Farris Wilks: The Pro-Life Fracking Billionaire Bankrolling "Crisis Pregnancy Centers"

Featuring images of women's faces, troubled and with brows furrowed, crisis pregnancy centers beckon to prospective visitors from subway platforms and bus ceilings. These centers proudly announce their range of services on the web, often providing information about abortion services and post-abortion care.

But CPCs, by definition, are not abortion providers. They exist to steer women away from abortion in whatever manner necessary, even if it involves deception or the misrepresentation of what medical services are available at their facilities. Frequently, these centers employ no medical personnel, and/or provide ultrasounds as their only form of obstetric care. The Supreme Court ruled this fall that CPCs must disclose to clients if there are no licensed medical staff on their premises.

Building the CPC network has been a top strategy of anti-abortion forces over recent decades. That network is now extensive and, perhaps unsurprisingly, well-funded. Among the most generous supporters of these pseudo-clinics on the front lines of the abortion war is the Thirteen Foundation, a philanthropic outgrowth of a recently acquired Texas fracking fortune.

Wilks brothers Dan and Farris grew up in the family masonry business, and expanded their company to include fracking operations in the 1990s. When Singapore's Temasek Holdings acquired the Wilks' company, Frac Tech, for $3.5 billion in 2011, the Farris brothers suddenly became very wealthy. (Notably, Temasek's sole shareholder is the Singapore Minister of Finance.)

The Wilks brothers have not sat idly on their fortunes. Both Dan and Farris are major donors to political and charitable causes. Farris, a 62-year-old father of 11, works as a pastor of the Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day Church in Cisco, Texas, and directs the Thirteen Foundation, which he founded as a philanthropic vehicle for his newfound wealth.

The Thirteen Foundation keeps a low profile and has no website. But insights to its priorities come from the foundation's most recent posted tax filings and reveal large contributions to a number of active anti-abortion advocacy and service groups.

Three notable anti-abortion grants the Thirteen Foundation has recently awarded:

  • $2.2 million to Media Revolution Ministries. Also known as Online for Life, MRM "implements cutting-edge Internet and traditional marketing outreaches to connect with abortion-determined women and men," thereby directing expectant parents to one of MRM's more than 50 "life-affirming pregnancy centers." Essentially, MRM is a nationwide coaltion of crisis pregnancy centers with savvy, multi-media PR operations.
  • $1.1 million to Focus on the Family. A politically inclined advocacy group for Christian values, Focus on the Family supports individuals, church leaders, and crisis pregnancy centers in deterring women from having abortions. Focus on the Family distributes informational brochures and other materials to CPCs, and assists them in purchasing ultrasound equipment. The organization's website contains a wealth of resources for pregnant women and the community groups trying to keep them that way.
  • $725,000 to Life Dynamics. Its motto is "Pro-Life: without compromise, without exception, without apology." Based in Texas, Life Dynamics assists lawyers and anti-abortion groups around the country in legally challenging regional reproductive health clinics that provide abortion services. Life Dynamics also sends undercover operatives to spy on abortion providers. More curiously, Life Dynamics operates a direct mail program, through which it "alerts doctors and medical students to the stigma that attaches to abortionists."

Also on the Thirteen Foundation's recent grantee list are the decidedly anti-abortion Liberty Counsel, the Family Research Council, the Texas Right to Life Committee, and 40 days for Life.

The Thirteen Foundation likely derives its name from the 13 foundational principles of Judaism. Farris Wilks is not Jewish, but the church where he serves as pastor appears to draw theologically from both the Old and New Testaments.

The Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day Church has an impressively detailed website, so you can discern a fair amount about Wilks' guiding philosophies without much difficulty. By way of example, the Assembly of Yahweh Church helpfully provides its online readership with this helpful guide to appropriate women's behavior. Among the Wilks church's prescribed directives to female members of the flock: be ruled by men, don't work outside of the house, and do not speak during religious services.