Priests For Life

Priests for Life became well known for its protests using graphic images and advocating for and inciting violence against abortion providers. The group has become increasingly dominant in electoral and legislative arenas in the last decade, asserting its extremism into laws and policy.

Summary Extremism Key Players Influence Related Orgs


Priests For Life sprung forth from a letter writing campaign to oppose a pro-abortion ballot initiative in the early 1990s. Since then, Priests For Life has split time between trying to influence elections, displaying extremely graphic images in public, and allying themselves with violent anti-abortion protestors.

Priests For Life’s work and public image is dominated by its leader, Frank Pavone, who often compares himself to canonized saints in the Catholic Church. Pavone also openly opposes the separation of church and state, and claims the state needs more church in it. In recent years, Priests For Life has livestreamed its support of Donald Trump and publicly opposed rape and incest exemptions in anti-abortion laws.


Priests For Life (PFL) works with violent anti-abortion activists and has hand waved killings of abortion doctors — despite its claim to support nonviolent protest.

Priests For Life National Director Frank Pavone: “When someone kills an abortion provider, he/she is practicing what pro-choicers have preached for decades: that sometimes it is OK to choose to end a life to solve a problem.” [Catholics For Choice, Page 14, Accessed 9/19/19]

Priests For Life says anti-abortion activists do not promote violence, and that only pro-abortion can be credibly accused of promoting violence… “They cannot say that the pro-life movement promotes violence, because the leaders of every major pro-life group in the nation have expressed their opposition to the shooting of abortionists… It is the rhetoric of ‘choice’ that fuels violence. By exalting ‘choice’ and ‘freedom,’ even when the free choice is the killing of a human being, this rhetoric degrades the value of all human life. ‘Abortion on demand – no apologies.’ That is the rhetoric of violence. It does not deny that abortion kills children. It simply says, ‘I don’t care. My choice is more important than the child’s life.’” [, Accessed 4/22/19]

…But Pavone advocated for “guerilla warfare” tactics against abortion providers “including threats and acts of physical violence in blocking them.” “Father Pavone also openly declares that ‘breaking a law of trespass to prevent killing is perfectly justified if it rescues babies (from abortion clinics) and in other circumstances’. In his booklet Our Media in the Streets he advocates guerrilla warfare tactics against women’s healthcare clinics that include threats and acts of physical violence in blockading them, despite a new law of Congress forbidding such behavior” [The Herald, 1/09/01]

Pavone, alongside members of violent group Operation Rescue, met with the Department of Justice to oppose the FACE Act — which was passed to protect abortion providers from violent protests following murders of abortion doctors. “Members of Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion groups met Tuesday with Justice Department officials to protest what they termed ‘McCarthy-like’ tactics being used by the FBI’s investigation into the murders of abortion doctors in Pensacola and other instances of violence at abortion clinics across the country. Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said the Clinton administration has ‘engaged in a political witch hunt’ against peaceful anti-abortion activists. Along with Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue National and Father Frank Pravone [sic] of Priests for Life of Port Jarvis, New York, Mahoney met with Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris for nearly an hour. The activists voiced opposition to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law, known as ‘FACE’, which they say is just another Clinton administration curb of their free-speech rights.” [Boston Globe, 10/19/94]

Pavone blamed a shooting at a Planned Parenthood which left three dead on abortion supporters for “poisoning the moral climate in our nation.” “Frank Pavone, the president of Priests for Life, said this week that although he doesn’t support blaming anybody for an anti-abortion crusader’s murder spree at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado last month, if anybody were to blame for such ‘deranged acts of violence’ it would be pro-choicers who are ‘poisoning the moral climate in our nation.’” [Right Wing Watch, 12/18/15]

Pavone’s reaction to the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, was to lament the possibly of new ordinances which could curtail clinic blocking protest tactics. “The slaying of a Kansas abortion doctor put the anti-abortion movement on the defensive Monday with prominent leaders delicately distancing themselves from the accused killer while positioning their stand as one shared by a majority of Americans.…‘It creates a whole storm of emotions that can just make reasonable processes more difficult,’ said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, referring to the legislative process. He said he worried that cities may also seek to enact their own ordinances blocking protests from abortion clinics.” [Associated Press, 6/01/09]

