What the #ProLifeGen Did All Summer

By Reagan Barklage, SFLA Midwest Regional Director

Students for Life of America is the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization in the nation, the home of the Pro-Life Generation. While we may do a majority of our public work during the school year, the summers are really no less busy. Even though school is out, our students are the #prolifegen year-round and worked hard planning out their upcoming school year, participating in SFLA trainings, tabling with us at the Vans Warped tour, and taking to the sidewalk for our National Pro-Life Gen Sidewalk Day.

As the Midwest Regional Director, my work was focused mainly on students in our region, and wow, was I ever impressed. Here’s what we did all summer:

Plan Your Year SessionsReagan traings

My Midwest students were so driven to map out the upcoming year. Throughout the summer, I hosted multiple Plan Your Year sessions. During these meetings, I went through the entire upcoming school year, month-by-month, with students and offered them event ideas and themes. For instance, November is National Adoption Month. I encouraged my students to host an adoption speaker, like a birth mother, adoption agency, or even a student who was adopted. These sessions are great to do during the summer because with the school year already planned, students can hit the ground running as soon as they return to school.

Vans Warped TourReagan Vans Warped

This summer Rock for Life, a branch of SFLA, had a booth at the majority of the secular Vans Warped Tour stops across the country and our students were there to help us every stop along the way. This was the first time any pro-life group had a booth at the huge festival. Despite criticism, our team did a great job reaching young people at this festival and dialoguing with them about human rights.

This was a fantastic way to reach out to hundreds of thousands of young people that we may never have had the opportunity to reach. We had great conversations stemming from our poll, “When should human rights begin?” I personally connected a man to post-abortion resources, something he didn’t know even existed.

National Pro-Life Gen Sidewalk DayREagan National Sidewalk

On August 6th, students across the country took to the sidewalk outside their local abortion facility to peacefully pray, sidewalk counsel, and witness. Students who participated in sidewalk counseling were trained the week before by Lauren Muzyka, President of Sidewalk Advocates for Life.

I was so proud of my students who participated, as it takes a lot of courage to reach out to these women going in for an abortion. Every single student I talked to about their experience said they now plan on regularly making a presence on the sidewalk!

TrainingsReagan trainings text

Students for Life of America offers multiple trainings to help our students make their group as successful as they can be. This summer I took time to train my students on Recruiting and Retention, Planning their Year, and Sidewalk Counseling. These trainings really helped my students prepare for the upcoming Fall semester. With the plan for outreach already completed in the summer, that means more time for tabling, flyering, and pitching their group around campus.

Summer is not a time to take a break from being a pro-life activist. Who needs sleep anyway?

Great Success for Nat’l #ProLifeGen Sidewalk Day!

Over 30 different abortion facilities saw the Pro-Life Generation outside on sidewalks praying for the women and their preborn babies and being advocates for life, standing as a representation for hope and compassion.

For many students, it was the first time they engaged in sidewalk advocacy. Everyone students sidwalk day3was trained by Lauren Muzkya from Sidewalk Advocates for Life and were equipped and educated on how to best speak to abortion-minded women, and others they may encounter on the sidewalk like clinic escorts, and be a loving resource for them.

So what happened? Lots of great things. Here are stories from the field, including a baby save!

In Dallas, Jillian Ferguson, SFLA’s Southwest Regional Coordinator, got to witness her first baby save:

 We were just packing up and getting ready to leave when I noticed a couple came out of the Planned Parenthood facility and got into their minivan. As they were approaching the exit, they rolled down their window and we approached the van. I let Joanne, the other counselor, take the lead as she had much more experience than I as she is out there every weekend.

She introduced herself and gave them literature. English was not the first language of the couple in the van but Joanne took things slow and asked the woman how far along she was. The woman said she was three months along and Joanne had someone grab the fetal model that represented that age. As soon as she handed the fetal model to the woman and said “that’s what your baby looks like right now” the woman teared up and said “can’t do it, that’s a baby.” Their minivan was full of car seats, toys, and books and they told Joanne that this was their fourth child to which Joanne replied she was also a mom of four. The woman seeking the abortion had come today to get bloodwork done and an ultrasound to see how much the abortion would cost – instead she drove away with a smile on her face and a list of other places she could go to get free support.  It was a beautiful thing to see firsthand a life being saved.

