left the presidency of National Right to Life in 1991, he specifically asked the MOD to provide a detailed list of all of their grants for the previous three years. The intention was to closely examine this information with the hope that the reason for the boycott would no longer exist and that right-to-life authorities could then call for its end. MOD authorities refused to provide this information.

It’s interesting to note that during the past 25 years, with rare exceptions, every one of the almost 3,000 right-to-life chapters has maintained the boycott.

About this time, when it seemed as though the pro-life movement was losing interest in the boycott and that it might slowly fade away, the fires were reignited by a major seminar sponsored by the March of Dimes. Its papers were published by the MOD in 1991 under the title, “Strategies in Genetic Counseling: Reproductive Genetics & New Technology”. Many of the papers in the book are scientifically factual. Others not so. An example is an article in which the notorious abortion propagandist, Mitchel Globus, of University of California. SF, discusses fetal diagnosis and the methodology of fetal “termination in multiple pregnancies”, among other things. To pro-lifers this is outrageously pro-abortion.

Another example from this MOD seminar was Estelle Rogers who stated, “It is hard to be involved in the abortion issue these days and not be feeling rather buoyant. The pro-choice majority we always talked about really is here and has become energized to an extent few would have imagined even six months ago.” She speaks of the rising “pro-choice ground swell” and the filing of an amicus brief in the Casey decision, noting, however, that, in the midst of her “euphoria”, “we must be mindful that there is no substitute for a constitutional right to abortion which protects our fundamental rights…”

In 1996 the entire situation was reopened by the Reverend Robert Fleischmann, National Director of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) Lutherans for Life. In response to the above, the MOD, in a letter to Rev. Fleischmann dated four years after this seminar, admits to making an error of judgment, regrets the error and has “taken action to insure that it will not recur.” Rev. Fleischmann accepted that explanation. He did, however, and quite properly, pursue his investigation further. He asked for the same documentation that Dr. Willke had asked for in ‘91, and was pleasantly surprised to receive it in a computer printout. This was referred out to a number of knowledgeable people for analysis. These individuals and WELS Lutherans for Life closely examined the printout of abstracts for research grants the MOD had made for the year, and concluded that they contained nothing specifically compromising its “biblical view of life”. They did, however, raise the question of whether MOD “does or would support fetal tissue research using material taken from induced-aborted children”. Their pamphlet (see illustration) goes into detail about the fact that the MOD refused to add “their own restrictive policy in which they would refuse grants for research projects involving the use of tissue from induced-aborted children.”

In view of the above, the WELS investigation led them to “conclude that we discourage raising funds for March of Dimes. We further counsel the pro-life movement to continue its boycott of the March of Dimes.”

The pamphlet contains the full text of Rev. Fleischmann’s letter to the March of Dimes. It also contains the full text of the response of June Masse, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer of MOD, along with a response to her comments from Dr. John Willke.

These three statements are available in a small pamphlet printed by WELS Lutherans for Life, which, in our judgment, provides pro-life people with an updated, authoritative statement on the issue of boycotting the March of Dimes. This pamphlet is available from WELS Lutherans for Life, 2949 N. Mayfair Rd., Suite 309, Milwaukee, WI 53222. Phone (800) 729-9535. The cost is 50¢ each which includes shipping and handling.

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