These Students Are Leading With Love

 

Guest blog post by Corinne Zay, March for Life intern

Making major news recently is the story out of Hagerstown, Maryland of a pregnant high school Senior, Maddi Runkles, denied the opportunity to participate in graduation from her small Christian academy. Maddi is a straight A student who has been involved in many extracurricular activities at her small school, which requires all students to sign a Christian code of conduct to attend. Included in the code of conduct is the concept that the sexual act is meant for marriage, and the school rightly expects students to abide by this rule.

Earlier this year Maddi discovered that she was pregnant with a baby boy due in September. Acknowledging that she broke the code of conduct, Maddi apologized to the school administration. The school board determined that Maddi would lose her position on Student Council and involvement in extracurricular activities at school, in addition to prohibiting her to walk at her high school graduation in June. Major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post and NBC have reported this story, which has remained in the headlines for days:

Despite the consequences of her life being altered, and her graduation experience being diminished, outcries of support have come from various pro-life organizations with encouragement for her strong courageous decision to choose life and proceed with her pregnancy. Students for Life of America has voiced their support for Maddi and helped her to embrace her decision of life, including having her as a speaker at their #Sockit2PP campaign in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

This support for pregnant mothers is crucial and at the heart of the pro-life movement. March for Life, where I have the blessing of interning this summer, has also released statements regarding the need to support students in this situation with life-affirming actions. The value of the child’s life needs support, in addition to the mothers. Although Maddi may have been denied the support she needed from her school, she has been a tremendous voice of bravery for other pregnant and parenting students. She has joined these organizations by lovingly accepting their support and is paying it forward as a sign of hope for future mothers.

Maddi has drawn attention to the challenge student mothers and fathers face, particularly in Christian culture environments. Maddi and other parenting students inspire universities and schools across America to care for their beloved mothers on campus. Being pregnant on a college campus and in a high school is naturally very intimidating. However, in particular, devout Christian schools may encourage an environment that ironically creates a greater temptation to abort because of the increased likelihood of perceived shame with peers and faculty. The Christian values of love and mercy are so easily distorted by a focus on justice and pride. Even in my own backyard, I fight this distortion of good as President of Ave for Life.

Just this year we launched our first initiative of Pregnant on Campus at my college, Ave Maria University. Ave Maria University is a small Catholic college located in southwest Florida. The campus culture at Ave Maria is one of great joy. Students often attend daily mass, engage in discussions about faith, and work hard to become holy each day (not just on campus). Although Ave Maria University does not have a code of conduct, the moral standard each student holds themselves to is simply understood on campus and truly geared toward being the best version of ourselves.

Although this culture is overwhelmingly positive, Ave Maria is very much full of humans. It is in our human nature that we fail and then learn the importance of mercy and love towards each other. It was in my experience in leading Ave for Life that I had the opportunity to learn authentic love of the pregnant mother.

In February, one of our board members and friends came to me and told me that we had a pregnant student on campus. I was so excited to be able to serve this mother and get to know her. It was then about a month later that I met Beth and learned more about her. Here was a young freshman student at Ave Maria pregnant with a child and we as a pro-life student organization had the opportunity to support.

Ave for Life had discussed beginning a program “Pregnant on Campus” prior to learning about Beth, but God’s timing was impeccable. We began planning and discussing the importance of this issue on our campus. We knew the heart of the issue was how we as a campus would adapt to become a welcoming and loving environment for a pregnant and parenting student.

With the culture of Ave Maria focused on moral values and virtue, many on campus neglected the possibility or idea of a pregnant student. Our Board took this question to the administration and together began working towards solutions. In working with Beth and a handful of other pregnant mothers on our campus we learned how to better support students in this situation.

First, we considered resources that we could offer pregnant and parenting students. We talked with residence hall directors, administration, and local clinics about the opportunities and legal rights we could offer to pregnant and parenting students.  Next, we began to plan to make physical improvements on our campus such as adding changing tables to bathrooms and high chairs to dining areas. Finally, and most importantly, we observed the cultural change and discussion that needed to occur on our campus regarding pregnancy. While our campus believes in preserving sexual intimacy for marriage, we also believe in mercy and want to be as life-affirming as possible.  Regardless of how a baby is conceived, every life is a gift and a miracle to be received with love!

