Our First Years

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Excerpts from an article by dave Porter Life in Oregon, august-September, 1995

Four families, the Kleins, the Klupengers, the Betscharts, and the Hertls, recognized the need to organize a pro-life group. With the pro-bono help of attorney Fred Granata, on August 22, 1970, they submitted incorporation papers to the state of Oregon as “Right to Life.”

Joining them were many local advocates, as well as Dr. Donald Manion, Dr. Russell Sacco, and Dr. Ed Zuelke. These three physicians spoke anywhere they could get a platform.

At this early date, fundamental questions were being asked: What can we do for the woman for whom an unplanned pregnancy is a serious problem? What about the alternatives to abortion? A group of women, with Bonnie Manion as the driving force, founded Birthright. After operating in rooms in the Manion’s basement, it soon became apparent that a public office was needed. An office was opened in the central part of Portland, and the following day women were served.

At this juncture, in about 1971, the two groups, led by Klein and Manion, joined under the name “Right to Life.” 

If one sees the pro-life movement as a river, then these two groups were tributary streams. However, they were not the only ones. All over the state, other “self-starters” were on the move. In Eugene, Ellen Lyford and her cohorts were initiating pro-life activities. In Grants Pass, Myrna Shaneyfelt and her friends jumped in to help. There were also many others.

Since Manion’s basement was now available, Right To Life moved in. For a few years, this was the closest thing to a state office. Catherine Barsotti and Bonnie Corboy, along with many others, were volunteers at this office for years. Pro-life speakers went to schools, churches, and other groups. Printed materials were designed and distributed. Pro-life bumper stickers were sold as a fundraiser.

In January of 1973, the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade shocked the world. Roe v. Wade was a tragedy, but it had a flip side. It galvanized many more Oregonians and Americans into action. The year between the decision and January 1974 was a time of unprecedented growth and activity in Oregon’s pro-life movement.  

From the beginning, thoughtful pro-lifers realized the necessity of drawing people of every denomination, and those with no religious affiliation, into the movement. By January of 1974, as history shows, Right to Life was showing energy, talent and ingenuity in fighting the pro-life battle.

Do you or a member of your family have memories, photos, videos or materials you would be willing to share? As we commemorate our 50th year we are creating an archive to document the important work of pro-life advocates in Oregon. Please contact Sharolyn Smith at 503/463-8563 or send them directly to Sharolyn@ortl.org or mail to 4335 River RD N, Keizer Oregon attn: Sharolyn


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