By Ameillia Wedward, Intern
If you’ve ever felt like you need to balance your convictions with your social environment, you just might be a pro-life college student. Hey, me too! I’m passionately pro-life, and I know firsthand how difficult it can be to stand boldly for my beliefs on my college campus.
Moving into a new environment can be intimidating, especially when your convictions seem to be at odds with the culture around you. College is a great time to seek out ways to make a difference, but sometimes the school and other students create opposition to our beliefs. Our age group instinctively fights against injustice, yet neglects the population that most needs defending: the unborn. How do we share our pro-life convictions in an atmosphere that is volatile to the movement? As a member of a pro-life college campus group, I’ve learned three things: ask logical and reasonable questions, have love-inspired intentions, and fight with fortitude and resilience.
- Ask Logical and Reasonable Questions
It is our responsibility as college kids to ask logic-based questions. We’re developing the ability to think critically and are honing our communication skills. Pro-life students need to apply the same principles in defending the right to life. In doing so, you’ll form sound arguments and help both parties find a common ground- all while stopping the conversation from getting heated. Here is one example of a leading, logic-based question you could use when defending the right to life in dialogue: “Do you stand for the death sentence, and would you support it if the person was found innocent?”
No matter what the answer is to the first question, most people can agree that killing an innocent individual is wrong. Thus, does a baby deserve the death penalty for a crime he or she did not commit? Will murdering the child stop the abuse, crime, and/or suffering of the mother? If the same situation occurred while the child was already born, would it still be okay to kill him or her?
Stephanie Gray, a pro-life advocate and professional debator, wrote in her book Love Unleashes Life about the importance of logic-based questions. In chapter three, “Communicating to the Head”, Gray explains countless scenarios that are commonly debated in abortion conversations: poverty, abuse, rape, human rights, stage of life, and so on. For the example I just used, she claims that by founding the debate on a common agreement, the other party then has a chance to see the situation in a different lens. How you say your beliefs matter. If you can communicate in a way that listens to the other person, while creating opportunities for them to be discerning thinkers, then your conversations will go way better in the long run. This solution is also important because you are “sticking to your gut” and being responsible for your own pro-life actions. It is significant to reach others in this way, because then you can lovingly bring facts and testimony to a very polarized, tense issue.
- Have Love-inspired Intentions
Students who want to be active in the pro-life movement are often passionate, but without love, they can end up doing more harm than good. Having empathy, and a patient understanding that is rooted in love, can go a long way in changing hearts and minds to favor life. In my freshman year at college, I knew many classmates that thought of themselves as “pro-choice.” Although they personally wouldn’t get an abortion, they did not want to take away the “rights” of those that did. In such situations, I’ve learned that my peers felt this way because they have had loved ones or knew others who were affected by unplanned pregnancies that resulted in abortion. Pro-lifers need to take the time to see where the person is coming from, what the situation is, and give the individual space to explain and open up. It has taken a long time for me to understand how to ‘read the room’, and often people just need the chance to be heard. To have these love-inspired intentions requires a lot of empathy. This means leaving all judgments at the door. Kaela Beugnet, a former president of the college campus group Marquette for Life, explained the reason behind such motives: “Remember that at the core of the pro-life movement is a deep-rooted belief that every human has inherent dignity and should be treated with respect. We must reflect that in our dialogue… to understand why someone believes what they do is also helpful to have a respectful conversation.” When hearing the heartbreaking stories (being pregnant from rape, incest, struggling with poverty, etc…), it’s important to vocalize that the scenarios are hard and awful. After doing so, it is also significant to let that person know that inspirations come from tragic situations; that good can come from bad things. By pouring out your heart through these actions inspired by love, the other person can feel acknowledged and cared about even while conversing about a sensitive topic.
- Fight with Fortitude and Resilience
We all must take time to reground ourselves in the truth that our advocacy for the value of human life matters. Perhaps you still feel that your pro-life views are in the minority at your institution. Perhaps these tough conversations with peers, even by using logic-based questions and love-inspired intentions, do not always go well. It is really easy at that moment to hold up your white flag and surrender. However, please know that you might not always see the fruits of your labor. When I asked Kaela about this, she stated similar sentiments. “Sometimes it feels like our efforts to end abortion and promote love for both mom and baby are not working, but… change is gradual.” I can personally attest to this as well. Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have family conversations or debates about politics and current news. The biggest person I look up to during these talks is my dad. Yet, when I first started my internship at Wisconsin Right to Life, he did not have a strong pro-life stance on pregnancies resulting from rape. After hearing out his thoughts on the matter and once we watched Unplanned, I was able to show with logic and love on why the baby’s life matters in such devastating situations as well. “Wow,” Dad said, “I never really saw it from that perspective before…”. Although this is just a small scenario with my dad, it shows that anyone can change when you use the right tools overtime.
Our mission as the next generation of pro-lifers is to reach hearts and minds, through education, love, and standing up for the fundamental right to life. Our conversations and our work on our campuses should be rooted in logic, love, and perseverance. In doing so, we will create a better campus environment and effectively defend the right to life.