“We are the pro-life generation!”
This optimistic chant is a mainstay at the March for Life hosted in Washington, D.C. every year. For young members of the pro-life movement, it is empowering to see and join thousands of like-minded individuals in protesting abortion and the status quo of oppression it foists on women and the most vulnerable in our society. To hear “we are the pro-life generation” is an uplifting reminder that there is hope for our cause to make significant progress throughout our lifetimes.
But outside of the March for Life, it can be much more difficult to maintain the same optimism about the pro-life movement, especially as a college student.
To be pro-life on a college campus is to subject yourself to near constant criticism directed at both your cause and yourself. During the past year at Georgetown, tensions between the pro-life and pro-choice camps have reached a new level of animosity. While both groups engaged in heated, unproductive rhetoric last year, we began the new school year by reaching out to the pro-choice organization, apologizing for the poor relationship between the groups in years past, and expressing our interest in co-hosting an event about the death penalty or the feminization of poverty. The pro-choice group, H*yas For Choice (who isn't recognized by the university, so they can't use the name "Hoyas"), responded by rejecting the offer to collaborate in areas of agreement and publicly reiterating their “commitment to resisting the racist, sexist, classist, homophobic and transphobic actions of the anti-choice movement.” Unsurprisingly, relations among pro-life and pro-choice students have not improved since.
Already, Right to Life has been on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks against our members and vandalism against our banner and chalk messages displayed on campus. Last week, after our group spent an hour writing chalk messages in support of life, adoption and women’s equality, I confronted a student who attempted to erase the word “life” with his shoe because he objected to the phrase “pro-life”. I tried to engage him in conversation about what he was doing and why he felt entitled to erase the display, but he refused to consider my assertions about what the pro-life movement stands for. He denied that our group, as pro-life students, could care about women’s well-being, socioeconomic injustice, and racial inequality. To him, these were mutually exclusive. He associated being pro-life with supporting oppression and being pro-choice with advancing freedom. We believe that abortion is not liberation—it is submission to a system that does not care nor provide for the most vulnerable in society.
As a small student group expressing an unpopular opinion, we are frequently made scapegoats for many of the causes members of the student body actually fights against: sexism, racism, inequality, injustice and indifference. The most frustrating thing for our organization is to be associated with the societal ills we combat against as we work to build a world that values the dignity of all persons and cherishes every life. We at Georgetown Right to Life want what is best for women, best for our society, and best for children. We seek to bridge the gap of inequality between different cross-sections of our country. We work to build a just and fair society for all.
It is not despite the fact that we are pro-life, but because we are pro-life, that we care about these issues. It is because we believe in the inherent dignity and worth of each human being that we advocate for our legal system and our society to respect and honor the value of each person. Because we assert that life begins at conception, we stand against abortion; because we believe in the sanctity of each human person, we deplore sexual assault and violence; and because we affirm the right of every human being to live, we reject the death penalty.
We consider ourselves morally obligated to speak for those who do not have a voice, even though our dissent is poorly received and misconstrued. Despite the hostility and judgment we face, we will continue to advocate for those whom our society fails to acknowledge. We are the pro-life generation, and we are not going anywhere.
Erica Lizza is a junior at Georgetown University, where she is pursuing an International Politics major. She is involved in Georgetown's Right to Life organization and serves as Vice President of the Catholic Women at Georgetown campus ministry group. Additionally, she is a member of the planning board for the 19th Annual Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life, the nation's largest student-run pro-life conference, which Georgetown students host every year. As a Michigan native, she appreciates all things Midwestern, especially lakes, hockey, and pronouncing vowels with an "accent."