Is Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) an Organization?
Following a series of posts from pro-life blogger Jill Stanik regarding a recent debate between a member of Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) and a leader in the Pro-life Movement on the best strategy for ending abortion, some issues were raised regarding the use of fundraising by pro-life groups.
In her latest post entitled, “Immediatist vs. Incrementalist” debate analysis, Part VII: So fundraising is wrong?, posted to Jill Stanek’s website but written by Clinton Wilcox of the Life Training Institute,the claim is made that Abolish Human Abortion is incorporated, has a for-profit arm through which it sells t-shirts and other wares, and rents office space.
Those who are following this back and forth know that AHA and to a large degree T. Russell Hunter, has been critical of the way pro-life organizations fundraise and pro-lifers had attempted to prove that AHA was being hypocritical, after having done the same themselves.
In response, T. Russell Hunter made several statements defending AHA which you can read at Jill Stanek’s Facebook page here:
Here Russell says that his grassroots coalition does not have a full blown legal name:
(NOTE: After publishing it was corretly pointed out to me that I misquoted Russell above as not having a full blown legal name – instead of “full blown legal and game.” my error.)
Brian Wagnon also weighed in:
A bone of contention seemed to arise when I posted images of Abolish Human Abortion documents that showed they earned $101,000 in 2013, but I will address that particular document later in this blog.
Russell, posting as Thomas Hunter, quickly responded accusing me of “knowing this story” – what story?
Since Russell and then privately Toby Harmon implied that I knew this history of how AHA attempted to form their organization, collected donations, said they were tax exempt, filed for a C3, etc., and then dropped the entire process, I decided to get the full story from their perspective.
I messaged AHA leader, Don Cooper, about the issue, since he is the one everyone seems to point to regarding all the AHA paperwork. Cooper sent me a detailed timeline and gave me full permission to share EVERYTHING he wrote. I will break this down for you from his perspective and from his notes but in the interest of space, I have edited it down slightly, although all the dates and actual events are included, I have only removed certain non essential comments. If you would like to read the entire timeline in full from Cooper, feel free to request it from him.
FOR THE RECORD: Saynsumthn is not publishing this because I think it was wrong to say that AHA was being hypocritical, but, because it is good to get everything on the table and allow individuals to judge for themselves whether AHA supporters are justified in their criticism of the pro-life movement regarding fundraising.
I am grateful to Cooper for his openness regarding salaries and expenditures and he wanted me to know that he gave me as much detail as he could to the best of his recollection.
“It is possible I have some dates slightly off. I did my best to stay objective about everything. It is also possible that my history of “AHA” is not complete but I am pretty sure I got 99.9% of the relevant stuff here, ” Don Cooper told Saynsumthn.
Toby Harmon of Abolish Human Abortion also messaged me with his account and has given me permission to publish his statements publicly, so here it goes.
Harmon told me, “Nobody is saying that Don Cooper filled out all of that paperwork on his own without permission from quote/unquote AHA leadership. We are saying that at one time we decided to go the organizational route, filled out paperwork to become a 501C3 and about as it was getting approved as a 501C3 we woke up and said no – we’re not going to do this and we cancelled the whole thing.”
Harmon continued, “Now Don [Cooper] still fundraises for his local society…but that is not fundraising for AHA. That doesn’t mean AHA is an organizational model.”
But, not just Cooper’s Society, I have located other Abolitionist Societies with donate buttons currently on their pages like this one in Chicago:
And this one in Sumner County:
The Abolitionist Society of El Paso says that they are not a 501c3 organization, but clearly asks for donations online:
But, asking for donations and raising support by the Abolitionist Societies is approved by AHA as seen in this post:
Just, not acceptable for pro-lifers as seen here:
In any event, it is clear from the above statements that Abolish Human Abortion did attempt to form an organization and get a 501C3 which they now say they have backed away from.
