“Abolish abortion in our lifetime.” That’s the goal of Student’s for Life of America, an organization dedicated to advancing the pro-life perspective among young people today. And their goal is not merely theoretical: Through a dedicated field program on college campuses across the country, a pro-life leadership development program, and the largest yearly national pro-life conference, they are making it their everyday mission to abolish abortion.
According to their mission statement, “Students for Life exists to transform culture by helping young people make abortion unthinkable and obsolete on their campus, in their community, and in our nation.”
If you follow Students for Life of America (SFLA) for even a short period of time, you will inevitably see their passionate and incessantly energetic leader, Kristan Hawkins, in action. As SFLA’s president for the last decade, Hawkins brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the pro-life movement. Since 2006, with Hawkins at the helm, SFLA has become a full-time operation and has gone from less than 200 campus groups to more than 1,000 groups in all 50 states.
There are several reasons why SFLA focuses their field program efforts on college campuses. For one thing, 52 percent of abortion-seeking women are under 25. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, many of these young women go looking for help from organizations like Planned Parenthood. The nation’s largest purveyor of abortion, Planned Parenthood often sets up shop near college campuses. In fact, nearly 79 percent of all Planned Parenthood offices are within 5 miles of a college campus.
SFLA views these numbers as both a threat and an opportunity. The organization mission is based on the notion that the high school and college years are often when worldviews are challenged and formed. That’s why Hawkins says reaching students is critical when it comes to shaping the worldviews of the next generation.
In other words, if you want to end abortion tomorrow, you need to start with the youth of today.
“This generation values relationships intensely and values just treatment of all,” Hawkins says. “And they have the good hearts needed to love them both – mother and preborn child.”
While pro-abortion groups position themselves as a resource for women in crisis, SFLA has a different take on the “help” that Planned Parenthood provides. While pro-abortion groups say they’re empowering women, Hawkins’ organization contends that they actually degrade women by shaming them into thinking they cannot raise or child.
And Hawkins says this kind of thinking doesn’t resonate with many young people today.
“The pro-life generation is motivated by human rights concerns and sees the needs of both mothers and preborn infants as equally important,” she says. “They don’t see their career goals at war with relationship and family goals, and therefore are not hostage to the abortion agenda of a lot of mainstream feminists – who preach that abortion is required for women to have a great career and self-fulfillment.”
SFLA recently embarked on a new effort to counter the message that abortion providers exist to help women. The organization created the largest searchable database of pregnancy resources available near college campuses (PregnantOnCampus.org), which allows students to search their areas for assistance with housing, financial aid, maternity clothes, child care and more. The SFLA database is simply a means to offer students options, because when pregnant women are given options, they are less likely to feel like they are being forced to choose between their child and their education.
Now more than ever, students facing unplanned pregnancies are able to choose a life-giving option – to either parent or place their child for adoption – after making use of the services offered through this database. Indeed, SFLA wants these women to know that they don’t have to make that heart wrenching choice; that there is a group of students willing to help these young mothers with their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
At their national conferences, SFLA trains young people to put into action the popular pro-life admonition: “Love them both.”
“Thousands of students from across the country took their time and money to come together, to be trained, motivated and empowered to make a difference where they live,” Hawkins says. “That kind of commitment inspires me and inspires their peers at school, at work and at home.”
SFLA is prompting the hearts-and-minds changes that are necessary to make a lasting impact on the abortion debate in this country. And thanks to organizations like SFLA, more young people than ever are now leading the charge to make abortion both unthinkable and obsolete.
Dawn Vargo is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two young children.