On the third Tuesday in October, thousands of teenagers won’t be speaking to anyone. And it won’t be because they’re moody or sulking.
That’s because this date is recognized every year as the National Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. On that day, many students – mostly in high school or college – observe a vow of silence to stand with the millions of children who’ve fallen victim to abortion; children who also will never have voices.
Students wear red armbands or red duct tape over their mouths, or pro-life T-shirts to show their support, and pass out flyers to their peers and school staff explaining the meaning of the day.
This isn’t an act of teen rebellion. Organizers urge students to clear it in advance with teachers, changing the date they commemorate the event if they have a class speaking assignment that day and being sure to observe school regulations. (For example, some schools will not allow duct tape to be used, citing safety concerns.)
“They’re not going to disrespect authority,” says Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America (SFLA). “They’re just making a statement. Sometimes being silent is one of the most ‘vocal’ things you can do. By not using their voices and representing all those children who will be aborted this year – more than 1 million – it’s a pretty powerful witness.”
The event was founded in 2004 by pro-life activist Bryan Kemper, who also founded the youth-oriented music ministry Rock for Life. These days, the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity is promoted by many pro-life groups – especially SFLA, which focuses all its energies on students.
Hawkins sees many signs of the day’s impact. She cites a case she heard of from Kemper, involving a girl whose mother asked her what the event was all about and why she was participating. As it happened, the mother was pregnant again and had scheduled an abortion – but then canceled it.
“This girl actually saved her sibling just by participating in this simple activity,” Hawkins says. “And we hear stories all the time of conversations resulting from this among friends and especially in families, starting when someone asks, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s it about?’
“It’s a great conversation starter, getting people talking about abortion. That’s usually half the battle – just getting people to have that conversation.”
It’s difficult to know exactly how many students are participating, because many do it on their own without reporting to SFLA. But based on the events in which SFLA does play a role, Powers feels confident in saying that at least hundreds of schools and thousands of students are involved each year. And often it’s just the beginning of pro-life activism for students.
“A lot of times this is a great first activity for someone who wants to get involved but doesn’t know what to do,” Hawkins says. “Then they get more involved afterward. I get so much joy out of seeing them do this one thing, then move on to bigger and bigger things – becoming bold and courageous in their stand for life.”
The Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity didn’t materialize out of nothing. It’s a reflection of a trend among millennials: Polls show that, although they lean liberal on some social issues, they’ve also been growing increasingly pro-life for some time.
“There’s a very vibrant youth pro-life movement,” Hawkins says. “That’s why we’ve seen this activity grow, and why we’re seeing Students for Life grow across the country: We’ve started more than 100 new groups just this year.
“It’s amazing to see what happens when younger people get involved. Once you get them on fire and train them, it’s just crazy how much they can accomplish.”