Hopefully you don’t get all your news from the mainstream media. If you did, and only saw the number of people who come to the California’s Capitol decked out in pink to support Planned Parenthood, you might get the impression pro-life views are on a downward spiral, especially among the youth. But after attending the Students for Life Conference in San Francisco yesterday, I’m happily convinced that isn’t true.
Hundreds of high school and college age students from around the state gathered in the most notoriously liberal city in the country to hear from pro-life speakers and mingle with pro-life organizations that were both inspiring and professional. These students and supporting organizations mean business, and they already have a well thought out strategy to change the hearts and minds of our youth, knowing young people drive the American culture.
According to Kristan Hawkins, the first conference speaker and the president of Students for Life, progress has already been made. According to a Barna Group poll taken last summer, 53% of millennials think abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances, and only 17% of millennials agree with Hillary Clinton, who says abortion should be legal under all circumstances. The problem is that only 36 percent of millennials identify as pro-life. “That’s a branding problem,” Hawkins acknowledged, and it’s a problem she is working to fix.
Hawkins, a 31-year-old mom and life-long pro-life activist, challenged students take the conference theme “Heroic” to heart. “I want you to become the heroes that stand up for those who have no voice,” Hawkins said. She soberly told students, being vocally pro-life isn’t going to make them popular on campus, and that’s why many youth keep their pro-life views to themselves. But a heroic life is lived for “someone else.”
Hawkins told of her own efforts to live heroically. She talked about raising her children to lead lives of service, even though two of them struggle with a fatal genetic disease. She also recalled her efforts over this past weekend to change the media narrative about women’s rights.
The so-called “Women’s March on Washington” last Saturday drew hundreds of thousands of woman to the nation’s Capitol. March organizers actually banned pro-life organizations from formally participating, but that didn’t stop Hawkins and her team. Students for Life volunteers jumped right to the front of the protest and led the crowd for several blocks holding large banners that read, “Abortion Betrays Woman,” and “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood.”
“You can’t be afraid to say what your are against,” Hawkins told students. “We must expose the darkness of the abortion industry.”
Other conference speakers included Josh Brahm, with the Equal Rights Institute. His organization travels the country training pro-life advocates on how to “think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.” He also regularly tests his messaging and persuasion techniques on pro-abortion college students. Among all the arguments he has used on college campuses, his “Equality Argument” has produced the most pro-life converts. Most students already believe that all human beings have a right to life, so all Brahm does is convince them that the preborn are human beings. He demonstrated how this is done by role-playing a sample conversation in front of the conference audience.
But having the best arguments will not work if college administrators prohibit and thwart student efforts to communicate their message. That is what his happening at many college campuses around the country. Rules against hate speech, the creation of free speech zones, and rules requiring clubs to get messaging approval from administrators are all being used to stop the pro-life message from reaching students.
Casey Mattox, an attorney with Alliance for Defending Freedom, spoke to students about his efforts to stop these First Amendment violations of free speech on college campuses around the country. He introduced Emily Faulkner, the president of the Students for Life club at Colorado State University. With Maddox’s help, she recently decided to sue her university after being told her club couldn’t have a speaker grant available to other school clubs, because the speaker did not “appear entirely unbiased” and that “folks…won’t necessarily feel affirmed attending the event.”
Some might disagree with Faulkner’s confrontive approach, but she says, “I think Jesus is pretty happy with me… . If the Little Sisters of the Poor can take the Obama Administration to court, I think we are on pretty good ground!”
I walked away from the conference impressed and filled with hope that the culture is moving in a pro-life direction, and I’m proud to see that young people are leading the way. California Family Council is excited to partner partner Students for Life and Equal Rights Institute, and we are honored to serve as the official state affiliate for Alliance Defending Freedom. Thank you for standing with us as we work to build a pro-life culture in California, especially among the next generation!