- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An innovative pro-life group is using marketing techniques and data-driven research to better reach out to women considering an abortion in hopes of changing their minds.

Brian Fisher founded the Human Coalition only five years ago, but the nonprofit’s early results have him convinced that big data can play a key role in persuading women to look at alternatives to abortion.

“I want to instill a sense of optimism with you that you understand abortion can and will be ended in America in our lifetimes,” Mr. Fisher said Wednesday during a lecture, titled “Rescuing Mothers and Children from Abortion Using Cutting-Edge Technology and Data,” at the Family Research Council’s headquarters in Northwest D.C.

The Human Coalition owns seven pregnancy centers and works with 35 additional clinics across the country. Mr. Fisher and his group approaches abortion counseling the way the general manager in “Moneyball” approaches building his baseball team’s roster.

Instead of on-base percentage and runs scored, the Human Coalition’s variables include “market penetration” — a measure of how effective a pro-life clinic is at reaching out to women seeking abortions — and “effective rate,” which measures how good a clinic is at persuading a woman not to obtain an abortion once she’s in the door.

The problem most pro-life pregnancy centers face, Mr. Fisher said, is they never make contact with the group of women most at risk for abortion. According to the Human Coalition’s data, the pro-life movement only makes contact with about 3 out of every 100 women who are determined to obtain an abortion.

“The abortion-determined woman will not walk into the pregnancy center voluntarily,” Mr. Fisher said. “They must be outreached to and found and brought into a system of care. The reason is they don’t want to go to a place that won’t offer them an abortion. They want to go to a place that is going to offer them an abortion.”

To better reach their target demographic, Human Coalition clinics serve as laboratories to test everything from marketing techniques and counseling strategies to what color to paint the walls. Most of the experimental approaches fail, Mr. Fisher said, but the ones that work have uncovered dramatic results.

For example, the Human Coalition began to use sophisticated web-based and location-specific advertising in order to make contact with women searching for abortion clinics online. One pregnancy center in Pittsburgh that used the advertising strategy saw its market penetration rate increase from 3 out of 100 abortion-determined women to 36 out of 100.

“So, a 1,300 percent increase in market penetration to the abortion-determined population in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, over the last several years because of this regular process of testing and optimizing marketing leads,” Mr. Fisher said.

Another success story came after the Human Coalition learned that transportation is often a problem for women who seek abortions. In order to increase the chances that these women will keep their appointments, the firm’s pregnancy centers began offering to pay for their patients’ gas.

Clinics that began offering women $25 gift cards saw kept-appointment rates skyrocket to over 50 percent.

“If you were to talk to any medical clinic that is working with a low-income, Medicaid-oriented population, a 50 percent appointment-kept rate is insanely high,” Mr. Fisher said. “Insanely high, because it’s very difficult to get that client to come in for any sort of medical treatment, much less talk about an unplanned pregnancy that she does not want.”

The Human Coalition also adapted a “happiness scale” to determine the state of mind of women seeking abortions. The scale revealed that women who are unhappy or anxious are more likely to want abortions, whereas women who are happy and calm are more likely to want to keep their children.

The pro-life group responded by redesigning clinic counseling rooms.

“We painted the walls blue, we changed the furniture, we got rid of the crummy fluorescent lighting, we changed throw pillows and we set up the room in a very specific way based on other medical studies that suggested a very calming environment,” Mr. Fisher said. “We ran the same counselors, the same nurses, the same trained staff with the same counseling practices in both rooms and then studied the life-decision rate of those women to see whether or not the blue room had a material test on her life decision. And the blue room returned a 36 percent lift in the life-decision rate.”

Mr. Fisher said his group’s goal is putting abortion clinics out of business.

“If that doesn’t get you excited, you’ve got to check your pulse,” he said, “because you begin to see the vision of stealing so much business from the abortion industry that you can begin to close their doors.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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