By Megan McCrum
40 years of Roe v. Wade does not only mean more than 55 million lives lost to the tragedy of abortion, but also 40 years of abortion survivors. Sheer logic should make it more likely for those born into a world of legal abortion to question it. Not to mention that the cultural landscape of the post-Roe generation is one where nearly everyone has seen the ultrasound image of their pre-born niece or brother tacked onto the fridge, and has some awareness of the 10-year national debate over partial-birth abortion which for the first time permeated the media’s filter about the reality of abortion.
The polling has played out what already seems probable: young people are becoming more pro-life. A 2010 Gallup poll found that, comparing the data between 2007 and 2010, “[a]ll age groups have become more attached to the pro-life label since 2005, with particularly large increases among young adults…” [emphasis added]. A 2012 Gallup poll found a 7% decrease among 18-34 year olds identifying with the “pro-choice” position from the periods of 2001–08 to 2009–12.
We are not just painting a rosy picture to boost our post-election mood. The pro-abortion advocates recognize this trend as a threat to their existence. Notably when Nancy Keenan, outgoing president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced her retirement, she pointed to her concern about “the intensity gap” over abortion between pro-life and pro-abortion young people (her side was losing). Keenan has jokingly referred to her fellow aging pro-abortion advocates as the “postmenopausal militia.” But it’s fair to assume she was in no joking mood when, upon seeing the waves of young people in Washington, D.C., at a recent March for Life, she famously observed, “there are so many of them, and they are so young.”
There is no doubt the numbers are with us, yet there is a critical bridge between being personally pro-life and changing the world. Building this bridge is something National Right to Life has been working on with its unique outreach programs, particularly the Life and Leadership Camp Initiative and the National Right to Life Academy.
Life and Leadership Camp Initiative
Joleigh Little, director of Teens for Life of Wisconsin, began organizing pro-life camps because she knew that an interactive, dynamic camp environment would help pro-life teens take ownership of their beliefs and be empowered to spread their convictions in the world. And she was right. Describing the totally unique atmosphere created at pro-life camps, Joleigh asked, “Where else but camp can you learn about life and death, to defend the weak, to speak for the voiceless, to stand for truth, and then two hours later be defending your team in a rousing game of Humans vs. Zombies? Where but camp can you combine the best pro-life education on the planet with great food, campfires, volleyball, Living Clue, and an iced mocha at The Baby Bean? Nowhere.”
Since the Wisconsin camps began, their model has been followed in states across the country like New York, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon, and Indiana. Pro-life leadership camps proved so popular and so productive, that National Right to Life launched the Life and Leadership Camp Initiative to help get pro-life camps into every state across the country. The masterminds behind the successful youth outreach in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Rhode Island mapped out a model “camp in a box” package to help NRLC affiliates more easily replicate the pro-life youth camps. Since this initiative began, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Virginia have hosted camps, and more are expected to launch in 2013.
For more information on pro-life camps, and to find one in your area, visit http://www.prolifecamps.org/.
National Right to Life Academy
In 2007 National Right to Life launched a new program for college students, the National Right to Life Academy. Different from a traditional internship, the Academy provides college student leaders with a comprehensive and academically challenging course on the life issues. Lasting for five weeks, the Academy meets at NRLC’s D.C. office, and includes both lecture-based courses as well as an integral component called “practicum.” During these daily oral exercises, students are challenged to confidently articulate and defend the pro-life position to NRL staff who role-play the opposition’s perspective. Commenting on her experience at the Academy, one student explained, “the practicums were most valuable–getting to actually sit down and use the information we were given helped to solidify it so I feel like I could use it in a real situation.”
Academy alumni from the five previous graduating classes gathered at the 2012 National Right to Life Convention in Washington, D.C., for a reception and reunion. They are working to create a culture of life in diverse ways, some working professionally for the movement as employees of NRLC state affiliates and other pro-life groups, others working through their chosen fields of education, law, medicine, and ministry. One alumna summed it up this way: “after the Academy I can’t escape the feeling that I am now obligated to do all that I can for protecting the dignity of life–because now I know what to do. I am so grateful for this knowledge and the skills I have been given.”
Pro-abortion advocates are right to be worried that the tide is changing as more and more young people embrace, live, and share the pro-life message. Through programs like the pro-life youth camps and the Academy, National Right to Life is helping more young people to be able to spread the pro-life message to their peers and change our nation.