By Beth O’Malley, SFLA National Programs Coordinator
A panel of women line the table in front of a vibrant crowd. The room is abuzz with excitement as women come clapping and chanting down the aisle. “STAND UP! FIGHT BACK,” they chant with great enthusiasm. The crowd cheers along, and the conference is underway. Speakers come to the podium, and one after another, they urge the women and men of the room to stand up for those beliefs that they hold dear.
One woman approaches the podium and gives a touching speech about her journey from homelessness to a position in the Virginia House of Delegates. She addresses her young audience:
“I want to make sure that we are living in a place that emphasizes freedom, compassion, and a sense of fair play. I want to make sure that we have a government that is working so that a child born today will have the same opportunities to succeed that the generations before us have dreamed regardless of gender, regardless of race, and regardless of sexual orientation. We must work toward policies that ensure a safety net for the most vulnerable when the worst happens.”
Lovely speech, isn’t this? Add the part where this woman states that she is “being a voice to those who don’t have one,” and we might be convinced that this is speech is pro-life! Don’t be fooled, my friends. What I failed to mention is that you have entered the inner sanctum of none other than the 9th Annual National Young Feminist Leadership Conference!
Welcome to the training grounds for young feminists! Brace yourself for a weekend of commentary on abortion, birth control, abortion, birth control, abort– … Did I repeat myself? Sorry! We also have other important matters to discuss- like LGBTQ rights, immigration concerns, gun control, and voter registration. Leading these discussions is our cast of characters- including Eleanor Smeal (President of Feminist Majority Foundation), Katherine Spillar (Executive Vice President of Feminist Majority Foundation), Clare Coleman (President of National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association), Terry O’Neill (President of National Organization for Women), and a wide range of feminist activists and leaders.
Now you are probably wondering what Sarah Maher (Capitol Area Regional Coordinator), Lauren (a pro-life student leader), and I were doing sitting third row in a room full of feminists who “boo” at the word “personhood” and cheer on the advancement of “reproductive justice.” Surely, there are much better ways to spend a Saturday! However, there is much knowledge to be gained when we seek to discover the language, goals, and understandings of our fellows on the other side of this battle.
While there is much to share from this Saturday’s conference, here is the most important note:
They are afraid. Very afraid.
Throughout the workshops, our team noticed an interesting contrast in presentation. While the presenters tried to assert confidence and enthusiasm in their position, their tone towards the current state of this battle was disappointed and frustrated! They are “on the defensive,” and we have done a significant amount of damage with our pro-active efforts on the grassroots levels and in legislative measures. In my second workshop attendance, I listened to the panel list numerous ballot initiatives, amendments, and lawsuits challenging their abortion and “family planning” programs. In particular, it is important to note what the panelists claimed was causing the most damage.
- We have turned the conversation. We are discussing matters that are not within the framework that the other side wants.
- We are fighting on our turf. We have gained ground through ballot initiatives, amendments, and lawsuits that challenge the other side to take the defensive.
- We make them spend money. Our constant, pro-active fights in community, state, and federal battles are costing them time, money, and resources.
- We are targeting Planned Parenthood. Our increased efforts to put the abortion Goliath out of business are having a huge effect! “If you can make them spend a few million dollars in a few different states every year, that’s a lot less money for actual patient care and services.”
- We sometimes split their base and cause them to fight amongst one another.
Pro-life leaders, students, and activists – you are the reason that our pro-abortion opponents fear that they are losing! Your persistence, energy, and passion to defend life in every state and on every level has caused the tide to turn. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, and your commitment has not been in vain. Whether you have been in this for 40 years or for a few months, you have made an impact.
Our pro-abortion opponents label us as “terrifying,” “extreme,” and “radical.” While I have never considered myself any of these things, I can only draw upon a quote from William Wilberforce: “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”
To all of our fellow “fanatics,” Students for Life of America is proud to be in this battle alongside you. We will continue to fight for every life to be protected and cherished from conception to natural death.