In Illinois, Reagan Barklage, our Midwest Regional Coordinator relayed her thoughts:

I was able to stop at Granite City’s [IL] Sidewalk Day and I’m so proud of these students who came out – it was all of their first times being out on the sidewalk and they did amazing. One of the many disturbing things about Hope Clinic is that their escorts leave at 9:45 am. They don’t even stStudents sidwalk day1ay to help the women who are hurting as they walk out of the facility. Shocking huh? They just want to make sure they get into the facility. Hope Clinic was the facility that was shown in the documentary I was in [read about Reagan’s experience in the film here and here]. The documentary followed their abortionist and a lot of their patients. It was kind of emotional standing outside of the facility, when I’ve seen firsthand the hurt that happens inside. I prayed especially for their abortionist, the one I had the opportunity to sit by on the flight home from the premiere.

In Kentucky, Appalachian Regional Coordinator Brenna Lewis had this experience:

Towards the end of our time on the sidewalk at the EMW Women’s Surgical Center abortion facility in Louisville, KY, a woman pulled up next to us, parked her car, and stomped over to our group, visibly angry. Her face was shaking, everything about her body language both defensive and hostile. When she got close enough to speak to us, the first words out of her mouth were “Have any of you ever been pregnant!?” I cringed, thinking this was likely going to be less of a dialogue and more of a shouting match.

WE are here for youShe told me right away that she was a clinic escort for the center behind us, and was entirely fed up with the pro-life presence on their sidewalk, saying how terrible we were, shaming these poor women. Her view on our movement as a whole was extremely twisted. As the conversation progressed, and I explained what Students for Life of America is and how we approach the issue, I noticed her gradually relaxing and becoming more conversational.

She faltered when I mentioned that viability is as early as 22 weeks, asking if she thought it might be wrong to kill them after they are able to live outside the womb. Unfortunately, her stubbornness persisted as she talked in circles about other social justice issues. I got the strong feeling that she had never before had a reasonable discussion with a pro-life activist. By the end of our dialogue, she still supported restriction-free abortion, but my hope is that she left us that day with a renewed perspective on the youth of the pro-life movement, that we are compassionate and peacefully committed to spreading the truth.

In Nebraska, student Alexa got to share a resource for abortion workers:

…Our group then packed up to go to Omahas Planned Parenthood where we spent the remainder of our time praying and counseling the women going into the clinic. The security guard came out to talk to us and tell us about rules of private property (which we were already respecting). Ten minutes later in our conversation, he admitted that he knew what was going on inside the facility was bad. He said he would look Students sidewalkday2at the website abortionworker.com. I truly believe we planted some seeds in that worker on Saturday. We also referred two other workers to the abortion worker website and gave three women literature of our pregnancy centers. The day turned into a road trip, but we saw many graces come out of it.

Marin shared her experience from a Planned Parenthood in Kansas:

We were at the Planned Parenthood in Overland Park. We had about 10 participants with us but other groups were out on the sidewalk as well. We were unable to talk to any women. However, we remained vigilant and prayerful throughout the day. It was difficult to be out there and not get immediate gratification but it was a wonderful learning experience. It has also inspired me and others who were out there to take stock in the pro-life movement. I had friends who came who do not have a pro-life club at their school ask me how to get involved with students for life. I am excited to go out on the sidewalks again and try to speak to women and save children again.

Record-breaking 2015-2016 School Year!

As Students for Life of America continues to grow and expand as an organization, we are able to reach many more students with the pro-life message, help so many more women facing unintended pregnancies, serve more pro-life groups and conduct more trainings, and ultimately take many more steps closer to our goal of making abortion unthinkable.

