Introducing the 5 PIllars
Students for Life of America (SFLA) strives to create effective and well-rounded student groups that are fighting abortion on multiple fronts. Since SFLA’s existence, we have seen the impact our groups have in their efforts to actively engage in all fronts of the pro-life movement. The most successful of these groups are those who find balance in seeking out opportunities to converse, convert, confront, advocate, and support.
It is certainly easy to fall into the habit of single-minded pursuit of one type of pro-life activism. For example, some groups find comfort in focusing heavily on pregnancy support services and shying away from political engagement. Others are gung-ho in their involvement in controversial engagements (like abortion victim imagery or political lobbying), but they fail to address supportive services and resources for women.
While we encourage groups to enthusiastically embrace their passions, we believe that it is also necessary that each group and leader explores opportunities outside of their comfort zone. Instead of being focused on one area that your group is most comfortable with, challenge your group to try several types of pro-life activism. Diverse activism will foster a more dynamic impact on your campus and in your community. You will also see an increase in membership because you are reaching more people and providing more opportunities for potential members to get involved with your group.
There are five areas of engagement that are crucial to abolishing abortion in which effective groups should be participating. These “5 Pillars” are Effective Education, Industry Impact, Public Policy, Rapid Response, and Supportive Services.
What are the 5 Pillars?
Effective Education: Within this pillar, we want to make students aware of the abortion crisis and recruit them to join our mission in confronting the crisis. This pillar also includes educating the members within your group, so that they can successfully go out and educate the student body about abortion. Some examples of engagement for this Pillar: hosting a local pro-life speaker, SFLA training or display, attending SFLA’s Leadership Workshops or our National Conference.
Industry Impact: Over the years, a culture of abortion has been pushed by abortion industry leaders such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW. The abortion industry is not only responsible for committing the abortions in their facilities, but they are working to further its acceptance and normalcy in our communities and schools. Systematically exposing the abortion industry and reducing the supply of abortion is essential to abolishing abortion in our lifetime. It is important that we always remember it is all about the approach. We believe in compassionate, peaceful, and non-violent interactions outside of abortion facilities. Some of the many events that groups participating in Industry Impact can do is join their local 40 Days for Life campaign, exposing Planned Parenthood on campus, sidewalk counseling outside of local abortion facilities, and reach out to abortion workers.
Public Policy: We want to assure that we are doing our best to legally protect women and their preborn children. To do so, we need to secure and enforce pro-life legislation and eliminate pro-abortion legislation. We also want to ensure staunch pro-life people are in office passing life-affirming laws. Public Policy can be intimidating, but it can be super easy! Make sure to keep up with your state pro-life laws, and develop a relationship with your state RTL chapter. Anytime there is an abortion bill coming up, your group should send a few representatives to testify on behalf of the bill. Lawmakers want to see young people participate in public policy. After all, abortion affects our generation more than any other. Other things your group can do are door to door campaigns, your State Pro-Life Lobby Day, and calling campaigns to urge your local elected officials to vote yes/no on an upcoming abortion bill.
Rapid Response: Rapid response is historically very important in social movements. We must always be prepared to respond to those who oppose equality of the preborn. There are many instances on campus and in our community where we need to effectively identify, expose, and counter the abortion agenda. Rapid Response requires your group to be quick and constantly keeping an eye on what the abortion industry is up to on your campus and in your community. If you find out that an abortion advocate is coming to your campus (Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, Wendy Davis), you need to send a pro-life presence there. If your school hosts a “Real Sex Week” it is your job to counter with the truth and alternatives.
Supportive Services: The pillar of “Supportive Services” aims to provide resources directly to those targeted and affected by abortion so that students can choose life for their children and pursue a hopeful future for their families. “Supportive Services” projects address both serving the needs of individual pregnant and parenting students and actively supporting local life-affirming organizations (e.g. pregnancy resource centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes). To serve individual pregnant and parenting students, student groups are encouraged to discuss ways in which they can meet the needs of their peers- such as by advocating for life-affirming resources in their school, referring students to life-affirming resources, offering to drive pregnant students to appointments at the local pregnancy resource center, hosting a baby shower for a pregnant student, or even starting up a scholarship fund for pregnant and parenting students. In support of local life-affirming organizations, student groups become their advocates on campus by advertising these center’s resources, inviting centers onto campus to speak, organizing donation drives, and volunteering at the center’s events. “Supportive Services” is facilitated through our two levels of the Pregnant on Campus Initiative– Building a Better Future (high school) and Pregnant on Campus (college).
