The Coalition That Could
A small pro-life nonprofit’s trip to Capitol Hill.

Susan Martinek testifies on Capitol Hill, June 4, 2013.


‘We had worked so hard to get the application correct,” Susan Martinek, president of Coalition for Life of Iowa, based in Cedar Rapids, told the House Ways and Means committee.


Martinek owned a small clothing-alteration shop — replacing zippers and things — until she “retired” to help educate her fellow Iowans on how to better protect vulnerable human life. Last week on Capitol Hill, she explained how an IRS agent made that volunteer position more difficult, insisting that all members of the Coalition for Life of Iowa board promise to never protest Planned Parenthood, among other requests the IRS should not have been making.

Martinek, who wrote a book called Alterations the Seams Easy Way and will be teaching a class on the same subject at her local community college this fall, talked with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about her IRS experience.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: When and how did you feel harassed by the IRS?

SUSAN MARTINEK: We applied for 501(c)(3) status in October of 2008. In April the IRS began communications with us regarding our application. In one conversation with our IRS agent, she mentioned that our application was ready to be processed. They only needed one more item: a letter with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under penalty of perjury, we would not picket or protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood. Upon receiving such a letter, the IRS would allow our application to go through.

LOPEZ: Is your annual budget really $1,000?

MARTINEK: In 2009 we had an average of under $1,000 in our bank account.

LOPEZ: Did you ever imagine you’d find yourself testifying in front of a congressional committee?

MARTINEK: No, when we were interacting with the IRS about this we got a small amount of coverage from the press release sent out by the Thomas More Society, mostly a few pro-life media entities.

LOPEZ: What is the bulk of your work?

MARTINEK: Throughout our history, we have organized and sponsored educational forums, given out real long-stemmed roses as a Mother’s Day fundraiser (we are giving out “Thanks Dad for Life” magnets to dads this Father’s Day weekend for the first time), and engaged in peaceful prayer activities such as 40 Days for Life and an annual March for Life.

LOPEZ: What do your educational activities look like?

MARTINEK: The forums we have organized have been on cloning and stem-cell research, end-of-life decisions, contraception and its link to abortion, and faithful citizenship. We also organized a “Respect Life” adult-education series.  


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