Don Cooper has helped me lay out how it transpired:
Timeline of World Life and Abolish Human Abortion (AHA)
According to Cooper’s best recollection the Abolish Human Abortion movement was officially founded in February of 2011. At that time, Don still worked for the Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR). He left CBR in May of 2012.
My research shows that AHA’s first Facebook post was April of 2011.
A post of the group’s blog that same month explained the AHA position thus far:
We have two great objects: We aim to effect the total abolition of human abortion in our culture and put an end to the objectification of women. Our primary target is not women who have had abortions. It is the prevalent misinformation about abortion within our culture which encouraged and allowed them to do so. We are pro-education. We are pro-women We are pro-children We are pro-adoption We will not rest until we have effected its abolition.
July of 2011 post, “Meeting in progress. Looks like 30+. nice.”
During this time, AHA was not opposed to support from Catholics or pro-life people.
This September 2011 post brags that they received a “boost” from pro-life leader Bryan Kemper.
Another post encourages supporters to “like” a pro-life Facebook page:
According to Cooper, by May of 2012, he and Todd Bullis began World Life.
“World Life is a DBA while the organization’s official name is: The Pro-Life Advocate Network (PLAN),” Cooper stated.
In July of 2012 Cooper says that World Life completed and submitted the application to the IRS for 501C3 non-profit status.
Cooper said that World Life’s first big project was “Pro-Life Book” which was intended to be a tool to help activate and support Christians to get into the fight.
Cooper said that by May/June of 2012 the supporters who had been supporting him as a pro-life worker at CBR began supporting him by giving to World Life, mostly friends and family, Cooper said.
In the summer and fall of 2012 – Todd Bullis began interacting with abolitionists in Norman, OK, according to Cooper, and by November 2012 – they attend the first “AHA” (abolitionist) conference held in Norman, OK., where Don said that he became fully convinced that incrementalism is wrong and immediatism was correct.
Cooper says that although he considered himself an Abolitionist he still did work with pro-life groups like Created Equal and that by December of 2012 AHA and WorldLife worked together, even handing out literature at a Jumbtron event in San Francisco with Created Equal.
CREATING AN AHA ORGANIZATION:
Abolish Human Abortion was actively asking for donations and support as confirmed by these screen grabs.
I attempted to locate some of these on the Facebook page, but could not find them. I am not saying they were scrubbed, just that I was unable to locate them.
By July of 2012, it was suggested by a supporter that Abolish Human Abortion obtain a 501C3, to which they replied in this Facebook comment:
“Already on all of that and so much more. We just haven’t spent a whol lot of time trying to raise money or seek funders. Necessary stuff, we know …but we want to spread an ideology rightly, and always asking, “what will make most people happy/ bring in the most support” is a poor way to launch an actual movement.
“But, so you know, there are a number of Abolitionist Organizations now being established and they are in the process of seeking 501(C)3 and 501(C)4 statuses”.
In a video uploaded by AHA in November of 2012 Russell Hunter describes AHA as an ideology and not an organization.
“Yes you’re sitting in a building, yes we have an office, we have a store, we have a Facebook page, we have a – a whole lot of things – a blog – all that kind of stuff,” Russell says.
Cooper had this to say about the creation of an Abolish Human Abortion Organization:
February 2013 – April 2013: While there is concern about the dangers or creating an organization that could hinder the movement, there is a consensus that the time is right for the movement to have an organizational tool in the background, a 501C3 organization that would be used to fund larger projects, providing materials to Abolitionist Societies in need, a restoration of the abolitionist periodical called “The Liberator”, and for the few people who would be working full-time on such projects. The idea is proposed to have a “monthly subscription” to the Liberator which would help provide funds for the above items.
