History of Rhode Island Right to Life

by Bob Sullivan

In the firm belief that life must be protected at all ages, the founders of Rhode Island State Right to Life struggled to build what has become Rhode Island’s leading non-sectarian, non-denominational, pro-life organization. In its formative years, meetings were held in Anna Sullivan’s dining room with part of her sunroom serving as an office. When the organization began to provide for babies and toddlers in need of material assistance, Anna’s two-car garage became the distribution center for clothing, baby food, diapers, cribs, strollers, and other supplies. Low-income parents would come to the door whereupon Anna would bring them to the garage to try to fulfill their needs from the supplies that had been donated to or purchased by the organization. This part of our work continues today at our office under the name Right to Life Services.

While serving the material needs of the very young has required much time and space, our efforts to reestablish a pro-life attitude in our society have been very demanding in terms of research, developing public awareness, and communicating with public office holders. Members of the organization write booklets, position papers, and op-ed essays. They lobby in the State House, testify at legislative hearings, and speak to various groups. These activities have characterized RIRTL throughout its history even as euthanasia, embryonic destruction for research, and other practices have added to our concerns.

After several years of growth, it became obvious that RIRTL needed more space to carry out its work, so its operations moved to a Broad Street storefront in Cranston. We moved through five additional rental locations before we were able to purchase our own building. Because our volunteers contributed so much “grunt work” during the various moves, the work of the organization was never interrupted.

The acquisition of our own building in 1996 was made possible by the generosity of our benefactors. Added to the purchase cost of the building was the expense of modifications that were necessary to conform to the fire code and zoning regulations.

Volunteers painted, wallpapered, and refinished the floors. Through the years, volunteers have regularly cared for the landscape, cleared snow, and done other chores to maintain the property. Recently a volunteer hired painters to refurbish the exterior of the building. He even bore the cost of the paint.

So it has been that many committed individuals of diverse skills and talents have advanced the pro-life cause through their direct involvement and/or supportive roles. The three members of our staff receive very little compensation and do not have benefits. In common with the volunteers, theirs is a labor of love.