NC Family President John L. Rustin talks with Kristan Hawkins, President of Students For Life of America, the nation’s largest youth pro-life organization that has helped establish over 1,000 student pro-life groups. They discuss a growing pro-life sentiment among millennials and what you can do to help the pro-life movement.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Our guest today is Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, the nation’s largest youth pro-life organization that has helped establish over 1,000 student pro-life groups, particularly on college campuses across the nation.
Students for Life of America works tirelessly to train and equip high school, college, medical, and law school students to be active and effective voices for life on their campuses and in their communities. Today, we will take with Kristan about recent polling that continues to reveal just how strong the pro-life sentiment and belief is among today’s youth, and how students can get involved and effectively engage and encourage their peers to be voices for the voiceless.
Kristan, welcome to Family Policy Matters, it’s great to have you on the show.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Hey, thanks for having me today.
JOHN RUSTIN: We appreciate so much what you Kristan. Now Kristan, I know several new polls have come out this summer, particularly from Marist and the Knights of Columbus as well as the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement, that looked at the demographics of those that are involved in today’s pro-life movement. Tell us what these polls revealed and how their findings fit into recent trends.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: You know these polls show what we’ve been seeing on the college campuses, that young people are increasingly pro-life, they’re against abortion. The Institute of Pro-Life Advancement poll that we commissioned through Barna research confirmed, we had over 53 percent of millennials actually agree that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. This is what Marist is finding, this is what Knights of Columbus are finding, this is even what Pew research and gallop polls are finding. The difficult thing that we know, that our polls show, and we see also on campuses is that they’re pro-life, they wouldn’t have abortions, they would feel comfortable telling a friend not to have an abortion, offering to help, but they don’t want to describe themselves as pro-life. We call it the “pro-life brand dilemma.”
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s interesting, and I know Millennials often get a bad rap, so to speak, from conservatives for appearing to take a more self-centered stance on some political issues, and also approaching politics oftentimes from a Libertarian or Liberal position. How does that caricature measure up to the true views and actions of Millennials, from your perspective, when it comes to the issue of Life?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: That’s true. There was a study done after 2012 because of a research what happened with the Millennial vote. Where did Millennials vote, what were their views on multiple issues. What they found was, most of the times Millennials will hold a pretty liberal view, and they hold very liberal on most big social issues of the day except when it comes to abortion. And we saw this out on campus yesterday, our team was out atVirginia Commonwealth University there in Richmond. We were testing out our Fall campaign and we just had a very simple display showing where parties stand where the Republican, where the Democratic party stands on abortion what their platform says. We talked about the cycle of corruption, how Planned Parenthood has bought off an entire political party. What was interesting is you know just kind of confirmed what we already know is a lot of the Millennials are coming up to us, engaging with us, kind of said, “Well, I’m not any party. I haven’t registered for a party. I don’t want to be a Republican and I don’t want to be a Democrat.” But all of then, even if they were Liberal, Conservative, Pro-choice or Pro-life, they were turned off by the money. The fact that Planned Parenthood was putting so much money into the election cycle, putting so much into lobbying efforts, and then they in turn receive you know ten-fold that back from the federal government.
JOHN RUSTIN: Kristan, to what can we attribute this generational shift on the issue of Life? In other words, why are more and more Millennials siding with their grandparent’s generation with respect to Life, than their parents’ generation on this issue?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Certainly technology I think, has played a tremendous role in really creating this pro-life generation. We all remember the 3-D, 4-D ultrasound commercials that GE did nationwide when they first developed that astounding new technology. We also have 40 years of a pro-life movement, an active pro-life movement that’s been educating people about science, about biology once human life begins. I think the partial-birth abortion ban was a huge step. In the 90’s there was all these legislative efforts to ban that late-term abortion procedure and President Clinton vetoed it twice and then President Bush finally signed it into law, but that took a lot of time and there was a big public relations effort to get people to understand exactly what happened during a partial-birth abortion. And you know, we found this yesterday on campus. People still do not know how extreme our abortion laws are , and where they’re told, it doesn’t matter how they label themselves, they’re all shocked.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s interesting. Fortunately, in North Carolina, lawmakers have made considerable progress in recent years on efforts to hold abortion providers to the same or similar standards and standard of care as other medical providers. It’s interesting that while we see intense opposition to these types of measures from the abortion industry, the Marist poll actually found Millennials were the strongest supporters of equal medical standards. Why do you think that particular point in this debate resonates so strongly with young people?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: I think it’s commonsense. Their friends are having the abortion, their family member’s having the abortion, and they want to make sure that when she goes in to that center that she’s gonna come back out, her child isn’t, but she will. It’s a very self-centered, a very commonsense argument. They’ll say, ‘Look these abortion facilities should be safe. They should have the same standards that any other ambulatory surgical center have, and that wins the day when I have a conversation with someone on the campus who might vehemently disagree with me about the so-called right of abortion, I can easily get them to say, “Yeh, but you’re right,” that these facilities should have the same standards of care and the same medical requirements. It’s a very commonsense thing.