This past March this year, we launched our Pregnant on Campus initiative to helps students further understand the best ways to support a woman who is pregnant on campus. One of the most important lessons we learned is that because this has not been discussed on campus, it is possible and even probably that many pregnancies have gone unnoticed and unannounced; some that may have even sadly resulted in abortion. Our most important goal with this initiative is to show our brothers and sisters in Christ that Ave Maria is a place where motherhood should be embraced.

It is with this story and goal in mind that I share our authentic Ave for Life culture and encourage other schools and campuses to support your students. One of the simplest things we can do each day is to love our neighbor. We do not know the cross they are carrying. Maybe it is their work stress, maybe it is their day to day tasks, but maybe it is an unexpected pregnancy. Love your neighbor where they are at. To Beth and to Maddi: we are praying for you and we appreciate your unspoken courage in choosing life!

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” – Mother Teresa

 

 

 

Liberty Law Students: Leading the March for Life

 

Guest blog post by Sean Maquire, President of Liberty Law Students for Life and Mia Yugo, Vice President of Law Students for Life

On January 22, 1973, the highest court in the land held that abortion was a woman’s “right.” Thus far, over fifty-five million children have been legally aborted as a result of that fateful decision forty-one years ago. Fifty-five million voices silenced before ever uttering a sound.

Liberty Law StudentsLiberty University School of Law Students for Life stands for the right to life and defends all life, not just the lives of the young, the strong, and the able-bodied. We firmly believe that all human life is valuable and deserves to be protected. Every life is a gift and must be respected.

Today, those who receive a poor prenatal diagnosis are more-likely-than-not to be legally aborted. This country allows the abortion of any child with a “fetal abnormality.” Although the law protects people with abnormalities after they are born, it fails to do so prior to birth. Law Students for Life is honored to lead the March for Life this January in support of the principle that the law must protect all people – including those who have not yet been born.

The decisions that steered this nation away from the culture of life were rendered long before we were born. Yet, the consequences of abortion continue to impact every generation. There are empty places in our hearts for siblings, friends, cousins, nephews, and nieces who were never born. We see the pain on a woman’s face – the remorse in her eyes – when she remembers the child she never met because she chose to end an innocent life. We cry with men whose girlfriends abort their child while they stand powerless to prevent it. That is the state of our laws.

We are not silent as this pain and destruction of humanity continues. We stand to tell all three branches of our government that the People, the sovereign of this land, oppose the slaughter of innocent life. We march to declare that this evil must be stopped, that all life must be respected at every stage of development, and that this nation must return to its founding principles of life and liberty.

It is a great honor to be able to lead the 42nd Annual March for Life this January. We look forward to being a part of the great awakening of the 21st century. To that end, we will lend our voices to those in the legal community declaring that these decisions must be overturned.

Throughout the year, we have been busy making preparations to lead the March. We have raised money by hosting spaghetti and teriyaki lunches in order to charter a bus to the March. We have been praying for a burning passion in our hearts to see abortion end. We have been preparing as legal students, so that we can employ our skills to help bring about this change in the law. Our excitement is building as we prepare to drive up to Washington, D.C. to join the March for Life.

Life is not a choice. It is a right. Abortion is not a mere procedure. It is the destruction of innocent human life and the first step towards the abyss. As all histories have shown, the flame of every society that thinks otherwise is inevitably extinguished.  We are a new generation of attorneys ready to call things by their real names, not by euphemisms created to cloud the truth and advance political agendas. If you support life, march with us in January.

 

From Fargo to DC: Destination, March for Life!

 

Guest Blog post by Julia Johnson
Senior, Shanley High School, Fargo, North Dakota

march for life 2013AEach year that I go on the March for Life, a hunger for righteousness grows stronger in my heart.  I have never been part of a more noble cause than the fight for life.  I have been privileged to go on the March for Life with my fellow students three years in a row, this year being my fourth, and I can barely contain my excitement!  My very own high school, Shanley High, was chosen to carry the lead banner.  When our chaplain told us the news I was in shock, what an incredible HONOR!  To lead the charge in the fight for life is almost unthinkable; with humble hearts I can only say that we all feel truly blessed to have this opportunity.

Sophomore year waiting on the Mall for the March to begin.

Sophomore year waiting on the Mall for the March to begin.

In past years, the most students that I have made the pilgrimage with has never exceeded 140 students.  But this year, it is our goal to become the first high school in March for Life history to bring our entire student body!  We have over 300 students!  I’m ecstatic to see the enthusiasm and excitement grow in anticipation of the March.  The March for Life has been one of the biggest impacts on my life, and I want as many people as possible to have the same opportunity to see what I see every January.

