She has helped establish more than 500 pro-life campus chapters.
Having temporarily beaten back ObamaCare earlier this year, some pro-lifers took a breather. But not Kristan Hawkins.
The 24-year-old executive director of Students for Life of America can’t afford to stop at this point. She’s too busy expanding the organization, coping with the demands of her regular job commute of nearly two hours each way, and raising her 1-year-old son, Gunner, who has the special needs that come with cystic fibrosis.
And, oh, yes — Hawkins and her school-teacher husband, Jonathan, were expecting child No. 2 in April.
“There’s been a lot of balancing,” says Hawkins, who lives in Martinsburg, W.Va., and rises at 3 a.m. about three days a week in order to beat Washington, D.C., traffic to her office in Arlington, Va.
Charmaine Yoest calls Hawkins “indefatigable and a coalition builder.” “She is constantly looking over the horizon to find new ways to move the pro-life agenda forward,” says the president of Americans United for Life.
Just as important, Yoest says, is that Hawkins quickly has come to focus on a crucial priority for the pro-life movement: on-campus mobilization. “It proves the point that pro-life is for young people,” Yoest says.
In fact, Hawkins already has helped establish more than 500 on-campus chapters across the country as she pushes toward the organizational goal of more than 1,000.
“You have to make things as easy as possible for today’s students — take their motivation and passion for the pro-life movement and allow them to do great things on campus,” Hawkins says. “You can’t just start the group; you also have to develop training and work with them to keep them alive.”
These student activists form an ever-larger critical mass when they get together, such as at the Students for Life national convention that was held in Washington in January, drawing about 1,000 attendees. Hawkins also is continually training student leaders at their campuses around the country.
Fortunately, Hawkins says, pro-life convictions seem to come easier to today’s college students than to their parents. A handful of factors contribute, Hawkins believes. One is the striking clarity of today’s fetal ultrasound images — and, also thanks to technology, their accessibility online.
Another huge factor is that Millennials take social-justice issues very seriously and, unlike many of their parents, easily embrace protection of the preborn as one of them. “They ask, ‘How can you be against genocide in Darfur when you’re for abortion in America?’ ” Hawkins says.
Hawkins doesn’t rest because she views her work as a calling that began at the age of 15 with counseling fellow teens at a pregnancy center in her hometown of Wellsburg, W.Va. Hawkins majored in political science at Bethany College in West Virginia. She worked for the Bush administration for a while.
In 2006, she found the perfect vocational fit when, at the age of 21, Hawkins was hired as executive director of Students for Life (formerly known as American Collegians for Life), which had received a start-up grant from the Gerard Health Foundation.
Hawkins believes “it’s pretty ironic” that her first child bears a birth defect because of which many mothers have aborted their babies. “One of the first things I thought of is that, because of what I’m doing, God was testing me,” she says. “It was like, ‘Here you go — I’m going to give you a hard one.’ But we were given Gunner because we can give him the care he needs.”
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— Dale Buss