In May of 2013, Abolish Human Abortion posts this on their Facebook page:
“God has blessed this movement in unimaginable ways and we are confident that He will continue to do so through the giving of faithful abolitionists around the world. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to AHA (of any size), please follow this link, or click the Support Abolition button across the top of our page: https://dlq4.donatelinq.net/qv10/Donation.aspx…“
Adding this in the comments:
“AHA has now become a separate organizational entity from AHAgear which is owned and operated as an LLC by The Basileian Group. AHAgear is officially licensed by the International Coalition of Abolitionist Societies to use and sell abolitionist gear and resources featuring the abolitionist AHA symbol. But others can use it by permission of ICAS who holds the trademark.”
This screen grab, also from May shows more:
Cooper said that they had, “long discussions” about what to name the abolitionist C3 organization, “Because “Abolish Human Abortion” has been the name of the movement, there is a hesitancy to use this name for the organization,” Cooper said.
“However after many discussions and lots of prayer, it is decided that really the name of the movement is the “abolitionist movement” and that the organization name could be “Abolish Human Abortion”. It is also recommended by some that since “Abolish Human Abortion” is already a recognized name with history, and that many people already think of it as an organization, that it would make sense to use that inertia in getting the organization going,” Cooper said.
Cooper explained that by June of 2013 World Life’s 501C3 status has not yet been granted by the IRS but was still pending, and according to officials is many months behind.
At this point Cooper said that. “It is then suggested and agreed on that rather than submit a new 501C3 application, we will rename the organization “World Life” to “Abolish Human Abortion”. This would allow us to not have to submit a new application for C3 status which would take longer.”
Cooper said that he saw the decision as, “a sort of official marrying of World Life and AHA. AHA gives its name to World Life and World Life is willing to change the name. The board members agree to this and the name change is submitted to the state of Washington and to the IRS.”
In June of 2013 the Liberator subscription idea and C3 organization is announced at the “Wake Up Church” conference in Norman, OK.
The following screen grabs from AHA’s website back up what Cooper says. The pages where these appeared on their websites or online have been removed as best as I can tell:
According to Cooper, the AHA wanted the message to be that, “the priority of the abolitionist should be to support financially the work locally in their own community. That each abolitionist should be doing all they can in a daily and consistent manner in their own city. Then after that they should consider if they want to donate to the C3 in support of the organization goals which included the Liberator subscription.”
He said that some abolitionist liked the idea while others opposed it adamantly.
“Some are adamantly opposed to have a C3 status organization as they saw it as a compromise with the government possibly restricting abolitionists. With that the plan continued, “ he explained.
In July-August 2013 Don said that he, Russell and Toby talked about how to promote The Liberator subscription idea and some abolitionists sign up to subscribe to The Liberator. But that by September their efforts seemed slow and eventually stalled. He said that by this point there were about 50-70 subscribers who are giving on average about $30 per month.
“The support to produce The Liberator is not sufficient to do so. And it seems that the efforts to build that support is interrupting other work that needs to be done,” Cooper said.
According to Cooper, by November 2013 AHA members again discuss whether they should continue their pursuit of the organization tool as the IRS continues to stall in granting the C3 status, and they feel they are falling into that dark hole of government stalling.
Then, by December 2013, as best as Cooper can recall, he says that Russell Hunter announced that he is convinced that the organization model is detrimental to the abolitionist movement and that Toby felt the same way.
This might explain this post around the same time- condemning pro-lifers who have a 501C3:
Here is Cooper’s recollection:
“Russell announces to the other leaders that if we maintain “Abolish Human Abortion” as an organization, that he could not with a clear conscience remain part of the organization. He would remain an abolitionist but not a part of the organization. The other leaders agree that they do not see pursuing the furtherance of the organization as a good thing.”
Cooper told me that he was reluctant to accept this conclusion but eventually realized that this is what must be done for the betterment of the movement.
This may explain a document I located online where Abolish Human Abortion, in 2014, appears to have changed to Abolitionists Northwest with $101,159 in “total revenue” by year end 2013.
Don Cooper signed the document as Abolish Human Abortion’s “executive director”.
Cooper explained that, at the time, they did have staff which received salaries.