A close Priests For Life ally and friend of Pavone was found guilty of extortion and threats of violence for his extreme protesting tactics at anti-abortion clinics. “Egan’s decision to reassign Pavone to parish work came amid continued appeals and publicity in the National Organization for Women’s case against Joseph Scheidler, a close PFL ally who had been found guilty of extortion and threats of violence for his obstruction tactics at abortion clinics. ‘I know nobody in the world,’ Pavone had said in 1999, ‘more opposed to violence than Joseph Scheidler’ but in 2001, an appeals court called the record of Scheidler and his associates ‘replete with PFL’s support is reserved specifically for Republicans and not, as Pavone claims frequently, apolitically for ‘life.’ evidence of instances in which their conduct crossed the line from protected speech to illegal acts, including acts of violence.’” [Catholics for Choice Report, Page 3, Accessed 5/09/19]

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Priests For Life and Pavone frequently use graphic images and displays — including the use of human fetuses — to advocate against abortion.

Frank Pavone is a staunch advocate of displaying graphic, violent images to support anti-abortion causes. “Fr. Frank Pavone, considered one of today’s most knowledgeable, respected and widely travelled pro-life evangelists, recently gave his views on the use of graphic abortion photos at the 2007 Canadian March for Life Youth Conference in Ottawa. Pavone strongly supports the use of such images as one important part of pro-life strategies. Pavone stated, ‘There is no single thing that I have seen more powerful to change people on abortion than simply showing them the pictures… When people see what abortion does to a baby, they are stung to the heart and their consciences are awakened.’” [Life Site, 7/20/07]

  • Frank Pavone: “Some people think abortion just makes the baby kind of disappear. They still don’t appreciate that it is an act of violence.  It is only the pictures of the aborted children, torn apart, limb for limb that convince people that abortion is an act of violence.” [Life Site, 7/20/07]

Pavone placed a human fetus on an altar during a Facebook livestream urging Donald Trump to oppose abortion during his 2016 campaign. “A Catholic priest placed a human foetus [sic] on his church altar and live streamed the ceremony, appealing to Donald Trump to stop abortion. Ahead of the US election this week, Reverend Frank Pavone posted a live video to Facebook in opposition to the continued ‘child killing’ in America, urging people to vote for the now president-elect.” [Telegraph, 11/10/16]

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Priests For Life uses lies and disinformation to aid its anti-abortion crusades.

Pavone Claimed That Abortion Providers Sexually Abuse Patients, Launder Money And Violate OSHA Standards. “‘And when we look there,’ he said, ‘we see the truth that I have often reiterated, that you cannot practice vice virtuously. If you have such a seared conscience that you’re killing babies, well, friends, you’re going to be doing a lot of other evil things as well: medical malpractice, sexual abuse of patients, violation of OSHA standards, insurance laws, money laundering, all kinds of fraud and, yes, even the sale of body parts. All of this and much more is going on in the abortion industry.’” [Right Wing Watch, 12/15/15]

Priests For Life National Director Frank Pavone advocates for misleading and redirecting women seeking abortion clinics to anti-abortion pregnancy clinics. “Pavone’s manual recommends the ‘Chicago method’ of misleading and redirecting pregnant women as they approach clinics. The method as outlined by Pavone entails warning a woman about supposed malpractice lawsuits against the abortion clinic and recommending an ‘alternative center’ with a “neutral-sounding name’—’You might even offer to escort her there.’” [Catholics For Choice, Page 17, Accessed 9/19/19]

  • Pavone wrote an op-ed which opposing laws requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to offer referrals to abortion clinics. “There is, however, nothing commercial about pregnancy resource centers, which are nonprofit organizations that offer free goods and services to their clients. They’re akin to legal aid offices, which offer no-cost services and advice.” [Chicago Tribune, 3/20/18]

“The Catholic group Priests for Life said in a lawsuit that some types of contraception are abortion-inducing (a phrase Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh quoted at his confirmation hearing.)” [The Daily American, 9/13/18]

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Priests For Life leader Frank Pavone urged the Republican National Committee to oppose rape and incest abortion exemptions.

Pavone signed a letter to the Republican National Committee asking the party to stop supporting rape and incest abortion exemptions. “Emboldened by the bans, 17 anti-abortion leaders sent a letter Wednesday to Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel requesting a meeting and urging the GOP to explicitly oppose exceptions for rape and incest. The signatories included Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, the Rev. Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, and activist Ryan Bomberger, the son of a woman who was impregnated by a rapist but opted against having an abortion.” [AP, 5/24/19]

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Priests For Life’s national director said abortion is a more important issue than poverty, immigration, war, homelessness and health care.