When walking down Constitution Avenue there is the biggest form of camaraderie between you and every single person in the March.  You’re a team, one large family, and all are present for the same purpose.  It doesn’t matter what religion, race, or age you are, you’re all there to reach a common goal.  I have never experienced this feeling on such a massive scale before, and reminiscing on my very first March, it was the most overwhelmingly and joyous feeling I’ve ever experienced.  But it instilled a drive in me to return every year since.

March for Life in progress

March for Life in progress

Some of my most favorite memories have been made on the March, you never fully know what you are going to experience.  Every year is unique.  But certain things never get old, such as the thrill of running up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, going to the Smithsonian museums, and of course singing and praying your hearts out to protect the lives of the unborn.  No matter how many times you go, the March for Life pilgrimage is worth it. My fellow students and I are able to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are able to be a voice for the voiceless.

 

Dear Pregnant Student: Don’t Be Afraid

 

“What do I do?”

“Who will help me?”

These are the questions that run through the heart and head of a student facing an unexpected pregnancy on campus.  Thankfully, there is now a go-to resource center for pregnant students and their friends to get answers.

pregnant on campus site_logoStudents for Life of America recently debuted their Pregnant on Campus Initiative, a state by state and campus by campus listing of resources.  For example, a pregnant student can find information on policies regarding pregnant and parenting resources, or information about making an adoption plan.

Be sure to check out this life-saving tool to find the pregnant and parenting resources you need on your campus!

Loyola Students for Life, a pro-life organization that supports women in crisis pregnancies, recently reiterated the message that pro-life students on campus want to help with a video to their peers.  Watch their beautiful message of “You are not alone” and “I want to help you” and share on social media to remind pregnant women everywhere that they have a support network to choose life!

 

And We Will Be Heard

Guest Blog by Angela Kim

I breathe in and out, watching my breath condense in the chill air. Stretched above like a sheet of ice, the sky shimmers as the sun struggles against the suppressing cold. Its heat warms the crowd only a little, beaten away by relentless winds. It is cold. And yet, despite the numbness in my fingertips, the shiver running through my body in an uncomfortable tremor, I cherish every moment, willing this day to last forever. After all, I dreamed of attending the March for Life for years now, and I finally made it.

Getting here has not been easy. For most people, it is a simple matter of piling in a car and driving to Washing D.C for the day, but I am limited. I do not have a car or a license, and I also do not have enough money to afford the $150 tickets offered by local pro-life groups. I had to find another way.

In the end, I traveled with a friend named Emily. We took a bus from Michigan to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where a friend let us stay the night. Then we joined a homeschool co-op’s bus that drove six hours to Washington, D.C, only to stay three to four hours and drive all the way back.

It was quite a long way to travel. But it was so worth it. As soon as we stepped off the bus and into the cold, chill air, I knew it was worth it.

zzzzangelakimI am standing in a crowd of people, smiling people wrapped warmly in jackets and scarves and hats. For a moment, I wonder how vast the crowd is, so I make my way to one side and stand on a three-foot wall, looking out. I cannot see the end of the crowd. It is a sea of people. Colorful signs and flags soar through the air. Music blares in the background, whispered prayers filling in any moment of near silence. I look around, and that’s when it hits me.

Everyone in this crowd is here for the same reason. Everyone here believes, more or less, the same thing. For years and years, I have been passionately against the injustice of abortion, and during these years, I felt so alone. But here I am, and here they are, in numbers greater than I could possibly imagine.

We march.

And we make a sound. This sound is a song, a cry, a chant, a speech, and a prayer. It is thousands of voices speaking at once, speaking the same thought, the same belief. We make this sound for those who cannot make such a sound themselves. We make this sound and every political person in Washington D.C cannot avoid hearing it. President Barack Obama himself cannot but hear our voice. And it doesn’t stop there. Our shouts and our cries for justice then continue to roll across the nation and across the world.

We make this sound for the unborn. And we will be heard.

I would like to take a moment and encourage you to attend the March for Life this year, no matter the distance it takes to get there. I traveled several hundred miles to spend a few hours at the March, and it was definitely worth it. The opportunity is so rare, the impact so tremendous, that I could hardly believe it. Really, the March for Life isn’t about marching itself or about being pro-life. It’s about truth. And, truthfully, abortion is unjust. It’s wrong. It’s murder. And it is our job to stand together in great numbers and remind the world of this.