The 2015-2016 school year broke all kinds of records, most notably surpassing the 1,000
groups mark, which is an incredible feat over the course of SFLA’s 10-year existence. Fun tidbit: Students for Life pro-life groups on college and high school campuses outnumber Planned Parenthood campus pro-abortion groups groups nearly 4-to-1!

And even though we were forced to cancel our National Conference in Washington, DC this year following the March for Life because of a blizzard, we still trained over 11,000 students, which is nearly 3,000 more than last year.

We also took three different pro-life displays to 199 campuses, which is a substantial amount of work for the pro-life groups – yet, they did it because they believe that using the right messages and the most effective tactics to reach their peers will turn more people away from abortion and towards the pro-life generation.

This is a huge testament to the fact that our pro-life students are making big changes on their campuses and in their communities and our pro-life message is reaching more people than ever before.

We are in the business of changing hearts and minds at Students for Life of America because that’s how you change the culture. We are so proud of all of our students and staff who work every day to get that much closer to abolishing abortion in our lifetime.

2015-2016-School-Year-Infographic

I’m Mad.

By Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America

The Supreme Court handed down a horrible decision today on abortion and I’m angry. Why? Because women lost. Because children lost.

By throwing out common sense regulations that were meant to protect women from theSCOTUS-Lose predatory abortion business, five Supreme Court Justices put access to abortion over the safety of women. They put the bottom line over the safety of women.

The Supreme Court put aside the will of the people and a majority of our nation that agrees with these safety regulations and played politics with women’s lives.

This is an injustice.

I’m angry because we know that every time a mother walks into an abortion facility, she is betrayed. She is deceived into thinking abortion is her only option. She is deceived into thinking that her child growing inside of her is not worthy of life and protection.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt means that parts of the Texas law that we lobbied so hard to pass back in 2013 was ruled unconstitutional. It means that abortion facilities in Texas won’t be beholden to the same safety standards as other surgical outpatient centers. Standards like making sure there are enough soap dispensers and that the hallways are wide enough for EMT gurneys to pass through.

This is a travesty.

The women of our nation have been told once again by the Supreme Court that we are nothing more than our uteruses. That our so-called “right to abortion” is more important that our safety.

This should never happen in our nation.

We know that every time a woman has an abortion, one precious life ends, and at Students for Life we are fighting to stop that. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the mother. Her life shouldn’t end because of her abortion. She doesn’t deserve the death penalty too.

For those who say that this law was simply a sham, I have two words for them: Kermit Gosnell.

Kermit Gosnell was able to legally operate an abortion facility in Philadelphia for more than four decades. And despite the fact that local doctors had stopped referring patients to him because women were coming back with STDS from dirty equipment, no one investigated him. Despite the fact that numerous inquiries had been made into the PA Department of Health, no one went into his facility. It took the death of a woman and a DEA drug raid to discover the truth about his House of Horrors.

Why? Because years earlier, Planned Parenthood and their allies in the pro-abortion movement lobbied against these types of common-sense regulations in the state of Pennsylvania.

Karnamaya Mongar died at the hands of Kermit Gosnell because Planned Parenthood and their allies put their financial self-interests ahead of commonsense safety standards.

Today, we know more women will continue to die, continue to contract diseases from unclean equipment, and continue to be forced into substandard abortion facilities.

However, I don’t want us to be angry for too long. Today we mourn; tomorrow we resume our fight.

Our mission at Students for Life is to our change our culture, starting with where the abortion industry most targets: our young people. We will continue this work and we know we are winning. We know the majority of Americans and millennials actually were in favor of the Texas law and are with us in our opposition to legal abortion. We are making an impact. We are changing our culture.

#1000STRONG!

We’ve got some huge news from Students for Life of America! We announced today that we now serve more than 1,043 college, high school, law and medical school, and young professionals pro-life groups across the United States, 568 of which were started by our SFLA National Field Team.

This means that Students for Life campus pro-life groups now outnumber pro-abortion groups nearly 4 to 1, with Planned Parenthood’s last report boasting 275 campus groups.

