Tag Archives: adoption

Saving lives one ad at a time

Legate Brian Follett has mounted a fight for mothers and their babies using the media . . .

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Sometimes the right pro-life ad really can make all the difference.

Heroic Media founder Brian Follett has seen it happen time and again. His pro-life media company targets geographical markets with a multimedia approach: billboard, TV and Internet ads. The result is, invariably, that the number of women contacting pregnancy help centers skyrockets.

Heroic Media has made a name for itself for both the quality and quantity of its ads. When the company ran a media campaign in Ohio two years ago, they saw the numbers of abortions plummet with 3,000 fewer abortions in the state that year.

Three-fold mission

A member of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter, Follett spent the majority of his professional life running Anchor Foods, which his family sold in 2001. The break from leading a large company led Follett to ponder ways he could “give back.”

“I went on a spiritual retreat and began to think about a construction boycott that I had taken part in against a huge Planned Parenthood facility being built in Austin, Texas,” he said. “I realized then that pro-life media wasn’t being done in Austin.”

Follett, who has a marketing background, slowly discerned God calling him to pro-life media. He founded Majella Cares in 2004. For four years, the organization focused on Texas, spending $2 million on ads — including 7,000 TV commercials and 128 billboards, in addition to Internet ads and radio spots. Abortions dropped 20% in Austin.

After changing the company’s name to Heroic Media, Follett decided to go national in 2008. In the last three years, Heroic has conducted 10 nationwide media campaigns and more than 160 campaigns in 32 states. Heroic is running 24 regional campaigns this fall.

“As a non-profit, we run on a faith-based process,” Follett explained. “We gather as a team every morning at 8 am and pray. The number one thing for us is to place our trust in God.”

Heroic Media has a three-fold mission: “Call for Help” ads connecting women to pregnancy help centers, “Attitude Change” ads getting women to rethink abortion, and ads promoting adoption. When Heroic conducts a campaign in a specific region, the first thing it does is partner with local pro-life groups.

Rev. Joe Young

Rev. Joe Young

“We are all about partners,” said Rev. Joe Young, an evangelical pastor who serves as Heroic’s executive director. “No one group can do it all. It’s biblical for us to work together. When we team our resources, we can do exponential work in any area.”

When Heroic partners with a pregnancy help center, it does client marketing plus promotional TV, Internet, billboard, and mass transit ads for the center.

Heroic’s marketing staff travels the country, conducting market research and focus groups. “Before and after any media campaign, they get very serious statistical numbers,” said Alejandro Bermudez, a Heroic Media board member and president of Catholic News Agency.

For example, Heroic Media conducted a campaign in Pittsburgh from Dec. 1, 2012, to June 23, 2013. The campaign generated 6,849 responses. People responded by web visits, emails, phone calls and direct contacts. Heroic created Google ads, TV ads, transit ads and posters. They discovered that their Google ads produced 73% of all responses.

Young tracks the national response to Heroic’s campaigns, noting that each market responds in a unique way.

“Last year, over 178,000 women responded to our media ads,” he said. “They connected with us through our 24/7 helpline, Option Line. It’s humbling when you think that we are only a staff of 10 people,” Young said.

Adoption option

When Heroic staff began to research the issue of adoption, they discovered that the concept frightened many women.

“Our effectiveness is measured by how these ads speak to target audiences,” Follett explained. “Everything we do is researched. We did a focus group and found that historically, the marketing of adoption scared women into having abortions. But then we discovered that if the ads had language that said, ‘I can choose who will raise my child,’ the attitude towards adoption changed for the better.”

“Our partnership with Heroic has been 100% positive,” said Marc Andreas, vice president of marketing for Bethany Christian Services. “They did the leg work through national TV ad campaigns, and we’ve shared our adoption expertise.”

Andreas recalls the first night they aired a commercial on the Oxygen cable channel last November.

“A woman in Jacksonville, Fla., had four children and was due in a few days with her fifth child. She didn’t have a good family situation and was planning to leave the baby at the hospital,” Andreas said. “When she saw the commercial, her 11-year old son said, ‘You should call that number.’”

The woman called and within two hours someone from Bethany met with her to discuss adoption. They found a pastor in Orlando trying to adopt and facilitated the adoption. Today, the woman is in touch with the pastor’s family because it was an open adoption.

“We have gotten hundreds of phone calls from airing those ads,” Andreas said. “We’ve been able to help so many women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy who had never considered adoption. It’s enabled us to walk them through.”

Legatus connection

Follett’s family has long been connected with Legatus — especially in Green Bay where his brother Mark is a member of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter.

