WASHINGTON - Priests for Life, with a budget of $4 million last year, plans to spend three times that amount through the end of 2002 on a media campaign reaching out to women who have had or are considering an abortion.
Billboards with the slogan "The Doors of the Church Are Open" are already going up .... They will be augmented by bus and train advertisements, as well as a series of four television commercials to be aired first in those areas, and then in other cities.
Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, said ... during a March 29 press conference in Washington that he hoped changing the attitude some hold that the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion is anti-women would be one of the effects of the campaign.
In a statement he read during the press conference, the priest said the campaign "is not a propaganda effort, but rather a response to the real needs of women who either feel that they have no option but to abort their child, or feel that there is no hope or healing after abortion."
"We are proclaiming that 'the doors of the church are open,' and that the role of the church is not simply to stand up and say, 'Abortion is wrong - don't do it,' but rather to say to the women of our day, 'We are with you; we will help you to do what is right, and to find healing if you have done what is wrong,"' Father Pavone said.
Another element of the campaign is a 26-installment weekly pro-life series ... The series would be repeated in its entirety, giving the Priests for Life show a yearlong run.
Anthony DeStefano, Priests for Life's executive director, said the scripts have been written for all the programs, but none have been taped, nor have arrangements been made with individual stations in those cities to run the show.
In addition to the bus and train ads, airplanes with trailing banners proclaiming the group's message will fly during the summer.
Father Pavone said the TV advertising would shift in 2002 to more issue-oriented ads as congressional elections near. Priests for Life purchased issue-oriented newspaper and TV advertising in 2000, a presidential election year.
He called the 2002 elections "critically important for our members, especially the makeup of the U.S. Senate."
The message of the pre-election ads, he said, "will be exactly the same: Vote in such a way to defend the culture of life, and if you are in elected office, vote to defend life."
Not all of the $12 million has been raised for the campaign, Father Pavone admitted. But he predicted there would be a snowball effect of people seeing the billboards and TV spots and contributing to the purchase of future ads.
"The campaign will support itself," he said, "We could get $24 million, $48 million Who knows? ... The sky's the limit."
Father Pavone also commented on the arrest that day in France of James Kopp for the murder of New York abortion doctor Barnett Slepian in 1998.