Pro-life. Speak those two hyphenated words and a millennia of placard-wielding, fired-up activists are invoked. Emily’s Voice is unashamedly pro-life but also pro-woman.
Motivated by love for women and their unborn children, the Toowoomba-born charity uses clever, compelling, hopeful and truthful media campaigns to influence culture about the life issue.
CEO Paul O’Rourke explains that the organisation’s vision is, “to be an organisation responsible for significantly reducing the abortion rate in Australia, but without shaming or guilting women, regardless of the choice they make”.
The not-for-profit organisation was tested and perfected in Toowoomba, and this year celebrates 10 years of its fresh look at the life issue. From small beginnings, Emily’s Voice has spread to inhabit a large footprint of 4.7 million viewers in four states (Tasmania, Queensland, NSW and WA). This has been achieved simply by delivering real life stories of everyday Australians and how they have come to terms with unplanned and crisis pregnancies.
Advertising is the vehicle of choice and Emily’s Voice ads, which you have no doubt seen with the Not Born Yet tagline, are aired on television, radio, billboards, bus backs, social media including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
The messages are simple: we coped, you can too; support is available; you’re stronger than you think; life is precious; your world won’t cave in if you say yes to parenthood. The ads feature a bloke who finds out his wife of one month is pregnant, a girl who has just moved to Australia from the Philippines and discovers she is pregnant, a young woman who was adopted and is grateful to her birth mother, a woman who had an abortion when she was 18 and regrets that decision, and many others.
The birth of Emily’s Voice
It all began when co-founders Isaac and Mel Moody were on holiday in India and had the idea to address the life issue. It was 2005 and that scrap of a plan was shared around a dining table with two other couples; Katrina and Adrian Hobbs, and Kylie and Amos Moody. Passion grew for a compelling, sensitive and continuous media campaign to help people fall in love with the unborn and support women.
Originally, the organisation was going to be called Mia’s Voice, as Mia was one of the most popular girls’ names of 2006. However, when the fledgling group made their first ad, the unborn child in the footage was named Emily. Emily was agreed on as a more timeless name, and it stuck. At the time, none of the group had heard of EMILY’s List (Early Money is Like Yeast), a Labor women’s political wing seeking to have women elected to parliament who are pro-choice.
Emily was simply a name representing every baby and every mother who needed a voice.
Emily’s Voice CEO Paul O’Rourke is known to many as the former CEO of Compassion Australia, an author and an advocate for children. In his five years in the role he has seen measurable results in people’s opinion on the life issue. According to Galaxy Research surveys conducted before and after campaigns in Tasmania and the Darling Downs, 25% and 22% of residents aged 16-24, respectively, changed their views on life, and 11% and 7%, respectively, of those aged 16-49.
Paul ultimately left Compassion Australia where he had been CEO for nine years to join Emily’s Voice.
“Isaac showed me the first ad and I remember saying to him, ‘I can sell that. I can’t sell placards outside abortion clinics, but I can get behind a positive, gentle message that’s for women and children.’
“I also remember getting quite teary when I saw the ad and heard the vision.
“It took me a few years to connect the dots. We had an unplanned pregnancy at 20 when we were engaged, and I remember the GP giving us a hard time about our unsuitability to be parents.
“As I did a Masters degree in child development, I came face to face with the enormity of the life issue.
“It really is our most unattended emergency. Most Australians have no idea about the vast numbers of abortions, an estimated 80,000 every year, or why women have them. That’s more than the combined annual deaths from cancer and heart disease, and many women are left devastated by an irreversible choice often made under pressure from others at a time when she is vulnerable.
“It’s time to restart and reframe the conversation about life.”
Many children have been born as a result of the powerful Not Born Yet ads. These include several mothers of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in utero, who heard Jimmy’s story. Jimmy’s mum Veronica shares on one ad how her life is “richer, clearer, fuller” with Jimmy around. He has Down syndrome and is a wonderful example of how an unexpected circumstance can actually result in unexpected joy.
Another success story is that of Stacey and Oliver. Stacey was 16 when she fell pregnant and she was living at a women’s shelter, taking drugs, skipping school. She was seriously contemplating abortion when she saw an Emily’s Voice ad on television, not once, but three times. She credits Oliver’s life, and her own, to the message embedded in the ad: that life is worth fighting for. She has turned her whole life around and now lives with new purpose.
Loving them both: woman and child
Emily’s Voice board chair Katrina Hobbs says that it grieves her to hear how women facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies are immediately asked, “What are you going to do?”
“This is so anti woman,” she says.
“I hear so many stories of women that may be in a difficult situation and these sort of well meaning but disconnected-with-reality comments or attitudes leave a woman abandoned, alone and messages of “crisis” “pressured decisions” and “choices” are thrown at her.
“My motivation and commitment for Emily’s Voice comes from a deep dissatisfaction about the way pregnant women in difficult circumstances are being treated. They are often not told the whole truth, they are often treated as if they have a problem or a crisis, they are not always being supported and society says to them “what are you going to do?” – rather than “I will help you!”
Do we still need Emily’s Voice?
Katrina thinks so.
“Emily’s Voice is needed in Australia as long as women are still needing encouragement and still needing to hear real stories of how others have overcome difficult situations. Let’s face it, even the worst situation is made easier when someone else can identify with you and tell you how they responded in the same or similar circumstances.”
Would you like to support the work of Emily’s Voice?
If you’re from Toowoomba, buy yourself a ticket to our 10 Year Anniversary celebration dinner here.
If not, there are lots of other ways to get involved and support culture change.
Click here to learn more.