ACLU Leaders Organize to Oust Director After Attack on Pregnancy Centers

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

ACLU Leaders Organize to Oust Director After Attack on Pregnancy Centers Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 26, 2006

Washington, DC ( — Some leaders within the ACLU, a national pro-abortion legal organization, are apparently organizing a campaign to oust the current director of the organization after it endorsed legislation to limit the free speech rights of crisis pregnancy centers. The ACLU has since withdrawn its support for the bill but tried to censure board members who criticized its position.

The ACLU joined leading pro-abortion organizations in April in backing a Congressional measure that would threaten to shut down pregnancy centers that abortion advocates say deceive women because they don’t do abortions.

Members of the ACLU board gave various media interviews saying they disagreed with the groups’ decision to support the bill and say the board should have been consulted. The ACLU eventually recanted its support but an ACLU board committee approved a motion to censure the dissidents.

The full ACLU board didn’t adopt the proposal, but the dissidents appear to be targeting the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero. According to the New York Sun newspaper, some board members, former officials and top donors are organizing a campaign to oust Romero.

Alan Kahn, an investment manager who is a longtime ACLU donor says Ira Glasser, who headed the group for 23 years, may get involved as well.

"Apparently, he gave a strong recommendation to the hiring of Romero. He sees this was a poor recommendation and has now realized he has no choice but to take some action," Kahn told the newspaper. "I have heard it said to me that he feels that he has to atone for what he’s done and now is maybe willing to become activist."

"That got me because I’m a firm believer in content-neutral defense of free speech. The fact that the ACLU would abandon that position was an earthquake," Kahn added about the pro-abortion law firm’s backing the bill going after pregnancy centers. "The organization has lost its way."

The Sun reports that an internal group has initially formed called the Committee to Save the ACLU and has registered a web site on the Internet. Romero said he had not heard of the effort to oust him.

The committee that adopted the proposal to censure board members signed off on a statement saying they should no longer speak to the media and be mindful of the financial costs of public disagreement.

"Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement," the committee proposed.

"Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the ACLU adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising," the proposal stated

The proposal also said board members may "publicly disagree with an ACLU policy position, but may not criticize the ACLU board or staff."

Nat Henthoff, a former ACLU board member who is pro-life and a nationally syndicated columnist, told the New York Times: "For the national board to consider promulgating a gag order on its members — I can’t think of anything more contrary to the reason the ACLU exists."

Wendy Kaminer, a board member who spoke against the support for the abortion bill, told the Times, that anyone who disagrees with a policy position is, in essence, criticizing the ACLU staff or board who proposed and support it.

"If you disagree with a policy position," she said, "you are implicitly criticizing the judgment of whoever adopted the position, board or staff."

Romero said he opposed the proposals and the ACLU eventually backed off of its support for the bill. The original press release supporting it and any mention of the legislation have been removed from the group’s web site.

Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, the bill directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a rule prohibiting pregnancy centers from trying to deceive women into thinking they perform abortions.

Maloney did not provide any examples of crisis pregnancy centers falsely advertising abortions when she filed her bill and three groups that represent thousands of pregnancy centers across the country called it an "old recycled" attempt to attack pregnancy centers.

"This is nothing more than a routine attack on pregnancy centers by organizations seeking to limit their competition," Care Net president Kurt Entsminger said in a statement provided to