JOHN RUSTIN: Kristan, it’s an election year of course, which means both major parties revised and adopted their party platforms at their respective conventions this summer. Did either party make any notable policy changes related to protection for the unborn, things like conscience rights for medical providers, as well as taxpayer funding for abortion, in those party platforms?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: The Republican party just strengthened their pro-life stance. They had a great platform in 2012, and they had a great platform in 2016. A lot of it thanks to the tireless work of one of my mentors, Phyllis Schlafly, just passed away. She’s single-handedly responsible for making the GOP the pro-life party, and she just recently authored a book, I was so honored to write afterword of the book, that she put out right before this year’s platform committee meeting for the Republican party. The Democratic party, on the other hand, has gone to the extreme. They know they’re losing this issue and they’re going to the extreme. Now only are they advocating, they have officially changed their platform to advocate for taxpayer-funding for abortion, whenever, wherever. So you, the US taxpayer, will be required to pay for anyone’s abortion, no matter how late in pregnancy, no matter what the circumstance, they want you to pay for it. And this goes against long-standing Democratic tradition, even President Obama when he was running for president, pledged not to mess with the Hyde Amendment. And here they are saying they want to wipe away that amendment. That is the amendment that was passed in the late 70’s that prevented taxpayer dollars from funding US taxpayer abortion.
JOHN RUSTIN: I know that Students for Life has a remarkable presence with more than 1,000 student organizations across the nation, as I mentioned at the outset of our discussion. What are some of the most effective and positive ways for students to be a pro-life voice on their campuses this school year?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: One of the big things that we always encourage students to do is just get active. Find a pro-life club on your campus, or start a Students for Life club and go out to your community. It doesn’t require any money, it doesn’t require you to be an official group, but go you and pray in front of these abortion facilities. Go meet the local pregnancy resource center and offer your help. I think once you get out there and you really see the front line it’s something that transforms you. You see those women walk into the abortion facility at 6:00 am on a Saturday morning looking down crying, and you see her leaving a few hours later doing the exact same thing, you’re gonna realize that this is a place where we need you. I think it’s important to take a stand on your campus and to have these pro-life student groups. Because you saying you’re pro-life validates the belief. It makes it cool, it makes it something that people just want to belong to. Make sure you have a Students for Life group or a pro-life group on your campus. Make sure you’re seen, make sure you’re visible. You know we have a lot of displays and events that you can do at Students for Life that are absolutely free, they’ll actually send you to do. There’s many other pro-life organizations across the country that’ll do the exact same thing.
JOHN RUSTIN: How can students get plugged in with a local pro-life student group, and if there’s not one already on their campus, how can they work to get one started?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: You can just go to our website studentsforlife.org. You could email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, let us know what campus you’re on, or a campus maybe your child or grandchild might be heading to, and then we’ll get back to you and tell you know where the group is, what’s the contact information. If there’s not one, we’ll give you the steps to get started.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s great and very helpful information. Let me repeat that website, it’s studentsforlife.org. Well Kristan, I know you’ve been involved in the pro-life movement for a number of years, and this is great information and very encouraging that we see a trend in the direction, especially among Millennials and other young folks in our culture for Life. What words of additional encouragement would you offer to our listeners across the state of North Carolina? I know many of their hearts are very open to get involved and to support groups like Students for Life and the North Carolina Family Policy Council, but what words of encouragement would you give to them, and if there are other students listening, if you had an opportunity to just sit down with them and just personally say, ‘Hey look I really appreciate your heart for this issue, I want to encourage you to go out and make a difference,’ what would you say to them?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: I think the number one thing for everyone, no matter what your age or where you’re at in life, is that I think people need to have hope, that you need to be encouraged that this is a battle that we’re winning. We’re changing our culture student by student, and this is something to invest your time in, your most precious asset, whether you’re a grandparent, parent or a college student, this is your time, and this is something to invest that precious asset into because this is a battle worth winning, this is a battle worth fighting. And, we know that lives are being lost every single day, women are being wounded, men are being wounded, families are being torn apart, and this is happening all across our country. So, it doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, there’s always some way that you can get involved. You know we have programs for church captains, sign up to be a church captain. Bring a pro-life display or educational exhibit to your church. Get involved, if you’re a student. We have groups now in middle school, high school and college campuses. We can get something going. If you’re a grandparent, talk to your grandchildren, talk about moral absolutes and how there is right or wrong. That’s very, very important. There’s always something you can do, get involved, volunteer at your local pregnancy resource center, adopt a child, sign up to be a foster parent. There’s a place for you.
JOHN RUSTIN: Wow, there’s so much that every individual can do, and I know many of our listeners are encouraged so much by that, and so appreciative Kristan of the great work that you all do at Students for Life of America. I just want to thank you for your time, for sharing this wonderful information. And again, I want to repeat the website so that people can avail themselves of that information, and that’s studentsforlife.org. And with that Kristan Hawkins, I want to thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters and for your very important work engaging the culture, and especially young people to be voices for life and the unborn in our nation.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Thank you so much.
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