“Thank you, National Right to Life for investing in me and the other students.  I hope to make you all proud!”

By Lauren Shovlin

Editor’s note. Lauren Shovlin was one of three outstanding students who attended the NRL Academy, a five week crash course in pro-life work and advocacy. The Academy students were in attendance at the NRL Convention when the Supreme Court’s historic decision came down. The following are her reflections.

Left to right: Lauren Shovlin (PA); Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, Academy Director; Lauren Lipinski (OH); and Amy Baker (SC).

The moment of Roe’s overturn will forever remain a vivid snapshot in my memory.  The shouts of exclamation, tears of joy, and loving embraces that befell the conference room at NRLC’s National Convention the moment of Roe’s reversal brought me an overwhelming sense of humility and honor.  I couldn’t have imagined a more humbling and inspiring way to learn of Roe’s demise than alongside so many who had been in the movement since and prior to ’73.  

It was at that moment that the words of Esther seemed more relevant than ever: that perhaps, I, and those around me in the conference room, were intentionallythere “for such a time as this” (4:14).

My experience at the NRLC Academy affirmed and reaffirmed this premonition.  While acting as one of the most demanding, exhausting, and (quite honestly) humbling experiences of my life, the Academy has equipped me with an unfathomableamount of knowledge, insight, wisdom, and friendships that will last me a lifetime (and beyond).

In the past two years, I can vividly remember wishing there was an opportunity to participate in an intensive program that would teach me everything I needed to effectively lead the pro-life club at Penn State.  As the president of the club the past two years, I learned what every pro-lifer eventually realizes: you only learn to swim when you venture into the water.  “God qualifies the called” is not just a cliché, but a fact that proved true for me in my formation in this movement, especially through the Academy.

I have learned not only the biological basis for the pro-life position, but the philosophical and social basis, all which meld into a beautiful composite of the truth. This Academy has taught me that logic flows from truth and that every aspect of the pro-life position is founded in truth, logic, and reason.

When I initially applied to this Academy, I had no idea I would meet so many incredible pro-life leaders that would change how I viewed myself, the movement, and those I interacted with.

My roommate and classmate, Lauren Lapinski, taught me to recognize the woman in front of me, rather than immediately looking past her and into her womb.  If we don’t genuinely love the life of the woman in front of us, we cannot claim the honorable title of “pro-life.”

My other classmate, Amy Baker, taught me how to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, how to voice my beliefs unabashedly and unapologetically. Her eagerness to learn had no time for pride or ego, and her urgency reminded me that this movement isn’t about me but about something greater.

My primary teacher, Dr. Randy O’Bannon, demonstrated how to serve others authentically and humbly, bringing intellect, energy, and love to every class. 

Rai Rojas, my other teacher, expected nothing short of excellence from his students, reminding me of historian Will Durant’s interpretation of Aristotle’s words: “we are what we repeatedly do…therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.”Rai called us to excellence in everything we did, from responding to his texts (of which, I admit, I could have done a better job!) to formulating quick responses while mock lobbying. 

Carol Tobias, NRL President, taught me the importance of poise, and displayed the calm that inevitably follows those who bear the truth.  We are made for truth and by Truth.  Carol’s elegance and confidence taught me that we all inherently yearn for truth, and people respond to that.

Jacki Ragan revealed how deep a hug can penetrate the soul, never failing to ease my homesickness or worries about my Academy performance with her nurturing heart.  A woman’s heart is created towards motherhood, to receive another and to bear fruit.  Even Eve in the Garden picked the fruit of the tree.  Despite this disordered act, it is clear women have an innate desire to bear fruit, and that is, to bear life.  

Jacki taught me that I must bear fruit in whatever I do in life, from memorizing the confirmation dates of all 9 US Supreme Court Justices to connectingwith my pro-choice classmates back at Penn State. 

Olivia Gans Turner revealed the power of listening and smiling, demonstratingwhat it means to authentically welcome those in front me.  She emphasized the immeasurable worth of individuals, each of whom have valid and very real desires, pain, and feelings, from whom I have much to learn.  As children of God, and especially as women, we are all tabernacles, or vessels, for Christ.  Olivia exemplified the womanly virtue of receptivity so important in the pro-life movement.

These were only a few of the many incredible witnesses to life I had the honor of encountering during my time at the Academy.  I leave these five weeks not only more confident in my knowledge of the pro-life position but more convicted and equipped to share this knowledge with those that I meet throughout my life.

I cannot fully convey my appreciation and honor at receiving the opportunity to attend the Academy.  Thank you, National Right to Life for investing in me and the other students.  I hope to make you all proud!