ORTL Board Member Carries on Mother’s Pro-Life Legacy


When Merissa Zielinski’s mom passed away in 2017, it was more than the loss of a beloved parent. It was also the passing of a torch that began when Nedora Counts, her mother, joined the board of Oregon Right to Life’s Political Action Committee (ORTL PAC) several decades ago. 

“I grew up in a pro-life home and have always been pro-life,” says Zielinski, a Gervais-based speech-language pathologist. “Protecting human life has always felt like the most logical thing in the world.”

She learned that from her mother. Counts served on the PAC board for 35 years, in addition to numerous other pro-life activities. Even as she fought cancer for 17 years, she tirelessly attended board meetings, stuffed envelopes, picketed abortion centers, supported pro-life legislation at the Capitol, processed thousands of auction donations and did whatever else needed doing at ORTL. These activities continued until mere weeks before Counts’ death at the age of 75.

ORTL executive director Lois Anderson approached Zielinski about joining the board in 2018, and Zielinski accepted. “The timing felt right to continue [my mother’s] legacy,” she says. “It’s important to me for ORTL to continue into the future while retaining the values of the past.”

Those words aren’t just for Zielinski’s pro-life beliefs, either. She and her husband Brian are raising their four children ­— soon-to-be five, as Zielinski is pregnant — at Scenic Valley Farms. Brian’s parents started it in 1970, today growing over a thousand acres of pears, wheat, hazelnuts, hops, grass seed and wine grapes.

“I am currently spending most of my time chasing my young children and helping my husband with farm and winery tasks,” Zielinski says. That being said, she also enjoys hanging out with fellow pro-lifers from around the state: “They are a joyful, vibrant group!”

As a board member, Zielinski is looking forward to the expansion of ORTL Education Foundation’s pro-life communities project, in which each town and city has a ready list of local pro-life resources. “It is a simple yet powerful program that ensures each community in Oregon has the resources available to support a woman in an unsupported pregnancy,” she says. “The culture, more than ever, is spewing death and destruction as the answer to hard issues.”

Zielinski knows those things are anything but solutions — which is exactly why working hand-in-hand with ORTL PAC’s board is so important to her.

“ORTL and ORTL Education Foundation are at the forefront of offering a life-saving and life-giving alternative to that message,” she says. “The organization is witnessing to the truth at all places in Oregon — in the legislature, within our schools and within the community — and it is doing so with professionalism, wisdom and love.”

“I am in awe of the leadership and staff at ORTL who work tirelessly to meet each new affront to life within Oregon.”

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