At the end of 2013 Russell sent this end of the year message denouncing how typical 501C3 organizations try to raise money at this time of the year and he says that AHA is not a 501C3:
Russell speaking for AHA which is not an organization according to them, makes this year-end fundraising appeal asking AHA supporters not to write a check to AHA, but to send support to local abolitionist groups.
“But, we would like to make a year end fundraising appeal, but not for ourselves,” Hunter states.
“We are not asking you to write an end-of-the-year check to AHA. But, we would like to take the time to ask you to look around within the Abolitionist movement, take stock of the people that you’ve been getting to know, from Facebook or e-mail or YouTube, and watching as they do the work of abolitionism, and, ask yourself if someone you know has a need…who may have needs and God may have blessed you with the ability to help them this Holiday season,” Hunter states.
HOW WAS THE MONEY SPENT?
“During the year 2013 Russell and Toby received a small amount of financial support through the abolitionists who had voluntarily signed up as monthly subscribers to the Liberator,” Cooper said.
Cooper was very forthright with me in explaining how the funds he collected in the documents listed above were spent. Although, he does not break down every penny, he seemed willing to release salary information paid to AHA staff during that time.
The list below explains how the salaries break down and Cooper said he has verified this with his accountant:
Note “Employer Taxes” is what the organization is required to pay to the government. The Gross Pay is before the employee taxes of course
Cooper wrote this explanation to me regarding his personal salary, “My gross pay for 2013 is on the 990 and it was $40K.”
Cooper explains the money they collected further:
“The year-end total of donations for 2013 is just over $101K. This is the combined donation of the new abolitionist donors and the supporters that Don had when World Life had begun. All of this support was used to help support full-time and part time staff people: Don Cooper, Russell Hunter, Toby Harmon, Sarah Cleveland, and an accountant. Other expenses were for the Jumbotron in San Francisco which World Life/AHA funded all other expenses except the Jumbotron rental. There was also three different conferences in 2013 (two in Norman and one in Portland, OR). Website and Internet expenses also part of that cost. There were also some donations to other non-profits who helped directly or indirectly put on the Jumbotron project (Created Equal, Abort73, Life Legal Defense Foundation).”
Cooper said that by January 2014 – February 2014 when the consensus was made to abandon the organization model, he decided that he did not want to abandon the C3 he started as “World Life”, and he began the process to change the name again.
“Upon the counsel of the attorney hired to deal with IRS delay, it is decided that the name change should not be submitted until after the C3 status is granted,” Cooper said.
According to Cooper he also discussed, “with Russell and Toby about how to handle cancelling the merchant account handling the abolitionist donations. It is decided that Toby and Russell will handle letting the abolitionist supporters know what is going on then we will cancel merchant account. It is decided to do this all in an orderly and linear manner to not create problems with the merchant account and cause problems with IRS, bank or state of Washington where organization is registered.”
Cooper then lays out this timeline regarding the name Abolish Human Abortion:
April 2014 – Merchant account is cancelled.
May 2014 – Name change paperwork is submitted to state of Washington. “Abolitionists Northwest” is the new name of the organization Don is keeping. The name “World Life” remains as the primary DBA for the organization. This group continues to help fund Don Cooper as a full –time abolitionist but also fund projects and materials such as signs and literature for public outreaches. Don’s work as an abolitionist continues both locally in the Portland area and nationally helping other abolitionists and abolitionist societies to do the work of abolition. Don’s annual income through World Life for 2014 was just over $20K. World Life’s total annual gifts for 2014 were just over $60K.
June 2014 – State of Washington recognizes the name change to “Abolitionists Northwest”. After this, the name change to the IRS was submitted.
June/July 2014 – Name change from IRS official.
At this time, Cooper said that “Abolitionists Northwest”/”World Life” continues to operate today with Don Cooper as President. Todd Bullis is a member of the board of directors and the organization is unashamed to call itself an abolitionist organization.