“This enormous gap between pro-life and pro-choice students indicates that the pro-life message is resonating where it needs to the most, right where the abortion industry targets: college and high school campuses,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “We are meeting students where they are, having passionate and constructive conversations on campus, and changing hearts and minds.

“The passion of our students is evidenced by the sheer number of pro-life students willing to sacrifice their time and energy on behalf of women facing unintended pregnancies and their babies verses the pro-choice student groups whose only recourse against us has been to yell and scream and vandalize pro-life displays,” continued Hawkins.

Since SFLA launched full-time just ten years ago, we’ve grown from a team of only one full-time staffer to over 29, including at least one person in every region of the country that works with area high school and college groups, and the number of student pro-life clubs has grown every single year, topping out in the 2015-2016 school year at over 1,040.1K strong

Every school year, SFLA tallies the number of current Students for Life groups, which are measured in terms of activity level. Activities include doing diaper drives and baby showers for pregnant moms on campus, bringing thought-provoking campus displays to the school, hosting qualified speakers, attending the annual March for Life and SFLA National Conference, and poll tabling, among other activities. All of the groups do at least one activity a semester but most do several and are positive forces on their campuses.

“Several years ago, NARAL president Nancy Keenan noted the high number of young people at the March for Life and was concerned about what she called the ‘intensity gap’ between young pro-life people and young pro-choice people,” said Hawkins. “Well, Ms. Keenan, your fears have been realized. The intensity gap is alive and well and pro-life students are motivated now, more than ever before, to show women that there are other options besides abortion, that they can succeed in school and in life with a child, which is more than the abortion industry wants to concede. The pro-life generation is here to stay.”

Exceptions: What if the woman was raped?

Sometimes when you are speaking to people on campus you only have a small window of
opportunity to answer a very difficult question.  Oftentimes the “exceptions” or hard cases that justify abortion for so many are brought up and you need a quick answer.  Below is a quick answer that you can use in a pinch that summarizes the complexity of this issueSurvivors of Rape when you only have a sound bite moment to give an answer.

Rape and incest are horrible crimes and deeply wound women, they need the appropriate help and care to recover.  But we cannot try to help survivors of sexual assault in ways that harm more innocent people.  Abortion destroys one innocent person in an attempt to help another innocent person. The circumstances of conception do not change the fact that someone has been conceived – a unique, living and whole human person who has value, and an equal right to life.

While that was just a snippet of an answer when you are put on the spot, our friends at Equal Rights Institute offers a fuller explanation of how to answer this question on their blog Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion. 

Tongues for Choice?

By Ruben Verastigui, SFLA Digital Media Coordinator

Can we have a chat about Miley Cyrus really quick?

If you haven’t seen Miley Cyrus’s tongue enough, it has made its appearance yet again, but for reasons that sadly, aren’t too shocking. The ex-Disney Channel superstar has nowmiley1 partnered with iconic fashion designer Marc Jacobs, and controversial American artist Marilyn Minter in support for none other than, you guessed it, Planned Parenthood. Because you know, nothing says “I support reproductive rights” more than smearing your tongue on a piece of glass, calling it art, and slapping it on a t-shirt for $50. Or if your pockets are deep enough, a print of Miley’s face is available to you for a humble $5,500.

This is our country everyone.

In last Tuesday’s interview with Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon, Miley said, “I think it’s really important for me to be someone that speaks out about women’s health rights and reproductive rights…and I think it’s important for people to not be afraid to talk about that.”

I think we can agree with her on one thing: we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about women’s health and reproductive rights!

Everyday people around the county are afraid to stand up for what they believe in because of the fear of being judged and shamed, but why is that?

The pro-choice agenda isn’t afraid to stand up and shout their opinion, so why are we?

I am not saying you have to lick a piece of glass or slap your face on a t-shirt to get your point across because 1) that would be crazy and 2) I hope you have better things to do.

Miley has it wrong when it comes to standing up for reproductive rights. Women don’t need Planned Parenthood or abortion to be empowered because the bottom line is that that stuff doesn’t empower women.

