Confronting pro-life stereotypes
By Tina Whittington, Executive Vice-President of Programs
When you say that you are pro-life what usually follows? Yup, assumptions! Assumptions about who you are, what else you believe, your politics, and more. Oftentimes on any campus when someone sees a pro-life table or display, the first thing they say to me is, “You must be religious.” Well, for me that’s true, but that is not the sum or total of my pro-life position or the full picture of who I am. This is true for all of us!
Here are a few of the labels that get added, once you tell someone that you are pro-life: Republican, Catholic, and conservative. There is also usually a litany of things that you are then told you should be doing if you are pro-life, like adopt or foster children, feed the poor, give out free contraception, and more.
But the truth is, that when it comes to the Pro-Life Generation, labels just don’t stick. Especially with the diverse pro-life student groups we work with across the country. I think together we pretty much break any stereotype that comes with the pro-life label, and this is something to be celebrated!
Students for Life is likely the most diverse group in the prolife movement made up of members who are religious, secular, straight, gay, Democrat, Republican, feminist, activist, political, every ethnicity, race and gender, resource focused, use abortion victim images, oppose the use of abortion victim images, and on and on.
The Pro-Life Generation is not monolithic, and the students we serve as well as our team members are very diverse. This is as it should be because if we were all the same we wouldn’t reach all the different people and communities that need to hear the pro-life message. For instance, I can’t get in front of the Hispanic Heritage Club with a pro-life message like my friends who are Hispanic. I can’t challenge the Democratic Party’s abortion stance in the same way as one of our pro-life Democrat students can. This is all ok with me because they may not be able to get in front of Evangelical Christian groups like I can.
If we share the same mission, to abolish abortion, and we each carry that mission into our areas of influence, then I believe we will have success in seeing abortion abolished in our lifetime!
At Students for Life, we strive for unity. We actually have a policy to not publicly criticize other pro-life organizations or their strategies. We work with all pro-life organizations because we feel we are stronger together.
Does that mean that every campus Students for Life leader must agree with everything Kristan Hawkins, our president, says or every event SFLA hosts? No. Just like we don’t always agree with student group strategies, but we always support them in what they want to do. Why? Because the pro-life generation is stronger when we stick together and give each other space to use our different strategies and influence, with the same mission, to abolish abortion.
All of us pour so much of our heart and soul into our work that sometimes we see it as being the only way to end abortion or change culture. Or sometimes we become overly sensitive to perceived criticism because of how invested we are in our strategy. But there is a larger picture, almost like a quilt made up of many different quilt squares, we are each poised just where we need to be to make the most impact as possible, and only together are we able to accomplish the mission.
One hard lesson I’ve learned is that disagreement on strategy doesn’t equal division, unless we let it. What ends up working in New York City is not going to be the same as what works in Des Moines, Iowa, and the two strategies can be at odds, but it doesn’t mean that there is now division between our Students for Life groups in these cities. Nor does it mean that the New York City Students for Life groups need to call out the Des Moines Students for Life groups for engaging in what they think is the wrong strategy. Changing culture sometimes looks different and needs different tactics to reach the individals in each community.
We believe that the pro-life generation can decide what will work best on their campus, in their community, and with their peers. We want to help students figure out what that is and then give them the training and tools they need to follow through on their strategy.
SFLA is not a membership organization, we don’t require groups to do specific activities or pay dues. The only thing we require of you to enter the tent is that you are against abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. All the rest, all the other labels, don’t matter – our tent is big and we are #StrongerTogether.