Cooper told me that, although he does not oppose fundraising he does not make it a priority.
“The only fundraising activity that Todd and I did was to travel to Orlando together and speak to some friends there who had in the past made major gifts to pro-life work. As you know, Todd has had his business a long time and that is his source of income along what his wife earns. Todd does support Toby and Russ the best he can but I am not sure how much that is,” he explained.
“The closest thing to fundraising that Russ and I did is described above. We attempted to make a few videos to explain the need and how people could help. We posted a donation page on the World Life website. I believe it was on the AHA site and FB page too. A link to the monthly donation page.”
You have seen with this blog why Russell and others within AHA make the claim they are not an organization, at least under the name, “Abolish Human Abortion.”
ICAS has also trademarked the logo for AHA:
As for how T. Russell Hunter raises his support, I have no clue despite this statement he posted to Jill’s Facebook page, “I would totally let you look at all my finances Alexandra. How do I do that? Perhaps Carole is already on the job. Maybe she can track my financials down and write a blog about them in hopes of keeping people from reading Abolishhumanabortion.com or getting involved with the work of abolition in their local area.”
( NOTE: Prior to publishing this blog I sent a private message to Russell on Facebook asking if he wanted to explain how he raised support – since he was grilled about that online. He never replied. Then, hours after publishing, I came across Hunter’s response – posted on Facebook here, where, Russell, posting as Thomas Hunter, wrote:
“As for how my wife and I managed to pay our mortgage, feed ourselves and our kids, we adopt what is known as the “George Muller Plan” and rely on the Spirit of God acting through His people to support us as missionaries living in a culture of death. I am also able to withdraw funds from my investments in the AHAgear store but cannot take a full salary for the design work or writing or advertising etc work done on behalf of the gear store. If I did that, or Toby or Matt did that, AHAgear would not be able to afford to print 24 page pamphlets and sell them for a quarter a piece and see them distributed to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world every year.”
In closing, Cooper posted this on Jill’s Facebook page, “We [AHA] are not saying that giving the money that God has given you to steward is a bad thing. We are not saying that receiving charitable gifts is a bad thing in and of itself. But it is the abuses of that which are bad. If someone asking for the money is being a bad steward of it or if someone giving the money is doing so and believing that is all they need to do when God would have them do so much more, then that is bad. And truth be told, I think many of us who have worked in the PLM and in particular in fundraising activities, like I know I have, know that this goes on.”
It was my impression that Don and Toby wanted to review this blog post before it published, but upon further investigation I see that they did not make a formal request to that end. So, in full disclosure, I want to go on record that I have not allowed them to proof this post ahead of time. I have, however, dealt very fairly with them regarding this issue by allowing them their say on this blog. They are free to post comments below to make corrections.
I believe that I am first a Christian and as such I should go the extra mile for my brothers and sisters. I have been extremely saddened and sometimes disgusted by the inaccuracies I have read posted by people claiming to be Abolish Human Abortion – abolitionists- with regard to history within the pro-life movement that I have personally witnessed.
It is my personal view, that while AHA members demand that we check our facts with them, they are not doing the same thing in many cases.
I want to thank Don Cooper for being cordial enough to respond to this request for clarification.
The issue of fundraising was originally brought up by AHA people and I would expect that it will continue to be.
I, for one, do not have any issues one way or the other whether it is AHA or pro-life groups. People are free to investigate the groups they contribute to and to give as they feel led by the Lord to do so. To me, it is not the business of T. Russell Hunter or AHA supporters to question everyone’s motives.
And, that, for what it is worth, is my opinion.
The blog is entitled, Is Abolish Human Abortion an organization?
Saynsumthn is not taking a position against what others have documented, given the documentation was accurate. This post is intended to show brotherly charity that we should show one to another by allowing AHA to clarify their position but does not render them out of the range of criticism on this topic from my point of view.
As they say on Fox News, we report – you decide.
Feel free to weigh in by leaving your comments below.