Friday, January 25, 2013

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Texas Attorney General Convenes Choose Life Advisory Committee

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced appointments to the “Choose Life” Advisory Committee, a seven-member body established by the Texas Legislature to review applications for funding from the proceeds of “Choose Life” specialty license plate sales.

In 2011, the Texas Legislature authorized the creation of “Choose Life” license plates to provide funding for organizations that promote adoption as an alternative to abortion. Under Senate Bill 257, lawmakers created the “Choose Life” license plate program and instructed the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to appoint the “Choose Life” committee.

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The seven “Choose Life” Advisory Committee appointments are: Judy Canon, Carol Everett, Kathy Haigler, Lois Kerschen, Matt Kouri, Mikeal Love and Julie Stobbe.

“We are grateful to all seven of these appointees for their commitment to public service and their willingness to serve on the state’s ‘Choose Life’ Advisory Committee,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Each of these individuals has demonstrated both an interest in protecting Texas children and unique expertise in this field. The ‘Choose Life’ Advisory Committee will be an invaluable resource in guiding our careful stewardship of ‘Choose Life’ funds.”

Attorney General Abbott continued: “We hope that these ‘Choose Life’ plates – and the work of this expert committee – will result in more Texas children being adopted into loving homes across the Lone Star State.”

SB 257, which was sponsored by Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, instructed the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a “Choose Life” specialty license plate – the proceeds of which will be used to encourage adoption as an alternative to abortion. The statute establishes a “Choose Life” account at the Office of the Comptroller and charges the OAG with administering those funds. The statute also requires the attorney general to appoint a seven-member “Choose Life” Advisory Committee, which will “review and make recommendations to the attorney general on applications submitted to the attorney general for grants funded with money credited to the ‘Choose Life’ account.”

“Choose Life” specialty license plates went on sale in November 2011. As of this week, more than 1,400 plates have been sold and nearly $32,000 has been deposited in the “Choose Life” account. Funds from the account will be distributed via a grant application process that will be administered by the OAG, with the advice of the Committee. Instructions for submitting grant applications will be announced at a later date.

Following are brief profiles of each “Choose Life” Advisory Committee member:

Judy Canon – Midland. Mrs. Canon has been involved in various aspects of the adoption process for more than a decade. She has served as an adoption counselor with birthmothers; taught and advocated for adoption awareness at the organizational level and through the media; worked with adoptive families, conducting home studies and supervisory visits; and worked with counselors, medical professionals and others who are involved in the decision-making process for adoptions. Mrs. Canon served from 2003-2005 as a master trainer for the National Council for Adoption’s Infant Adoption Awareness Program, and from 2000-2010 as a regional coordinator for the Gladney Center for Adoption.

Carol Everett – Round Rock. Ms. Everett has been involved for many years in issues related to women’s reproductive health choices. A former owner of abortion facilities, Ms. Everett had a change of heart in the early 1980s, and since then she has worked to encourage women to pursue adoption in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. In 2004, Ms. Everett served on a national committee to increase adoptions among mothers in unplanned pregnancies. From 2005 to 2010, she was the administrator of a network of seven pregnancy centers in Dallas, as well as a charity prenatal clinic. She currently serves as the founder and CEO of The Heidi Group, a nonprofit organization assisting girls and women through unplanned pregnancies.

Kathy Haigler – Dale. Mrs. Haigler has served for 20 years as an advocate for adoption. She has worked with several pregnancy assistance centers and pro-adoption organizations – recruiting volunteers, raising funds and organizing events. She and her husband, Glenn, have a special place in their hearts for mothers who choose life for their children; their daughter placed two of her children for adoption. Mrs. Haigler currently serves as a board member of Texas Alliance for Life.

Lois Kerschen – Lubbock. Ms. Kerschen has experience in grants administration and early childhood development. She is a certified grant writer who served as associate director of graduate studies and research at Lamar University. She also served as a grants administrator for the Houston Independent School District, where she wrote and reviewed grant proposals. In addition, she served as a senior research scientist for The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where she wrote and edited early childhood education journal articles, grant proposals and training manuals. Ms. Kerschen is a former board member for Right to Life of Lubbock, and served as a counselor for a pregnancy resource center. She is a longtime member of Feminists for Life and an advocate of their varied services for women on health care, education, child care and other issues. Ms. Kerschen is also co-founder and a board member for Democrats for Life of America, which advocates for the protection of human life as the foundation of human rights and the principle that injustices such as poverty and prejudice directly and indirectly threaten human life. She also serves as president of Democrats for Life of Texas, which is the state chapter of Democrats for Life of America.

Matt Kouri – Austin. Mr. Kouri is president and executive director of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, where he leads the organization’s efforts to strengthen and consult with nonprofits and also develops leading-edge research and best practices in nonprofit management. He is an expert in board governance, organizational development, strategic planning and other areas. Mr. Kouri served as a consultant with Deloitte Consulting, where he launched a K-12 education nonprofit, oversaw transformations of two state Medicaid programs, and guided the largest government consolidation in Texas history. Mr. Kouri is personally passionate about orphan and adoption issues. He served for four years on a crisis pregnancy nonprofit organization, and chaired the group for two of those years. He was appointed in 2010 by Governor Rick Perry to chair the Texas Adoption Review Committee, a group that has worked to remove obstacles to finding permanent families for Texas foster children. He leads an orphan and adoption ministry at his church. He and his wife have adopted three children.

Mikeal Love, M.D. – Austin. Dr. Love is a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist. He is a member of the American Medical Association, the Texas Medical Association, and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He serves as chair of the Continuing Medical Education Committee at St. David’s Medical Center, and served as the OB/GYN section chief at St. David’s from 2008-2010. From 1995 to 2012, Dr. Love served as the medical director of LifeCare Pregnancy Services in Austin.

Julie Stobbe – The Woodlands. Mrs. Stobbe is a passionate advocate for adoption. As an adopted child herself, she has a unique perspective on this issue. She founded Act of Life, an adoption awareness organization that offers adoption training to pregnancy centers across Texas. She served as president of Act of Life from 2002 to 2009. Mrs. Stobbe also serves as an advisory board member of Life House of Houston, a faith-based residential facility providing care, counseling and support for young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. She has written an adoption resource for birth mothers, titled “I Might Consider Adoption If...”, that was released in September 2012. Mrs. Stobbe is also a voice instructor and an elementary school music teacher in the Conroe Independent School District.