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Paynesville Press - Feb. 12, 2003

MCCL banquet featured on Nightline

By Michael Jacobson

In January, to mark the 30 years since the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion throughout the United States, the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) held their annual march in St. Paul and banquets across the state.

This year, however, due to the anniversary, the events drew more than their usual coverage from the media, including a segment on ABC's Nightline that featured the march in St. Paul, the MCCL office in Minneapolis, and the annual banquet of the Paynesville chapter, the home of MCCL executive director Scott Fischbach.

MCCL rally "There had been a lot of media coverage because it was the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade," said Fischbach, a Paynesville native who got his start in the pro-life movement through the local MCCL chapter. "There were a lot of cameras in and out of the office. When the Nightline crew heard about the banquet, they wanted to come out."

A group of pro-life supporters from the local chapter of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life attended a recent march at the capital in St. Paul.

Nightline - a national show featuring host Ted Koppel that started during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 - used a producer from New York City but a camera crew from KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, the local ABC affiliate, according to Fischbach. They were very nice, but aggressive, too, he added.

The crew spent four days with Fischbach in the Twin Cities: in the office, at the capital, and at the march. Then they came to Paynesville for the banquet on Wednesday, Jan. 22, and the show aired that same night.

"It was exciting because Nightline reaches many, many people and finally the message we've been given is being spread," said Rosemary Dilley, who has been involved in the local MCCL chapter for nearly 35 years, almost from the very beginning of the MCCL, which will celebrate 35 years in June.

The broadcast featured three segments: on Minnesota, on Texas, and a debate. Fischbach said the Minnesota segment was very fair, but thought the Texas segment felt slanted and did not like the debate. While the crew filmed most of the local banquet, only a few seconds appeared in the broadcast. "They had a little time and a lot to cover," said Nancy Macht, the president of the local MCCL chapter.

Pastor Rich Hubert of the Evangelical Free Church, a member of the local MCCL chapter, said they filmed 45 minutes at the banquet for what seemed like three seconds on the air. "It was really fast," he said. But, he added, "it was good to see some representation of this local community on the national level." The banquet, with nearly 120 attendees, had roughly 20 percent more people in attendance this year, according to Macht, who thought the good turnout might have been affected by Nightline's presence.

Rosemary Dilley and Scott Fischbach At the banquet, Dilley was given a service award for her three decades in the local MCCL chapter. She said she was shocked and speechless when the award was announced. Dilley helped found the local chapter and has revived it on a number of occasions. She got involved in the pro-life movement, she said, "because I believe in life." As a mother of seven, she said she knows that she could feel the life of a baby in the womb from the beginning.

Rosemary Dilley was presented with a service award at the recent local MCCL banquet by Scott Fischbach, executive director for the MCCL. Dilley has been active in the local chapter for nearly 35 years.

She has been the pro-life representative for St. Louis Catholic Church and for the local Daughters of Isabella chapter. MCCL, in addition to pro-life lobbying, also has a prayer book at church for aborted children and has a monument for baby's names at the Catholic cemetery.

She takes special pride in the times when her beliefs and her commitment to the pro-life movement have caused someone to reconsider having an abortion.

Nothing epitomizes the grassroots effort of the MCCL than longtime volunteers like Dilley, said Fischbach, which was part of the recognition in the Nightline broadcast. "It's a real testament to how hard the grassroots people have worked," he said.

"It certainly is a grassroots campaign," agreed Hubert. "Paynesville, as far as I know, is one of the most active chapters in the state. That's pretty significant in itself."

For Dilley, having the executive director of the state organization hail from Paynesville and get started in the pro-life movement through the local MCCL chapter is a point of pride, is a way to put Paynesville on the map. "I'm proud of Scott," she said, "for making this his life's work."

Even with the publicity in January, the pro-life movement has a lot of work to do, said Fischbach. The MCCL was very pleased with the election results in November. MCCL's six goals were to elect a pro-life governor (Tim Pawlenty), a pro-life U.S. Senator (Norm Coleman), pro-life U.S. Representatives in the Third (John Kline) and Sixth districts (Mark Kennedy), and gain pro-life members in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature.

"We were able to do all six,"Ęsaid Fischbach.

In the Minnesota Legislature this session, MCCL hopes to pass two pieces of legislation. One is the Women's Right to Know bill, which Fischbach describes as informed consent. It would require 24-hour notification in advance of the risks, complications, and alternatives to abortion, including the father's financial obligation. This legislation has been passed in recent years, but was vetoed twice by Gov. Jesse Ventura.

MCCL also hopes to pass the Taxpayer Protection Act, which would cut state funding to any organization that promotes or refers abortions. This bill is very topical since the Legislature's biggest problem will be balancing the state budget deficit, said Michelle Fischbach, who is a Republican representing Senate District 14 in the Minnesota Senate and is married to Scott.

"It seems like the absolute best time to do that," she said. "With the deficit, it seems like an opportune time to do that."

Until Governor Pawlenty releases his budget later in February and the dust starts to settle from that, Michelle Fischbach does not expect much to happen with these bills. So far, little has been done with policy bills in the Legislature, but she expects that these two measures could start to move through the Legislature in March or April.

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