Priests For Life National Director Frank Pavone said abortion is a more important issue than poverty, immigration, war, homelessness and health care. “The Democratic vice presidential nominee, Pavone said, ‘represents a brand of thinking’ among some Catholics who talk about social justice issues like ‘poverty, immigration, war and peace, homelessness, health care’ when really abortion is ‘a more important and weighty issue than all these other issues’ and it is ‘more important that someone be right on abortion than they be right on these other issues.’” [US Official News, 9/19/16]

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Priests For Life National Director Pavone claimed to be “close” to the Center For Medical Progress, which released videos that was referenced as inspiration a health center shooting.

Pavone claimed to be “close” to the Center For Medical Progress. “As one of those who is close to this project through my partnership with Operation Rescue, and who knows the key players in this investigation, I can say that what is unfolding here is not simply a public relations tactic to get attention today, it is a strategy to change the conversation forever.” [USA Today, 7/30/15]

The group Center For Medical Progress released a series of deceptively altered videos to smear Planned Parenthood. “The videos, recorded by two activists posing as representatives of a biotechnology firm procuring tissue for researchers and universities, continue to be released online about once a week. One of the activists, David Daleiden of California, told The New York Times last month that his ‘thousands of hours of videotape’ was enough to release videos into the fall…But, it said, ‘the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries’ unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.” [New York Times, 8/27/15]

The false claims in the Center For Medical Progress videos were cited by an extremist who shot up a Planned Parenthood, killing three people in 2015. “On November 27, 2015, Robert Lewis Dear Jr. was arrested after a siege at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood left three people dead…In addition, Dear has claimed to be a ‘warrior for the babies’ who targeted Planned Parenthood because it ’sell[s] baby parts’—a widely debunked argument put forth by the anti-choice activist David Daleiden and his front group the Center for Medical Progress.” [Rewire News, 11/28/16]

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Priests For Life National Director Pavone opposes separation of church and state, and his political ideology was compared to the Catholic fascism of the former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

The Herald: Frank Pavone’s ideology is on the verge of “the falangist crypto-facism” of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. “It is also little realised that theocrats are not just Protestant fundamentalists, but include a tiny Catholic faction of extremists who verge on the falangist crypto-fascism of the late caudillo of Spain, General Franco. One such practitioner is Father Frank Pavone and his Priests for Life group in New York. He is a fanatical opponent of abortion and has close ties to the Vatican.” [The Herald, 1/09/01]

Pavone advocates against constitutional separation of church and state. “A study of Pavone published recently by the Institute for Democracy Studies shows that the priest openly opposes the US constitution’s insistence on separation of church and state. ‘Not only do individuals have a duty to obey God, but so do governments,’ he says. ‘Separation of Church and state does not mean separation of God and state.’ He adds that Christians should ‘awaken’ to this, ‘not just Catholics, but all Christians, believers, and all Americans’.” [The Herald, 1/09/01]

  • “[Priests For Life] purports to accept church-state separation but advances a version of the principle that is at odds with the conventional one and calls openly for more church in the state.” [Catholics For Choice, Page 2, Accessed 9/19/19]

Priests For Life frequently claims obedience to a divine authority which outranks any government authority and laments legal structures which impinge on this obedience. “Alongside PFL’s electoral activity, there is the frequent claim of obedience only to a divine authority who outranks any government agency. Pavone complained in 2002, for example, of ‘legalistic jargon’ that demanded PFL respect ‘nondiscrimination’ and other mainstream values—’all of it, of course, ‘as required by law,’ he said.” [Catholics For Choice, Page 2, Accessed 9/19/19]

Pavone: “The church does not dictate the policies of the nation. The Church proclaims the truth of God to which all these [public] policies must conform.” “Furthermore, I pointed out: At a prayer breakfast during the 2000 Republican Convention, Father Frank Provone of Priests for Life claimed, ‘The church does not dictate the policies of the nation. The Church proclaims the truth of God to which all these [public] policies must conform’” [The Humanist, 8/01/03]

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Priests For Life helped fund a group which considers abortion satanic child sacrifice.

Priests For Life Gave $25,000 to The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform in 2015.