I want to finish this piece with someone else’s words. I am standing in a massive crowd all around a raised stage with speakers, cameras, screens, and a podium. This part of the day happens just before the march itself. You get the chance to listen to a number of amazing speakers. One speaker in particular stands out to me the most.

He says, “You may or may not know this. My birth mother was seventeen years old. She wasn’t married. She didn’t have a boyfriend. She was terrified… didn’t know what to do. And her dad and her church put her in the doors of a pregnancy resource center and people just like you opened their arms to her, showed her the love of Christ, and gave her an alternative. And I’m here and alive today because of this movement, and I’m here to say ‘thank you,’ and I will continue to say thank you until abortion is ended in the United States.”

 

Angela Kim is 18 years old and a student at Grove City College. Her life goal is to glorify God and end abortion in the United States. To stay up-to-date with her work, visit her blog at Journal of an Abolitionist or follow her on Twitter @MissAngelaAKim

 

 

Marching On: Erin Stoyell-Mulholland

Today we introduce you to Erin Stoyell-Mulholland, a Pennsylvania-native who is a senior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in theology with a business minor.

When did you first come to the March for Life?

My first trip was in the 7th grade with my parish in New Jersey at the time.  I went again my senior year of high school and have gone every year since then!  This past year, I was the president of our pro-life club and coordinated a group from Notre Dame that was supposed to bring 600 students!  Because of the weather, not everyone was able to make it but we still ended up with 350 people!

What was your biggest take-away from this past March for Life?

zerin - CopyWhat really stood out to me this past year was the perseverance of everyone in the pro-life movement! DC itself was almost shut down because of the snow and freezing temperatures, and yet thousands still showed up.  No one was complaining, but everyone was just happy to be there to be standing up for what they believe, in such a joyful manner.

How have you been marching on for life since January?

I became the pregnancy resource coordinator for our pro-life group and we will be focusing on the promotion of pregnancy resources.  Notre Dame has great resources, such as emotional, academic, personal, and financial assistance, but a lot of people don’t know about them.  We are also going to be doing trainings for students on how to help a friend who is pregnant.  One thing we did in the spring, that we plan to do again, is to have information at the cafeteria tables to spread this information.

Additionally, this summer in DC I worked at the pro-life office for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  (We were delighted to have Erin participate and speak at the March for Life 5K in May during her time in D.C.!)

March for Life 5K 017

How do you see yourself being involved in the pro-life movement in the future?

I definitely plan to work in the pro-life movement in future, in whatever way I see myself being called.  I’m very passionate about educational outreach.

What’s your advice for fellow young people?

Don’t be afraid to stand for your beliefs.  You might have some tough conversations, but people will respect your passion.  People get far more afraid of the consequences of standing up, but ultimately people who are your friends will support you.

Marching On: Patrick Eliert

Patrick Eliert, is  a rising senior at St. John’s Catholic School in Beloit, KS. Patrick has been to the March for Life three times.  He first attended in 2011, and this year he is serving as the president of his school’s “Catholic School Life Rally” initiative.

zPatrick 17 yrs.

What were some take aways from the March for Life?

It was really cool to see the numbers that showed up. It showed me that, sometimes, although you feel like you are by yourself, there are people who share your beliefs. When we all get together, we can move mountains.

How have you been “marching on for life” since January? What is the Catholic School Life Rally?

Our school has been, for the past 5 or 6 years, going to an abortion clinic in Lincoln, Nebraska for peaceful prayer and protest. Last year we tried to make this a nationwide initiative. The goal was to get Catholic and Christian schools from all over the country to also participate and go to an abortion clinic or Planned Parenthood and join us in prayer on the same day. Last year our goal was to get 10 other schools involved, and 18 participated.

How can other students or schools get involved this year?

zmfl5We have a Facebook page, and hopefully soon we will have a website. Once we determine the date for the next Catholic School Life Rally, we will send out that information to anyone who is interested in joining. We usually do it in early December.

Like the Catholic School Life Rally on Facebook!

What made you want to get involved as President of the Catholic School Life rally?

This is something I feel very strongly about. It’s the one thing I want to change about the world most. When the opportunity presented itself, I felt like God was calling me to get involved.

What’s your advice to fellow young people?

There are always going to be people who disagree with you and will try to put you down. That is no reason to stop fighting.