Bob Pearson’s pro-life activities started slowly. His first project was to open his home to young women who didn’t want to abort their children. But as the Hawaiian abortion industry cranked up, his efforts had to expand. He moved his operation from smaller Maui to the largest island of Oahu where most of the abortions were occurring.
“The Knights of Columbus gave us an office and we opened as “Mother and Unborn baby Care”, Pearson says, “We naively chose that name because I thought there would be many women who naturally wanted to keep their babies. With that name we only got one or two women per week.” Things changed, though, when Pearson changed the clinic name to the Pregnancy Problem Center. “Sadly, so many of them really think that pregnancy is a problem. After we changed that name, we went from two a week to ten a day.” The name changed also marked a change in strategy, a strategy that ushered in years of lawsuits.
The Pearson counseling method has changed little in 26 years. “We began by offering free pregnancy tests,” Pearson recalls. “This would take thirty minutes, thirty minutes to save a baby’s life. While waiting for the results we would give a presentation, which made four points. First we would discuss the side effects of abortion. These young women were beings told that it was like having a tooth pulled, which is nonsense. Second, we showed them the development of the baby starting at the older age and working backwards. This was to plant in their minds that it really is always a baby. Third, we showed them a film of an actual abortion. Last, we offered them assistance—a shelter, a home, somewhere to go. We even offered to pay their car payments if that was the problem that led them to consider abortion in the first place.”
Pearson says the most effective device was showing the actual abortion. “These young women, many of whom had had abortions before, would see this film and say “I can’t do that to a baby.” They were, and still are, continuously lied to by the abortionists who tell them that the fetus is a piece of meat, nothing more. The film changes that perception. Many of these women would later bring in their friends and change their minds, too.”
In no time Pearson had opened 13 centers in Hawaii, and he estimates that thousands of babies were thereby saved, “Originally I didn’t think we would be operating very long, maybe three years. I was certain the Supreme Court would overturn Hawaii’s decision.” Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 opened the abortion flood-gates, horrified Pearson. Five years later he went on the road to open Pregnancy Problem Centers all over the country.
“The first one was in Jonesboro, Arkansas,” he says. “We would arrive in town and meet with the local churches and urge them to help us set up a center,” says Pearson. “After Jonesboro came Little Rock, then Oklahoma City.”
Originally, there was no umbrella organization. Pearson merely went around and helped people open centers for themselves. “But then we found out that some of the people opening centers with us started offering contraceptive advice,” he says. “We explained to them that contraception was the beginning of abortion, that it made abortion O.K.; but not all of them were Catholic, so they disagreed. Some of them became little different from Planned Parenthood.” So Pearson began affiliating them with his Pearson Foundation, later the White Rose Foundation. There were hundreds of them.
Then came the lawsuits. Operators of Pearson Centers were sued for everything from stretch marks to unlawful birth. At one time as much as 56,000,000 in suits were working against Pearson and his allies.
The man who got the worst of the lawsuits was long-time Pearson ally Charles J. Pelletier, who runs a center in Fort Worth, Texas. Pelletier, 52, piloted Cobra attack helicopters in Vietnam until he was shot down on All Saints Day in 1970 and paralyzed from the waist down. “God kept me alive for one purpose, and that is for what I am doing now,’ he explains.
Pelletier heard Pearson speak at a Dallas seminar on opening centers in 1984. Within two months Pelletier opened a center in his home town. As are all Pearson Centers, Pelletier’s was very aggressive in attracting young women wanting abortions. He ran ads and put signs up all over Ft. Worth. “We told the women what we did, but we never told them what we wouldn’t do, which was provide abortions or abortion referrals. Once we got them inside we would counsel them.”
In March of 1985, barely six months after the center opened, a suit was brought by the Texas Attorney General James Mattox, the CLU and the National Organization for Women. “They thought our approach was deceptive in that we used words like ‘pregnancy’ and ‘problem’ in our advertising. You see, when someone called and asked about abortion, we would just change the subject, ask her whether she had had a pregnancy test, or whatever, NOW thought this was deceptive. And they were particularly upset because we had had such a success rate.”
Pelletier describes the proceedings as a kangaroo court. “The Texas AG was a former congressman with a 100% pro-abortion voting record and the judge was a long-time attorney for the ACLU,” he explains. “One of the young women who brought the original complaint reversed herself during the trial, said she had perjured herself against us and wanted to set the record straight. The judge wouldn’t allow her to testify.”
The judgment went against Pelletier. To this day all of his advertising must state in bold type that they do not perform abortions or make abortion referrals. They must make the same disclaimer the moment someone calls on the phone or comes in the door. The judgment also went after Pelletier financially. A $100,000 judgment, growing at 10% per year, still hangs over his head. “Blood from a stone,” he says. “We have nothing.- They could come and take away our hospital beds and a couple of TV’s.” Pelletier is personally protected because Texas is a homestead state, where homes and cars are protected from judgements. His sole income is from his veteran’s disability, which is also not attachable. “They could take the change from my pocket if they saw me on the street.”
Pelletier estimates that were it not for his legal battles, his centers would be saving 1500 babies every year by now. Ten years later he calculates that cost at over 10,000 lives at his center alone. Similar suits have been brought against centers around the country, most of which have never gone to trial. Fearing financial ruin, many operators have signed consent decrees agreeing to the stipulations brought in the Pelletier suit. The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case.
Bob Pearson is sanguine about the future of the movement. “We will continue to save babies, and with prayer and hard work this law will be changed,” he says. Most of Pearson’s time is spent building Star of the Sea Village, but he says he will travel anywhere at any time to assist the pro-life movement.
“Bob Pearson has saved more babies than any man in America,” says Fr. Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International. “He completely sacrificed a very lucrative career to save babies. He is a living saint.”