[Priests For Life 2015 990 Form, Page 30]

The Center For Bio-Ethical Reform administers a group called the Genocide Awareness Project… “The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) is working to establish prenatal justice and the right to life for the unborn, the disabled, the infirm, the aged and all vulnerable peoples through education and the development of cutting edge educational resources. CBR’s projects include the Reproductive ‘Choice’ Campaign, the Genocide Awareness Project, Matthew 28:20, and AbortionNO.” [Center For Bio Ethical Reform Website Archive, 9/20/12]

…The Genocide Awareness Project visits college campuses and juxtaposes images of aborted fetuses with genocide. “The Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) is a mobile display that has reached millions of students on college and university campuses in the US and Canada since 1998. The exhibit juxtaposes images of aborted embryos and fetuses with images of victims of historical and contemporary genocides and other injustices. This project is the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s premiere mass media outreach. Pregnant college students frequently change their minds about aborting their babies after viewing the display and interacting with the CBR staff and volunteers who dialogue with students around the display. After one visit to the University of Tennessee CBR was told of eight women who changed their minds about terminating their pregnancies.” [, Accessed 9/24/19]

The Genocide Awareness Project also defines abortion as a “hate crime.“This hate-filled attack on ‘unwanted’ unborn babies is couched in the language of bigotry. This is the dehumanizing rhetoric of genocide. Substitute for the word ‘babies’ the name of any racial group and every mainstream newspaper in the country would rightly reject this mean-spirited ad.” [, June 2012]

The Genocide Awareness Project considers abortion satanic child sacrifice.

[Blog of Genocide Awareness Project Leader Fletcher Armstrong, 9/04/19]

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Key Players

National Director

Father Frank Pavone

Father Frank Pavone describes himself as “one of the most prominent pro-life leaders in the world.” Pavone puts the his image and identity at the center of Priests For Life ad campaigns and work and the group has compared himself to other famous Catholic figures such as Saint Francis. Pavone has ties to violent anti-abortion groups such as Operation Rescue and has blamed victims of abortion clinic violence for “poisoning the moral climate” of America. Frank Pavone was removed from his parish in New York in 2011 after his bishop sent a letter to every other bishop in America warning them not to trust Pavone with any money. Pavone spent a year in a remote parish in the panhandle of Texas, which greatly impeded his ability to run Priests for Life. Since returning to New York in 2012, Pavone has enthusiastically supported Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency.

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Priests For Life has close ties to March For Life.

Priests For Life: “Priests For Life organizes and helps to lead a number of events associated with the annual March For Life in Washington and Walk For Life West Coast.” [, Accessed 4/22/19]

Priests For Life Director Frank Pavone was emailing March For Life Founder Nellie Gray on her deathbed to “stop the evil of abortion because it is evil.” “Ms. Gray was active in her organization until the end. The Rev. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, posted on the organization’s Web site an e-mail message that he said she had sent him just days ago. It read in part, ‘We shall unify and stop the evil of abortion because it is evil.’” [New York Times, 8/15/12]

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Priests For Life has used the legal system to push its right-wing ideology, including by opposing the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

Priests For Life teamed up with Life Dynamics to run an anti-abortion campaign which “threatened schools with lawsuits based with distorted legal claims and provocative language such as ‘child abuse’ and ‘pedophile.’” “They use language, images, and symbols that are designed to play on broad public anxieties about sexuality. Much of this rhetoric is inflammatory and misleading, as is the case in Life Dynamics’ and Priests for Life’s current anti-abortion campaign, the Child Predators Project, which threatens schools with lawsuits based on distorted legal claims and provocative language such as ‘child abuse’ and ‘pedophile.’ Their rhetoric draws on our broader sexual culture of fear and shame — especially in relation to childhood sexuality — giving this language a great deal of emotional power. Simply put, they frighten and intimidate people.” [ISP-Inter Press Service, 11/18/02]

Priests For Life filed a claim in court opposing the contraceptive mandate. “Priests for Life is back in court to fight for religious freedom. On behalf of the national pro-life ministry, the American Freedom Law Center filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the mandate that Priests for Life insurance plans must provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization services to its employees.” [Zenit, 8/20/13]

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Since its inception, Priests For Life has engaged in electoral politics — despite its 501(c)3 nonprofit status — which has been the subject of outside IRS complaints.