Showing women that they are strong enough to have a child and finish their education is empowerment. Standing in support of women as they make the loving decision to place their child for adoption is empowerment. A woman can embrace the gift of life, the power of her body to nurture a child and give birth, and still pursue her dreams. This is what true empowerment is and I hope you won’t shy away from standing up and shouting this out, because chances are someone around you needs to hear this message before Miley and her buddy Planned Parenthood get a hold of them.

Miley has taken a wrecking ball to true feminism by supporting an organization that lies and cheats women for their own selfish gain.

Women deserve better. Better is not abortion.

#prowomenprolife

We couldn’t help but happily mock Miley’s video. Check it out below.

To Theists and Atheists Alike: What Are We Doing?!

TipOfTheDay-1

Sometimes a story just hits you right in the gut and forces you to pay attention to each word, willing your eyes to read faster and your mind to quickly process every detail.
These stories force you to think and connect the dots with your own experiences and knowledge.

That’s what this story is about. It’s a story about a pastor’s wife who ministered to strippers in a loving, kind, and genuine way. She wrote a blog post called ‘I went to a strip club’, a salacious title meant to grab attention immediately, about her experience with these women.

The entire post is worth reading but as a pro-lifer, connecting her experience with broken women resonated. Specifically, she mentioned that these women were grateful for her presence and pointed out that her church was ‘different’. Why was that?

She said, “Apparently other churches send them hate mail. ALL THE TIME”

I’m sure my face turned three shades of white.

Complete shock and disbelief gripped me.

We both looked at each other and about fell into a pool of tears right there.

People – church –  WHAT ARE WE DOING?!

Sound familiar? It should.

We hear stories like this all the time from women going into abortion facilities. They say that pro-life protestors yell and scream at them, calling them names.  Look at any news coverage of pro-lifers and these are the people they highlight. Same for the people who work in the abortion facilities. They are harassed, not loved.

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who left her job with the help of 40 Days for Life, has stories about receiving hate mail when she worked for the abortion giant. But you know what? She still gets hate mail…from pro-lifers!

The writer of the strip club post is a Christian and she rightly asks, “People – church –  WHAT ARE WE DOING?!” but you could make the case that you don’t even have to be a Christian to be asked this question.

It’s a question of basic human dignity and compassion.

This is a story from a pro-life atheist that exemplifies this position:

 As an atheist I’ve had a conversation with an abortion clinic escort that turned into a Facebook friendship. I was at the Planned Parenthood in DC during a protest. The escort was a full-time stripper. She said she had talked with other pro-lifers who she could tell were only nice to her to try to get her to stop escorting but I was genuinely intrigued by why she did what she did. The conversation started out as me telling her about placing my son for adoption and gradually turned to us talking about how women tend to feel like they aren’t strong enough to carry a child to term. She said I gave her a lot to think about.

Just because we are kind and compassionate towards someone who we don’t agree with, it doesn’t mean we endorse their behavior.

By calling women who choose abortion a ‘murderer’, the pro-life movement makes zero progress towards converting the other side. Who wants to join a movement of angry, mean individuals who deem it appropriate to demonize people they don’t agree with? No one.

We are the pro-life generation and we will abolish abortion but we aren’t going to do it by screaming at the other side or by sending hate mail to those we don’t agree with.

We are going to be compassionate. We are going to be kind. We are going to offer resources to pregnant women facing unplanned pregnancies. We are going to be loving.

And we will end abortion.

 

We must rise above the stigma

By: Reagan Nielsen, SFLA Midwest Regional Coordinator

In April, I attended the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City for the premiere of the documentary,Abortion: Stories Women Tell. I was followed for this documentary, along with two other pro-life women, and was shown in my everyday life working for Students for Life of America.

The documentary also followed the pro-abortion side, including an abortionist that performs abortions at Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the documentary was heavily biased towards the pro-abortion side- showing the difficulties in getting an abortion in Missouri due to the 72-hour waiting period. So for obvious reasons, the three pro-life women followed in the documentary were rarely shown.

