Pro-life groups work to keep millennials involved
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) -- Polls and surveys indicate millennials hold stronger pro-life stances than previous generations at their age. But as these young adults graduate from college, many drift away from pro-life action. It's a trend pro-life groups are attempting to reverse.
Students for Life of America (SFLA) started a new initiative called Pro-Life Future that targets young adults post-graduation.
"We're bringing young people together who are committed to abolishing abortion in our lifetime," said Pro-Life Future director Brendan O'Morchoe. "We've seen what abortion does ... to our sisters and our friends, and we don't want that part of our world anymore."
The first Pro-Life Future chapter began April 25 in Chicago, and the organization is prepared to begin chapters in other cities including Buffalo, N.Y. The program will engage pro-life leaders who are already trained through SFLA student groups and "reinforce the great pro-life work already happening in our cities," O'Morchoe said.
Since 2006, SFLA has trained about 20,000 youths to lead the pro-life movement. But once their group affiliations end with college, they've had difficulty connecting with adult pro-life groups, especially if the group is primarily composed of older members.
"After college graduation, many of these leaders get lost in the busy-ness of the 'real world,' and they don't know where they fit in, what they should do, or how to organize with other pro-lifers," SFLA president Kristan Hawkins said. "This generation of young pro-lifers needs to feel like they belong, or our movement will lose them."
Millennials have played an integral role in the pro-life movement. A 2009 study conducted by political scientists Clyde Wilcox and Patrick Carr shows that adults aged 18 to 29 are more pro-life than adults of the same age were in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s.
In 2012, former NARAL Pro-choice America president Nancy Keenan stepped down from her position citing an "intensity gap" between pro-life and pro-abortion millennials. The huge youth participation at a Washington, D.C., March for Life helped initiate Keenan's decision, said Jeanneane Maxon, vice-president of external affairs and corporate counsel for Americans United for Life (AUL).
At the last March for Life, AUL distributed about 6,000 signs with the hashtag #teamlife to a crowd comprised primarily of people under age 30, Maxon observed.
And, AUL engages law students in the pro-life movement through about a dozen Advocates for Life chapters at law schools across the country. More students are pro-life "than when I was in law school 15 years ago," Maxon said.
To help keep lawyers connected to the pro-life movement, AUL also started Lawyers for Life three years ago, a project the organization is still developing. Though the market does not offer young lawyers many jobs directly connected to the pro-life movement, Lawyers for Life encourages them to stay involved through opportunities such as serving on a pregnancy center's board or testifying in favor of a pro-life bill.
Engaging people from a young age is key to ensuring their involvement as they grow up, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) President Carol Tobias said. NRLC has operated Teens for Life for about 30 years and offers oratory and essay contests for students. Local chapters also run groups on college campuses. To keep young adults engaged, NRLC has used several social media outlets including Twitter and Instagram.
Tobias has noticed a drop in pro-life involvement after college as young adults' lives change rapidly. "But we find many of them coming back, too, after they get settled," she said. "I think we see a lot of these young people keeping their convictions and taking them where they end up."