Priests For Life emerged out of a letter writing campaign urging priests and churchgoers to oppose a ballot initiative. “Literally since its inception, PFL has been dedicated to electoral campaigning: Founder Lee Kaylor organized a letter writing campaign in 1990 urging his fellow priests throughout California to mobilize parishioners against a prochoice ballot measure; within months, PFL emerged out of that effort, and Kaylor determined the group’s primary activity would be sending an antichoice newsletter to priests around the country via their dioceses.” [Catholics for Choice Report, Page 2, Accessed 5/09/19]

Pavone told the House Republican Prolife Caucus in 1996 he had “heard enough of what churches cannot do in the political arena.” “Pavone, who would become deeply involved in that network, in 1996 met with ‘Republican revolution’ leader Newt Gingrich, told the House of Representatives prolife caucus he had ‘heard enough of what churches cannot do in the political arena’ and denounced Democratic president Bill Clinton.” [Catholics for Choice Report, Page 2, Accessed 5/09/19]

Priests For Life advocated voting for anti-abortion politicians even if they do not subscribe or mix with other Catholic beliefs. “Pavone told the conservative newsweekly Human Events: ‘Because voting is not a canonization, we may morally vote for a less perfect candidate who is actually electable at the present moment, rather than a better candidate who does not have the base of support to actually get into office… If both candidates support some abortion, it is not wrong to vote for the one who is less supportive of abortion.’ 67 Pavone met with candidate, George W. Bush and declared him to be ‘pro-life,’ while attacking candidate Al Gore as ‘an apostle for abortion.’” [The Public Eye, 3/31/01]

Catholics For Choice: “PFL’s defense of its electoral campaigning contradicts directly Internal Revenue Service guidelines on such activity by tax-exempt nonprofits and the IRS has recently issued warnings about increasing levels of banned political activity by tax-exempt groups.” [Catholics for Choice Report, Page 2, Accessed 5/09/19]

  • Priests For Life has been fined by the IRS for unauthorized donation solicitation. “Pavone told RNS that Priests for Life’s budget now stands at $10 million. He regularly issues urgent appeals for support and told RNS that the financial problems the organization had were due to paperwork ‘slipping through the cracks.’ RNS reported that the problems were extensive. Documents emerged, the news agency said, that showed the group was running a $1.4 million deficit yearly and that required Internal Revenue Service statements had not been filed. The group had even been fined in Pennsylvania for soliciting donations without authorization.” [Church and State, 12/01/12]

“Priests for Life [was] the subject of an Internal Revenue Service complaint filed by Catholics for a Free Choice, which accuses the group of electioneering in violation of its federal tax-exemption.” [Conscience, 8/22/07]

Pavone served as an advisor for anti-abortion Senator Brownback’s presidential aspirations in 2006. “But that effort could be hindered by a heavy financial reliance on a conservative Catholic network — besides Monaghan, Brownback’s campaign advisers include former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, another influential conservative Catholic, and the Rev. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life.” [Orlando Sentinel, 12/16/06]

PFL ran a year-long campaign in support of George W. Bush’s first presidential run, including full-page New York Times advertisements and Pavone’s personal endorsements. “In 2000, PFL attracted some of the most intense media coverage in its brief history with its Campaign for Life, an election-year antichoice advertising push that included a full-page New York Times advertisement and was accompanied by Pavone’s brazen endorsement of Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush as a ‘breath of fresh air.’” [Catholics for Choice Report Page 3 Accessed 5/09/19]

  • Pavone explicitly claimed that a “tangible result” of its efforts in 2000 was the successful election of George W. Bush. “Pavone clearly and defiantly stated precisely that view in 2001: When asked what ‘tangible result’ PFL had obtained for the ‘impressive sums of money’ it spent ‘on the [2000] election,’ he replied, ‘The tangible result is now sitting in the White House. While we mentioned no candidate’s name, our message was understood by many.’” [Catholics for Choice Report, Page 9, Accessed 5/09/19]

Priests For Life attempted to influence 2008 elections by sending materials to Catholic voters on “nonnegotiable” issues. “Roman Catholics voting in the 2008 presidential elections must heed church teaching when deciding which candidates and policies to support, U.S. bishops said Wednesday…Among them are Priests for Life and California-based Catholic Answers, which distributed material on five ‘nonnegotiable’ issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which formed last year, issued a guide emphasizing church teachings on war, poverty and social justice.” [Associated Press International, 11/14/07]

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