The film portrayed the abortionist as a sort of “hero” for these women who had to drive an extra whopping 13 miles (distance from the St. Louis Planned Parenthood) to obtain their abortion. The Hope Clinic unfortunately has some angry protestors and the documentary took advantage of the opportunity to portray the pro-life side as loud, unstable, unloving, and harassing people. In fact, these protestors received at least twice the amount of air time as the three pro-life women who were filmed received…combined.

The scenes including the protestors showed them yelling at the women walking into the facility – telling them to repent. It also showed them holding graphic images of aborted babies right outside the facility.

I personally agree with the use of graphic images, however, not outside of an abortion facility. When women are in the biggest crisis of their lives and scared and filled with fear, do you think they are going to want to listen to the protestors standing outside the facility calling them horrible names? No. The film proved that. The women basically ran into Hope Clinic for “safety.”

It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because there are so many pro-life organizations that work boldly and compassionately on ending the stigma that all pro-lifers yell and scream at women entering abortion clinics.

It’s frustrating because I see the hurt and fear that women have going into abortion facilities and the anger that passes their faces when they hear the names they are being called, like whores and murderers.

The majority of us are not like that and when the media has the chance to show the pro-life movement in action, they will take every opportunity to show the ones that are in the minority, that are the loudest and sometimes, most hurtful to the movement itself.

So what are the chances that I sat next to the abortionist on the flight home? (I knew there was a reason I was in the documentary.) If I had been one of the protestors she sees every week, the ones that yell and scream at her and her patients, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk to her.

Going into the film, we probably both had a stigma attached to the other. I was terrified of being in a room with her, and she most likely assumed I was someone who would call her a murderer and tell her to repent.

It was refreshing for her to see someone who wanted to get to know her instead of condemning her. She acknowledged that the protestors outside of Hope are in the minority and said she appreciated how I genuinely want to help women, especially those that feel they have no choice but abortion while in school.

I’ve been asked many times if I think the film is worth other pro-lifers seeing. My answer is yes. People need to see that there are still pro-lifers out there that truly do harass women outside of the abortion facility. These people are not compassionate and do not approach these women in love by showing them alternatives.

We must make every conscious effort we have to rise above the stigma. We can be courageous pro-life warriors in love. Love is telling people the truth, but in the right way. Different situations call for different measurers. When outside the abortion facility, we know that a woman is scared. We don’t want her to run into the abortion facility because of our words or actions. We want her to run to us because we are showing her hope and love.

And I hope that the abortionist is still thinking about me and our conversation we had on the two-and-a-half-hour flight home, because I still think about her and pray for her every day.

Let me be clear by Kristan Hawkins

Last night, things changed in the race for the presidency. These indeed are unprecedented times in the history of our nation.

But no matter who you are rooting for in November, there is one thing I think each of us has to keep in mind: Politics won’t save them.

While many of us use our voting power to elect those who share our values and we hope will help us save as many innocent lives as possible, our answer, our win, doesn’t come from politics.

It has and always will be culture. As our culture changes, so does our politics and the positions of those who run for office.

And that’s what we are uniquely positioned to do at Students for Life.

We change culture.

Everyday we are on campus, educating, persuading, and mobilizing young people to join our human rights mission, no matter what their background.

And it’s working.

In a new poll that Students for Life will be releasing in just a couple of weeks, we will show you just that. Despite what many in the national media may want you to think, this generation not only thinks abortion is morally wrong but a majority believes abortion should be almost completely illegal.

So join us and renew your commitment to our mission today.

Our plans for this fall are bigger than ever. We will reach 1,000 active groups across the nation. And Planned Parenthood is already plotting their next move, and we’ve got to be there on campus, right where they target young people, countering them at every step.

Take heart and don’t despair. Science is on our side. Truth is on our side. History is on our side. No matter what happens in Washington, our mission always remains the same, until that day when both political parties are tripping over themselves to out “pro-life” each other, until that day when abortion becomes unthinkable and obsolete.

And that mission is winning because of you and your dedication.