5 Pillars’ Success Stories
- Each year, students from all across the country attend the March for Life in Washington DC and the Walk for Life in San Francisco. Many of these students feel some sort of pull or desire to work towards abolishing abortion after attending. What happens all too often though is that they are unsure of how to go about pro-life work. That’s why it is so vital to attend the Students for Life National Conferences. Each year, nearly 2,000 students attended the East Coast conference alone! The conferences play an important role in the development of students as leaders in the movement. Students have the unique chance to hear from some of the most prominent pro-life names on a variety of topics. Workshop sessions allow students to work on more focused areas, such as the Pregnant on Campus Initiative. Throughout the entire conference, many pro-life organizations set up booths providing connections and networking. SFLA is committed to raising up the pro-life generation to be strong leaders and carry the future of the movement. Through the conferences we seek to continue the inspiration that stems from the March for Life and Walk for Life and show students concrete steps they can take to development their leadership style and abolish abortion in our lifetime.
- One of the most impactful things that Students for Life of America does is equip our Regional Coordinators with educational tabletop displays. These displays cover a wide variety of abortion topics, provoking students to consider questions such as, “When do Human Rights Begin?” and “Should Abortion Remain Legal Even When a Fetus Can Feel Pain?” Because of their purposeful thought-provoking nature, our tabletops are always sure to create deep and meaningful discussion among the student body when our student groups bring them to campus. Another benefit we see from these displays, is the way in which they incite confidence in our student leaders as they do outreach to their peers. Every time our student groups host a tabletop display, discussion is spurred, confidence is built, and more young people are recruited to our cause. It’s hard to pass such a captivating table without at least stopping to see what it’s all about. We can’t get enough of the meaningful and convincing conversation that our SFLA tabletops create!
- Every August, students across the United States, stand outside of abortion facilities in solidarity with the pro-life movement during our National Sidewalk Counseling Day. Outside of abortion facilities, mothers make the final decision about the preborn child in their womb. The decision can be fatal, and can end their child’s life, or the decision can be the beginning of a hopeful future for their child. Through a peaceful and compassionate approach, hearts and minds can begin to realize the tragedy of abortion. Through the distribution of literature regarding fetal development, we witness women think about choosing life. Our efforts are seen and heard as dozens of women turn around, leave the abortion facility, and chose life. We are able to direct these women to Pregnancy Resource Centers where they will find a more comprehensive list of services. This day is always a victory for the pro-life generation, and we are thrilled that we can make a difference in the lives of these women. Without our efforts, more babies would have been aborted, and more women would have been let down by the poor “health care” that abortion facilities provide. We truly have had a great impact, and we hope you can join us out on the sidewalks next August!
- Western Washington Students for Life hosted SFLA’s Planned Parenthood Project, and it was one of the most impactful events that they hosted all year! It drew so much attention that they were protested, and the local Planned Parenthood director came out to talk to them. The event ended up being discussed in most of the classes on campus. One of their members was in a four-hour Women’s Studies class, and they talked about Planned Parenthood for an entire class. When she told her professor that she was a part of their group, the professor told her that she could debate her classmates the following day who were interns at Planned Parenthood. That night the SFL group got together, and brushed up on their Planned Parenthood knowledge, so that she would be ready for the debate. When she got to her class the next day, the Planned Parenthood interns stood up, and said that they had researched Planned Parenthood all night, but they couldn’t debate her because all our information was true! Displays like this are so important because they educate our campuses about Planned Parenthood’s abortion business, and in turn, prevent students from going into Planned Parenthood in the first place.
- #Sockit2PP. Our goal was simple: to put pressure on our leaders in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood of our taxpayer dollars. With a mountain of 196,543 baby socks, we were hard to miss. Pedestrians stopped dead in their tracks to ask what was happening. We explained that each little sock represented a baby aborted by Planned Parenthood, and our taxes are giving them over half a billion dollars annually. Senator Ben Sasse, Kristan Hawkins, Maddi Runkles, and student leaders spoke. After the press conference, we took 100 laundry baskets with 888 socks each to Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to show them the price of Congress’ in-action during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. His staff was in shock! It was so important for us to put this pressure on our nation’s leaders. Through the event we were able to not only remind them, we also educated spectators and gain media attention.
- Missouri Students for Life groups participated in SFLA’s Fetal Pain Mobilization in order to urge the state to ban abortions after 20 weeks, when we know the preborn child can feel pain. Over fifteen schools participated by hosting SFLA’s Fetal Pain tabletop display and collecting signatures on campus for the petition. Students also called their state senators and representatives, urging them to vote to protect these preborn children. Some groups spoke at local churches and collected signatures after services. This was a very influential event on campuses across the state, because students were dialoguing with their peers about the inhumane nature of abortion, while also using their outreach to influence their state’s law. Student groups were very active on social media, providing facts on fetal pain and encouraging their supporters to call their state officials and sign the petition. Thousands of signatures were collected and were presented by 50 students to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tem, when Reagan Barklage, SFLA’s Western Regional Director, spoke at the Pro-Life Lobby Day at the Capitol. (Read the full story here.)
