A Utahns For Choice member-recruitment letter will not be used to publicly identify anyone, the executive director of the group says. And the effort isn't a "cheap trick" to get more members.
The letter has raised concerns because if recipients don't want to be on the Utahns For Choice mailing list they must call the group and ask that their names be removed.
Said one woman who got the letter and called the Deseret News to complain: "This is a cheap trick to increase their membership. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not pro-choice. Yet I have to respond to the letter (by calling Utahns For Choice) or I'll be on their list." The woman asked that her name not be used, because she doesn't want to be associated with Utahns For Choice.
"Abortion and pro-choice is a serious issue and emotional," she said. "And Utahns For Choice should know that and treat it as a serious issue."
In addition to telephone calls, the Deseret News has received several letters to the editor expressing anger over the mailing. Some of those letters will be printed later in the week.
Beverley Cooper, Utahns For Choice executive director, said the mailing was not intended to offend anyone. It's true that people who got the mailer will be on the Utahns For Choice voter-identification mailing list unless they ask that their names be removed.
She said none of the new names from the latest mailing will be counted as supporting her organization until "we go through at least two more mailings" to the people.
"Some may just toss it without looking at it. We want to check the integrity of the mailing" as well. Two more chances to read mailings and to be warned they should call to remove their names if they don't want the information, will give the opportunity to winnow the list, Cooper said.
Cooper said her group has spent a year compiling a list of people to get the mailer. Fifteen thousand letters were mailed. Names were solicited from current members and others, the criteria being that perhaps therecipients would share Utahns For Choice's concern over women's reproductive issues, Cooper said.
"I don't think they targeted people who may be pro-choice. My goodness, my 74-year-old mother got one, and she's a lifelong Republican and never been anywhere close to pro-choice. I called some other women in my neighborhood. They got them and they aren't pro-choice either. All these women are going to be on the pro-choice mailing list now? This looks like a general junk mailing to me," said one woman who called the Deseret News.
Adding to some people's anger over having to call Utahns For Choice to get off the mailing list is that a telephone number on the letter's second page - one to call to talk about women's reproductive issues - is incorrect.
"Not only will most people throw away the letter without reading it closely - and thus get on Utahns For Choice's mailing list - but the telephone number is wrong," said the woman.
That number is disconnected. However, a number at the bottom of the first page is correct, as is the listing for Utahns For Choice in the telephone book.
The wrong number "was a printing error. Six people (proof) read the letter, but none of us caught the mistake. We're sorry. The correct number is on the front page of the letter," Cooper said.
The letter says one of the goals of Utahns For Choice this year is to expand it voter-identification data base.
In several places, the letter says that unless the person calls or otherwise notified Utahns For Choice the recipient's name will be placed on a mailing list.
"Having your name on our confidential list means that you will receive a voter guide profiling candidates supportive of reproductive health care in the 1998 election," the letter reads.
Cooper said "confidential" is the key word.
No one's name will appear in public identified with Utahns For Choice or any abortion-related matter, she said. Some pro-choice candidates in 1998 will get access to the mailing lists, she said. After Utahns For Choice reviews exactly how the candidates' written material will read, a separate party will use the list to mail out the material. The candidates will not have direct use of the names, she said.
Cooper said the list is only used to disseminate information to people who are interested in keeping up with women's reproductive matters in the state.
Cooper said it is true that those who got the mailings will be on Utahns For Choice's mailing list unless they ask to be removed. But they don't become a member unless they pay a $10 membership fee.
Only "two in a thousand" people are calling to ask that their names be removed, Cooper said.
Utahns For Choice used a similar, much smaller mailing three or four years ago and found it worked well, Cooper said.
At the top of the mailing is a list of 17-member Utahns For Choice board and 73-member advisory board.
"I know some of the people on the board. They are good people," said one woman who complained to the newspaper. "They should be ashamed of this mailer. It is a cheap lobbying trick to build up their lists to show they can tell legislators or others of the support they have. They don't have such support."
Over time, various public-opinion surveys of Utahns show most are not pro-choice.
"I see us as going the extra mile" from normal, junk mailings that people get all the time from any number of sources. "If they don't want to be on our list - get our voter guide and other information over the year - just call us," said Cooper. "No offense was intended."