“Legatus has been an inspiration in so many ways because the work we do is so hard,” Brian Follett said. “It is really helpful when we come together with Legatus members to share our struggles. They have been very supportive.”

While Legatus has helped him keep his passion alive for helping women in crisis pregnancies, Follett says it is stoked from years of cultivating his faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.

“A lot of my passion comes from a trip I took to Medjugorje in 1991,” he explained. “My dad had gone there in 1990 and came back crying whenever he spoke about it. Before that trip, I had only been a Sunday-Mass kind of Catholic, but my heart wasn’t into it. Now, I’m still waiting for my head to catch up.”

That passion has also inspired Follett to take Heroic Media international. In 2011, the company opened operations in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico as Opciones Heróicas. In Costa Rica, Heroic runs a pregnancy help center. In Ecuador, Heroic is cohosting an international pro-life Congress which uses a “tunnel of love” van, allowing students and adults to walk through and look at interactive videos about fetal development.

“Abortion is still not legal in the majority of Latin American countries,” Bermudez explained. “However, this is exactly why pregnancy help centers are needed. Without them, people will say that women really have no options.”

Giving women and their babies life-affirming options is what Heroic Media is all about, he said, and their ads are quietly making a difference in hundreds of lives every day.

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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Frozen embryo adoption

Certain moral questions like embryo adoption are still open to further debate . . .

Despite scientific evidence and detailed Church teaching, certain moral questions are still open to further theological reflection. The National Catholic Bioethics Center offers the following exchange between two of its ethicists on whether the 2008 Vatican document The Dignity of the Person (DP) allows for the adoption of frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures.

Dr. Stephen Napier

Dr. Stephen Napier says YES

“It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of prenatal adoption. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems” (DP #19).

Some have taken this note to reject embryo adoption. I do not think that is correct. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “The document raises cautions or problems about these new issues but does not formally make a definitive judgment against them.” Also, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, has said that embryo adoption is still an open question. If the USCCB and the Pontifical Academy for Life got it wrong, the Vatican would have corrected them publicly. But there has not been any correction, so the question on embryo adoption remains open.

Embryo adoption is clearly an act by which a young human being is saved. The fact that the woman must gestate the child in order to save the child does not change the moral quality of the action. Childhood adoption, after all, is not only permissible but is encouraged by the Church. Adopting a child that happens to be younger, and thus requires implantation in a mother’s womb, means only that the woman must sacrifice more, thus growing in charity. Those who say that embryo adoption achieves procreation apart from the marital union misunderstand the obvious fact that the child already exists! The child has already been procreated.

The Church says that the child has a right to be gestated by his or her own parents. But who violates that right? Clearly, the parents who went through IVF and abandoned him or her to life in a freezer. In fact, the embryo-adopting couple cannot violate this right.

Adopting an embryo is a way to love a child in a very vulnerable state. Additionally, it gives witness to the inherent dignity of all human beings no matter how small.


Dr. John Haas

Dr. John M. Haas says NO

“The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any form of surrogate motherhood; this practice would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature” (DP #19).

The Holy See acknowledges the good motivation of those proposing pre-natal adoption of frozen embryos but states that not even an infertile couple may have them implanted for the various reasons already stated: that in vitro fertilization, artificial heterologous procreation and surrogate mothering (a woman who is not the mother allows the “renting” out of her womb for gestation) are wrong. In such cases, embryos are manipulated and subjected to the decisions and actions of others that do not respect the inviolability of their personhood.

First of all, some frozen embryos will be chosen to live while others will be allowed to die. What will be the criteria used as to which will live and which will die? Would just boy embryos be chosen? Just Asians? Caucasians? These are arbitrary criteria used to decide who will have a chance at life and who will not.

Second, the “thawing” process itself will result in the deaths of some embryos. And then, after they have been thawed, the surviving embryos will be judged as to which will have the greatest chance of survival. Again, arbitrary judgments will be made as to which will be given a chance to live and which not. And how are the ones not chosen for implantation discarded?

Third, single women have advanced the same arguments for rescuing the embryos by offering their bodies to gestate them even though they do not have husbands. This would deny the child the good of an integral family.

Finally, husbands and wives give the procreative powers of their bodies to one another as a gift to be open to the engendering of new life between them. As St. Paul said, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but to his wife” (1 Cor 7:4). To place someone else’s child into the body of the wife would violate the integrity of the marital union unique to that husband and wife.

As regrettable as it is, “it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved” (DP #19)

John M. Haas is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and founding president of the International Institute for Culture. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Stephen Napier is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He serves on the University of Pennsylvania’s Institutional Review Board.