Thousands of students from around the nation are gathering in Washington, D.C. on January 22nd for the 41st annual March for Life. Since that same date in 1973 when the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the March for Life has grown from a small demonstration to the largest pro-life event in the world.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) is one of the nation’s most active pro-life organizations and the largest youth pro-life organization. SFLA is specifically dedicated to training and equipping college, high school, medical, and law school students.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA, said her organization began as student-operated but grew to a full-time operation in 2006 and now has 12 full-time employees.
“We have helped form over 600 new campus pro-life groups in the past seven years, and we train and work with over 780 active groups today,” said Hawkins.
“What Students for Life does is go on to college campuses and identify pro-life students and help them to be successful in organizing and reaching out to students who may be pregnant and in crisis, letting them know they have support on campus,” she said.
Hawkins added she expects 2,500 SFLA members participating in the March for Life this year, with the vast majority of them under the age of 25. SFLA will also hold its own conference as part of the March activities on Tuesday to provide education, training, and networking opportunities with pro-life students from across the country, as well as with national leaders.
“It’s been a creative and exciting process,” said Hawkins. “Students for Life has found many ways to assist students who are unexpectedly pregnant and in crisis.”
“When these young people are in crisis, they often feel they need to have an abortion in order to complete their education,” Hawkins continued. “Our organization helps pro-life groups on campus provide these students with emotional support, scholarship funds, diaper drives, and other assistance.”
Hawkins said SFLA’s “Pregnant on Campus” initiative has been an especially significant resource for both pregnant and parenting students on campus.
SFLA does experience its share of challenges, according to Hawkins.
“State schools are often very liberal, and it may take up to ten months to get our group approved so we can host events and advertise,” she said.
Nevertheless, Hawkins is optimistic, as recent polls have shown that America is shifting from a “pro-choice” to “pro-life” position. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 23 percent of 18-29 year-olds believed abortion should be illegal in every circumstance, the highest percentage of all four generational groups surveyed.
“We are winning,” Hawkins said. “And getting young people involved is imperative, in order to ensure the success of our mission, which is to abolish abortion in this lifetime.”
Connor York is one of the college students who works with Hawkins. Currently president of Students for Life at Oregon State University, York founded the group and is responsible for helping other students get involved in the pro-life community and SFLA, Catholic ministries, Christian ministries, and college Republicans.
“We bring post-abortive women to speak on campus and try to get a dialogue going,” York told Breitbart News. “Our goal is to help pregnant women on campus and serve as a resource for them if they are in crisis.”
York said there are increasing numbers of young men like himself involved in the pro-life movement.
“There’s a good mix of women and men at OSU,” he said. “Last week, we held a prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood in Salem, and it was evenly split between men and women, with no one over the age of 21.”
York talked about what it means for him to be part of SFLA: “I feel like I am working to change our culture. Lots of people are surprised to see young people working in the pro-life movement, and it’s very powerful when they encounter us.”
Thousands of young people from high schools, colleges, and universities will be participating in the 2014 March for Life.
According to a press release, Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio will be represented by approximately 800 people, led by its president, Father Sean Sheridan.
SFL president on the Franciscan campus Jenna Leighton, a senior theology and catechetics major from Minnesota, said students have shown an increased interest this year, with buses filling up in just a few days.
“The march is such a big event, and it’s meaningful because it falls on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” she said. “It’s really a national event. I think it’s hard for every student to get involved with Students for Life on campus, but it’s easy for students to attend the march because there are no scheduled classes that day.”
Students will attend a Holy Hour prior to boarding the buses at midnight. They will arrive the morning of January 22 for Mass at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. From there, Franciscan students will converge on the National Mall with hundreds of other groups for the annual March for Life Rally. Marchers will complete their walk at the Supreme Court of the United States, five blocks from their starting position at the mall.
Catholic University expects 500 students to march in the annual pro-life event.
“It is always inspiring to see the enthusiasm of our students during the days and weeks leading up to the March for Life,” said Jamila Evans, associate campus minister for women’s and pro-life ministry. “They are truly a community committed to the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”