Insurance issues jeopardize local pro-life events | National Catholic Register

BOSTON — Pro-life groups have been scrambling to secure insurance for the long-running events marking the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in January, with at least one cancellation because the organizers could not be covered.

In Boston, for example, Massachusetts Citizens for Life recently canceled a pro-life assembly in historic Faneuil Hall that was first held in 1974, after an insurer pulled out. In Louisiana, long-running pro-life marches in two cities were in jeopardy mid-month because insurance companies were refusing coverage.

Local governments, like many others around the country, require event organizers to carry one-day event insurance that designates the city as additional insured in the event of a costly accident. A typical coverage amount is $1 million. Obtaining such insurance has been routine for decades.

Not now.

People contacted for this story say the problem is that insurance companies are reluctant to cover events that deal with controversial topics following violent public rallies in 2020 and 2021.

These events — mostly centered around anti-racism and anti-police protests, attacks on Confederate or other monuments, and alt-left or right-wing causes — had nothing to do with pro-life advocacy. But insurance companies make no such distinctions, an insurance expert said.

Reluctance to cover events does not include banquets or golf outings. Instead, these are large gatherings on public property.

Refusal of coverage, opaque reasons

Beau Hearod, president of Jeff Davis Insurance in Jennings, Louisiana, which has handled insurance coverage for Louisiana right-to-life events for more than a decade, said he’s tried every brokerage. insurance with whom his company was working to try to obtain event insurance for pro- life walks in the state, without success.

“I think that really happens to any type of event that could be considered political. Insurance companies are hesitant to write any of these articles right now,” Hearod said.

The register has contacted press representatives for some companies that offer event insurance and has received no response at press time.

Oregon Right to Life planned to hold a march in the state capital, Salem, on Saturday, January 29, but only after hard work that ended with finding an insurance company to cover it.

“We’ve had issues obtaining general liability insurance for our organization, and then specifically for our events, for an upcoming pro-life event,” said Lois Anderson, executive director of Oregon Right to Life. “It’s quite disappointing because we’ve been doing these marches for life for decades. These are peaceful events. No incidents. No complaints. Now we really have problems. And we’re not really given really clear reasons. Everything is quite opaque.

She noted that pro-life events in Oregon have been going on for about 50 years without incident.

“If it’s supposed to be based on statistics and actuarial charts, we should be a good risk,” Anderson said.

Pro-lifers in Arizona had a similar experience, contacting more than 20 insurance companies before finally securing insurance for a March for Life on Saturday, January 15.

“It was pretty tough, and it shouldn’t have been,” said Garrett Riley, executive director of the Arizona Life Coalition.

Riley said her organization has never filed an insurance claim for a pro-life rally.

“We are the most peaceful event. And the police love us, because when we leave the place is spotless and there’s never a problem,” Riley said.

Reduced First Amendment Rights

Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, noted that Twitters mob organizers don’t have to worry about permits or insurance because they just show up and no one takes responsibility. On the other hand, he said, pro-life groups like his that plan ahead and try to work with civil authorities find it difficult to exercise “the people’s right to peaceful assembly.” , mentioned in the first bill of the American Constitution. Rights.

“Where did the First Amendment come from? …It’s like a premeditated First Amendment [exercise] is limited by insurance companies,” Clapper said.

Patricia Stewart, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, provided the Register with a detailed timeline of her organization’s contacts with insurance companies dating back to March 2020, when resistance first emerged. Insurance company hesitation didn’t cause much disruption at the time, as most pro-life events were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But as it became clear that pro-life events scheduled for January 2022 could likely go ahead as planned, insurance became a stumbling block.

Some insurance companies balked at the subject of the event. On the other side, the City of Boston made it harder to get event insurance in November 2021, when city officials increased the level of insurance they needed for a planned pro-life assembly. Sunday, January 23 at Faneuil Hall, at $2. million per incident with a cap of $4 million for the individual event.

Still, Stewart thought she had a deal with a carrier — until she went to pay the premium last month and found the insurance company no longer wanted the arrangement.

After some bickering, Stewart sent out a mass email on Jan. 5 announcing that the event had been canceled.

She said she was worried about what the new insurance climate means for pro-life advocacy in the future.

“Failure to carry insurance for public events will effectively silence pro-life voices in the public square,” Stewart said via email. “Massachusetts Citizens for Life and pro-life groups in other states rely on public testimony to educate, motivate and influence public policy. Shutting down our ability to communicate with the public will cause incalculable damage to the pro-life movement nationwide.

Register correspondent Matt McDonald is the editor of New Boston Post.

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