- In the summer of 2013, the pro-life community came together in one of the most memorable mobilizations in the past decade. At the time, Texas pro-life politicians were fighting to advance legislation that would protect pregnant women from the dangerous and predatory abortion providers in their state. House Bill 2 (HB2) proposed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks (which is the point of fetal pain) and included new health code regulations of abortion facilities to bring them up to the standard of ambulatory surgical centers. The bill was met with fierce opposition from pro-choice advocates, including TX Democrat Wendy Davis and Planned Parenthood’s CEO Cecile Richards. Thousands of pro-life and pro-choice activists poured into the state capitol to debate and rally. Seeing the need for a student presence, Students for Life of America (SFLA) coordinated a student mobilization and connected with all local TX pro-life groups to determine where our students could best serve. With barely a week of planning, the #Stand4Life Bus Tour headed into the action! We picked up 60+ students along a 30-hour route, and as soon as we arrived in Austin, our students were rallying, handing out flyers, praying in front of clinics, protesting Cecile Richards, and meeting with pro-life politicians to voice our support. The week-long mobilization brought unity to the pro-life community and emboldened student leaders to become life-long activists. Just ask our Regional Coordinators Lori Cascio and David Cordaro! (Read accounts of the trip here, here, and )
- Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016, was brought forward to the Supreme Court last June. This court case is an incredible example of how the pro-life generation is always there. Students for Life of America was on the front lines for the decision of this case. We mobilized students from all over the Washington D.C. area to be there in hopes of changing culture for women and babies. We quickly put together boxes of t-shirts, signs, banners, and mega phones to head out to the Supreme Court; we did this three times before the decision was made by the Justices. On June 26, 2017 the pro-life gen had to go even bigger. We mobilized students to be at the Supreme Court the night before the decision to join together in prayer, meditation, and community. We packed up our sleeping bags and snacks, knowing that we would be the first people in attendance to stand for the mothers and babies that we care so deeply about. The night consisted of little sleep but a lot of memories- this is what the pro-life generation does best. The next morning came around and Planned Parenthood supporters starting filling the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, it was not long before we learned that Planned Parenthood had shipped buses of supporters to this event. They had to bribe their supporters to be there! On the other hand, although out numbered, we had a strong group of young people ready to speak life. There were many powerful conversations that happened this day. Although the WWH v. Hellerstedt was decided not in our favor this was motivation for us to push forward. To stand up stronger and taller, and with more compassion. Despite our loss, we received lots of media attention in our favor for being there, including the front page of the Wall Street Journal!
- In January 2017, SFLA’s Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator, Bethany Janzen, received a call from a Colorado community college student. The young woman was the mother of an 11-week-old child, and she had received Bethany’s contact information from the new Students for Life group on campus. She had recently learned that her financial aid would not be renewed for the upcoming semester because she had failed to complete the requirements of her Fall classes (due to pregnancy-related absences). Bethany noticed that something sounded off about this situation, and she immediately contacted the Pregnant on Campus Director, Beth Rahal, regarding the situation. Together, the SFLA team was able to determine that this parenting student had not been rightly informed of her Title IX rights and was not appropriately accommodated during her pregnancy. We were able to provide her with points for appeal, and within two weeks, the student had her financial aid reinstated! The Student for Life group continued to support and celebrate her with a baby shower. (Read the full story here.)
- The power and impact of one person speaking up is incalculable, and few stories match the international reaction to Maddi Runkles’ story. Maddi was a pregnant high school senior at a small Christian school. Having broken her school’s pledge of abstinence, Maddi honestly approached her administration about her situation, and she humbly accepted her administration’s decision to remove her from her leadership positions and to assume a 2-day period of unofficial suspension. However, things went too far when the school continued to discipline Maddi beyond what was the typical disciplinary actions for students who had broken this same pledge. The administration proposed a school-wide assembly to announce Maddi’s pregnancy, and they also recommended banning Maddi from campus for the remainder of the year and banning her from walking at graduation. Maddi chose to make her pregnancy announcement. She publicly acknowledged her sin, and she asked for forgiveness and support. While she was allowed back in school, she was banned from walking at graduation. With the support of Students for Life groups nationwide, Maddi shared her story publicly to address the Christian communities’ response to unplanned pregnancy and to offer hope to other pregnant students who may be facing discrimination. Maddi’s story spread across the United States and beyond– reaching as far as Italy! She will be attending college next year, and she hopes to continue to advocate for pregnant and parenting students. (Read Maddi’s story here.)
FREE Consultation and Trainings
Contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator for a free student group consultation to determine the best ways for your group to incorporate these five pillars into your group’s goals. Your Regional Coordinator can offer free trainings on each pillar and provide valuable support, resources, and more! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected to your local SFLA Regional Coordinator.